Horse and Female Rider

Period: Tang dynasty (618–907)

Date: 7th century

Culture: China

Medium: Unfired clay with pigment

Dimensions: H. 14 1/4 in. (36.2 cm); L. 11 1/2 in. (29.2 cm)

Classification: Tomb Pottery

Credit Line: Fletcher Fund, 1951

Accession Number: 51.93a, b


Sculptures such as this one, made principally of painted and glazed pottery, are known as mingqi, or spirit goods, and were placed in tombs to provide for the deceased's needs in the afterlife. Female attendants were generally produced in groups for burial in the tombs of high-ranking women. The use of unfired clay to make this charming equestrian indicates that it was produced in eastern Central Asia during a period when ties between that region and China were particularly strong.

Her ensemble consists of a tight-fitting upper garment with a V-neck, narrow sleeves, and a long flaring skirt. Her hat would have been fitted with a veil for traveling in the desert. During the early days of the Tang dynasty (618–907) in China, this type of clothing became fashionable in the capital Chang'an and other metropolitan centers, and women also wore such hats complete with veils, to protect them from the city dust.