The sancai, Tomb Figurine of an Equestrian Hunter, represents one of the earliest Tang dynasty tomb figures used as a monument on the tomb of the deceased. The figurine is found in the Allen Museum. The sancai pottery consists of different features that depict the cultural practices in ancient China. Just like in the modern culture where images are used on graves as the remembrances of the deceased, Tomb Figurine of an Equestrian Hunter was also used on tombs for the memorial (Moller, 2009). In the ancient Chinese culture, several tomb artifacts and figurines were developed to be buried with the dead. The Tomb Figurine of an Equestrian Hunter is identical to the Tang dynasty. The earliest Chinese cultural norms stipulated that every individual possess two souls "po" and "hun." When a person died, "hun" soul would go to heaven while the "po" soul would remain with the body inside the tomb. Therefore, tomb figurines were designed especially for the "po" soul (Moller, 2009). The "po" soul was to use the artifact afterlife; the sancai represented all the needs of the deceased especially the forms of lifestyle before death. The main function of the Tomb Figurine of an Equestrian Hunter was to care for the deceased master after burial. The analysis of the different tomb figurines in several Chinese dynasties enables an individual to appreciate changing historical and social situations of each period. The paper examines the functions of Tomb Figurine of an Equestrian Hunter sancai and the physical context in which it was found.
Tomb Figurine of an Equestrian Hunter was used in the ancient Chinese culture to support the "po" soul of the deceased (Moller, 2009). The sancai was used in the context of death to extend the life of the dead. The Tomb Figurine of an Equestrian Hunter represented the life of a hunter and even if the deceased was lying in the tomb, the sancai would embody his active life. The ancient Chinese believed in the life after death and with the presence of figurines on the tombs, the deceased would become appeased. Therefore the Tomb Figurine of an Equestrian Hunter was used for appeasing the dead. Additionally, there are other sancai that would be used to scare away the tomb invaders. In the above cases, the Chinese used four major tomb guardians, each placed at every corner. Sancai were complicated and most difficult to design and this explains their value. The Tomb Figurine of an Equestrian Hunter was believed to protect the dead by keeping his spirit from wandering the world far away from the tomb. The sancai was also used to guide the tomb from other spirits that could interfere with the "po" soul. Tomb intrusion by the robbers was a common problem in the ancient Chinese culture. Although the sancai had high values, their use was essential. The Tomb Figurine of an Equestrian Hunter represents the rank of the diseased. The number and size of the figurines placed on the tomb depended on the position of the diseased in the society. In the above case, the size of the Tomb Figurine of an Equestrian Hunter shows that the deceased was from a high social class. The size of sancai is large and well decorated to increase the value. Before burial, the figurines were lined up and placed on carts as part of the funeral service. They were then moved into the tomb, arranged in a sloping fashion down into the subversive burial chamber. In cases of large tombs, niches were constructed along the tomb walls to ensure that sancai are well fitted.
The sancai, Tomb Figurine of an Equestrian Hunter, was used as a ritual to appease the "po" spirit of the deceased by keeping them within the society to which the deceased belonged. With the presence of sancai on the tomb, people believed that they were still connected to the deceased and that the sancai would continue portraying the activities done by the individual during his lifetime. In ancient China, the grand tombs were perceived as a modified paradise for the dead reflecting the best features of earthly life. The tombs were approached by the spirit roads with sancai representing the deceased moving along on carts. The sancai were mounted by the spiritual leaders as they were regarded as the holy part of human, the "po" soul. The sancai which in this case is Tomb Figurine of an Equestrian Hunter were sanctified by the priests in alters and temples, this indicates that they were objects of rituals. The sancai is presented in a fashionable design, it consists of green colors to show that the deceased was from a high social class. The mounting of sancai was performed in sequences, the religious leaders would communicate with the gods to received the "hun" spirits and protect the "po" within the body of the deceased. The ceremony involved the entire community and observation of different traditions.
The Tomb Figurine of an Equestrian Hunter was found on the zodiac figures whose use became popular after the Tang dynasty. The sancai figurine design could have been borrowed from Buddhist artworks and metropolitan designs that governed the rural beliefs and magical aspect of the Buddhist society. The sancai represented patterns of behaviors administered by shamanists and superstitious beliefs of the farming communities (Yatsenko, 2014). The sancai, being based on the zodiac figures indicates that it is mainly designed for ritual purposes. The zodiac figures were mainly applied in the performance of spiritual rituals; some of them were used in appeasing the spirit of the dead people in different communities. The above situation, therefore, defines the roles of sancai whose origin stems from the zodiac figures or artworks by Buddhists (Yatsenko, 2014). The figure of a horse in the Tomb Figurine of an Equestrian Hunter mirror the same ideals as perceived in the contemporary Buddhist painting, although the origin of the idea of hoarse is unknown in the history of painting, the Chinese sancai were based on the Buddhist figurines. The best periods of figures lasted for about fifty years before the rebellion of 755, the period that was characterized by innovations, unexpected realism and the increased interest towards Chinese art (Yatsenko, 2014). The paintings shared by the Buddhist colossal sculpture during the time of conventions were derived from the west. The elements of Tomb Figurine of an Equestrian Hunter resemble the features of AMAM objects. The designers use a mix of colors that best depicts the time period and cultural practices of the people during the time. The painting of horse may have also been derived from AMAM paintings. Sancai was therefore essential in the ancient Chinese society for they linked the spirit of the dead with the families and the entire society.
Moller, S. (2009). Horses of the Xianbei, 300-600 AD: A Brief Survey (Vol. 378, p. 181). Austrian Academy of Sciences.
Yatsenko, S. A. (2014). Images of the early Turks in Chinese murals and figurines from the recently-discovered tomb in Mongolia. The Silk Road, 12(2014), 13-24.
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