In Ancient China, terracotta unglazed and low-fired glazed statuettes of animals and human figures, known in Chinese as mingqi (冥器), would have been placed in the deceased’s tomb to ensure companionship and service in the afterlife. The art of the Han Dynasty is largely decorative, a shift away from the functional, ritualistic art of the previous Qin Dynasty. 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. Terracotta figures of court attendants, such as this fine example, were made for the service and entertainment of the owner, ensuring that their journey in the underworld was a happy one.
To learn about Han statuettes, please visit our relevant blog post: Terracotta Tomb Attendants.