국립중앙박물관 NATIONAL MUSEUM OF KOREA

Highlights
Horse and Rider-shaped Vessels
  • Culture/Period

    Silla Kingdom

  • Provenance

    Gyeongju-si

  • Materials

    Clay - Hard

  • Category

    life in society - life in ceremony - funeral services - ancient grave goods

  • Dimensions

    H 26.8 cm (front), H 23.4cm (back)

  • Designation

    National Treasure 91

  • Accession Number

    Bongwan 9705

These two earthenware vessels, which were excavated from Geumnyeongchong Tomb in Gyeongju, are shaped like riders on horseback. Each vessel has holes at both ends, so that liquid could be easily poured in and out, which indicates that they were used to serve alcohol or other liquids. Most importantly, the riders’ outfits and horse tack yield crucial information about the culture, customs, and social hierarchy of the period.

 

Based on the difference in the riders’ size, as well as how they and their horses are outfitted, we can assume that they belong to different social classes. In fact, the larger rider with the triangular hat seems to be the master of the smaller one. The master is an imposing figure, wearing armor and carrying a sword, and his horse is equipped with fine trappings. The horse even has a horn-like ornament on its forehead, showing that it was decorated for a special ceremony. The other man, who looks like a servant, has a topknot, a naked upper body, and some luggage or cargo strapped to his back; also, his horse has much simpler trappings, with no stirrups. The servant is ringing a bell with his right hand, as if to guide the spirit of his master to their destination.

 

Earthenware vessels made to look like people, like these two, were probably made for ritual purposes, rather than daily use. Experts believe that these two vessels were used at a funeral or memorial service, to express the mourners’ wish for the peace of the deceased and his or her rebirth after death.

 

* Financial support for the editing of this text was provided by NHN Corporation (Naver).