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Funerary Statuette: Male Attendant

Location

CHINA

Era

Eastern Han dynasty (25-220 C.E.)

Title

Funerary Statuette: Male Attendant

Materials

Earthenware, traces of pigment

Dimensions

61 x 20 cm

Credits

Gift of L. V. Randall, inv. 1953.Ed.1

Collection

Archeology and World Cultures

Figurines of men and women, statues of mythical creatures and vernacular objects found in tombs reveal how the ancient Chinese viewed the afterlife as an extension of worldly life. These objects, called mingqi or “spirit utensils,” disclose clues about everyday life and provide insight into the religious beliefs and practices of the time. Mingqi became common during the Han dynasty (206 B.C.E.-220 C.E.), and endured through the turbulent Six Dynasties period (221-589 C.E.) and the later reunification of China during the Sui (589-618 C.E.) and Tang (618-907 C.E.) dynasties. In concert with other tomb objects and the funerary architecture, these “spirit utensils” provided comfort to the deceased, whose earthly soul, po, lingered underground and whose celestial soul, hun, ascended to the skies. This separation of body and soul was thought to cause confusion to the new spirit. By easing the deceased’s passage into the afterlife, the family protected their own well-being.

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