These attendants are excellent examples of Ming Dynasty tomb pottery of this time. Terracotta moulded figures of people and animals were meant to be grave goods to be placed in tombs. It was believed that these figures would serve and assist the deceased in the afterlife. Figures of this type are called mingqi in Chinese, and usually depict servants, officials, soldiers, musicians, court attendants, dancers and, in the case of animals, horses and Bactrian camels. As in life, attendant figures are depicted standing nearby, waiting to fulfil the desires and needs of the deceased. They were lined outside the tomb before the coffin was taken inside, and then placed and arranged inside the tomb. The size and number of the figures in a grave depended on the rank of the deceased. The Ming dynasty ruled during some of China’s most renowned artistic achievements – famed, of course, for its vases, but also for works such as Shen Zhou’s ‘Lofty Mount Lu’. The arts flourished in part due to the Ming Dynasty’s economic success and prosperity.
To discover more about Chinese Ceramics, please visit our relevant blog post: Popular Styles in Chinese Ceramics.