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HOME : Chinese Art : Sui Dynasty : Sui period ochre-glazed terracotta figurine of a standing male court attendant
Sui period ochre-glazed terracotta figurine of a standing male court attendant - CB.2747
Origin: China
Circa: 581 AD to 618 AD
Dimensions: 8" (20.3cm) high
Collection: Chinese Art
Medium: Glazed terracotta

Location: Great Britain
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The Sui Dynasty (581-618 AD) was an imperial dynasty of China, though short-lived of pivotal significance, as they managed to unify the country after four centuries of fragmentation in which North and South China had gone towards opposite and belligerent directions; furthermore they succeeded to reinstall the rule of ethnic Han Chinese in the entirety of China, along with implementing a systematic program of sinicization of former nomadic ethnic minorities within the country’s territory. The Sui also set the stage for and began to set in motion an artistic and cultural renaissance that reached its zenith in the succeeding Tang dynasty (618–907 AD) which largely inherited its foundations and principles. This includes not only the major public works initiated, such as the Great Wall and the Great Canal, but also the political system developed by the Sui, which was adopted by the Tang rulers with little initial change other than at the top of the political hierarchy. The Sui dynasty provided a very stable though militaristic economy. Emperors Wen and Yang undertook various centralized reforms, most notably the equal-field system, intended to reduce economic inequality by increasing and improving agricultural productivity which would support a centralized government power, along the standardization and re-unification of the coinage. By the middle of the dynasty, the newly unified empire entered a golden age of prosperity with vast agricultural surplus that supported a rapid population growth. They had also built a number of large granaries which supplied the population with a stable source of nourishment during famine years. The architecture and engineering of the Sui was dominated by the chief engineer of the period, Yuwen Kai, who in nine months designed a vast capital city at Daxing that was six times the size of present-day Xi’an at the same site. The royal palace of Daxing had a rotating pavilion accommodating 200 guests. Painters came from throughout the country seeking patronage at the Sui court and the dynasty established a pattern of patronizing the arts that was later much embraced by all the Tang rulers. The Grand Canal, currently a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of the greatest achievements of the dynasty, is the longest canal or artificial river in the world with a total length of 1,776 km (1,104 mi). Starting at Beijing, it passes through Tianjin and the provinces of Hebei, Shandong, Jiangsu and Zhejiang to the city of Hangzhou, linking the Yellow River and Yangtze River. The oldest parts of the canal date back to the 5th century BC, but the various sections of it were first connected during the Sui dynasty, with the Yuan and Ming dynasties significantly rebuilding the canal and altering its route to supply their capital Beijing. Although the Sui dynasty was relatively short-lived, in terms of culture, it represents a transition from the preceding ages, and many cultural developments which can be seen to be incipient during the Sui dynasty, were later expanded and consolidated during the ensuing Tang dynasty, and later ages. Other cultural developments of the Sui dynasty are perceptible in the domains of religion and literature, particular examples being the spreading and encouraging of Buddhism and the flourishing of poetry. In 40 years, the Sui introduced the elements needed for a genuine imperial rule – a strongly centralized military and civil administration with a sound financial base, the creation of an effective canal system linking north and south, and while using Buddhism as a unifying force, they revived Confucianism as a source for good administration and legitimacy. With China being unified again under the Sui, mingqi became ever more infused with animal iconography and energized with dynamic lines and truly resurged as a part of elaborate funeral processions, frequently taking the form of officials, musicians, dancers and every kind of servants in clay, integrating the guardian figures and pack animals of the Northern and Southern Dynasties, but also incorporating the many international influences that were popular during this time of stability and expansion. - (CB.2747)


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