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 mingqi 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. Well-preserved groups such as this one are a rare find and reflect the golden age of court performances during Tang Dynasty. The performances were eclectic and on a grand-scale, sometimes with tens of thousands of performers. With its keen interest in other cultures, the Tang court received musicians and performing arts groups from many regions. Such a wide range of performers included: acrobats, ceremonial dancers, clowns, singers, musicians and martial arts masters.
To discover more about Tang tomb figurines, please visit our relevant post: Chinese Tang Dynasty: Terracotta Tomb Attendants.