Terracotta figurines depicting female polo players riding a galloping horse have been found in the burials of the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-906 ), with the display of large numbers of figurines and a wide variety of types indicating the high social class that the burial occupants occupied during their lives. Terracotta figurines that have been found in Chinese tombs have been associated with the belief in a ‘life-after-death’; they were intended to provide service for the deceased in the afterlife. The term polo might have derived from the Tibetan word, pulu, initially referring to the wood from which a game ball was made. Polo in Tang China was an imperial game, with both court women and men participating in this activity. Polo seems to have first emerged in China towards the end of Han Dynasty (circa 206 BC – AD 220 ), and grew in popularity in the early Tang Dynasty under the cultural influence from the Xian’bei, a nomadic tribe of North-eastern China.
To discover more about Tang statuettes, please visit our relevant blog post: Terracotta Tomb Attendants.