During the Tang dynasty, China enjoyed a period
of consolidation, achievement, and confidence.
Pottery of this era is often compared to that of
Classical Greece for the sophisticated
achievements in sculpting and modeling. This
statue resembles a portrait of an individual horse
with its lifelike modeling and expressive facial
features. Strong, noble, and splendid, this
painted terracotta horse conveys the love and
admiration that Tang aristocrats felt toward its
steeds. Horses held particular significance with
Tang rulers and aristocrats, who relied on them
for military preparedness and diplomatic policy.
The horse here depicted is of a large and spirited
breed much sought after by the Chinese.
Originating in the grasslands of Inner Asia, such
horses were much larger than the pony native to
China, hence valued for their speed and nobility.
Indeed owing a horse became a privilege in Tang
China when, in 667 an edict decreed that only
aristocrats (of both sexes) could ride horses.
Clearly, this horse was a beloved creature buried
alongside the deceased to accompany him
throughout eternity. Wearing harnesses, a
saddle, and a painted numnah, the horse is
ready to gallop across the eternal fields of the
afterlife, carrying the spirit of the deceased upon