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Funerary Jar, also known as a Cocoon Jar




Western Han dynasty (206 B.C.E.-9 C.E.)


Funerary Jar, also known as a Cocoon Jar


Earthenware, painted decoration


29 x 33 x 22 cm


Gift of Georges Francon and Jacques Rivest, inv. 2014.177


Archeology and World Cultures

This short-lived style of funerary vessel, produced only between the late Warring States and the Western Han period (fourth-first century B.C.E.), could have been inspired by organic prototypes originally made of leather or fabric, materials associated with the nomadic people on the fringes of metropolitan China. The vertical bands evoke the original leather straps, but the overall cloud-scroll motif (yunqi) evokes the celestial realms of a Daoist immortal paradise.

Given its cocoon-like shape, could this vessel also relate to rituals associated with sericulture? The silk industry, dating back to the third millennium B.C.E., was an important source of revenue for the Chinese economy during the Han dynasty, with silk often used as soft currency in commerce and diplomacy. Since the breeding of silkworms was fraught with difficulties and secrecy, many superstitions arose surrounding it, with ceramics such as this one perhaps serving as funerary signs of this important practice, as well as a tacit symbol of wealth.

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