This statuette was likely a ‘mingqi’ – a burial figurine, viewed as a sort of utensil for the afterlife, and usually depicting everyday objects and people (e.g. dancers, court attendants, and servants). The Tang Dynasty was a period of considerable expansion, marked by a greatly increased trade both within China and abroad, and ceramic wares formed an important part of that trade. An important figure in life, such as the emperor, would will all his/her retinue to accompany him/her after death, as well as on the journey into the afterlife.
To discover more about Chinese terracotta statuettes, please visit our relevant blog post: Terracotta Tomb Attendants.