Wooden Horse and Rider


Historical period(s)
Ming dynasty, 16th-17th century
H x W: 36.7 x 13.6 cm (14 7/16 x 5 3/8 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Figure: horse and rider

Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644)
Provenance information is currently unavailable

1. Bought from Colonel William Mayer, Arlington, Virginia. For price, see Freer Gallery of Art Purchase List After 1920.

2. (A.G.W., 1945). The two figures appear to be carved from the same block of wood. According to Mr. W.N. Watkins, of the Division of Wood and Wood Technology of the Smithsonian Institution, the wood is certainly of the poplar group. This identification was made by microscopic examination. Unfortunately exact distinctions between certain of the Chinese poplars have not yet been determined with certainty, but there is reason to suppose that this wood may be identified with Populus Maximwiczii, which is used even today in North China for the manufacture of vases and boats.

That ming ch'i [Chn], or funerary offerings of this sort were made of wood during the T'ang dynasty is well authenticated from literary sources, but heretofore few, if any, examples have been brought to light, since they tend to disintegrate when buried. The most satisfactory modern works on ming ch'i are two by Hamada and by Cheng Te-k'un and Shen Wei-chun. Both of these works treat of pottery ming ch'i, but quote extensively from Chinese sources among which are the T'ang liu tien [Chn] and the T'ang hui yao [Chn] the former a T'ang dynasty work and the latter of the Sung dynasty. From these quotations it is clear that such ming ch'i were made during the reigh of Hsuan Tsung [Chn] A.D. 713-742, in the first year of Hsien Tsung [Chn] A.D. 806, and in the first year of Wu Tsung [Chn] A.D. 841, and perhaps there is further mention of the subject in these works. Unfortunately the kind of wood used is not mentioned. However, we are well acquainted with objects of this nature made in pottery during the T'ang dynasty, and figures similar to these two appear among these. The chief difference between these wooden figures adn the pottery ones is that these are very much better executed than a great majority of the pottery figures. Among the kinds of figures listed mention is made of women polo players, and these may come under this heading.

See Hamada Kosaku [Chn] Shina meiki deizo zusatsu [Chn].
Cheng Te-k'un and Shen Wei-chun, A brief history of Chinese mortuary objects, Yenching journal of Chinese studies, monograph series no. 1.

3. (J.A. Pope, 1964) The determination by Carbon-14 (see examination report of 1962) seems to place these sculptures in the later part of the Ming Dynasty. Inasmuch as this was a period in which the T'and dynasty style was widely imitated, there is no reason why this cannot be the proper date.

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