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 Northern Wei Dynasty carried on reforms which contributed greatly to an amalgamation of art and culture in sixth-century China. This was manifested in painting, calligraphy, the funerary and decorative arts, and in the style of the cave-temples at Longmen in the Henan Province. During the Northern Wei dynasty rule Northern China was unified and Buddhism was introduced to China – an introduction which rooted itself firmly in the cultural fabric of China.
Northern Wei Dynasty Attendant
A Chinese Northern Wei hollow-moulded terracotta statuette of a court attendant. The figure is portrayed wearing long draped robes, which fall in folds down the length of his body, and a tall headdress. Shoes are visible under the robes. The garment is looped around his left forearm, where there used to be a slot for a staff or incense. Some of the original decorative red and white pigment remains.