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HOME : Chinese Art : Han Dynasty : Han Painted Pottery Soldier
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Han Painted Pottery Soldier - RP.001
Origin: China
Circa: 220 BC to 206 BC
Dimensions: 19.5" (49.5cm) high x 7" (17.8cm) wide
Collection: Chinese Art
Medium: Terracotta

Additional Information: K

Location: Great Britain
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Originally part of a set, this individual figurine represents an infantryman in a charged position with both hands clasped as if to hold a weapon. The right hand is lifted to carry a spear that is no longer there while the left arm is clenched firmly along his side. The soldier wears a long tunic. On his upper torso he wears a short apron with an armored vest and a white v- shaped collar. Angular faces with individual traits are briefly drawn.

No need was felt to replicate the specific individuals who composed the original army- only their functions since their personalities were fully subsumed by their roles within the military group. Even so, particularizing the individual soldiers enabled the artisans to differentiate within groups as well as indicate that our group is indeed composed of infantrymen. The group would have belonged to a larger terracotta army meant for burial and by stylistic comparison can be safely attributed to the late Western Han period. The piece would have been created in a mould and painted while the weapons would have been made of perishable wood.

Such figures and models and other miniature or non-functional objects are collectively known as mingqi (‘spirit articles’) and have been traditionally interpreted as substitutes for the animal and human victims sacrificed during a funeral, as well as surrogates for objects of value placed in the tomb. Chinese tombs and burials signified the power and status of their builders and occupants. Placing a soldier such as this in a tomb would be considered a way to assert one’s political status.

- (RP.001)


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