Terracotta statuettes in the shape of animals or court attendants are known in Chinese as mingqi and were placed in tombs and graves to assist and entertain the deceased in the afterlife. Oxes were particularly beloved in ancient Chinese culture as labour animals but also because with their deep connection with the Chinese lunar calendar. Mouse, Ox, Tiger, Hare, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Ape, Cock, Dog and Hog characterize the Chinese lunar calendar divided into twelve-year cycles. Each of these cycles is symbolically represented by a specific animal. Just as it is believed in the Western zodiac that each astral constellation corresponds to a certain personality type, so it is in the Chinese tradition, where those who are born in a specific year acquire the distinctive characteristics of the corresponding animal.
Yuan Period Terracotta Mingqi of an Ox
An Ancient Chinese unglazed hollow-moulded terracotta Mingqi representing a laying Ox. Anatomical features are crudely rendered, displaying deep carvings in the terracotta. Facial features are more delicately modelled, showing very expressive eyes and hollow nostrils. Horns are carved in the terracotta on top of the ears. Incised lines covering most of the body further embellish the statuette. Such statuette would have been placed in the tomb with the deceased as a grave good.
Period: Yuan Dynasty
Condition: Very fine, complete and intact.