A fine Han dynasty polychrome painted terracotta horse and rider. The warrior is dressed in orange and black on a white horse.
Measures: Height 11.5 inches (29 cm)
Width 11 inches (28.8 cm).
During the unification of China under the Han dynasty, bands of mounted nomadic warriors from the north threatened the country. In order to thwart their attacks, the Chinese sought to import stronger, faster steeds from Central Asia (as opposed to the Mongol ponies used by the invaders), eventually leading to the creation of the Silk Road. This small sculpture of a mounted soldier reveals the crucial military role of the horse. When compared to the diminutive stature of the rider, the importance of the horse becomes readily apparent. This creature provided security and strength, allowing the empire to secure its borders and expand its influences across Central Asia. The magnificent regalia of the horse, including a brilliantly painted saddle in red and green/gold, reflect the respect this animal received. The warrior as well is gorgeously decorated with a painted red tunic and gray chest armor. He would have originally held a wooden spear or bow in between his hands that has rotted away over the centuries. This remarkable sculpture is a creation of immense cultural and historical significance that attests to the critical role of the horse in ancient Chinese civilization.