The imperial Tang dynasty (618-907) is often said to be the Golden Age of Chinese art. Not being an expert on China, I am in no position to debate this claim but all I know is that I have become hopelessly enamoured with the chubby forms and contented, comical expressions typical of many Tang sculptures. I have never before thought that it could be possible to make a terracotta look cuddly, and since terracotta is my speciality this is a revelation. Even the hardest, most resilient of hearts could not fail to be moved by the round cheeks of the figurine from the Shanghai Museum. I have nothing more to say except that I am in love.
Well, maybe just a few more details. The capital of the Tang dynasty was Chang’an (Xi’an) located in Central China and was at the time, the most populous city in the world. Trade and cultural exchange with India and the Middle East helped the arts to develop and flourish.
Buddhism became important in China during this period, and a Nepalese influence might be seen in the British Museum painting, and in a couple of the Buddha or Bodhisattva sculptures below.
The pieces selected here are made from a wide variety of materials including marble, jade, stone, terracotta, wood and pigment, paint, and bronze.
Dancing figurines. 7th-8th Century.
One of a set of ten belt plaques carved from jade. 7th-8th Century. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Head of a Buddha. V&A Museum, London.
Standing Female Attendant. Wood with pigment. Late 7th Century. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Standing Court Lady. 7th Century.