The two-humped Bactrian camel was known in China as early as the Han dynasty, having been brought from Central Asia and Eastern Turkestan as tribute. Its amazing ability to survive the hardships of travel across the Asian deserts was soon recognised and Imperial camel herds were established under the administration of a special Bureau. These Imperial camel herds, numbering several thousand, were used for a range of state duties, including the provision of a military courier service for the Northern Frontier. Camels were not only prized as resilient beasts of burden, their hair was also used to produce a cloth, which, then as now, was admired for its lightness and warmth.
This rider with somewhat caricatured features and his unusual fur-lined coat represents one of the many ethnic groups that could be found working in China during the Tang period, and reflects the sophisticated and worldly Chinese fascination for foreigners and all things foreign. The use of a falcon for hunting was common practise in China during the Tang period.