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HOME : Chinese Art : Tang Dynasty : Pair of Tang Fat Ladies
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Pair of Tang Fat Ladies - LA.9113
Origin: China
Circa: 618 AD to 906 AD
Dimensions: 13" (33.0cm) high
Collection: Chinese
Medium: Terracotta

Location: Great Britain
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The pair of tall courtesans are here portrayed standing with hands crossed on the front, the abundant white long vest covering the pink gown underneath, the shoulders with an ochre blouse topped by a pink shawl surrounding the upper arms. The up-turned curved shoes just visible underneath. The vest still retains the original floral patterns that would have once embellish the entire figure. Both ladies wear their hair swept up in a large chignon that would have in real life been kept in shape by hidden superstructures in a style common during the high Tang period in the 8th century CE. Their moon-shaped faces are blushed, with large full cheeks, small vermilion lips and a decorative roundel placed on the front. This Tang beauty ideal was indeed eulogised by the famous contemporary poet Fang Gan (d. 888 C.E) who immortalised it in verses by writing:

“ the highs and lows of those vermilion lips imitate cherries, half covered breasts are snow on a sunny day”.

In fact even their plum figure was inspired by a contemporary famous beauty, the favourite of the Chinese Emperor Tang Xuanzong (685-762), Yang Guifei (719-756), who is said to have set the fashion for ample female forms. Yang Guifei's ineluctable destiny brought her to a tragic end in 755, when she was implicated in the An Lushan rebellion. The “Prized Consort” of the emperor, was blamed for the An Lushan Rebellion, possibly due to a purported relationship with the general. When An Lushan sacked the capital, the seventy year-old Emperor Xuanzong rode out of the city with Yang Guifei, but his men would go no further until she was killed. She was executed on the spot, after the emperor reluctantly accepted.

The years 755-756 were pivotal in Chinese history. The Tang dynasty (618 –906 C.E) capital of Chang’an (today’s Xi’an) had become a cosmopolitan centre and hub of the Silk Road, importing horses, musicians, acrobats, dances, and Buddhist scripts from Central Asia and exporting new forms of architecture, poetry, silks, paintings, government rule, and religious practice to such places as Korea and Japan. In 755, An Lushan (703-757), a general who had roots in Central Asia, led a rebellion that not only destroyed much of Chang’an but also weakened the court’s confidence and openness to new ideas. Attitudes toward women, Buddhism, and foreigners changed precipitously.

Before that time, women enjoyed relatively high status during the Tang, participating in horseback riding, polo, and various forms of dance and music, many of which had been introduced from the West. Besides Yang Guifei, another woman has passed into the annals for her renown deeds during the Tang: Wu Zetian, who rose from concubine status to become empress from A.D. 690- 705, known also for having commissioned the creation of the first cast iron structures of gargantuan proportions. - (LA.9113)


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