The horse played a key role in the history of China.
At the beginning of the first millennium, there were three main breeds, the Han horse from the southwest, the Mongol horse from the northeast and the Kazakh horse from the northwest.
The first two are stocky and robust species, characteristics of draft and transport animals.
The third one, more elegant, finer, was introduced around our era from the west by the emperor Wudi (140-86) who wanted to improve the breed. He will send an emissary Zhang Qian to the west who will return with the famous horses nicknamed "celestial horses" which will give birth to the myth of feima, flying horses, longma, dragon horses, shenma, divine horses, hanxuema, horses with blood sweat.
In particular the myth of the celestial steed, born of the dragon riding the clouds, emanation of fire, yang emblem.
This horse is tall, broad shoulders, high withers, strong loins, fine and firm legs.
These crossings will allow the horse to change its role, the army will be strengthened by a new force, the cavalry.
It is the prince of QIN, 246-211, future emperor Shihuang who was the first to understand the importance of cavalry in the army.
The horse played a fundamental role in the military conquest of the vast Chinese territory.
The mingqi that we present belongs to the Mongolian Tarpan breed, well built, with an elegant head, marked ganache and small pointed ears, it is a cross between a pony from the Tarpan for robustness and a purebred Arabian for speed.
The Tang aristocracy made matrimonial alliances with the nobility of the steppes, all of whom shared chivalric values and provided the army with large contingents of horsemen. At the beginning of the dynasty, the imperial stables had only 5,000 horses, but this number would rise to 700,000 by the middle of the 7th century. They will be used as a mobile rampart more effective than the great wall of Han.
The Tang Dynasty period can be considered as the golden age of the horse, as evidenced by the numerous representations and in particular the most prestigious one, that of the emperor Taizong (626-649) who immortalized his 6 steeds by having a real portrait made in stone. These statues were destroyed, then replicated in the form of bas-relief plaques 2 meters long and 1.72 meters high made in 973.
Most of the horses are used for defense but a certain number are used for parade during the celebrations given to the Court. The Xuanzong emperor who had a stud of 400 horses intended to dance in music
Emblem of the dynasty, this animal accompanies the deceased in his final resting place.
Horses are found in abundance in tombs.
The hieratic and conceptual animals of the Han, will become under the Tang of naturalistic style showing a real knowledge of the anatomy of the horse with a great precision in the rendering of the physiognomy.
What we find in our statuettes
The pair of mingqi is represented with the front leg raised right for one, left for the other in the attitude of a dancing horse.
The head is slightly turned to the left. Small ears stand on top of a narrow head with a very attentive gaze, perhaps towards its trainer, and a finely sculpted naseau.
The mane is represented in large wavy locks and brought back to the neck on the side opposite the raised paw, indicating the dynamism of the attitude.
The double-arched saddle rests on a rectangular cloth decorated with a wavy pattern on a light background bordered by a plain dark braid: a simplified cloud pattern evoking celestial horses? The saddle cloth is tied with a wide flat ribbon that lets it fall on both sides in large folds and scallops at the edge rejected backwards expressing the movement. It is probably made of embroidered felt, a very common fabric in the Tang period.
The tail is short and tied above the breech.
The care taken in the representation of both anatomy and equipment indicates the importance of this animal to the Tang Dynasty.
Dating from the Tang Dynasty: 618 to 907.
Measuring 67 cm in length, 20 cm in width and 60 cm in height each.
Thermoluminescence test from QED laboratory confirming the dating.
Restorations of use.