Object: Tomb figure

Horse tomb figure
Henan Province, China
T’ang Dynasty (618-906 CE)
Materials: ceramic, slip

The ancient Chinese believed the human soul had two parts. When a person died they believed that these two parts separated, with one entering into the spirit world (also known as the hun), and the other (called the po) staying here on earth inside his or her tomb. In the T’ang Dynasty the upper-classes were buried with hundreds of clay objects called mingqi. Mingqi were representations of all the things that were important to individual and could include figures of people and animals, pots and bowls, and other everyday objects. These figures would ensure that the part of the soul that remained inside the tomb would have an enjoyable afterlife. Many aspects of the tomb were regulated by the government. The size of the tomb and the number of mingqi allowed depended on the rank and status of the deceased. Higher ranking officials were able to stock their tombs with large collections of tomb figures. Popular figures included representations of servants, entertainers, horses and camels. In particular, the horse was a symbol of the aristocracy and horse tomb figures, like the one in the Sam Noble Museum collection, were placed in nearly all high-ranking tombs. [Kathryn S. (Barr) McCloud]

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Ethnology @ SNOMNH is an experimental weblog for sharing the collections of the Division of Ethnology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.


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