are the military preparedness of the state.
If heaven takes this preparedness away, the state will be imperiled.
an Official History of the Tang
The great influence of the horse throughout the history of China cannot be underestimated. In fact, the expansion of the Chinese Empire was in large part due to the rapid mobility of horses, providing quick communication between far away provinces. Likewise, the military role of horses aided in the conquest and submission of distant lands. The need to import stronger, faster steeds from Central Asia (as opposed to the native Mongol pony) led to the establishment of the Silk Road. The importance of the horse can be seen, in part, through the artistic legacy of this great civilization. In sculpture, painting, and literature, horses were glorified and revered, thought to be relatives of mythological dragons. During the T’ang Dynasty, the adoration of the horse was materialized in their burial art. Horse models excavated from mausoleums of the period are among the most splendid and easily recognizable works of Chinese art. This elegant horse is a perfect example of the mastery of T’ang funerary art. Painted with a vivid orange saddle, this horse prances with its leg raised in the air, head turned to the side, and mouth held slightly ajar. Such postures are highly desired by collectors, revealing that, besides their military role, horses also were an integral part of aristocratic pomp and pageantry. The refined molding captures the powerful musculature and graceful finesse of this majestic creature. This elegant sculpture attests to both the revered status of the horse as well as the artistic skills of T’ang artists.