Intended for burial and produced en masse, these camels provide us with a colourful glimpse of life during the cosmopolitan Tang period. The animals’ presence in tombs tells us of the once-thriving trade routes connecting China and Central Asia and thence further west. Bactrian (two-humped) camels hauled goods across the arid northwest regions of the Tang empire. These hardy animals – “ships of the desert” – can travel long distances without water, and their padded feet are adapted to traversing the many sand dunes along the way. But camels are also known for their bad temper: if you look closely at the sculpture you can see a dissatisfied expression on its face as it stretches its long neck to bray.