The Tang dynasty controlled a vast empire that linked most of the known world via the Silk Road, the network of trade routes that stretched across the ancient world from Japan to Rome. By the early 7th century, the Chinese capital, Chang’an, was the most cosmopolitan city in the world. Bactrian, or two-humped, camels were used in trade caravans along the Silk Road to transport precious merchandise, including Chinese silks, lacquerwares, spices and perfumes that were eventually sold in Rome. Because of the key role they played along the trade route, camels came to symbolize wealth and affluence. Sancai (three-colour) camels like this one were placed in tombs along with other animal figures, guardian figures and functional objects. The vitality of this camel figure brings to mind the effervescence of cosmopolitan Tang society at this time of international expansion.