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A glazed figure of an attendant Ming Dynasty 1368 to 1644.
Shanxi province China,
41x15x15 m

Tomb Pottery Figures

In the 4th century B.C., the soul was thought to be made up of two spiritual parts, which were co-existent, but separate. The Hun-spirit and the Po-vigor. The living contacted the spirit world through the Po and the Po contacted the immortals through the Han. It was of vital importance to keep these spirits happy, as they were the agents for heavenly blessing and protection without which the family could not prosper. The sacrifices and ceremonies at the tomb were designed to ensure the Hun's safe passage to the realm of the immortals and to entreat the Po to rest content in the interred body and not to return as a ghost. The tomb functioned as a gate to the afterworld. Here the relatives of the deceased could pray and spiritually meet with their loved ones who has passed on. Rituals and offerings accompanied these visits.
In the ancient times the entombment of living animals, attendants and concubines were regularly practiced. In the 4th century B.C. this practice was prohibited, but occasional living sacrifices took place even as late as the Ming dynasty (1368-1644).

The origins of tomb pottery figures, Mingqi, lay in the need to find an affordable substitute for the massively expensive bronze and precious materials such as jade, silver, gold and precious stones which had been used previously to fashion the tomb objects. As the practice of placing objects in the tomb expanded, the impracticality of placing prohibitively expansive pieces in the tomb also became evident, thus promoting the artistic development of the terracotta tomb burial figures, Mingqi, which were fashioned by talented artisans using earth and fire to create a hew art form for the home of the earth spirit, the Po.

The quality and quantity of tomb burial objects reached a climax in the early middle Tang period during the late 7th to the early 8th centuries. Tomb burial objects were varied in type. Vesseles, architectural models, animals of all types; horses, camels, oxen and carts, farm and domestic animals, human figures in the roles of attendants, soldiers, guardians, court ladies, servants, dances, musicians, singers and humble market sellers all made up the drama of the tomb's theatrical setting.