Terracotta figure of a female polo player, Chine, Tang Dynasty, 618-906 A.D.
Round sculpture made of terracotta and decorated with engobes. It depicts a female polo player on horseback, galloping, with the animal captured in the middle of a jump. The human figure is dressed in loose-fitting red clothes with full sleeves; her hair is carefully combed, her hands are raised, and her cheeks and lips are highlighted. The player evidences the movement and tension of the moment, and turns her torso facing the viewer.
Polo is believed to have originated in early modern times in Central Asia. It was part of the entertainment of the Sassanid court and was also practised on the Indian frontiers. In 630 AD, the Tang began their great westward expansion by turning Chang’an (Xian) on the Silk Road into a cosmopolitan capital. The introduction of polo to China dates from this time. Under the Tang dynasty, polo was a sport played mainly by the aristocracy and especially by women, despite its roughness.