Significance of Symbols

Title: Sepulchral figure of a Bactrian camel
Date: Tang dynasty, 8th century?
Media: Glazed pottery

This object was made for burial in a tomb. In China at the time, it was believed that each person had two souls. After death, one ascended to heaven. According to Robert Mowry, a specialist in Chinese Art and Chinese ceramics, the second soul would stay around in the tomb. The tomb would be furnished with all kinds of goods, such as water, wine, and food. Figures of camels were popular because camels were the animals that transported goods over the Silk Route, a very ancient trade route.

Fun Fact!

Two humps tell us that this is a Bactrian camel and not a Dromedary which would have just one hump. 

Dos jorobas nos indican que este es un camello Bactriano y no un Dromedario, el cual tendría solo una joroba. 

Both types of camels are strong and can survive in very hot and very cold places. 

Ambos tipos de camello son fuertes y pueden sobrevivir en lugares muy cálidos y muy fríos.


Take a moment and listen to Docent Carol Urick discuss the object in further detail

Talk / Habla

During the Tang Dynasty in China, people put sculptures like this called mingqi — spirit objects — into tombs. They were meant to provide everything one would need in the afterlife. 

Durante la dinastía Tang en China,la gente ponía esculturas como esta llamadas mingqi — objetos espíritu — en las tumbas. Su propósito era proporcionar todo lo necesario para la vida después de la muerte. 

This camel is carrying a deer leg on one side and a flask of water on the other. What else would you need in the afterlife? 

Este camello porta una pierna de venado sobre un costado y un recipiente de agua en el otro. ¿Qué más necesitarías para la vida después de la muerte? 

Listen / Escucha 

Did you know that camels make noises? They sound a little like a growling sheep! Does this camel look like it’s making a noise? Why do you think so? 

¿Sabías que los camellos hacen ruidos? ¡Se oyen como borregos que gruñen! ¿Te parece que este camello está haciendo un sonido? ¿Por qué lo crees? 

Imagine / Imagina 

Camels were used to carry loads on long journeys on the Silk Road, a network of trade routes from China to the Mediterranean Sea. Can you imagine walking alongside this giant creature in the hot desert sun? If this camel came to life, how do you think it would move? 

Los camellos se utilizaban para llevar cargas en largos viajes sobre el Camino de Seda, una red de rutas de comercio que se extendían desde China hasta el Mar Mediterráneo. ¿Puedes imaginarte ir caminando al lado de esta criatura gigante bajo el sol caliente del desierto? Si este camello viviera, ¿cómo crees que se movería? 


This sculpture looks like it has been caught in motion. We see the camel’s legs are spread slightly apart, its mouth is open, its tongue is lifted, and it’s braying. Youth and Community Programs Manager Marisely Gonzalez was inspired to create a sculpture of her favorite animal, the cat. Watch as she creates a sculpture of her pet cat in a sitting pose. Afterwards, use the recipe for clay below to design your own animal figurine.

Recipe for easy homemade clay:


  • 2 cups cornstarch
  • About 1 cup inexpensive hair conditioner
  • Food coloring (optional)


  1. Place the cornstarch in a large bowl.
  2. Mix in the hair conditioner with your hands–it will just start coming together and it will be pliable and very, very smooth. If desired, add a drop or two or food coloring.
  3. You may need to add more conditioner as you go. Use food coloring to color as desired. Keep covered when not in use.


The colorful glaze used to decorate this camel is called sancai (san-kai), which means “three colors.” The glaze was mixed with iron to make brown and with copper to make green. To see how copper can turn bright green, try this experiment! 

You need: 

a cup
a copper penny 
a piece of paper 
white vinegar
1 tsp. salt 

  • Put a little bit of vinegar in the cup and add the salt.
  • Drop in the penny and swish it around.
  • Take the penny out and set it on the paper to dry for 15 minutes.
  • Observe the penny. What happened? Describe the color. 

To clean the penny, repeat the first 2 steps, then rinse the penny in water. Now what color is it? 

El vidriado colorido utilizado para decorar este camello se llama sancai (san-kai), que significa “tres colores.” El vidriado se combinaba con hierro para producir un color café y con cobre para producir verde. ¡Para ver como el cobre se convierte en un verde vivo, prueba este experimento! 


una taza
una moneda de un centavo de cobre una hoja de papel
vinagre blanco
1 cucharadita de sal 

  • Pon un poco de vinagre en la taza y agrega la sal.
  • Agrega la moneda de cobre y menéala en la taza.
  • Toma la moneda y colócala sobre el papel a secar por 15 minutos.
  • Observa la moneda. ¿Qué pasó? Describe el color. 

Para limpiar la moneda, repite los dos primeros pasos, y enjuaga la moneda en agua. ¿Ahora de qué color es?