The need for camels during the T'ang dynasty (618-906), as the Chinese empire extended across most of central Asia, was enormous. Camels were treasured for their reliability in transporting people and trade merchandise through the great Gobi and Torim deserts. Most camel herders were foreigners from Mongolia, Tibet, and central Asia. The great dusty beasts thronging the sprawling markets of cities like Chang-an and Lo-yang gave T'ang potters ample opportunity to study their every characteristic as well as those of the foreigners who tended them.
This magnificent group of two camels and their central Asian driver is remarkable for its large size, expressive modeling, and strong color. The heavily bearded groom rides a bactrian (two-humped) camel, a sturdy animal well suited to the rough terrain and cold deserts of central Asia. The second camel is a single hump dromedary, a type better suited to the heat and sand of the Indian and Middle Eastern deserts of the Silk Road.