Pierce Galleries, Hingham and Nantucket Fine Art Dealers, Museum Quality Paintings

Tang Horse

Tang Horse

Tang Horse

Chinese, Tang Dynasty (7 th -10 th century)

Buff earthenware, three-color lead glazes

Molded decoration with rare greenish tint glaze

20 1/2 inches high, 18 inches long

Remarkably fine condition

Ex-collection: Russel Alberts, Boston


According to custom, the elite of the Tang dynasty (618-907AD) stocked their graves lavishly to ensure a comfortable afterlife. Their tombs often were furnished with ceramic vessels, accessories of precious metals, gemstones and a retinue of clay models of servants and animals. Horses, like this one, may only have been seen once during a funeral procession or in the studio of the artist who sculpted it. Once buried, it remained in a tomb for centuries. This horse was made at the height of the Tang dynasty's golden age . It displays the era's vibrancy and classic splendor. The fluid lead glazes typically were allowed to run during firing. The polychrome glazes are amber, brown and green and are known as sancai (three-color).
Under the Tang Dynasty, China combined prosperity, cultural grandeur, aristocratic sophistication, military power and supremacy in foreign relations to achieve an age of greatness. Every opportunity was taken to make an emperor the dominant power of the East. The capitol of Zhangan became a mecca for traders, diplomats and seekers of culture from the Mediterranean to Japan. At one point, the death penalty was abolished and hospitals were founded for beggars and the sick. The arts – music, dance, literature, painting, ceramics, lacquer and metalwork -- flourished in this golden age of learning and Tang pottery is sought after today by leading museums and astute collectors world.

The Tang Dynasty: In 628 A.D. emperor Tang Tai Zhong sent monk Tang Sanzhang to India to fetch the Buddhist scripture, and Catholic (Nestorian) monk Olopen came to China in that same year. Emperor Tang Gao Zhong defeated the Turkish in 657 A.D. Tang Juan Zhong became the first Chinese female Empress (690-713 A.D.) and changed the dynasty to Zhou (690 A.D.). Fifteen years later Emperor Zhong Zhong regained power and changed the dynasty back to Tang (705 A.D.). Tang Xuan Zhong's reign as Emperor marked the height of Tang's art (733-756 A.D.) In 763 A.D., Tibetans invaded China and raided Zhang An. By 780 A.D. China had established a tax system and in 821 A.D. the Ming rebellion began under Tang Mu Zhong. From 830-860 A.D. more than 4,600 monestaries and 40,000 Buddhist temples and shrines were destroyed, forcing monks and nuns to leave the country; Christians were forbidden to preach in China; and religion strictly was under government control. The Tang Dynasty ended with Tang Zhao Zhong as emperor in 907A.D. and Confucianism became more and more popular.


The Tang Dynasty was characterized by such strength and brilliance it was never out shone by any other. The Tang Dynasty was vast -- ranging from Korea, southern Manchuria and Northern Vietnam. As great poets emerged, the printing of books and the sharing of ideas promoted cultural unity. Social and economic grown kept the Tang Dynasty together during years of disunion and handicraft guilds and the use of paper money started in the late Tang years. Tang figures, camels and especially glazed horses show the elegant artistry of this incredibly innovative era in Chinese history.