The art of the Tang dynasty

The Tang dynasty was one of the most powerful in Chinese history. In this period, China becomes the the most prominent civilization in East Asia—with links east to Korea and Japan and west, along the Silk Route.

618–907 C.E.

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What is the Tang dynasty?

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Buddha preaching at Vulture Peak embroidery
Buddha preaching at Vulture Peak embroidery

This embroidery, discovered at Dunhuang, dates from China’s Tang dynasty (618–907) and depicts the Buddha preaching at Vulture Peak – in Buddhist tradition a favorite retreat of the Buddha and his disciples.

Tomb figures of a man and woman on horseback
Tomb figures of a man and woman on horseback

In China, people made tomb figurines as replacements for real objects so that the deceased would enjoy their company or service in the afterlife.

A silk painting of sacred Buddhist images from Dunhuang
A silk painting of sacred Buddhist images from Dunhuang

A fragmentary silk painting tells us about Buddhist art along the Silk Roads, numerous Buddhist sacred icons, and the complex life of an object after its creation.

Tomb figure of a groom
Tomb figure of a groom

Representations of foreigners are often seen in Tang tomb figurines

Dunhuang Historical Art, Cave 323
Dunhuang Historical Art, Cave 323

Mogao Cave 323 at Dunhuang tells a version of the origins of Chinese Buddhism across its many wall paintings.

Zither (qin) inscribed with the name “Dragon’s Moan”
Zither (qin) inscribed with the name “Dragon’s Moan”

Qin have for centuries been valued as a symbol of high culture by the Chinese elite class.

A Tang silk brocade
A Tang silk brocade

Chinese fabrics—typically silks—were traded widely and became one of the most popular goods on the Silk Road.

Tang dynasty (618–907), an introduction
Tang dynasty (618–907), an introduction

The Tang dynasty is considered a golden age in Chinese history.

Figure of a seated court lady
Figure of a seated court lady

ThisTang dynasty figure tells us something about human beauty & its moment in time

Admonitions Scroll, attributed to Gu Kaizhi
Admonitions Scroll, attributed to Gu Kaizhi

The Admonitions of the Instructress to the Court Ladies is an eighth-century copy of the earliest and finest painting attributed to Gu Kaizhi, and illustrates a political parody

The paintings and manuscripts from cave 17 at Mogao (2 of 2)
The paintings and manuscripts from cave 17 at Mogao (2 of 2)

Cave art at Mogao reflects changing beliefs as well as stylistic influences from India, the West, and the Tang.

The paintings and manuscripts from cave 17 at Mogao (1 of 2)
The paintings and manuscripts from cave 17 at Mogao (1 of 2)

Hidden in a cave and undisturbed for centuries, this important collection of paintings was rediscovered in 1900.

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