Suzanne G. Valenstein
This research monograph investigates the aspects of a large Tang dynasty (618–907) porcelaneous mortuary figure of an ethnic Sogdian that belongs to a small, cohesive group of Chinese ceramic figures depicting foreign wine merchants. As key merchants on the famous “Silk Road,” the Sogdians, an Eastern Iranian people, played a significant role in China’s exposure to Western cultures. The interaction among the Chinese, the Sogdians, and the Turkic Eurasian nomads left an indelible mark on Tang China as well. The book also considers the history of alcoholic beverages in China; ceramic technology; and the background of Chinese mortuary furnishings, known as mingqi. Various decorative motifs on the present figure and its analogous examples are traced both chronologically and geographically to their origins. Most of these motifs can be found in the West and most can also be associated with Buddhism, which came to China by way of Central Asia.