Pottery figure of a woman

China, Tang dynasty, mid-8th century

Height: 13 5⁄8 inches, 34.5 cm

A pottery figure of a standing woman, her body elegantly curved to one side with her feet spread wide apart. She is dressed in a long-sleeved, full-length robe, painted in white and bright green colours decorated with red flowers. She holds both her hands up. The hands are covered by the elaborately pleated sleeves of her robe. An orange cape, the end of which is held by her hidden hands, covers her shoulders. Her robe and cape fall in pleats to the floor, where her pointed shoes protrude from just underneath the hem. Her hair is gathered into an elaborate arrangement with two extravagant circular topknots. Her round face has a gentle, subtly smiling expression, and the features of the face are painted with red, pink and black highlights.


The eye-catching hair arrangement and the extravagant long cape suggest that this full-bodied female figure is dressed in preparation for dancing. A female figure with clay head and wooden body, comparable with her hair arrangement in two circular topknots of smaller size, was unearthed in Turfan, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.[1] In 5000 years of Chinese Costumes the authors explain that the ‘cape’ or scarf was generally made of light, thin gauze with a printed pattern. “When the wearer was walking, the back.and.forth movements of the arms made the cape flow in a becoming manner.”[2] A very similar Tang dynasty pottery standing figure, comparable in size and with two extravagant circular topknots, also with a long robe and cape, is in the Muwen Tang Collection.[3]

  1. Zhou, Xun and Gao, Chunming, 5000 Years of Chinese Costumes, Hong Kong, 1984, fig. 150, p. 87
  2. Zhou, Xun and Gao, Chunming, op. cit., p. 88
  3. Kwan, S. Chinese Sculptures, The Muwen Tang Collection series-10, Hong Kong, no. 49, p. 150