Standing attendant, Tang dynasty (618–906), 7th century
Earthenware with slip and pigment; H. 20 1/16 in. (51 cm)
Purchase, Barbara and William Karatz Gift, 2002 (2002.501)
This figurine of a foreigner advertises the cosmopolitan and international spirit of the deceased occupant in the tomb that it furnished. Foreigners were frequently depicted in tomb paintings and sculptures, and imported music, textiles, metalware, and fashions were enthusiastically consumed by the Tang elite. During the seventh century, the Tang conquered, among others, the Eastern Turks in present-day Mongolia and the Western Turks in present-day Xinjiang. International trade was vigorous during the Tang and many people from distant lands lived in China.
The metal substructure supporting this figure is heavier than that in most Tang funerary sculptures. Though it is not known precisely what type of person this represents, attention has been given to the features that would set this man apart from the Chinese. He has an exaggerated brow, high, broad cheekbones, and thick strands of hair, combed in rows. The adornments hanging from his belt, as well as other features of his dress are distinct from traditional Chinese clothing. His triangular collar is similar to that worn by one of the foreign dignitaries depicted in 706 in a wall painting from the tomb of Li Xian, Crown Prince Zhanghuai, while his knee-length skirt, belted at the waist, and tall leather boots were typical of Central Asian dress. These, coupled with his lack of outer jacket and the position of his clasped and raised hands, suggest that this attendant was holding the reigns to another figurine, one that was a valuable Central Asian commodity: a horse.