Statues of this kind were placed in the tombs of the wealthy, and reflect ancient desire for the kind of afterlife in which worldly pleasures and activities could continue to be enjoyed. The models (known as spirit goods, or ‘mingqi‘) depicted attendants, entertainers, pets, domestic animals, and a host of worldly goods. Tomb furnishings were an indication as to the wealth, status, and interests of the deceased, whilst equipping tombs with such items was often understood to be an act of homage by the deceased’s family and descendants.
The Han Dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China (206 BC–220 AD), and its art is notable for aiming to give form to everyday people and objects. It was a period of significant economic growth, and this facilitated discovery and innovation: technical possibilities in the arts increased as a result, enabling artists to push boundaries. The art of the Han dynasty is largely decorative – a shift away from the functional, ritualistic art of the previous Qin dynasty.