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NARRATOR:

Perhaps you're familiar with the Qin Dynasty's famous terra cotta warriors—if not, you can see what they look like on the banner hanging in this gallery. These life-sized sculptures protected the tomb of Qin Shi Huang Di the first great emperor of China, who ruled in the third century BCE. This smaller figure served the same purpose but was created some seventy years later to guard a tomb in the compound of the fifth Han Dynasty emperor, Jingdi.

The contrast in size was intentional: Leaders of the Han disagreed with the Qin 's lavish burial practices.

SUZANNE CAHILL:

They characterized the Qin as cruel and extravagant and wasteful of both human labor and of the people's resources. So, then as we get into the Han Dynasty, the figures become smaller. Whether this is based on economy or wanting to express the Confucian virtue of frugality and not imitate the extravagant wicked ways of the Qin Dynasty, the Han wanted to show themselves [as] better and more worthy of the mandate of heaven.

NARRATOR:

Tomb figures were meant to protect, entertain, feed and care for the tomb's occupant. This one probably once had wooden arms and clothing made from textiles, both of which have long since decomposed.

SUZANNNE CAHILL:

They have to be really careful how they make them. This person, although he was not meant to be seen naked, is anatomically correct. And one of the guesses about why that's so is that the people who made them wanted them to be ritually effective, that is something that would work to help the deceased in the next world.

Step29-Han Dynasty Tomb Figure


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