Han Dynasty Polychrome Terracotta Court Attendant


A very fine Han Dynasty hollow-moulded terracotta statue of a male court attendant, portrayed standing with his hands held at the front in a gesture of offering. A hole is pierced above the right hand, possibly to hold an offering of incense or a ceremonial weapon. An elaborate headpiece sits high on the man’s head leaving visible his facial features, rendered in a naturalistic manner and portraying a serene expression. The figure is presented wearing the traditional Han Dynasty court attire, the shenyi, consisting of a long vest tied to the waist, thickened collar and long, flaring sleeves. A small bag, likely a quiver, is modelled at the back of the statuette, revealing his identity as a jiān fú (箭箙), a military man.

Date: Circa 202 BC- AD 220
Period: Han Dynasty
Condition: Excellent condition with exceptional retention of the original pigmentation.


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.

Weight 665.2 g
Dimensions W 6.2 x H 27.3 cm


Pottery and Porcelain

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