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Horse and Rider


Artwork Details

Horse and Rider
early 7th century
earthenware with glaze
10 7/16 in x 3 1/4 in x 8 1/4 in (26.5 cm x 8.2 cm x 21 cm)
Gift of William Muschenheim

On Display

Not currently on display


Subject Matter:

An earthenware straw-colored glaze mingqi (明器), "literally bright object," figure of a Chinese man riding a horse of the late Sui Dynasty (581-618) to early Tang Dynasty (618-906). The presence of a horse and rider within the tomb would indicate the wealth and high status of the owner. Horses were highly prized during the Tang dynasty as they played a significant role in the Li Imperial family's rise to power; they became symbolic of power and were considered to be the embodiment of the spirit of the great Tang empire. 

Since the Qin dynasty (221-206 BCE), ceramic figures have been used to replace human sacrifice in burial practices as mingqi (明器), "bright objects," or grave goods, as a way to provide for the deceased. Mingqi could include houses, towers, gates, granaries, livestock pens, chicken coops, wells, cooking stoves, storage vessels, dishes, incense burners, and lamps. Figures could include horses, dogs, anthropomorphic animals and people such as officials, guardians, servants and entertainers. By the Han dynasty, they also included representations of common people engaged in the activities that consumed their daily lives such a cooking. The tombs in the southern provinces of Sichuan and Shaanxi have revealed a vast array of figures in playful and humorous poses. As grave goods, these mingqi included everything one would need to ensure a comfortable transition into the afterlife. A tomb could contain anywhere from a few, to several hundred ceramic mingqi items.

Physical Description:

An earthenware figure of a horse and rider. The horse is standing on all fours on top of a rectangular slab base. It has a trimmed mane and long flowing tail, the male rider sitting tall and wearing a long coat, trousers, a tall cap, and boots. The rider has one hand in a position to hold reins. The figure is covered in a straw-colored glaze.

Usage Rights:

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