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Luxury Goods

Tang dynasty
Shaanxi History Museum, Xi'an

The Silk Road trade brought great wealth, and many foreign cultural influences, to Tang society. Two examples are seen here. The first, a 5" high silver flask with gilt repousse, depicts a dancing horse that was trained to drink from a saucer of wine held in its mouth. The emperor Xuanzong was famous for these horses, which provided entertainment at banquets. Both the form of the flask (based on leather drinking flasks of the Northern nomads) and the repousse technique used in its manufacture are cultural influences from outside of China.

The second object is a finely-worked 6"- long onyx rhyton (drinking horn), with a gold stopper (the antelope 's "nose"). Imported from Western Asia, it is "perhaps a work of the sixth or seventh century from a Sasanian or Sogdian workshop." (Thorp and Vinograd, Chinese Art & Culture, p. 222.

Both examples were excavated in 1970 from a large cache discovered at Hejiacun, a construction site near Xi'an. They may have been buried for safekeeping during a rebellion in 783, although other dates, ranging from the mid-eighth to the early ninth century, have also been proposed.