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Tang Sancai Camel

During the Tang Dynasty, the beloved status of the camel ranked second only to the revered horse. Camels symbolized commerce and its associated wealth, largely concentrated on profits through trading on the Silk Road. Trade across this extensive network of paths and trails brought prosperity, foreigner merchants, and exotic merchandize into China. However, this arduous journey through the jagged mountains and rugged deserts of Central Asia could only be undertaken by the two-humped Bactrian camel. Tang Sancai camel

The dusty trails of the Silk Road could only be traversed by the camel, a beast able to withstand the scorching heat of the desert and to maintain its own nutrients, surviving for months without fresh supplies of water. The government kept vast herds of these invaluable creatures, presided over by civil officials, for hauling their precious silk supplies across the Silk Road.

These exotic creatures were a common sight in the cosmopolitan cities of Tang China, carrying both traders and their goods directly into the markets. Likewise, Tang artist began to create charming representations of these prized creatures as Ming qi in order to symbolize wealth and prosperity in the afterlife.

Ming qi were works of art specifically created in an ancient Chinese custom for interment in the tombs of elite individuals in order to provide for their afterlife. Some of the most beautiful works of Chinese art were excavated from such tombs, and this Sancai glazed sculpture of a camel is a perfect example of the refined artistry dedicated to such works even though they were never meant to be seen by the living.

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