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Images from the Tomb

Chinese Burial Figurines

November 4, 2005 - November 4, 2005

Throughout China there was a belief that at death man simply changes the scene of his existence and that his needs and desires in the afterlife are, in fact, the same as during his lifetime. Therefore, many funerary figurines were placed in the deceased?s tomb. It was believed these figurines were surrogates for real people and that they would come to life and serve the master in the next life as they had done on earth.

Collectors of Chinese art came to admire the great beauty and exquisite workmanship of these figurines. Historians also appreciate the statues because they offer unrivalled material for the study of daily life across the length and breadth of ancient China, revealing the different classes of people once found in China; the costumes they wore; the manner in which the ladies dressed their hair; the armour and weapons of their warriors; their musical instruments; their dances and other forms of amusement; the strange merchants who came from foreign lands to trade with them; how they rode their magnificent horses; the vehicles they used; the houses they lived in and their household utensils; the domestic animals they bred and the animals they hunted. The figurines also reveal the ancient Chinese beliefs in the supernatural with its demons and mythical creatures.

The Art Gallery has a fine variety of Chinese tomb figurines which span a period from the 2nd century BCE until the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). Recently the AGGV received a prancing horse from the R.W. Finlayson family in Toronto. It dates to the Tang dynasty (618-906). Barry Till, Curator of Asian Art, says it is the finest prancing horse figurine he has every seen. He says rather than prancing the horse appears very agitated as it pounds the ground with its hoof.

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