Grave goods were an important status symbol in ancient China, so the affluent and important would be accompanied in their travels through the afterlife with numerous depictions of people, items and animals. Such terracotta figures were made for the service and entertainment of the owner, ensuring that their journey in the underworld was a happy one. Terracotta tomb attendants seemed to have first appeared during the Western Han Dynasty. However, it is during Tang China that the cultural tradition of displaying wealth in elite tombs reached its peak, with an increased production of terracotta statuettes. Sancai-glaze technique, also known as Three-Colour glaze, is one of the great achievements of Tang pottery production. On figures rendered in sancai technique, faces were often left unglazed, as the consistency of the glaze itself made small details difficult to render. The unglazed faces would have been then painted after firing, allowing more precise details.
To discover more about Tang statuettes, please visit our relevant blog post: Terracotta Tomb Attendants.