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Painted Pottery Figurine of a Female Dancer

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Period: Tang dynasty (618-907)
Dimensions: height: 21 cm

The combination of dance and music was very popular in the Tang dynasty, and dances from Central and West Asia and ethnic minority groups in northwestern China were adopted as a fashionable form of entertainment and were frequently presented during festivals. Aristocrats would also bring musicians with them on excursions. Consequently, these types of dance accompanied by music featured prominently in the period's daily life.
  The figurine wears a short-sleeve tunic with a lapel and a full-length dress. Her head tilts to the side while her left arm extends above her head with her right arm gracefully by her side. Bending her left knee, she extends her right leg forward. She rhythmically swings her hips. According to her costume and posture, she is believed to be performing what is known as a soft dance (ruanwu), a graceful dance belonging to ethnic Han peoples.
  Apart from this figurine, five other musicians were also unearthed. The troupe consists of three standing instrumentalists holding a pipa lute, panpipes (paixiao), and sheng (a kind of Chinese wind instrument), respectively, and two seated figurines holding cymbals (bo) and a waist drum (yaogu). They fit historical descriptions of standing and seated musicians in instrumental ensembles. It is rare for both dance an musical ensembles to be unearthed in one tomb. Thus, it can be deduced that these figurines were sculpted for someone of high status. This pairing also suggests that the soft dance is a highly fashionable performance. This figurine closely resembles the style and sculpting technique of one unearthed in a tomb belonging to a family surnamed Cen in Luoyang. Therefore, it was likely unearthed around Mount Mang in Luoyang, Henan Province.

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