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Burial figure of a mounted archer; K:ImageBankFar EasternObjectsChina_CERAMIC934.8.4_1.jg
Earthenware; glaze
Centimetres: 20.2 (length), 15.7 (height)
2nd half 1st century BC - 1st half 1st century AD
Early Empire I; Han Dynasty; Western Han - Eastern Han
Area of Origin: China; Asia
Area of Use: China; Asia
Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Gallery of China
Dr. Herman Herzog Levy Bequest Fund


Early Han armies comprised large numbers of foot soldiers armed with halberds and bows, protected by cavalry. Their expeditions penetrated deep into Central Asia, Korea, and Vietnam during the 2nd and 1st centuries BC. Nevertheless, they were vulnerable to attack from mounted archers of the nomadic Xiongnu in the northwest. Learning from their adversaries, they soon developed a cavalry capable of swift raids. An adequate supply of horses was crucial, but remained problematic. They acquired their best horses from pastures controlled by their nomadic enemies. Iron weaponry and armour gave China an edge in battle and the crossbow, which the Chinese almost certainly invented, was tantamount to a secret weapon. Later, the secret passed into enemy hands. By the 1st century AD, knowledge of the crossbow had reached Rome.


Royal Ontario Museum (1996), Royal Ontario Museum: The T.T. Tsui Galleries of Chinese Art, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, no. 43.

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