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Gallery Text

After the collapse of the Han dynasty in 220 CE, China entered a long period of disunion in which the north was occupied and at times ruled by ethnic minorities. The custom of producing ceramic tomb sculptures nevertheless carried on throughout this period, reaching its pinnacle in the Tang dynasty (618–907), one of the most peaceful, prosperous, cosmopolitan eras in China’s history. The Tang capital of Chang’an (present-day Xi’an, Shaanxi province) attracted numerous foreign traders, pilgrims, and goods, as the famed overland trade route known as the Silk Road terminated in this city. Large sets of ceramic sculptures representing the horses, camels, and foreign merchants that frequented northern China have been recovered from burials. Tang ceramic funerary retinues were especially elaborate, featuring fierce armored guards, proud court attendants, and aristocratic equestrians engaged in leisurely pursuits—all serving to demonstrate the high status of the tomb occupant. Large monster masks such as the one displayed here have been discovered on the lintels of tomb entrances, presumably as a means to ward off evil.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
One of Two Standing, Mustachioed Male Figures, Each Wearing a Cape and a Full, Rounded Hat with Protective Neck and Ear Flap, and Each with His Hands Clasped at the Waist and Concealed under His Cape
Work Type
funerary sculpture
550 - 577
Creation Place: East Asia, China
Northern Qi, 550-577
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Molded, gray earthenware with cold-painted pigments
H. 27.5 x W. 8 x D. 7.5 cm (10 13/16 x 3 1/8 x 2 15/16 in.)
Anthony M. Solomon, New York (by 2003), gift; to Harvard University Art Museums, 2003.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Anthony M. Solomon
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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Publication History

Virginia Bower, From Court to Caravan: Chinese Tomb Sculptures from the Collection of Anthony M. Solomon, exh. cat., ed. Robert D. Mowry, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, Mass., 2002), p. 95, cat. no. 21

Subjects and Contexts

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Related Works

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