Terracotta funerary tiles are part of the wide burial offering category known as Mingqi (冥器). Differing from their zoomorphic and human figurines counterparts, funerary tiles decorated the tombs’ internal spaces with the purpose of comforting and satisfying the deceased in the afterlife. They were normally decorated with zoomorphic images or narrative scenes portraying idyllic romance and honourable warrior parades to reflect the deceased’s personal taste and lifestyle.
Employing highly decorated bricks or tiles to furnish the tombs have been one of the most important burial aspects since the Han Dynasty, reflecting the ancient Chinese spiritual realm where the afterlife is an extension to human life. Pictorial tiles, bricks and stones with distinctive decorative features have been unearthed in many Chinese provinces. Specifically, examples from Shandong and Jiangsu are characterised by fully decorated surfaces which are often sub-divided into bands, each with its own subject. Bricks from Henan, where this fine piece is likely from, are distinguished by unique themes and present no such subdivision. Warfare and social turmoil marked the Eastern Han Dynasty, events that have been attested in the archaeological record through the appearance of more modest tombs and funerary art, compared to those seen under the Western Han. Such phenomenon can be seen on this piece, which features the integration of traditional Han brick designs with a model of a house, mingqi which would have otherwise been produced separately.