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The Six Steeds of Zhao Mausoleum at Xi'an Beilin Museum
The Six Steeds of Zhao Mausoleum at Xi'an Beilin Museum

The Six Steeds of Zhao Mausoleum (simplified Chinese: 昭陵六骏; traditional Chinese: 昭陵六駿; pinyin: Zhāolíng Liùjùn) are six Tang (618-907) Chinese stone reliefs of horses (1.7m x 2.0m each) which were located in the Zhao Mausoleum, Shaanxi, China. Zhao Mausoleum is the mausoleum of Emperor Taizong of Tang (r. 626-649).

One of the reliefs, very likely after a drawing by Yan Liben. Penn Museum.  Here a general removes an arrow from the horse called "Autumn Dew".[1]
One of the reliefs, very likely after a drawing by Yan Liben. Penn Museum. Here a general removes an arrow from the horse called "Autumn Dew".[1]

By tradition the reliefs were designed by the court painter, and administrator for public works, Yan Liben, and the relief is so flat and linear that it seems likely they were carved after drawings or paintings.[2] Yan Liben is documented as producing other works for the tomb, a portrait series that is now lost, and perhaps designed the whole structure.[3]

The steeds were six precious war horses of Taizong, which he rode during the early campaigns to reunify China under the Tang, and all bear names which are not Chinese but rather transliterations of Turkic or Central Asian terms, indicative of the horses' probable origin as gifts or tributes from the Tujue to the Tang forces. They are:

The sculptures are regarded as ancient Chinese art treasures. They were stolen by smugglers in 1914 and two of them were successfully exfiltrated out (Quanmaogua and Saluzi) and today are exhibited at the Penn Museum at University of Pennsylvania, USA. The remaining four are exhibited in the Stele Forest museum of Xi'an.

Notes

  1. ^ Loehr, 33
  2. ^ Sullivan, Michael, The Arts of China, 126, 1973, Sphere Books, ISBN 0351183345 (revised edn of A Short History of Chinese Art, 1967)
  3. ^ Loehr, 33

References