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HOME : Chinese Art : Tang Sancai-Glazed Works : Tang Sancai-Glazed Civic Official
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Tang Sancai-Glazed Civic Official - H.980
Origin: China
Circa: 618 AD to 906 AD
Dimensions: 17.5" (44.5cm) high
Collection: Chinese Art
Medium: Glazed Terracotta

Location: United States
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This sculpture is a general type of Chinese burial art known as mingqi. Mingqi were any of a variety of objects specifically created for interment in the tombs of elite individuals in order to provide for the afterlife. This work represents a civic official from the vast governmental bureaucracy of the T’ang Empire. With over two million inhabitants in greater Chang’an, the cosmopolitan capital of the T’ang, the governance of this city alone would have demanded an extensive network of civic servants, not to mention the numerous distant provinces of that comprised the greater empire. In order to remove power from the hands of wealthy aristocrats and warlords, the T’ang created a class of scholar officials to govern their lands, enacting the will of the Imperial Court. Rigorous examinations ensured that only the most qualified individuals were able to serve this crucial position, their intelligence reflected by the writing boards the official holds in his arms. Depicted with a stern, uncompromising expression, this civic officials represents the role of the government in the life of the citizens, as significant to their well-being as military might. The facial features of this figure, including the aquiline noses, elongated ears, and piercing eyes, are quite similar to those of the guardian figures and no doubt reveals his extraordinary powers. The garments of this official are treated in a lovely sancai glaze. Although the word sancai (literally meaning "three-colors") is widely known among collections, the production of sancai-glazed wares is relatively scarce, spanning only two hundred years of the entire Chinese history. Such works are among the most highly prized examples of Chinese art, treasured as much for their rarity as for their stunning beauty. This marvelous sculpture is no exception. Buried underground, this official was interred in order to welcome the deceased into the afterlife and to ensure his comfort in the great beyond. - (H.980)


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