Set of Ten Belt Plaques
Tang dynasty (618–907)
7th–early 8th century
Each square piece: 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 in. (5.7 x 5.7 cm); end piece: 4 3/8 x 2 1/4 in. (11.1 x 5.7 cm)
Charlotte C. and John C. Weber Collection, Gift of Charlotte C. and John C. Weber, 1992
The musicians from Central Asia depicted on these belt plaques illustrate the mix of musical cultures that marked the international commerce conducted along the Silk Road and the Tang dynasty's official recognition of ten kinds of music, including those played by ensembles from Samarkand, Bokhara, Kashgar, Kucha, Turfan, India, Korea, and the indigenous Han Chinese community. During this period, under the guidance of Emperor Xuanzong (r. 712–55), the government supported and encouraged music, art, and literature. The belt shows indigenous Chinese instruments such as the sheng (mouth organ), flute, and paiban (clapper) along with Indian-influenced drums and the Western-derived pipa, an instrument that enjoyed unprecedented popularity at this time.
Left to right: paixiao (panpipe), yaogu (hourglass drum), sheng (mouth organ), drinking cup, paiban (clapper), pipa (lute), barrel drum, vertical flute, cylindrical drum, dancer.
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