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THE HORSE IN CHINESE ART
Han Horse
Tang Horse and Rider
Tang Horse
Tang - Walking Horse
Tang - Red Saddled Horse
Tang Horse with Rider
Tang Wild Horse
Northern Qi Horse
Eastern Wei Horse
northern qi horse
Tang Walking Horse
Early Han Horse
Tang - Horse with Noble woman

Ancient Chinese dynasties came to power by might and persuasion. They stayed in power through their lineage. But something had to carry them.

China was once a land of warring tribes and factions. Strong leadership was needed to stop tribes from destroying each other. Once an emperor was in place, to unify the land, he needed a strong and swift military to enforce laws or decrees.

The success of those armies came down to the excellence of the troops and their military skill. But beneath each one of them was their steed – the most powerful swift and dominant breed on the earth.

The horse played a crucial role in the development and dominance of the Chinese Empire. The ability for a dynasty to mobilize its armies swiftly and decisively and to enact trade is what kept them in power, and also accounted for their longevity.

There is artifact evidence of the horse’s importance as far back as the Shang Dynasty (1766 BC - 1027 BC) – where horses were depicted in paintings pulling chariots. Even in the long Zhou Dynasty (1122 BC - 256 BC) the horse was shown to have played an important role in the military cavalry.

In the dynasties that followed, as China grew more prosperous, the horse became even more celebrated. This can be attributed to one special and somewhat mythological breed: the Ferghana.

The ruler of the Han Dynasty (207 BC - 220 AD), Emperor Wu, knew of a legendary horse that was known to “sweat blood.” Wu sent armies to the far western reaches of the empire – to central Asia – to a nation called Bactria, an area we now know as Afghanistan, where tribesmen bred a horse with unusually strong, stout front legs and posture.

These horses flourished and commanded a high price, if indeed they were ever allowed to be sold. Wu’s emissaries offered Bactria’s rulers large amounts of gold for their Ferghana horses, but when they refused, China went to war with them. Emperor Wu knew, he had to have them. Chinese armies suffered heavy losses but were victorious and Bactria was forced to hand over the best of the Ferghana breed to the Chinese empire. The horses were bred by the thousands and became widely used in agriculture, transportation, and particularly by the military.

It was accessibility to the Silk Trade Route that brought the culture of western Europe to China. The crossroads city of Samarkand was the center of Central Asia and commerce enacted there, highly facilitated the mercantile trade from both eastern and western affluent European nations as well as the entire middle east.

It was a turning point for China. The Han Dynasty prospered, and so did the art and culture of that era. Surviving examples of horses exist today from the Han Dynasty provinces of Sichuan, Shandong, and Xiau. They were made of gray, white and the familiar terra cotta reddish brown clay.

While examples of the Ferghana horse first appeared the Western Han Dynasty, they became more detailed during the Northern Wei dynasty (386 - 534 AD) and the Northern Qi dynasty (550 - 577 AD). Depictions showed arched necks, proud protruding chests, and the use of flowing blankets to depict the horse in flight. The horses were also adorned with various ornamentations, such as shells and bells to sound their coming. Existing examples from the Northern Qi are from the province of Hebei. They are made of gray clay.

But it was during the Tang Dynasty (618 - 906 AD) that art and culture reached its peak. Horses were most detailed during this period and this paralleled the growth and ascendancy of Chinese culture. Horses continued to be used for transportation along the Silk Trade Route where caravans brought and exchanged goods in Samarkand. China was now linked even more deeply with western cultures. Goods of all kinds were brought back to China and the influence was strongly evidenced in the art of the time period.

Aside from obvious military and commercial usage, horses were ridden by the upper class for recreational purposes. In sculpture, women in particular, were shown wearing fashionable clothes and also riding horses for enjoyment. Examples from this era show women wearing slimmer skirts and dresses, short-sleeved jackets and fashionable blouses with lower cut necklines, along with western hats that were worn atop head scarfs. The artistry showed the horse in an unprecedented form of realism.

During the Ming Dynasty 1368 AD - 1644 AD, relations with the west continued to be strengthened through increasing trade. This brought about a cultural exchange with western nations as Asia had never experienced. But although transportation and industry were changed by invention and eventually the Industrial Age, the horse was still a dominant force behind Chinese prosperity.

High quality examples of white clay sculpture exist from the Ming Dynasty and are from Shanxi Province. These pieces were fired at the highest temperature and as old as they are, they are noted as being the strongest and most durable of ancient Chinese sculpture.

 

 

 

Tang Red Horse
Tang Prancing Horse and Rider
Tang Equestrian
tang horse
Tang - Tomb Horse
Tang Horse
Tang rider and horse
Tang Polo Player
Tang Prancing Horse and Rider
Gansu Prancing Horses
Tang Prancing Horse
Tang - Prancing Horse
prancing horse
Northern Wei Horse
prancing horse
 
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