This way of representing courtiers and dancers as plump appears in 730 AD. Emperor Zuanzong’s love for the concubine with ample curves, Yang Guifei, seems to have been at the origin of this change in representations of dancers and courtiers in Tang Dynasty art. Dancing with sleeve movements was well established by the Tang Dynasty, having been performed since the Zhou Dynasty. Another popular dance is the Long Sleeve Dance, depicted in many images and sculptures and still surviving today. The art of dance in China reached a peak during the Tang Dynasty, which was the golden age of Chinese music and dance. The Great Music Bureau (太樂署) was set up to oversee the training and performances of music and dances in the imperial court, and the Drums and Pipes Bureau (鼓吹署) was responsible for ceremonial music. Terracotta moulded figures of people and animals were meant to be grave goods to be placed in tombs. It was believed that these figures would serve and assist the deceased in the afterlife. Figures of this type are called mingqui in Chinese, and usually depict servants, officials, soldiers, musicians, court attendants, dancers and, in the case of animals, horses and Bactrian camels. As in life, attendant figures are depicted standing nearby, waiting to fulfil the desires and needs of the deceased. They were lined outside the tomb before the coffin was taken inside, and then placed and arranged inside the tomb. The size and number of the figures in a grave depended on the rank of the deceased.
To discover more about Tang tomb figurines, please visit our relevant post: Chinese Tang Dynasty: Terracotta Tomb Attendants.