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HOME : Chinese Art : Tang Horses : Tang Sculpture of a Horse
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Tang Sculpture of a Horse - H.833
Origin: China
Circa: 618 AD to 906 AD
Dimensions: 12.5" (31.8cm) high
Collection: Chinese
Medium: Painted Terracotta

Location: United States
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Horses--they are the military preparedness of the state. If heaven takes this preparedness away, the state will be imperiled.

From an Official History of the Tang

During the Tang dynasty, China enjoyed a period of consolidation, achievement, and confidence. Tang art tends to reflect this assurance in its realism, energy, and dignity. 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 elaborated with touches of paint. This work is remarkable for the amount of the original pigment that has survived the ravages of time, specifically apparent on the orange saddle and black numnah (saddlepad) and reigns. Strong, noble, and splendid, this terracotta horse conveys the love and admiration that Tang society felt toward its steeds. As horses were often symbols of the afterlife, this funerary statue seems to be ready to bear his owner into the afterlife on his saddle. Horses held particular significance with Tang rulers and aristocrats, who relied on them for military preparedness and diplomatic policy, as the quote implies. In addition, they were also revered for their religious significance: ancient tradition linked them to the dragon, designating them as supernatural creatures. Clearly, this horse was a beloved creature buried alongside the deceased to accompany him throughout eternity. He is ready to gallop across the eternal fields of the afterlife, carrying the spirit of the deceased upon its back.
- (H.833)


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