As implied by its short duration, the Northern Qi
Dynasty was a turbulent time in the vast history
of China. Locusts plagued the lands, ruining the
crops. Hunger and ethnic feuding ravaged the
population. Despite this unrest the arts
continued to flourish, as witnessed by this
extraordinary powerful representation of a bull.
The animal’s stance is assertive, with its four
legs positioned firmly on the corners of the
integral rectangular plinth. The head is raised,
with the mouth slightly ajar, as if warning off a
potential aggressor. The figurine is in excellent
condition with traces of the original red
polychromy in the mouth, nostrils and ears. The
expertly modeled horns create a striking
silhouette, contrasting with the sheer bulk of the
bull’s body. There is considerable attention to
detail in the modelling, especially the incised
lines which add to the texture of the tail.
During this period sculptural effigies of
domesticated animals were often interred in the
tombs of the nobility and elite members of the
social hierarchy. Created in all media, these
sculptures accompanied the spirit of the
deceased into the afterlife. Thus, logically, as we
require food to nourish our bodies on earth, so
too will we require food to nourish our souls in
the afterlife. This work is more than a mere
sculpture; it is a gorgeous memorial to the
religious and philosophical beliefs of its time.
This bull effigy has served its eternal purpose
well. Today, it continues to nourish our souls
with its beauty and grace.