Painted Seated Female Musician, 7th - 10th century
Earthenware with orange and black pigments 7 in. x 5 in. x 4 1/4 in. (17.78 cm x 12.7 cm x 10.8 cm)
Crocker Art Museum, gift of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation2007.71.5.2
By the Sui (581–617) and Tang (618–907) dynasties, the basic model for elite burial was guided by two factors. First, all aspects of the burial, including scale, plan, and accessories, were determined by prescriptive limits set by the state based on social status. Second, tombs and their decorative programs replicated the social world of the living. More than great underground storehouses of wealth, tombs of this period convey complete social identities.
North and south China, unified by the Sui after almost 300 years of war, came under Tang control in 618. The Tang Dynasty is often considered to be the golden age of Chinese culture and art. Tomb figurines of this period show a new sophistication. The Dancers and Seated Female Musicians have typical Tang costume and hair arrangements, and their faces are delicately painted. Tang people felt very at home on horseback, and both men and women rode for pleasure, hunting, and playing polo, as this example of Courtiers on Horseback shows.1 Ceramic horses and riders were commonly interred in Chinese tombs; an early well-known example is the life-size terracotta army of the first Chinese emperor Qin Shihuangdi (259–210 bce). Because of extensive trade along the Silk Route, camels were depicted in ceramic form almost as often as horses. As seen in Camel and Rider, the riders were often represented as foreigners, identifiable by their Central Asian features and garments.2 —EA