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Statues of “Barbarian Monarchs and Chiefs” at Qianling, China.

During the funeral of Taizong in 649, Gaozong, exercising imperial prerogative, ordered the sculptures of fourteen “barbarian monarchs and chiefs” who had been captured or “voluntarily submitted” to his deceased father.

The statues were placed inside the northern gate of Taizong’s tomb complex. Their identities were recorded in a received source, and the recent discovery of three inscribed pedestals partially confirms the written record. Most are Inner Asians, including Turko-Mongol tribal leaders and kings of oasis states.

The inclusion of statues of foreigners was an innovation in imperial tomb design, which previously had only incorporated sculptures of real and mythical animals and civil and military officials.

-Jonathan Karam Skaff in Sui-Tang China and Its Turko-Mongol Neighbors: Culture, Power, and Connections, 580-800 (2012), page 142.

Photos by 风之清扬 and 赵文博.

Filed under art sculpture archaeology history China