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Arts of Asia

The MFAH collections of art from China, India, Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia reflect Houston’s diverse communities. Ancient and contemporary works are displayed together to create innovative juxtapositions.


Haniwa Horse
Red earthenware

14 7/8 inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Gift of Carol and Robert Straus

Arts of Asia

In early Japanese society, this sculpture of a horse would have been placed with other haniwa statuettes around a burial mound to serve the deceased in the afterlife. Terra-cotta haniwa figures also depicted male and female warriors and civilians. The bridled horse's head evokes the importance of military strength.

The surface of the horse's head and mane is painted red. This color was meant to protect the figure from harm. The horse has hollow eyes and is simply constructed because haniwa figures needed to be completed quickly and were usually manufactured in bulk. Sculptures of animals such as chickens and horses made of unglazed terra cotta frequently appeared in burial rites in Japan during the Kofun period (AD 300–645).