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.
To discover more about Chinese terracotta statuettes, please visit our relevant collection page: Terracotta Tomb Attendants.