Tang Sancai-Glazed Civic Official - H.685
Origin: China
Circa: 618 AD to 906 AD
Dimensions: 30.75" (78.1cm) high
Collection: Chinese
Style: Tang Dynasty
Medium: Glazed Terracotta


This general type of Chinese burial art is known as mingqi. Mingqi were any of a variety of objects specifically created for interment in the tombs of elite individuals in order to provide for the afterlife. This statue represents a civic official from the vast governmental bureaucracy of the T’ang Empire. With over two million inhabitants in greater Chang’an, the cosmopolitan capital of the T’ang, just the governance of this city alone would have demanded an extensive network of civic servants, not to mention the numerous distant provinces of that comprised the Empire. In order to remove power from the hands of wealthy aristocrats and warlords, the T’ang created a class of scholar officials to govern their lands, enacting the will of the Imperial Court. Rigorous examinations ensured that only the most qualified individuals were able to serve this crucial position, their intelligence reflected by the writing boards the official holds in his arms. Depicted with a stern, uncompromising expression, this civic officials represents the role of the government in the life of the citizens, as significant to their well being as military might. The facial features of this figure, including the aquiline noses, elongated ears, and piecing eyes, are quite similar to those of the guardian figures and not doubt reveals his extraordinary powers. Buried underground, this official was interred in order to welcome the deceased into the afterlife and to ensure his comfort in the great beyond. - (H.685)




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