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.