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Handsome Ancient Medieval Painted Ceramic Warrior 350AD $699.99

For Customers outside of USA

Nicely Preserved Antique Terra Cotta Statuette in the Style of a Sixth Century A.D. Qi Dynasty Tomb Warrior.

CLASSIFICATION: Painted Pottery Statuette.

ATTRIBUTION: In the Style of Ancient China, Northern Qi Dynasty, 550A.D. - 577 A.D. Probably 18th Century Revival Imitative.


Height: 275 millimeters (11 inches)

Breadth: 86 millimeters (3 1/2 inches).

Thickness: 66 millimeters (2 2/3 inches).

CONDITION: Very good, no repairs but the majority of the paint has oxidized/decomposed. A little wear and a few blemishes consistent with any decorative several centuries old. Not flawless, but certainly in a better than average state of preservation - and unrepaired! Stands on its own.

DETAIL: A very well preserved warrior in the style of the ancient tomb warriors of the "Qi Dynasty" of Ancient China. Although it is possible that this specimen could be much older than we believe, we suspect that this is a revivalist imitative produced for the European market of the 18th or 19th century. Ancient Chinese ceramics as well as (then) contemporary porcelains were extremely popular in Victorian Europe, and Czarist Russia was no exception - Chinese ceramic artwork was highly appreciated and in great demand in Victorian Russia. The Qi Dynasty was one of the short-lived Kingdoms in the chaotic period between the collapse of the Han Dynasty in the early third century and the rise of the Sui and Tang Dynasties in the late sixth and early seventh centuries - the equivalent of one of ancient Egypt's "Intermediate Periods" or Europe's "Dark Ages". For a very brief period of time - less than three decades, the Qi ruled as a petty kingdom in a region and period known as the "Northern Dynasties" (420-589 A.D.). Though brief in duration, the artisans of the Qi Dynasty left posterity a cultural legacy of remarkably fashioned terra cotta warriors, which are very much in demand today, almost 1,500 years later (see other examples here, here, and here.

This is a very nice, large, impressive, and very handsome piece of ancient statuary. Constructed of fired (baked) terra cotta, a surprising amount of the original paint remains. Furthermore, there are no significant chips, no cracks, no breakage, and no repairs. It is not only complete, it is intact. The warrior's facial details are really remarkable, handsome, rugged, and very stern. Truly a remarkable event to look upon a face almost fifteen centuries old; very lifelike. If it was actually modeled after someone, as Emperor Ch'in's 6,000 warriors seem to have been, whomsoever he was lived, fought, and perished just shortly after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. The detail is exceptionally good given the origin and age of the sculpture. Han Dynasty and post-Han burial ceramics (during the three and one-half century after the fall of the Han and the rise of the Sui and Tang Dynasties) were most often terra cotta, and decorated simply but colorfully, paint applied directly onto the unglazed fired pieces. This piece was obviously painted - and still remaining are easily discernible amounts of red, white, and black pigments. Of course there is the customary and expected minor scuffs, marks, abrasions, etc. Although the style of this specimen is very convincing, most of the Chinese ceramics in Russia date to the 18th or 19th century - so this is probably an imitative revival piece. It could be 6th century, but only a $500 thermoluminescence test would establish that as fact. So we'll simply err on the side of being conservative and label it as a revival piece. Even then, you can imagine that large terra cotta sculptures such as this are rarely found intact.

Whether an 18th century antique revival imitative, or original 6th century antiquity, this wonderful and example of Qi statuary, unlike most such pieces which are reduced to shattered shards, came to us entirely intact. It is in relatively undamaged condition, just the eventual oxidation (decomposition) of most of the original paint. Of course realistically one would expect some blemishes several centuries after it was originally created, and there are no surprises here except that there are so few blemishes. Overall the statue is in wonderful condition, a highly collectible Qi Dynasty Warrior. Perfect it is not - but were it perfect it would be in a museum and not available at any price. If you'd like an authentic ancient piece of terra cotta statuary such as this, a magnificent piece of art, you could not go wrong with this one. It is solidly shaped, nicely featured, and perfectly proportioned. And it is a very large, very substantial piece. You could display this one with great pride either at work on your desk or at home in the kitchen or dining room. Whether at home or at work, it will certainly generate curiosity and certainly a great deal of envy! It is truly a remarkable piece of art.

HISTORY OF SIX DYNASTIES (A.D. 220-589) CERAMICS: It was beginning with the Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD) that grave interiors were richly furnished with a wide variety of miniature objects, usually fashioned as replicas of actual possessions, animals, or buildings. Called "spirit goods", these items were used as substitutes for valuable possessions, and were usually produced in ceramic and were glazed or colorfully painted. The wealthy elite's increasing interest in elaborately furnished tombs led to the mass production of armies of ceramic figures made using molds. In the case of the royal burial of the sole Qin Emperor, a terra cotta army of 6,000 was produced in full size. Burial ceramics made during the Han dynasty were decorated with simple but colorful designs painted directly onto the unglazed fired pieces or with brown and green lead-based glazes that could be fired at low temperatures.

The period between the collapse of the Han Dynasty in 220 A.D. and the rise of the Sui and Tang Dynasties (starting in 589 A.D.) was characterized by the fragmentation of China and a prolonged power struggle. Together with the period of the Western and Eastern Jin Dynasties, the "Three Kingdoms" together with "Southern" and the "Northern" Dynasties cover a period of three and one-half centuries during which, despite the chaotic conditions of the period, the ceramic industry developed rapidly and ceramic production flourished. By then, porcelain-making techniques in Southern China had been enhanced and the ceramics-making area and scale increasingly expanded with kiln sites spread throughout many provinces. Excavation of white porcelain objects from noble tombs shows that white porcelain was already in production in the Northern provinces, and its emergence paved the way for further development porcelain production in the coming Sui and Tang Dynasties.

There were many other notable advances in ceramic arts, including green-glazed stoneware, highly durable and often fashioned into bowls and jars. The discovery of what became known as "celadon glazing" was a major development during the period. Fine ash or ash mixed with clay was painted onto the vessel and after firing it turned pale green. This rare funerary urn belongs to this class of vessels. Potters of the era continued improving the quality of these early "celadon" wares both with respect to glaze color and in body clay. The production of glazed porcelain was a significant achievement in Chinese ceramic history. It was eventually exported as far as the Philippines and Egypt. Ceramic figurines produced during the period were notable for increased detail. The most profound influence on the art of the period (including ceramics) was the Buddhist religion which came from neighboring India. Objects imported from the Middle East and Central and West Asia also strongly influenced the period's ceramic arts.

In spite of the political and social confusion of the period, major changes occurred in the spiritual life of the Chinese. Daoism, which had played a previously minor role in religious thought, was revitalized, and Buddhism reached the Chinese court from India and Tibet. The Buddhist notion of Bodhisattvas - compassionate beings who have delayed their own enlightenment in order to guide others along the right path - was integrated into existing beliefs, along with ideas of Buddhist heavens and symbols of worship. The quest for eternity gained great favor and people sought methods such as drinking mercury and other potions devised by alchemists to prolong their lives. These unsettled times were also a period of transition in the development of ceramics wares. The 'proto-celadon' wares described above were precursors to the renowned celadon wares of the Song dynasty (960-1279 A.D.). The increasing prominence of religion including Daoism and the emergence of Buddhism in China greatly expanded the design repertoire. Daoist Immortals, cosmological symbols and Buddhist guardians were all represented in ceramic forms. The replicas of humans and animals became more and more life-like, while images of the 'unreal' such as guardian spirits, became more and more imaginary and fanciful.

HISTORY OF EARTHENWARE IN ANCIENT CHINA: Want to know a little more about the history of pottery in ancient China? Click right here.

HISTORY OF THE QI DYNASTY: The collapse of the Han dynasty was followed by nearly four centuries (220-589 A.D.) of relative anarchy. During the earliest period, known as the "Three Kingdoms Period", petty kingdoms waged incessant warfare against one another. Unity was restored briefly in the early years of the Jin Dynasty (265-420 A.D.), but by 317 A.D. China again disintegrated into a succession of petty dynasties that was to last from 304 to 589 A.D. The Western Jin Dynasty (265-316 A.D.) was founded by Emperor Wu, and a brief period of unity followed the Jin conquest the Kingdom of Wu in 280 A.D. The entire country was united again for a brief interlude between the turbulent age of the Three Kingdoms and the devastating barbarian invasions to come. For a short time, the government attempted important fiscal and political reforms, mainly intended to curb the power of the great families by regaining control of taxation and reducing the exorbitant rents that powerful landowners were extracting from the people. However the power of the great local families was never really broken, and they even continued to maintain their own private armies.

Thus weakened and fragmented internally, ultimately the Jin Dynasty could meet the external challenge from the invasion of nomadic peoples after the devastating "War of the Eight Princes". This devastating internal struggle occurred when the emperor divided the kingdom into 25 provinces, one for each son. The struggle between the 25 successors to the throne eventually distilled into a war between the eight strongest contenders. These wars lasted a total of 16 years, killed hundreds of thousands of people and laid waste to many cities and towns. The consequences included a dislocated social economy, a paralyzed government, and an exhausted capacity to govern. Society became feudalistic, essentially controlled by great landowning families, each with hordes of serfs and their private armies. Nomandic groups like the Turks and the Avars, took advantage of the central government's instability to attack the frontier. Their mounted archers easily outfought the less mobile Chinese forces. Crippled and fragmented, the country and the Jin Dynasty fell in 316 A.D.

The remnants of the Jin court fled from the north to the south and reestablished the Jin court near modern-day Nanjing, founding the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420 A.D.). Militaristic authorities and crises plagued the Eastern Jin court throughout its 104 years of existence. It survived several rebellions and usurpations. During this period and for another century to follow, China was divided into two different societies, northern and southern, with a proliferation of would-be dynasties. Millions of Chinese peasants, led or herded by aristocrats, moved from nomadic-conquered Northern China down south of the Yangtze River. The Eastern Jin was racked by revolts, court intrigues, and wars with the nomadic northern states. It did not have any more success than the Western Jin in controlling the power of huge landowners; it was at the mercy of powerful families, with government controlled by changing groups of aristocratic clans. Eventually the last emperor of the Dynasty, Emperor Gong, was installed in 419 A.D. His abdication a year later ushered in the turbulent "Southern Dynasty". Meanwhile Northern China had been ruled by the "Sixteen Kingdoms" of the nomadic peoples. The conquest of the Northern Liang by the Northern Wei Dynasty in 439 A.D. ushered in the "Northern Dynasty".

A turbulent and fragmented society was to pervade for another 150 years until the ascendancy of the Sui Dynasty in 589 A.D. and the Tang Dynasty in 618 A.D. The Northern and Southern Dynasties (420 to 589 A.D.) followed the Sixteen Kingdoms and preceded Sui Dynasty in China, and was an age of continuing and intense civil wars and disunity. The invasion of the North by the various nomadic tribes had ended in 439 A.D. with the conquest of the Northern Liang and the founding of the Wei Dynasty. Also known as the Northern Wei, this dynasty was briefly strong and powerful, but was later convulsed with internal disturbances, causing it to be split into Eastern and Western Wei. Overthrown by usurpers, the Eastern Wei became the Northern Qi, and the Western Wei became the Northern Zhou. In the final contest for supremacy in the north, Northern Zhou emerged victorious over Northern Qi. But for a brief moment in the history of Ancient China, the North Qi had their day of sunshine.

Despite the political disunity of the times, there were notable technological advances. The invention of gunpowder (at that time for use only in fireworks) and the wheelbarrow is believed to date from the sixth or seventh century. Advances in medicine, astronomy, and cartography are also noted by historians. This process was also accompanied by the increasing popularity of Buddhism (introduced into China in the first century A.D.) in both north and south China. However politically the Wei, Jin and Northern and Southern Dynasties were a time of much chaos and social upheaval. Many kingdoms and dynasties were created, many split apart, and many completely disappeared. Fate held no exceptions for the Northern Qi. The Northern Qi Dynasty was a turbulent time in the vast history of China. Locusts plagued the lands, ruining the crops. Hunger and ethnic feuding ravaged the population.

As implied by its short duration, "completely disappeared" was ultimately the epithet of the Northern Qi Dynasty. Within a few years China was reunified in A.D. 589 by a military leader from Northwest China who founded the short-lived Sui Dynasty (581-618 A.D.). Overthrown as the result of a coup d'etat, it was succeeded by the T'ang Dynasty (618 to 907 A.D.). Perhaps fittingly after almost four centuries of anarchy, the Tang Dynasty eventually was regarded by historians as a high point in Chinese civilization. During the Tang dynasty China became an expansive, cosmopolitan empire.

HISTORY OF ANCIENT CHINESE CIVILIZATION: Want to know a little more about the history of human civilization in ancient China? Click right here.

A certificate of authenticity (COA) is available upon request. Artifacts are mailed from the USA. Due to its fragile nature this particular piece is only shipped in an oversized box with lots of Styrofoam peanuts. The cost for shipping this item includes delivery confirmation (you can track your shipment on-line at the USPS Web Site). Additional items shipped together do result in a discount. The shipping weight of this item is 3 pounds. Various rates for shipping both domestically and internationally may be viewed here. A wide variety of cost-effective methods are available including surface mail, air mail, and expedited mail.