Pottery Equestrian Figure


Pottery Equestrian Figure

Han Dynasty, China
Height 33,5 cm; long 33 cm.
A Painted Grey Pottery Equestrian Figure

Pottery Equestrian Figure, the black painted horse standing foursquare with head forwards in alert position, the elegant harness with foliate plaques and pendent tassels, the rider seated upright with head bent forwards as though holding the reins, wearing a knee-length bright red tunic with padded hems, carrying a satchel for arrows on his back.

The Han Dynasty

“China is a land of myths and mysteries shrouded in the mist of history. Throughout the course of Chinese history, one animal has exerted a tremendous influence over its development – the horse”.¹

Ones the Chinese made the transition to riding and cavalry replaced chariots as the major force in warfare, the importation of horses superior to native stock became a much higher priority.  The Xiongnu controlled a vast area stretching from Manchuria in the west to Turkestan in the east, and posed a serious threat to the Chinese. With increasingly frequent raids into China by the Xiongnu, the need for the Chinese to secure finer horses became even greater. Around 160 BC, Zhao Zu, a Chinese official, commented that “the territory [of the Xiongnu], and the skills it demands, are different from those of China. In climbing up and down mountains and crossing ravines and mountain torrents, the horses of China cannot compare with those of the Hsiung-nu [Xiongnu]”.

The search for superior horses and for allies against the Xiongnu led to one of the more interesting chapters in China’s equestrian history – the incredible journey of Zhang Qian and the resulting campaign to obtain premium horses from the land of Frghana. While these events were significant in their own right, the ultimate result – the opening of the Silk Roads – would prove to be of the more significant occurrences in Chinese history.²   

¹ Dr. Bill Booth, Guest Curator

Professor Emeritus of Art History

Morehead State University

Morehead, Kentucky

² Imperial China, 2000 by Kentucky Horse Park

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Pottery Equestrian Figure