About this artwork
Tang artisans delighted in observing and depicting traders and travelers from around the world who flocked to China’s major cities. Wearing a toga-like robe and knee-length pantaloons, the figurine of a dark-skinned, curly-haired young boy evokes Tang descriptions of people from “Kunlun,” – a term derived from the remote and mysterious Kunlun Mountains mentioned in ancient mythology. However, it had come to refer to people of non-Chinese origin – especially those from the southern maritime countries in Asia – during the Tang Dynasty.
Clay figures similar to this one were interred in Tang tombs to serve the deceased. With raised hands and a tilted body, the figure exudes a strong sense of movement. It likely portrays a rowing scene: the small holes on the hands might have been used to attach a wooden paddle. Enslaved people of Kunlun (kunlun nu) played a significant role in various maritime operations. They provided the essential labor needed to propel ships engaged in long-distance trade.
- Curly-Haired Youth
- China (Artist's nationality:)
- Artist's working dates 618 CE–906 CE
- Earthenware with brown lead glaze
- 30.2 × 10.5 × 8.1 cm (11 7/8 × 4 1/8 × 3 3/16 in.)
- Gift of Emily Crane Chadbourne