Collection Highlight: T’ang Dynasty Camel

earthenware camel statue

Chinese, T’ang Dynasty (618-906), Camel, Earthenware with brown, green and yellow glaze, Gift from Lennox Tierney and purchased with funds from Friends of the Art Museum, UMFA #1972.240

The prosperous Tang Dynasty, from the year 618 to 906, was an innovative time for all arts in China. This Tang earthenware camel was originally made to be included in the tomb of a wealthy Chinese aristocrat. Elaborate funerals with performers and processions were popular among the aristocracy and created a competitive atmosphere to provide the most extravagant funeral and grave decorations for a departed loved one.  Ceramic works like this camel have survived because they were buried with the dead, and now are among the masterpieces of Chinese art. The multi-colored glaze on this camel was a glazing technique developed and widely used during the Tang Dynasty.


Camels, donkeys and to a lesser extent horses were used along the silk road to transport goods from the east to the west and vice-versa. Camels became a popular funerary piece as they came to symbolize the wealth that resulted from silk road trade. Ideas including religions, science and art techniques were also transported along the silk road. Have you seen other representations of silk road goods and ideas in the museum’s galleries? Keep your eyes peeled – they are everywhere!

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