Pair of Chinese Tang Dynasty Equestrian Riders


A pair of finely modelled equestrian riders dating to the Tang period. The horses are portrayed in an active pose, powerfully advancing forward with their neck gracefully arched, mouths agape as if about to bite, and ears pricked. The musculature is well defined, and most of the original slip remains. Additional red and black pigments define the eyes and mouth, as well as a cropped mane, and pick out the details of the equipment, such as the decorated blanket, saddle, and trappings. The tails are shown docked and bound, and the horses stand on a rectangular base with one leg lifted. The riders are depicted in differing riding stances, though they are similarly dressed in a cap and tunic, which covers the breaches and reaches to the top of their boots and trousers. Details are picked out and enhanced with painting; the flesh in pink, their attire in red, black and some pale blue.

Both pieces are accompanied by a positive Kotalla Laboratory thermoluminescence report, no.01CM260619 and 02CM260619.


Date: Circa 7th-10th Century AD
Period: Tang Dynasty
Condition: Very Fine, complete and intact. Some rubs to the painting but generally extant.
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SKU: AS-3747 Category: Tags: , , ,

Horses were important during the Tang Dynasty and were both the reward of successful military expeditions and the foundation of imperial stability. Brought to China by means of the international Silk Road trade network, horses were also a sign of wealth, with strict laws in place limiting the use of horses to people of a certain rank, and even those serving in the military had to provide their own mount.

The terracotta horses presented here are an incredibly fine example of grave goods placed in tombs, found in the burials of the Tang Dynsaty. They are often placed with a. vareity of figurines and are believed that they would assist the deceased in the afterlife. Figures of this type are called mingqi (冥器) in Chinese, and depict servants, officials, soldiers, musicians, court attendants, dancers and, in the case of animals, horses and Bactrian camels and would represent the high social class that the burial occupants occupied during their lives.

To discover more about Tang statuettes, please visit our relevant blog post: Terracotta Tomb Attendants and The Horse in Chinese Culture and Art

Weight 12 g
Dimensions H 54 cm


Pottery and Porcelain

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Reference: For a similar item, The Metropolitan Museum, accession number 54.169.

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