Some of the most striking and evocative artistic and archaeological objects ever found in China date from the Tang Dynasty, which spanned three centuries (AD 618-906). Regarded by the Chinese as one of their most glorious periods, when their empire was the richest and most powerful political unit in the world, it was characterized by cultural brilliance, territorial expansion and great prosperity. The Tang capital at Chang'an (present-day Xi'an), marking the easternmost end of the Silk Routes, was a great cosmopolitan city, benefiting from the flourishing trade in exotic foods, textiles, furs and fine horses via oasis towns of the Taklamakan Desert. Persian and Turks, Jews and Muslims all lived and worked in the capital, and the eclectic motifs and technical virtuosity of Tang craftsmen is shown in the splendid gold and silver vessels and jewellery found buried in local tombs, hoards and crypts. Buddhism was one of the most pervasive of the many foreign influences, and many precious ritual objects, donated by generations of the imperial family, were recently discovered in an underground palace below the famous Famensi Buddhist temple. This book brings to lie a succession of fascinating golden ages in Chinese history, from the reign of the First emperor Qin Shi Huangdi, in the early third century BC through the Han (contemporaries of the Romans) to the Tang. An illustrated historical introduction is followed by a catalogue in which every object - some never before seen outside China - is illustrated in colour on a page of its own.
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