Barakat Gallery
Login | Register | User Services | Search | Newsletter Sign-up
Barakat Gallery
HOME : Chinese Art : Han Dynasty : Eastern Han Terracotta Sculpture of a Chicken
Click to view original image.
Eastern Han Terracotta Sculpture of a Chicken - H.635
Origin: China
Circa: 23 AD to 220 AD
Dimensions: 8.5" (21.6cm) high
Collection: Chinese
Medium: Terracotta

Location: United States
Currency Converter
Place On Hold
Ask a Question
Email to a Friend
Previous Item
Next Item
Photo Gallery
Click photo to change image.
Print image
Click photo to change image.
Print image
Click photo to change image.
Print image
Click photo to change image.
Print image
The Han Dynasty, like the Zhou before it, is divided into two distinct periods, the Western Han (206 B.C.-9 A.D.) and the Eastern Han (23-220 A.D.) with a brief interlude. Towards the end of the Western period, a series of weak emperors ruled the throne, controlled from behind the scenes by Wang Mang and Huo Guang, both relatives of empresses. They both exerted enormous influence over the government and when the last emperor suddenly passed away, Mang became ruling advisor, seizing this opportunity to declare his own Dynasty, the Xin, or “New.” However, another popular uprising began joined by the members of the Liu clan, the family that ruled the Han Dynasty, the Xin came to a quick end and the Eastern Han was established in its place with its capital at Loyang (Chang’an, the capital of the Western Han, was completely destroyed).

However, even as Chinese influence spread across Southeastern Asia into new lands, the Eastern Han Dynasty was unable to recreate the glories of the Western Period. In fact, this period can be characterized by a bitter power struggle amongst a group of five consortial clans. These families sought to control the young, weak emperors with their court influence. Yet, as the emperors became distrustful of the rising power of the clans, they relied upon their eunuchs to defend them, often eliminating entire families at a time. During the Western Han, the Emperor was viewed as the center of the universe. However, this philosophy slowly disintegrated under the weak, vulnerable rulers of the Eastern Han, leading many scholars and officials to abandon the court. Eventually, the power of the Han would completely erode, ending with its dissolution and the beginning of the period known as the “Three Kingdoms.”

Sculptures of animals are frequently buried alongside noble members of society during the Han Dynasty. Sculpted in all media, these animal effigies were both a symbol of wealth and a source of food for the afterlife. While some creatures were meant to labor in the next world, others, such as this chicken, were clearly meant for consumption. The Han culture viewed the afterlife as an extension of our earthly lives. Thus, the things that we enjoyed in this world continued to be enjoyed in the next. Likewise, logically, as humans require food to nourish and sustain our bodies on earth, sculpted animals were buried to provide energy for the soul in the afterlife. This sculpted chicken would have been a tasty treat in the next world. Standing on wonderfully rendered feet, we can almost picture this bird waddling along, pecking at a few grains scattered along the ground. The large opening underneath the tail feathers suggests that this sculpture also might have served as a wine vessel, or might be influenced by such bird-shaped containers that were known to be popular at this time. While the representation of the bird is quite naturalistic and charming, this sculpture was not meant to depict and earthly chicken, but an eternal chicken. The energy and power provided by this bird shall last throughout all time, nourishing the spirit of the deceased on into the next world and beyond. While time ravishes our physical manifestations, this terracotta bird can (and has) triumph over death. Today, this chicken is more than food for the afterlife; it is a relic of a lost culture. As the chicken nourished the soul of the deceased in the next world, so the chicken nourishes our souls with its historical significance and aesthetic beauty. - (H.635)


Home About Us Help Contact Us Services Publications Search
Terms and Conditions Privacy Policy Security

Copyright (c) 2000-2023 by Barakat, Inc. All Rights Reserved - TEL 310.859.8408 - FAX 310.276.1346

coldfusion hosting