550AD Handsome Ancient Medieval Tang China Painted Ceramic Tomb Guard Warrior
Nicely Preserved Genuine Sixth Century A.D. Qi Dynasty Terra Cotta Statuette of a Tomb Warrior. Possibly an 18th or 19th Century Revival Imitative.
CLASSIFICATION: Painted Pottery Statuette.
ATTRIBUTION: In the Style of Ancient China, Northern Qi Dynasty, 550A.D. – 577 A.D.
Height: 275 millimeters (11 inches)
Breadth: 86 millimeters (3 1/2 inches).
Thickness: 66 millimeters (2 2/3 inches).
CONDITION: Very good, no repairs but the majority of the paint has oxidized/decomposed. A little wear and a few blemishes consistent with any decorative item which is 1,400 years old. Not flawless, but certainly in a better than average state of preservation – and unrepaired! Stands on its own.
DETAIL: A very well preserved tomb warrior ostensibly originating from the “Qi Dynasty” period of Ancient China. The Qi Dynasty was one of the short-lived Kingdoms in the chaotic period between the collapse of the Han Dynasty in the early third century and the rise of the Sui and Tang Dynasties in the late sixth and early seventh centuries – the equivalent of one of ancient Egypt’s “Intermediate Periods” or Europe’s “Dark Ages”. For a very brief period of time – less than three decades, the Qi ruled as a petty kingdom in a region and period known as the “Northern Dynasties” (420-589 A.D.). Though brief in duration, the artisans of the Qi Dynasty left posterity a cultural legacy of remarkably fashioned terra cotta warriors, which are very much in demand today, almost 1,500 years later. This particular masterpiece is a real terra cotta warrior, ostensibly intended to protect a real tomb, much like those 6,000 terra cotta warriors recently unearthed which guarded the tomb of the ancient Chinese Emperor Ch’in.
This is a very nice, large, impressive, and very handsome piece of ancient statuary. Constructed of fired (baked) terra cotta, a surprising amount of the original paint remains. Furthermore, there are no significant chips, no cracks, no breakage, and no repairs. It is not only complete, it is intact. The warrior’s facial details are really remarkable, handsome, rugged, and very stern. Truly a remarkable event to look upon a face almost fifteen centuries old; very lifelike. If it was actually modeled after someone, as Emperor Ch’in’s 6,000 warriors seem to have been, whomsoever he was lived, fought, and perished just shortly after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. The detail is exceptionally good given the origin and age of the sculpture. Han Dynasty and post-Han burial ceramics (during the three and one-half century after the fall of the Han and the rise of the Sui and Tang Dynasties) were most often terra cotta, and decorated simply but colorfully, paint applied directly onto the unglazed fired pieces. This piece was obviously painted – and still remaining are easily discernible amounts of red, white, and black pigments. Of course there is the customary and expected minor scuffs, marks, abrasions, etc. All evidence of a lifespan of somewhere around fourteen and one-half centuries. You can imagine that large terra cotta sculptures such as this are rarely recovered intact.
This wonderful and rare example of Pre-Han statuary, unlike most such pieces which are reduced to shattered shards, came to us entirely intact. It ostensibly sat undisturbed in a tomb for over 1,400 years, and emerged with virtually no damage, just the eventual oxidation (decomposition) of most of the original paint. Of course realistically one would expect some blemishes two millennia after it was originally created, and there are no surprises here except that there are so few blemishes. Overall the statue is in wonderful condition, a highly collectible Qi Dynasty Warrior. Perfect it is not – but were it perfect it would be in a museum and not available at any price. If you’d like an authentic ancient piece of terra cotta statuary such as this, a magnificent piece of ancient art, you could not go wrong with this one. It is solidly shaped, nicely featured, and perfectly proportioned. And it is a very large, very substantial piece. You could display this one with great pride either at work on your desk or at home in the kitchen or dining room. Whether at home or at work, it will certainly generate curiosity and certainly a great deal of envy! It is truly a remarkable piece of ancient art.
Although it is probable that this specimen is much older, it would be remiss of us not to mention the fact that it is also possible that this piece might be a revivalist imitative produced for the European market of the 18th or 19th century. It is widely known that Chinese porcelain and other ceramic artwork was quite popular in Victorian Europe. Carrying Chinese porcelain from China to Europe was an industry for the seafaring mariners of the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. Entire fleets of sailing ships plied the trade, especially the Dutch and English. However in addition to porcelain, ancient Chinese ceramics were also extremely popular in Victorian Europe, where Chinese ceramic artwork was highly appreciated and in great demand.
Although the style of this specimen is very convincing and suggests it is indeed be of sixth century origin, a large portion of the antique/ancient Chinese ceramics in Europe date to the 17th or 18th century, so it is quite possible that this is an imitative revival piece. Judging by the style it is likely considerably older, but only an $800 thermoluminescence test would establish this conclusively (and even then the reliability and accuracy of such testing is still debated). So we’ll simply err on the side of being conservative and suggest that you consider it a revival piece, and if it is indeed older, so much the better. However whether an antique several centuries old, or an antiquity fifteen hundred years old, this is a valuable and collectible piece of art.
HISTORY OF SIX DYNASTIES (A.D. 220-589) CERAMICS: It was beginning with the Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD) that grave interiors were richly furnished with a wide variety of miniature objects, usually fashioned as replicas of actual possessions, animals, or buildings. Called “spirit goods”, these items were used as substitutes for valuable possessions, and were usually produced in ceramic and were glazed or colorfully painted. The wealthy elite's increasing interest in elaborately furnished tombs led to the mass production of armies of ceramic figures made using molds. In the case of the royal burial of the sole Qin Emperor, a terra cotta army of 6,000 was produced in full size. Burial ceramics made during the Han dynasty were decorated with simple but colorful designs painted directly onto the unglazed fired pieces or with brown and green lead-based glazes that could be fired at low temperatures.
The period between the collapse of the Han Dynasty in 220 A.D. and the rise of the Sui and Tang Dynasties (starting in 589 A.D.) was characterized by the fragmentation of China and a prolonged power struggle. Together with the period of the Western and Eastern Jin Dynasties, the “Three Kingdoms” together with “Southern” and the “Northern” Dynasties cover a period of three and one-half centuries during which, despite the chaotic conditions of the period, the ceramic industry developed rapidly and ceramic production flourished. By then, porcelain-making techniques in Southern China had been enhanced and the ceramics-making area and scale increasingly expanded with kiln sites spread throughout many provinces. Excavation of white porcelain objects from noble tombs shows that white porcelain was already in production in the Northern provinces, and its emergence paved the way for further development porcelain production in the coming Sui and Tang Dynasties.
There were many other notable advances in ceramic arts, including green-glazed stoneware, highly durable and often fashioned into bowls and jars. The discovery of what became known as “celadon glazing” was a major development during the period. Fine ash or ash mixed with clay was painted onto the vessel and after firing it turned pale green. This rare funerary urn belongs to this class of vessels. Potters of the era continued improving the quality of these early “celadon” wares both with respect to glaze color and in body clay. The production of glazed porcelain was a significant achievement in Chinese ceramic history. It was eventually exported as far as the Philippines and Egypt. Ceramic figurines produced during the period were notable for increased detail. The most profound influence on the art of the period (including ceramics) was the Buddhist religion which came from neighboring India. Objects imported from the Middle East and Central and West Asia also strongly influenced the period’s ceramic arts.
In spite of the political and social confusion of the period, major changes occurred in the spiritual life of the Chinese. Daoism, which had played a previously minor role in religious thought, was revitalized, and Buddhism reached the Chinese court from India and Tibet. The Buddhist notion of Bodhisattvas - compassionate beings who have delayed their own enlightenment in order to guide others along the right path - was integrated into existing beliefs, along with ideas of Buddhist heavens and symbols of worship. The quest for eternity gained great favor and people sought methods such as drinking mercury and other potions devised by alchemists to prolong their lives. These unsettled times were also a period of transition in the development of ceramics wares. The 'proto-celadon' wares described above were precursors to the renowned celadon wares of the Song dynasty (960–1279 A.D.). The increasing prominence of religion including Daoism and the emergence of Buddhism in China greatly expanded the design repertoire. Daoist Immortals, cosmological symbols and Buddhist guardians were all represented in ceramic forms. The replicas of humans and animals became more and more life-like, while images of the 'unreal' such as guardian spirits, became more and more imaginary and fanciful.
HISTORY OF EARTHENWARE IN ANCIENT CHINA: The first Chinese ceramics archaeologists have found date back more than 10,000 years. These were earthenware, which means they were made from clay and fired at the kind of low temperatures reached by a wood fire or simple oven. In China, most ceramics made before the Tang dynasty (600 A.D.) are earthenware. They may be glazed or unglazed, and are occasionally painted, often brightly colored. Stoneware ceramics are harder and less porous than earthenware and are fired at hotter temperatures—between 2100°F and 2400°F. At these high temperatures, the surface of the clay melts and becomes glassy. Although stoneware is usually waterproof, most stoneware ceramics are glazed for decoration. The glazes often contain ash, which allows the glaze to harden at stoneware temperatures.
During the Shang Dynasty (1600-1100 B.C.) bronze metallurgy superceded ceramics as the favored art form of the ruling class. However both the ceramic and the bronze industries evolved into complex systems of production that were supported by the aristocracy. Decorative designs rich in symbolism were created first in bronze were then imitated in clay. Chinese burial customs included the tradition of placing clay replicas of material possessions, animals and people in the tomb to accompany the deceased and serve them in the next life. Although archaeological finds have revealed that glazed pottery was produced as early as 1100 B.C. during the Zhou dynasty, the production of glazed wares was not common until about 200 B.C. during the Han Dynasty. However from about 1000 B.C. onwards during the Shang and Zhou dynasties, primitive porcelain wares emerged. Real porcelain wares appeared in the Han dynasty around 200 A.D. In the process of porcelain development, different styles in different periods blossomed.
The production of porcelain became widespread by about 500 A.D. Using a special clay with ground rock containing feldspar, a glassy mineral, the material was fired at very high temperatures above 2400°F. The surface of the clay melts at such high temperatures and becomes smooth as glass. Early porcelains were undecorated and were used by the Imperial court and exported as far as the Middle East. For instance during the Han Dynasty principally celadon (green) and black porcelain were mainly produced. The famous blue and white porcelain was created with blue paint made from cobalt and then covered with a clear glaze, which can withstand the high temperatures of the kiln. The technical and creative innovations of Chinese potters are unique accomplishments in the cultural heritage of the world. Today, archaeological excavation and research in China are revealing new sites and new examples of the genius of the Chinese potter.
HISTORY OF THE QI DYNASTY: The collapse of the Han dynasty was followed by nearly four centuries (220-589 A.D.) of relative anarchy. During the earliest period, known as the “Three Kingdoms Period”, petty kingdoms waged incessant warfare against one another. Unity was restored briefly in the early years of the Jin Dynasty (265-420 A.D.), but by 317 A.D. China again disintegrated into a succession of petty dynasties that was to last from 304 to 589 A.D. The Western Jin Dynasty (265-316 A.D.) was founded by Emperor Wu, and a brief period of unity followed the Jin conquest the Kingdom of Wu in 280 A.D. The entire country was united again for a brief interlude between the turbulent age of the Three Kingdoms and the devastating barbarian invasions to come. For a short time, the government attempted important fiscal and political reforms, mainly intended to curb the power of the great families by regaining control of taxation and reducing the exorbitant rents that powerful landowners were extracting from the people. However the power of the great local families was never really broken, and they even continued to maintain their own private armies.
Thus weakened and fragmented internally, ultimately the Jin Dynasty could meet the external challenge from the invasion of nomadic peoples after the devastating “War of the Eight Princes”. This devastating internal struggle occurred when the emperor divided the kingdom into 25 provinces, one for each son. The struggle between the 25 successors to the throne eventually distilled into a war between the eight strongest contenders. These wars lasted a total of 16 years, killed hundreds of thousands of people and laid waste to many cities and towns. The consequences included a dislocated social economy, a paralyzed government, and an exhausted capacity to govern. Society became feudalistic, essentially controlled by great landowning families, each with hordes of serfs and their private armies. Nomandic groups like the Turks and the Avars, took advantage of the central government's instability to attack the frontier. Their mounted archers easily outfought the less mobile Chinese forces. Crippled and fragmented, the country and the Jin Dynasty fell in 316 A.D.
The remnants of the Jin court fled from the north to the south and reestablished the Jin court near modern-day Nanjing, founding the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420 A.D.). Militaristic authorities and crises plagued the Eastern Jin court throughout its 104 years of existence. It survived several rebellions and usurpations. During this period and for another century to follow, China was divided into two different societies, northern and southern, with a proliferation of would-be dynasties. Millions of Chinese peasants, led or herded by aristocrats, moved from nomadic-conquered Northern China down south of the Yangtze River. The Eastern Jin was racked by revolts, court intrigues, and wars with the nomadic northern states. It did not have any more success than the Western Jin in controlling the power of huge landowners; it was at the mercy of powerful families, with government controlled by changing groups of aristocratic clans. Eventually the last emperor of the Dynasty, Emperor Gong, was installed in 419 A.D. His abdication a year later ushered in the turbulent “Southern Dynasty”. Meanwhile Northern China had been ruled by the “Sixteen Kingdoms” of the nomadic peoples. The conquest of the Northern Liang by the Northern Wei Dynasty in 439 A.D. ushered in the “Northern Dynasty”.
A turbulent and fragmented society was to pervade for another 150 years until the ascendancy of the Sui Dynasty in 589 A.D. and the Tang Dynasty in 618 A.D. The Northern and Southern Dynasties (420 to 589 A.D.) followed the Sixteen Kingdoms and preceded Sui Dynasty in China, and was an age of continuing and intense civil wars and disunity. The invasion of the North by the various nomadic tribes had ended in 439 A.D. with the conquest of the Northern Liang and the founding of the Wei Dynasty. Also known as the Northern Wei, this dynasty was briefly strong and powerful, but was later convulsed with internal disturbances, causing it to be split into Eastern and Western Wei. Overthrown by usurpers, the Eastern Wei became the Northern Qi, and the Western Wei became the Northern Zhou. In the final contest for supremacy in the north, Northern Zhou emerged victorious over Northern Qi. But for a brief moment in the history of Ancient China, the North Qi had their day of sunshine.
Despite the political disunity of the times, there were notable technological advances. The invention of gunpowder (at that time for use only in fireworks) and the wheelbarrow is believed to date from the sixth or seventh century. Advances in medicine, astronomy, and cartography are also noted by historians. This process was also accompanied by the increasing popularity of Buddhism (introduced into China in the first century A.D.) in both north and south China. However politically the Wei, Jin and Northern and Southern Dynasties were a time of much chaos and social upheaval. Many kingdoms and dynasties were created, many split apart, and many completely disappeared. Fate held no exceptions for the Northern Qi. The Northern Qi Dynasty was a turbulent time in the vast history of China. Locusts plagued the lands, ruining the crops. Hunger and ethnic feuding ravaged the population.
As implied by its short duration, “completely disappeared” was ultimately the epithet of the Northern Qi Dynasty. Within a few years China was reunified in A.D. 589 by a military leader from Northwest China who founded the short-lived Sui Dynasty (581-618 A.D.). Overthrown as the result of a coup d’etat, it was succeeded by the T'ang Dynasty (618 to 907 A.D.). Perhaps fittingly after almost four centuries of anarchy, the Tang Dynasty eventually was regarded by historians as a high point in Chinese civilization. During the Tang dynasty China became an expansive, cosmopolitan empire.
HISTORY OF CHINESE CIVILIZATION: Remains of Homo erectus, found near Beijing, have been dated back 460,000 years. Recent archaeological studies in the Yangtse River area have provided evidence of ancient cultures (and rice cultivation) flourishing more than 11,500 years ago, contrary to the conventional belief that the Yellow River area was the cradle of the Chinese civilization. The Neolithic period flourished with a multiplicity of cultures in different regions dating back to around 5000 B.C. There is strong evidence of two so-called pottery cultures, the Yang-shao culture (3950-1700 B.C.) and the Lung-shan culture (2000-1850 B.C). Written records go back more than 3,500 years, and the written history is (as is the case with Ancient Egypt) divided into dynasties, families of kings or emperors. The voluminous records kept by the ancient Chinese provide us with knowledge into their strong sense of their real and mythological origins – as well as of their neighbors.
By about 2500 B.C. the Chinese knew how to cultivate and weave silk and were trading the luxurious fabric with other nations by about 1000 B.C. The production and value of silk tell much about the advanced state of early Chinese civilization. Cultivation of silkworms required mulberry tree orchards, temperature controls and periodic feedings around the clock. More than 2,000 silkworms were required to produce one pound of silk. The Chinese also mastered spinning, dyeing and weaving silk threads into fabric. Bodies were buried with food containers and other possessions, presumably to assist the smooth passage of the dead to the next world. The relative success of ancient China can be attributed to the superiority of their ideographic written language, their technology, and their political institutions; the refinement of their artistic and intellectual creativity; and the sheer weight of their numbers.
A recurrent historical theme has been the unceasing struggle of the sedentary Chinese against the threats posed by non-Chinese peoples on the margins of their territory in the north, northeast, and northwest. China saw itself surrounded on all sides by so-called barbarian peoples whose cultures were demonstrably inferior by Chinese standards. This China-centered ("sinocentric") view of the world was still undisturbed in the nineteenth century, at the time of the first serious confrontation with the West. Of course the ancient Chinese showed a remarkable ability to absorb the people of surrounding areas into their own civilization. The process of assimilation continued over the centuries through conquest and colonization until what is now known as China Proper was brought under unified rule.
Due to its fragile nature this particular piece is only shipped in an oversized box with lots of Styrofoam peanuts. Domestic rates include USPS Delivery Confirmation (you might be able to update the status of your shipment on-line at the USPS Web Site). Additional items shipped together do result in a discount. The shipping weight of this item is 5 pounds. Various rates for shipping both domestically and internationally may be viewed here . I can add most other items I sell to the shipment for only $0.99 each. Your purchase will ordinarily be shipped within 48 hours of payment. We package as well as anyone in the business, with lots of protective padding and containers. Trackable and insured shipments are required by PayPal for all purchases utilizing PayPal as a payment method. Therefore shipping costs for this item includes the fee for postal insurance ($13 for domestic shipments; $19 for international shipments); and is required for whenever PayPal is used as the payment method.
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Most of the items I offer come from the collection of a family friend who was active in the field of Archaeology for over forty years. However many of the items also come from purchases I make in Eastern Europe, India, and from the Levant (Eastern Mediterranean/Near East) from various institutions and dealers. Though I have always had an interest in archaeology, my own academic background was in sociology and cultural anthropology. After my retirement however, I found myself drawn to archaeology as well. Aside from my own personal collection, I have made extensive and frequent additions of my own via purchases on (of course), as well as many purchases from both dealers and institutions throughout the world – but especially in the Near East and in Eastern Europe. I spend over half of my year out of the United States, and have spent much of my life either in India or Eastern Europe. In fact much of what we generate on Yahoo, Amazon and goes to support The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, as well as some other worthy institutions in Europe connected with Anthropology and Archaeology.
I acquire some small but interesting collections overseas from time-to-time, and have as well some duplicate items within my own collection which I occasionally decide to part with. Though I have a collection of ancient coins numbering in the tens of thousands, my primary interest is in ancient jewelry. My wife also is an active participant in the “business” of antique and ancient jewelry, and is from Russia. I would be happy to provide you with a certificate/guarantee of authenticity for any item you purchase from me. There is a $2 fee for mailing under separate cover. Whenever I am overseas I have made arrangements for purchases to be shipped out via domestic mail. If I am in the field, you may have to wait for a week or two for a COA to arrive via international air mail. But you can be sure your purchase will arrive properly packaged and promptly – even if I am absent. And when I am in a remote field location with merely a notebook computer, at times I am not able to access my email for a day or two, so be patient, I will always respond to every email. Please see our "ADDITIONAL TERMS OF SALE."