During the T’ang Dynasty, sculptural effigies of
domesticated animals were often interred in the
tombs of nobility and elite members of the social
hierarchy. Created in all media, these sculptures
accompanied the spirit of the deceased into the
afterlife. While similar examples exist, most
were found harnessed to wagons and carts and
were meant to function as beasts of burden.
However, this sculpture was discovered buried as
part of a herd, contained inside a sculpted
miniature pen with other domesticated animals,
suggesting that this ox served as nourishment.
Aside from function, this sculpture is also
remarkable for its exquisite state of preservation.
During the T’ang Dynasty, the Chinese believed
that the afterlife was a continuation of our
earthly existence. 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. Created to serve as food for the
afterlife, this work is more than a mere
sculpture; it is a gorgeous memorial to the
religious and philosophical beliefs of the T’ang
Dynasty. This bovine effigy has served its eternal
purpose well. Today, it continues to nourish our
souls with its beauty and grace.