Tang Sculpture of a Horse with Removable Saddle

SKU X.0424

7th Cnetury AD to 8th Century AD


25.25″ (64.1cm) high x 26.25″ (66.7cm) wide





Gallery Location



The Tang Dynasty was a golden age of Chinese culture. The arts reached new levels of sophistication. Poetry and literature flourished under the enlightened rulership. The Silk Road brought fortunes into China on the backs of camels, carrying exotic luxury items from distant lands. Foreign merchants from across Central Asia and the Middle East settled in the urban centers of the Tang China, foremost among them the thriving capital of Chang’an (modern X’ian), a bustling cosmopolitan centre of over two million inhabitants. The Tang Dynasty was a relatively stable period of great prosperity representing one of the greatest cultural flourishings in human history. During the Tang Dynasty, the adoration of the horse can be seen through their burial art. Horse models excavated from mausoleums of the period are among the most splendid and easily recognizable works of Chinese art.

The great influence of the horse throughout the history of China cannot be underestimated. In fact, the ancient unification of the Chinese Empire was due in large part to the horse. Their rapid mobility allowed for quick communication between far away provinces. Likewise, the military role of horses aided in the conquest and submission of distant lands. The need to import stronger, faster steeds from Central Asia (as opposed to the native Mongol pony) led to the creation of the Silk Road. The importance of the horse in the history and culture of China can be viewed, in part, through the artistic legacy of this great civilization. In sculpture, painting, and literature, horses were glorified and revered, believed to be relatives of dragons, a theory reflecting their sacred status within society.

This impressive, large sculpture of a horse still retains much of its original white pigment in tact. However, even more impressive, is the removable saddle with engraved details that graces his back. This saddle appears to have once been painted orange and likely would have once supported a sculpted rider. The horses ears stand at attention. Its striking eyes are well defined. Its nostrils are flared and its mouth is open, suggesting the horse has just come to rest after a vigorous journey. These rare features, in particular the open mouth and removable saddle, are highly sought after by collectors. This gorgeous sculpture is a testament to the admiration and adoration the Chinese had for this marvelous creature. Although they were an integral part in the expansion and defense of the empire, they were equally regarded for their beauty and grace as revealed by this sculpture.

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