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Camel driver

Camel driver

Northern Wei Dynasty (386 – 534)
Terra cotta
H : 21.2 cm L : 22.7 cm W : 11.6 cm
M.C. 7636

Since ancient times, rare and exotic products have been traded over long distances across Eurasia. After the dawn of the Christian Age, large empires ensured relative safety for travellers, and a better knowledge of trade winds allowed for the unprecedented development of the “Silk Road”. By land, caravans transported luxury products and spices from one market to another. There were also ports, along the coasts. The apogee of this great period of international trade took place during the first millennium.

There were many foreigners present in China from approximately the 4th to the 9th century. The identification of their ethnicity by their costumes is in flux. If today we can identify a Sogdian person by their high pointed hat, often partly collapsing into itself, the hat with the rolled-edge worn by the Cernuschi Museum’s traveller does not indicate any precise geographic origin.

However, the costumes worn by foreigners provide more information about their land of origin than their features, which are depicted as commonplace, such as the curled beard sported by the Cernuschi Museum’s camel driver.

Western camel drivers and merchants involved in distant trade by caravan were presumably considered symbols of prosperity, which justified the presence of their representations found in tombs.

The camel is shown here with equipment. A water gourd hangs from the rear right of the beast. The silk rolls are easily visible on the sides. By the movement expressed through the relief’s vigour and vivacity, this mingqi is one of the most remarkable in the collection.

Collection : The Three Kingdoms and Six Dynasties period
Mode d'acquisition : Purchase in Paris in a public sale, 1930.
  • Chamelier

© Musée Cernuschi