Porcelain was at the heart of Ming Dynasty and the history of the Ming period, its raise, expansion and subsequent decline, can be traced throughout. Similar to the Renaissance in Europe, the Ming Dynasty signed a period of artistic and literary prosperity in China with porcelain being its most recognisable and admired production. A succession of seventeen emperors governed a population which saw a drastic increase during nearly 300 years of relative peace and stability. This, together with the Dynasty’s economic success, explains the culture’s artistic explosion and innovation. Innumerable kilns across China, from family workshops to factories, made a great diversity of ceramics to supply the market. At the beginning of the Ming Dynasty, the imperial factory was established at Jingdezhen, which, aside from supplying porcelain for domestic and court use, began large-scale production for export to Europe under the reign of the Wanli Emperor (1573-1620). In addition to the most recognisable blue and white porcelains, innovations appeared throughout the Ming Dynasty, such as doucai (鬥彩, contending colours) in the Chenghua period (成化, 1465–1488) and wucai (五彩, five-colour) in the Wanli period (萬歷, 1573–1620) among the many.
Terracotta moulded figures of people and animals were meant to be grave goods placed in tombs. It was believed that these figures would serve and assist the deceased in the afterlife. Figures of this type are called mingqi (冥器) in Chinese and usually depict servants and court attendants, soldiers, musicians and dancers, and different animals. As in life, attendant figures were supposed to stay nearby their master, waiting to fulfil the desires and needs of the deceased. They were lined outside the tomb before the coffin was taken inside and then placed and arranged inside the tomb. The size and number of the figures in a grave depended on the rank of the deceased. These figures would have been displayed amongst the processional group within a tomb, most likely before a sedan chair or palanquin and before the musician figures. They would have served a ceremonial purpose – to announce the arrival of the tomb occupant. The palanquin, likewise, would have been used in the next life, carrying the deceased on his journey.