Tang Dynasty Sculpture and Ancient Chinese Lifestyle

Richard Friswell
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Tang Dynasty Camel and Rider is a thousand-year-old treasure within reach of many collectors

This extraordinary early Tang Dynasty (618-907 c.e.) camel and rider (20” tall x 14” wide) is representative of a golden period in Chinese cultural history. After hundreds of years of regional conflict and division, central China was unified under as series of powerful emperors and entered a long period of peace and creativity. Stimulated by contact with India and the Middle East, the arts flourished. Buddhism, originating in India, found its way to China in the time of Confucius and this introspective faith was soon adopted by the royal family to become a permanent part of Chinese culture. Not only painting, but music, opera and poetry also became popularized.


Another piece from the Mandarin Collection features an animated horse's head, a collectable feature

Much of the figurative clay and polychrome figures from this and the earlier Han Dynastry (206 b.c.e.-220 c.e.) were tomb figures, interred with the wealthy to accompany them in the afterlife. Currently very sought-after, these expressive and skillfully crafted figures tell a story of life little-changed over the centuries.

Technically, the structure and design of this camel and rider represent an innovation in the shaping and firing of the clay for that time. Since the long legs of the animal could not be rendered in wet clay without some structural reinforcement for the weight of the body of the animal and figure, internal cast iron supports were used for the extremities. These struts were first coated in wax before being surrounded by clay. In the firing, the melting wax would escape thought a tiny hole in the foot leaving a small space behind. This technique prevented the expanding metal from cracking the clay as the figure baked in the kiln. A delicate, gravity-defying figure was the result.

This rare and expressive sculpture is available through The Mandarin Collection in Westport, CT. It has been authenticated using Oxford University’s carbon dating system. Price: $66,000. Contact C.C. Wong at 203.454.4030 for more information.

Read more about China’s Tang Dynasty at: http://www.bambooweb.com/articles/T/a/Tang_Dynasty_art.html

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