This spirited horse, a blend of ideal and real in its modeling, captures the spirit of the fabled "celestial horses" of the Han (206 B.C.-A.D. 220). Brought into China from central Asia during the second century B.C., the new breed, larger and stronger and faster than native horses, rapidly became the image of power and prestige during the Han dynasty. Horse sculptures such as this were an important element in well-furnished aristocratic tombs.
Large Han pottery tomb figures, including horses, dogs, pigs, chickens and musicians have been found in numerous cliff burials in Szechwan province. Horses found in these sites frequently display the sharp modeling, open mouth, bulging eyes, clipped mane, knotted tail and long neck of this impressive example.