AGE: – Tang Dynasty 618 A.D. – 907 A.D.
CONSTRUCTION: – Earthenware
DESCRIPTION: – Chinese Tang Dynasty Terracotta Mingqi Camel
HEIGHT: – 42cm
LENGTH: – 36cm
WEIGHT:– 4.10 kg.
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Unglazed Chinese Tang Dynasty Terracotta Mingqi Camel with remnants of coloured pigment remaining, with saddle over the two humps made specifically for burial (Mingqi) purposes. In China a variety of beliefs and cults systems related to death and dying existed long before the Han or Tang Dynasty. Some systems aimed to prolong life, others to provide for a continuation of life, in the “after-life”, whilst others assumed the presence of immortal kingdoms to which the soul was transported.
The Chinese distinguished two different elements of the soul “Hun” and “Po”. In the physical life “hun” was the intellectual or spiritual soul, whilst “Po” dealt with the energy and movement of the physical body.
After death, these two elements are believed to separate, Po stayed with the body in life and death, therefore, all the material comforts which were enjoyed during their lifetime was provided in death, in the form of ritual wine vessels, cooking vessels, miniature animals that were used for traveling, or for work such as camels, pigs, a much loved pet, buffalo or bullock or guardians in the form of lions.
The Role of Camels in Ancient China
Camels as well as horses in ancient China were used as a mode of transport, they played a significant role in the exchange of merchandise along the Silk Road between Asia and the Middle East.
During the 1st Century BCE the use and value of camels were highly significant to the Han Chinese, they played a vital role in their interactions with the Xiongnu nomadic peoples inhabiting the eastern Asian steppes.
Camels, in these ancient times were among the most valued animal to be taken captive on military campaigns because of their ability to carry heavy loads. They could travel long distances across mountains and arid terrain without water and able to eat and digest vegetation along the way that horses couldn’t easily digest. They were also used in exchange for silk and other commodities.
Considering the importance of camels during the Han Dynasty and beyond, it is little wonder that these miniature clay camels were considered worthy grave objects to accompany a deceased person into the afterlife.