Art of Asia
- Tang dynasty (618–907), an introduction
- An Introduction to the Tang dynasty (618–906)
- A Tang silk brocade
- Tang Yue ware
- Tomb figurines, Tang dynasty
- Tomb figures of a man and woman on horseback
- Tomb figure of a groom
- Stele of the Buddha Maitreya
- Central Asian wine peddler
- Chinese Buddhist cave shrines
- Mogao caves at Dunhuang
- Jataka tales at Dunhuang
- Dunhuang Historical Art, Cave 323
- A silk painting of sacred Buddhist images from Dunhuang
- The paintings and manuscripts from cave 17 at Mogao (1 of 2)
- The paintings and manuscripts from cave 17 at Mogao (2 of 2)
- Hong Bian, the monk in the Library Cave, Mogao
- Zhou Fang, Ladies Wearing Flowers in Their Hair
- Taoism in the Tang and Song dynasties
- Admonitions Scroll, attributed to Gu Kaizhi
- Han Gan, Night-Shining White
- Zither (qin) inscribed with the name “Dragon’s Moan”
What is this object?
The Bactrian camel was used to haul trade goods along the silk roads leading out of China across the western regions into Central Asia and beyond.
How was it made?
This object was made from light-colored earthenware clays, partly using molds with added sections that were joined together. The insides were often hollow or had holes to prevent unwanted distortion of the object when fired. The polychrome (multicolored) glaze is called sancai (literally "three colors"), typically made from a lead glaze with mineral pigments of copper (for green), iron (for brown and amber), and cobalt (for blue), and fired at a temperature of about 800–1000 C°. The production of sancai wares flourished between the late 600s and mid-700s, mainly in northern China. Before this period, colors on most ceramics were limited to a relatively finite range of green and brown glazed wares.
How was it used?
This object was placed in a tomb for the wealthy located in the northern regions of China. Tang dynasty (618-906) tombs of this type were multichambered constructions, often with passageways and niches where such objects would have been placed after the tomb owner’s body had been interred and funerary rituals completed. Because of the lead glaze, which could be toxic if used in daily activities, such objects would not have been used by the living, but prepared especially for burial.
How does this object reflect the life and times when it was made?
Objects such as this one, even though it was intended for burial, gives us a colorful view of life during the high Tang dynasty (618–906). It makes specific reference to the trade routes. Camels were used to transport goods across the arid regions of the northwestern part of the Tang empire. Called the "ships of the desert," these hardy animals could travel long stretches without water, and their padded feet were adapted to traversing the many sand dunes along the way. This camel carries a cushion between its two humps along with mixed cargo (note the small white vessel below the front hump). The cushion is decorated with a comical face. Many similar glazed earthenware objects have been found in Tang tombs. Some have musicians or travelers perched atop the camel. Other figures of camels are stacked with bolts of silk. Silk was the primary export commodity in demand outside of China. The Tang capital of Chang-an (modern Xi’an) was transformed into one of the largest and most cosmopolitan cities in the world at that time. It was a magnet for trade and commerce.
Want to join the conversation?
- We read, "Because of the lead glaze, which could be toxic if used in daily activities, such objects would not have been used by the living, but prepared especially for burial."
Were the Ancient Chinese aware of the toxic properties of lead? I know that the Ancient Romans for example, lined their aqueducts with lead and used lead for a variety of purposes without knowledge of its harmful effects. If I am not mistaken, lead was even used in the time of Leonardo da Vinci without knowledge of its toxic properties. Could it be possible that this knowledge (if in fact the Chinese were actually aware that lead was toxic) just never made it's way from Asia to the mediterranean?(6 votes)
- Good question, bust no good answers when googled. Some evidence of lead poisoning in Shang period from bronze drinking vessels. Answer still unknown.(3 votes)
- can you tell me if there were warriors on horseback in China or other Asian cultures similar to the Samurai? I have two works of lead glazed earthenware which depict opposing warriors on horseback but cannot determine the origin. They are signed with a stamp into the clay on the back.(2 votes)
- horses were a major contributor to tang dynasty military strength. They were used for leisure as well, such as playing polo or hunting. In 667 a tang law stated that only the aristocracy (men and women both) were permitted to ride horseback.(1 vote)
- Call me picky, but isn't this a dromidary (however you spell it) due to the two humps? Oh, maybe thats still a form of camel.Sorry.(1 vote)
- The dromedary is a one-hump beast of burden, most common on the arabian peninsula (as far as I know). The camel has two humps.(1 vote)
- What region of T'ang China was this object made in?(1 vote)