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HOME : Chinese Art : Han Terracotta Vessels : Pair of Han period terracotta vessels, in the form of a duck
Pair of Han period terracotta vessels, in the form of a duck - LSO.51
Origin: China
Circa: 206 BC to 220 AD
Dimensions: 13" (33.0cm) high x 9" (22.9cm) wide
Collection: Chinese Art
Style: Polychrome
Medium: Terracotta

Additional Information: 36000 each one

Location: Great Britain
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The Han Dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China, reigning in the period between 206 BC and 220 AD. Spanning over four centuries, the Han empire is overall considered a golden period in Chinese history and even to this day, China's ethnicly major group refers to themselves as the "Han people" and the Chinese script is referred to as "Han characters". The Han period became also known for a number of extensive sociopolitical changes, followed by a period of great stability, in the long term leading to the foundations of what is now recognised to be "Chinese Culture". The Han Era witnessed one of the greatest artistic outpourings in Chinese history. Wealth was flowing into China from the trade along the Silk Road, creating the perfect surroundings for a period of unprecedented luxury. Stunning bronze vessels were created and decorated with elegant inlaid gold and silver motifs. Jade carvings reached a new level of technical brilliance. But perhaps the artistic revival of the Han Dynasty is nowhere more apparent than in the sculptures and vessels that were interred with deceased nobles. Chinese burial practices were not bound to any particular religion, and most people were very fluid with their allegiances. A rich family might employ both a Daoist and a Buddhist priest to officiate at a funeral, or invite an expert in the Confucian classics to read out texts expressing the value of family ties beyond the grave. In fact, Chinese beliefs about death go back much further than the organized above- mentioned religions. Funeral feasts and the offering of food and drink to the spirits have played a part in death rites from the very beginning of China's civilization, as they continue to do so even nowadays, and earthenware burial jars painted with bold swirling patterns have survived, some even containing the remains of food. Royalty and the aristocracy were buried with vast numbers of vessels for food and drink, often made of metal. Bronze was one of the most important of the many materials used for grave goods. Good burials showed gratitude to the spirits of the universe and established the reputation of the dead ones in the afterworld. Called "mingqi", which literally translates into “spirit articles,” such funerary artefacts represented a vast array of subjects, from warriors and horses to ovens and livestock, and were buried alongside the dead with the purpose of being used in the next world, thus reflecting the Chinese belief that afterlife was an extension of our earthly existence. Many of the vessels were made to imitate bronze and lacquered vessels which were far more expensive to produce. The huge demand for these earthenware Mingqi funerary objects created a thriving economy ensuring that not only the wealthy could afford to send their loved ones into the afterlife with all the comforts they enjoyed in life but those that were not financially affluent could also afford this practice. These highly unusual vessels are thus funerary containers and were interred with a deceased person of considerable social standing in order to aid their passage into the hereafter. The vessels are sinuously and elegantly designed, incorporating the neck and head of ducks into the spouts of the vessels. While their function is equivocal, their form suggests that they might have been used as serving vessels for liquids, although it is more probable that they were made specifically for burial with the deceased. This would also explain their extremely good colour preservation. Floral and geometric designs are painted directly onto the articles and are arranged in bands that highlight the vessel's shape. The wildfowl's anatomical features are accentuated by the use of contrasting dark and light colours, in addition to some further incised decoration around the area of the head. - (LSO.51)


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