In Ancient China, terracotta unglazed and low-fired glazed statuettes of animals and human figures, known in Chinese as mingqi, would have been placed in the deceased’s tomb to ensure companionship and service in the afterlife. Mingqi were usually modelled as an intimation of either common objects that once played a vital role in Han Dynasty domestic life, or as zoomorphic and anthropomorphic figures that were closely related to the deceased when they were alive. Zoomorphic terracotta figurines, such as this beautiful rabbit, with naturalistically rendered features and details, had been absent in Chinese burial history until the advent of the Western Han Dynasty. Rabbits were popular animals in Ancient China, not only as symbols of longevity and cleverness, but were also believed to be symbols of the moon.
Chinese Han Terracotta Rabbit Figurine
A finely hollow-modelled Han terracotta figurine depicting a naturalistically portrayed rabbit in a recumbent pose. Its head is modelled pointing forward and the ears are pricked back, capturing the smooth masculine outline and the vivid movements of this rabbit. Facial features, including the eyes, nostrils and mouth are picked out in pinkish-red and black pigments. Its mouth is further decorated with a few confident brush strokes, intimating rabbit whiskers. Black pigment evenly covers its whole body, contrasting with the pinkish-rouge pigment seen inside its ears.
Period: The Han Dynasty
Provenance: From the collection of a West Country gentleman, formed in 1970s.
Condition: Very good condition, with most original pigments visible to the surface. This piece has been thermoluminescence tested at Laboratory Kotalla.