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HOME : Chinese Art : Archive : T'ang Polychrome Sculpture of a Civic Official
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T'ang Polychrome Sculpture of a Civic Official - H.921
Origin: China
Circa: 618 AD to 906 AD
Dimensions: 17.5" (44.5cm) high
Collection: Chinese
Medium: Painted Terracotta


Additional Information: SOLD

Location: United States
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Description
This general type of Chinese burial art is 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 statue 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 just 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 throughout China. Rigorous examinations ensured that only the most qualified individuals were able to serve this crucial position.

Depicted with a stern, uncompromising expression, this civic official 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 his aquiline nose and serene expression, reveal his intellectual wisdom and calm restraint. Remnants of the original pigment that once covered this work are still visible, seen in his orange robe, red lips, and wispy black beard. His headdress features a prominent bird effigy, wing spread outwards as if swooping down, that is typical of such officials during this period. 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.921)

 

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