Terracotta Horse from the Tang Dynasty


A finely moulded terracotta horse statuette, dating to the Tang dynasty. The horse is shown regally raising its front right hoof as it balances on the other three, and is unadorned with either a saddle or a harness. The majority of the original white slip remains, with black pigment used to pick out the details of the eyes and face. Anatomical features are rendered in a naturalistic manner, with much attention given to details.



Date: Circa AD 618-906
Period: Tang Dynasty
Provenance: From the private collection of David and Monica Miller (Hertfordshire), previously with a collection in the West Country, 1980's
Condition: Very fine condition.


The relationship between China and horses dates back to Neolithic period, with the first domestication of the animal believed to have started in the 13th century BC. Recognising the speed and endurance of Western horses, these were brought in to breed with the Mongolian, smaller variety native to China, and were widely used in warfare, hunting and in the aristocratic pastime of polo.

Tang ceramic production reached its peak with terracotta moulded zoomorphic and anthropomorphic figures, known in Chinese as mingqi. Such statuettes would have been placed in Chinese graves, to assist, protect and entertain the deceased in the afterlife. Statuettes of horses, such as this fine example, would have been placed in the deceased’s tomb to perform labour in the afterlife and were expected to carry on working for their owner even after his death.

To discover more about Tang statuettes, please visit our relevant blog post: Terracotta Tomb Attendants.

Weight 3600 g
Dimensions L 40 x H 42 cm

Pottery and Porcelain