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HOME : Chinese Art : Masterpieces of Chinese Art : Tang Dynasty Painted Pottery Seated Camel with Detachable Rider
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Tang Dynasty Painted Pottery Seated Camel with Detachable Rider - DL.2067
Origin: Shaanxi Province - 'Xi'an'
Circa: 618 AD to 907 AD
Dimensions: 19.5" (49.5cm) high x 23.6" (59.9cm) wide
Collection: Chinese Art
Medium: Terracotta
Condition: Extra Fine

Location: UAE
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“The camel is an unusual domestic animal; it carries a saddle of flesh on its back; swiftly it dashes over the shifting sands; it manifests its merit in dangerous places; it has a secret understanding of springs and sources, subtle indeed is its knowledge.”

This quote by Guo Pu dates to the 3rd Century A.D. and reveals the extent to which the Chinese adulated camels. These creatures symbolized the wealth and luxury that resulted from trading on the Silk Road. Commerce across this extensive network of paths and trails brought prosperity, foreign merchants, and exotic merchandize into China. However, the dusty trails of the Silk Road were an arduous journey through the rugged mountains and harsh deserts of Central Asia that could only be traversed by the two humped Bactrian camel. This remarkable beast was able to withstand the scorching heat of the desert and maintain its own nutrients, surviving for months without fresh supplies of water. The government kept vast herds of these invaluable creatures, presided over by civil officials, for hauling their precious commodities across the Silk Road. These exotic creatures were a common sight in the cosmopolitan cities of Tang China, carrying both traders and their goods directly into the markets. Likewise, Tang artists began to create charming representations of these prized creatures as mingqi in order to symbolize continued wealth and prosperity throughout the afterlife.

This seated camel with a detachable rider is a particularly fine example of this genre. The animal raises its head in protest as the rider commands it to continue on its arduous journey. The rider would have once held a whip or similar item, probably fashioned from a more perishable material which explains its disappearance. The original polychromy remains largely intact and is especially apparent on the rider’s flushed cheeks. Great care has been lavished on the details of his costume, particularly the peaked cap, and the hairs of his full beard are precisely defined with incised lines. This sculpture reveals the Tang Dynasty’s respect and admiration for this beast of burden, so essential to the prosperity of ancient China. - (DL.2067)


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