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Merchant mingqi
Tang dynasty
7th-9th century
Ceramic with polychrome paint
25.7 x 9.5 x 14 cm
Acquisition number: #33.19
Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection

Image courtesy of the Seattle Art Museum (copyright reserved)

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Camel mingqi
Tang dynasty
Late 7th-early 8th century
Earthenware with sancai glaze
83.4 x 74.3 cm
Acquisition number: #B60 S95
The Avery Brundage Collection

Image courtesy of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco (copyright reserved)

Foreign traders and caravan animals were another popular form of mingqi (tomb figurine). Most of the overland trade between China and the west was carried out by Central Asian and Near Eastern merchants, many of them Sogdians. For this reason, merchant mingqi figurines are often depicted with beards and clothed in Central Asian garb. The camel depicted here is packed with a relatively light load (Bactrian camels are capable of carrying as much as 500 pounds), and hanging from the saddle we can see a water bottle, a blanket and provisions to sustain the traveler. Perhaps pack animals and foreign merchant mingqi figurines were buried along with the deceased in order to guarantee in the afterlife an uninterrupted supply of luxury goods for which the Tang populace had developed a distinguished taste.