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HOME : Chinese Art : Tang Dynasty : Tang Sculpture of a Warrior
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Tang Sculpture of a Warrior - H.879
Origin: China
Circa: 618 AD to 906 AD
Dimensions: 22.75" (57.8cm) high
Collection: Chinese
Style: Tang Dynasty
Medium: Painted Terracotta

Location: United States
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During the Tang Dynasty, restrictions were placed on the number of objects that could be included in tombs, an amount determined by an individual's social rank. In spite of the limitations, a striking variety of tomb furnishings have been excavated. Entire retinues of ceramic figures--animals, entertainers, musicians, guardians--were buried with the dead. This dynamic warrior bares a striking resemblance to the Buddhist warrior deities known as Lokapalas that have their origins as protectors of Buddhist temples but assumed a mortuary role in China. However, this warrior does not stand in the traditional stance of the Lokapala, subduing a demon or triumphing over a recumbent beast. Although this figure is slightly different, we can assume his role in the afterlife would have been the same. This warrior is poised for battle. He rests his left arm on his waist and holds his other arm in the air. Originally, he would have likely brandished a weapon of sort, perhaps a halberd, which was made of a material such as wood that deteriorated over the centuries. A striking amount of the original polychrome is still visible, specifically on his pink face and the individual scales of metal intricately painted on his armor and helmet. According to one Chinese tradition explaining their origin, Emperor Taizong, when ill, was threatened by ghosts outside of his room screeching and throwing bricks and tiles. When his general Jin Shubao (Chin Shu-pao) and a fellow officer came to stand guard the activity of the ghosts ceased. The grateful emperor had portraits of the two men hung on either side of his palace gates, and thereafter their images became widespread as door-gods. Although he was intended to protect the tomb and ward off any infiltrators, be they tomb robbers or malevolent spirits, this warrior does not repel us, even despite his beady-eyed, bucktoothed demonic visage; instead, his compelling history and stunning aesthetic beauty attracts us to him. - (H.879)


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