The Eastern Han Dynasty (A.D. 25-220) was afflicted by political conflicts and social turmoil towards the end of its imperial power; yet, it showed great adherence to early imperial Chinese traditions and stylistic features in its artistic production. Both the quantity and quality of ancient Chinese terracotta figurines reached their peak in the Han Dynasty. During this period, a wide variety of terracotta figurines, reflecting different identities and services, were finely executed in great detail, and then placed in burials. Ostentatiously displaying such goods, known as mingqi (冥器) in Chinese, inside the tombs was not only to embellish funeral offerings, but also to further their services to the tomb owners in the afterlife. Mingqi were usually modelled as an intimation of either common objects that once played a vital role in the domestic life, or as zoomorphic and anthropomorphic figures, that were closely related to the deceased when they were alive. Zoomorphic terracotta figurines with naturalistically rendered features and details had been absent in Chinese burial history until the advent of the Western Han Dynasty. Pottery images of dogs were popular in Han graves, since the dog was believed to be the best companion for the deceased. They were often portrayed with fearsome features to protect the deceased in their afterlife.
To discover more about Chinese terracotta statuettes, please visit our relevant blog post: Terracotta Tomb Attendants.