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Horses were once sacrificed when their owners died to be their mounts in the afterlife, but later were replaced by symbolic representations. Sometimes these were lifesize- if you were the emperor- and sometimes they were much smaller depending upon social status and wealth, as well as the time period that you lived. Though there are many forgeries of these famous horses from the tomb still being made in China today, there are still many, many real statues from over a thousand years ago that are on the open market too.

Much of the source for Ebay’s goods apparently comes from people who’ve had their things confiscated by the government, as well as from graves whom the government was “protecting” and museum storehouses. There are some fakes in the bunch primarily because some were in Chinese people’s personal collections and they were duped into buying them to begin with, however an alarming number aren’t. The Chinese government is making no attempt to preserve them, nor are the dealers who repeatedly and clearly sell items looted from graves ever apprehended.

Search for “Tang horse” on Ebay:

  • 1,490 on 05/01/2016 including 64 auctioned in 10 days
  • 1,644 on 05/12/2016 including 115 auctioned in 10 days
  • 1,705 on 05/20/2016 including 132 auctioned in 10 days
  • 1,798 on 07/08/2016 including 91 auctioned in 10 days
  • 1,983 on 08/12/2016 including 137 auctioned in 10 days
  • 2,061 on 10/07/2016 including 95 auctioned in 10 days
  • 2,020 on 01/06/2017 including 66 auctioned in 10 days
  • 2,013 on 03/09/2017 including 86 auctioned in 10 days
  • 2,213 on 04/18/2017 including 57 auctioned in 10 days
  • 1,937 on 06/05/2017 including 51 auctioned in 10 days

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These ancient ceramic horses come in many colors, not just the brown or chestnut color shown above, and there were also other animals that were commonly placed in tombs, such as braying camels.

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The horse in the bronze is a breed brought back from Fergana ( Ferghana Valley of eastern Uzbekistan), a by an expedition sent by Emperor Han Wudi in 104 BCE. These “celestial horses” were highly prized as marks of status. The famous sculpture called the “Gansu Flying Horse” or “Galloping Horse Treading on a Flying Swallow” is another example of this breed shown in Chinese art. An example of these horses on birds but gilted in silver can be seen here, part of complete sets of bronzes that were owned by someone in the imperial court if not the Emperor themselves.

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Pottery with a somewhat chalky paint instead of glossy and glass-like, maybe older than the Tang Dynasty when these horses were so popular, and/or a different region where the glazes and the style differed.

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This may be a depiction of one of the emperors- he is dressed in the royal color of yellow with a fierce dragon on chest of his armor. What he’s holding in his hands or doing with them is unknown. Surely he’s not playing maracas, and they seem a bit short handled for a war club or mace.