Tang Tomb Figures, c. 728 AD
Glazed earthenware
33 (height) in.
Luoyang, Henan Province, China

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This horse and its two attendants are part of a larger grouping of thirteen ceramic figures found in the grand tomb of Liu Tingxun, a high-ranking Chinese military general who died in 728 AD during the powerful and prosperous Tang dynasty (618-906 AD). The elaborate tombs for Tang elite were filled with luxurious objects, intended to convey the deceased’s social status to the judges of the Underworld, and ensure the important individual a prominent position in the afterlife. Among the largest extant burial figures from the period, the pairs of both bestial and human guardians, civil servants, camels, horses, and grooms found in Liu Tingxun’s tomb were there to serve, guard, and entertain him in the next world. According to Tang tradition, these figures were probably sealed in the burial chamber after an elaborate public funeral procession. The complex sancai (three-color) glazing technique of the figures, as well as the presence of expensive horses, indicate Liu Tingxun’s wealth and prestige. The exotic Western horses also highlight the Tang Dynasty’s dominance of the Silk Road trade route, which created a large market for luxury goods across Central Asia, and contributed to China’s status as one of the world’s most wealthy, sophisticated, and powerful political entities at the time.

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