During the T’ang Dynasty, horses were revered,
considered relatives of the mythical dragon. This
veneration was well earned, for the speed and
stamina of these majestic animals ensured the
protection of the northern borders against
barbarian invaders as well as enhancing
communication capabilities between far away
provinces, thereby aiding in the expansion of the
empire. The need to import horses from Central
Asia influenced the creation of the Silk Road.
Thus, they were also prized for their rarity.
Naturally then, horses became a status symbol
for the aristocratic elite. Polo and other
equestrian pastimes became popular. This
sculpture, depicting a lady-in-waiting riding on
the back of a horse, reveals this connection
between nobility and the horse. A striking
amount of the original polychrome still remains
intact, clearly visible in the red highlights on the
horse’s face, the pink highlights on the white
body, and on the woman’s black hair. We can
imagine this lady prancing around on this horse,
perhaps taking part in an important ceremony.
Discovered buried inside a tomb, this work was
supposed to accompany the deceased
throughout the afterlife. The striking beauty of
this work is even more impressive, considering
that it was created specifically for interment and
was not supposed to be seen by the living.
Today, we marvel in the beauty of this sculpture
as much as its tremendous history and intriguing