Chinese Tomb figure Tang Dynasty Bactrian Camel
AGE: – Early Tang Dynasty or earlier (618 A.D. – 907 A.D)
CONSTRUCTION: – Earthenware (One corner of base with repair)
HEIGHT: – 42cm
LENGTH: – 36cm
WEIGHT:– 4.10 kg.
#1246 – PRICE: CONTACT
Tomb Figure Tang Dynasty Bacterian Camel carrying food items and food containers attached to a saddle with remnants of coloured pigment. A tomb figure such as this was a popular funerary object from the Han dynasty onwards, made to accompany the deceased into the afterlife; these objects are referred to as ming qi or spirit objects, also known as vessels for ghosts.
In China, a variety of beliefs and cult systems related to death and dying existed long before the Han or Tang Dynasty. Some systems aimed to prolong life, others to provide for a continuation of life, in the “after-life”, whilst others assumed the presence of immortal kingdoms to which the soul was transported.
The Chinese distinguished two different elements of the soul “Hun” and “Po”. In physical life “Hun” was the intellectual or spiritual soul, whilst “Po” dealt with the energy and movement of the physical body.
After death, these two elements are believed to separate, Po stayed with the body in life and death, therefore, all the material comforts which were enjoyed during their lifetime were provided in death, in the form of ritual wine vessels, cooking vessels, musical instruments, miniature figures of animals such as horses that were used for traveling, or for work such as camels, pigs, a much-loved pet, buffalo, ox, bullock or guardians in the form of lions.
The Role of Camels in Ancient China
Camels as well as horses in ancient China were used as a mode of transport, they played a significant role in the exchange of merchandise along the Silk Road between Asia and the Middle East.
During the 1st Century BCE, the use and value of camels were highly significant to the Han and Tang Chinese, they played a vital role in their interactions with the Xiongnu nomadic peoples inhabiting the eastern Asian steppes.
Camels, in these ancient times, were among the most valued animal to be taken captive on military campaigns because of their ability to carry heavy loads. They could travel long distances across mountains and arid terrain without water and be able to eat and digest vegetation along the way that horses couldn’t easily digest. They were also used in exchange for silk and other commodities.
Considering the importance of camels to the ancient Chinese, it is little wonder that these small earthenware or terracotta camels were considered worthy grave objects to accompany a deceased person into the afterlife.