Art/ Collection/ Art Object

唐 彩繪陶樂女俑
Female Musician

Tang dynasty (618–907)
late 7th century
Earthenware with pigment
H. 6 in. (15.2 cm); W. 3 1/2 in. (8.9 cm); D. 3 1/8 in. (7.9 cm)
Tomb Pottery
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1923
Accession Number:
Not on view
Ensembles featuring female musicians often served as a musical bridge between elite and popular culture. As expert musicians, they were often musical innovators. Here, a small ensemble is shown (23.180.4–.7), clapping and playing the pipa, tongbo (small copper cymbals), and konghou (harp). The pipa is played in its original position, like an Arabic lute; its silk strings are plucked with a triangular plectrum. The construction and playing style resemble those of the biwa, a Japanese lute derived from the pipa. Today, the biwa maintains the use of a triangular plectrum, the West Asian plectrum guard, and the C-shaped sound holes seen on the instrument played by the musician here as well as on the jade belt featured in this case. The Chinese playing style changed during the chaotic Later Tang period (921–36), when the plectrum was discarded. The angular konghou harp, introduced at the end of the Han dynasty, was in decline at this time and had gone completely out of use by the end of the Tang.
The highest-rated musicians at the Tang court performed seated, while the lower ranks played standing and were also treated less well in other respects.
[ C. T. Loo & Co. , until 1923; sold to MMA]
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Arts of Ancient China," 2005.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Celestial Steeds: A Celebration of the Year of the Horse," January 27, 2014–August 3, 2014.

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