The Three-colored One-humped Camel and the
Tang-Dynasty Exchange between China and Foreign Countries

                                Xianyang,Shanxi Liu Xiaohua Li Jinghuan



 The Three-colored
  one-humped Camel

   A piece of three-colored one-humped camel of the Tang Dynasty is treasured up in the Xianyang Museum(as the picture). In 1973,it was come out of the Qibiming’s tomb located in a place about 400 meters of the northern part of the Yaowangdong Village, Weicheng District ,Xianyang. Now,the camel,however, is still in fair preservation and bright color. Qibiming is the son of a famous minority leader, Qibiheli . As reported in Wei Shu, Qibi was one of the most widely used in the six surnames of Gaoche which were famous tribes living in the area of the western part of Yiwu and the mountain, Ajietian, the northern part of Nianshi .

   This kind of camel has strong posture and topping hump ,with the total height of 82 centimeters .It is glazed with some colors, such as reddish brown, yellow and milk white. It is just like neighing with its chin up and open mouth.. Among those tri-colored pottery in the tombs of the Tang Dynasty, most of them are the two-humped camels, while the one-humped camel is seldom seen but in a good condition. The largest one is the masterpiece and moreover it is the only one in the whole nation ,deserving to be called rarity.

   The one-humped camels mainly live in the area of India, Arabia and North Africa, but never seen in China inland. The fact that the three-colored humped camel coming out from Qibi family’s tombs illustrates it is the product of the trade between China and foreign countries in the Tang Dynasty.

   The passageway on land has developed the famous Silk Road since the period of Zhangqian, serving as an envoy abroad to the west, from Chang’an to Middle Asia, West Asia and the western part of Arabia. During the period of Sixteen States, the Silk Road has experienced depression for some times. It doesn’t takes on a look of an exceptionally grand occasion until the Tang Dynasty.

   The camel is the main transport on the Silk Road. The goods, such as jewellery, woven blanket, perfume, grape, alfalfa, pomegranate, broad bean, walnut etc. are introduced into the Tang Dynasty on the back of the camel through the sand beach and gobi. All kinds of national musical instruments are brought into inland, such as pipa, harp, five strings, flute and many dances, such as Huxuan, Huteng and Tuozhi so on and so forth. At the same time , the inland also absorbs many cultures, such as Buddhism, Islamism and other cultures which are mixed together with the Hanzu’s. As a result, the civilization of the ancient China takes on a look of vitality unprecedentedly.

   The prosperous economy and solid national power make the Tang Dynasty enjoy a higher reputation both at home and abroad. The envoys, traders, nobles, scholars, artists and monks of many countries in the area of West Asia and North Africa often visit it and trade in some goods with it. More than 70 countries have a diplomatic relationship with the Tang Dynasty. In the court, there is a place, called Honglu Temple, used for entertaining guests from each nation. The accommodations are used for foreign guests while the foreign trade is in charge of the supervisor and the ship owner. Many foreign ambassadors have been to the Tang Dynasty in universities and many positions are ready for the non-Han nationality. The Arab and Persian have been managing some hotels, jewellery stores, drugstores and wineshops etc.

   Meanwhile, the great invention made by China, such as compass, gunpowder, papermaking, printing, silk, ware, tea, and alarm clock are also spreaded into the west on the back of the camel. During the period from the 12th century to the 13th century, the Arab introduced them into Europe and they were used for science and technology, culture, aviation, military affairs and social life . As a result, after the Renaissance, the west has produced a wide effect as long as the time of several centuries.

   The copper mirror, the copper cash, the textiles and the three-colored wares of the Tang Dynasty  found by Samaer in the Middle Asia, the large quantities of Chinese wares coming out from the ruins of Samala in the western bank of Digelis River, Iraq and the celadon wares of the Tang Dynasty coming out of Foster City(the ancient Cairo), North Africa, which provide the archaeological proof that the Tang Dynasty carries out foreign economy and cultural communication on the Silk Road . This reflects a grand occasion that Chinese commodity has been exported to the remote boundary. (Photography: Liu Xiaodong)

Editor: Xiaoran





From Collections 2002.6-114