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Tang Dynasty Court Lady Tomb Figure

Tang Dynasty Court Lady Tomb Figure

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Tang dynasty, 618-907 AD, China

Absolutely fascinating standing figure of a court lady. She wears an untailored, loose gown with long sleeves that hide her clasped hands. Her elaborate coiffure, with hair piled up toward the left side, reflects the fashion of those times. Plump, rounded face, and her expression has a graceful, regal quality. Early Tang female figurines are tall and slender but, by the mid-8th century, more voluptuous statuettes, complete with plump bodies, full faces, and cloud-like hairstyles that emphasized their roundness, were favored. This shift has traditionally been attributed to the infatuation of Emperor Xuanzong (reigned 713-756) with one of his full-figured concubines, Yang Guifei (or Yang Yuhuan, 719-756), one of the four great beauties of the Tang dynasty.

The Tang dynasty was an imperial dynasty of China that rule from 618 to 907. It was preceded by the Sui dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period in Chinese history. Historians generally regard the Tang as a high point in the Chinese civilization, and a golden age of cosmopolitan culture. One of the more interesting aspects of Tang Dynasty pottery production concerns the earthenware tomb figures of people and animals. Figures of this type are called mingqi or "spirit goods" in Chinese. They were lined outside the tomb before the coffin was taken inside, and then placed and arranged inside the tomb. The size and number of the figures in a grave depended on the rank of the deceased, as did the number that were glazed. These figures were most often of servants, soldiers (in male tombs) and attendants, like dancers, musicians and courtesans. Animals are most often horses and Bactrian camel.

Mesmerizing cast earthenware tomb figure are in excellent condition. Remains of polychrome (white, black, yellow and red). Intact. Age-related wear and abrasion. Small chip at the base. Heavy encrustation. Size approx. 20,8cm x 7,2cm x 5,2cm. 

Provenance: Finnish private collection.

For a similar examples see:

Tomb figure of a court lady, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Accession Number: 2012.013 (

Court lady, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Accession Number: 1979.108 (

References and further reading:

The Matter of Tang Tomb Figures; A New Perspective on a Group of Terracotta Animals and Riders, Lucien Van Valen & Isabelle Garachon, The Rijksmuseum Bulletin, Volume 62. pp. 218-239, 2014.

Dream of Ideal Life in Ancient China: Ceramic Miniatures of Architectures, Household Goods, People and Animals, Aichi.ken Toji Shiryokan, Seto, 2005, no. 14, p. 34.

The Vibrant Role of Mingqi in Early Chinese Burials, Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, Heather Colburn Clydesdale, Independent Scholar, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, April 2009. (

Antecedents of Sui-Tang Burial Practices in Shaanxi, Mary Fong, Artibus Asiae 51, no:s. 3–4 (1991), pp. 147–98.

Immortality of the Spirit: Chinese Funerary Art from the Han and Tang Dynasties Exhibition Catalogue, Jill J. Deupi, Ive Covaci & Leopold Swergold, Immortality of the Spirit - Ephemera. 1, Fairfield University, 2012. (

Arts of the Tang Court, Patricia Eichenbaum Karetzky, Hong Kong; New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

The Art of the Yellow Springs: Understanding Chinese Tombs, Wu Hung, London: Reaktion Books, 2011.

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  • Shipping

    The shipment will be prepared in the course of 3-5 days and dispatched via Posti Group Oyj or purchased item(s) can be picked up from our shop during the store's opening hours (Tarkk’ampujankatu 4, 00140, Helsinki, Finland). Within the Finland, all items are shipped via Posti Group Oyj unless otherwise requested. We pack the items carefully and mainly in recycled materials because we want to save nature. You will receive the tracking number for your items by e-mail.

  • Returns

    Returns and exchange will be accepted within fourteen days (14) of receipt at the purchaser’s cost to include freight and packaging. Items must be returned in the same condition as when they were shipped, and will not be accepted if damaged or altered in any way. Please inform us via email ( or by calling +358408408352 before sending. We do not accept returns more than 14 days after delivery.