Return to USC Pacific Asia Museum Home
Chinese Ceramics

Acrobat figurines
Han dynasty (207 BC–AD 221)
Unglazed earthenware,
traces of pigment
Approx. 8 in. tall
Gift of
Mr. and Mrs. Robert M. Snukal

[click on image for larger view]

Section 1:


Eternal Treasures
It is time now for the living to pay their respects to the dead.

The Great Lord, a member of our Chinese Tang royal family, has died. Just as we his loyal subjects have made certain he was comfortable in life, so too we take care of him in the afterlife. We believe that when a person dies, his or her soul lives on in two separate parts: the po and the hun. The po stays with the body in the tomb, while the hun travels off in search of Paradise. It is the nobleman's po that we try to make feel at home in the tomb.

Long ago, when a king or nobleman died, his servants and soldiers were put to death and buried with him. Our ancestors did this because they wanted to make certain that the nobleman's servants and soldiers would be there to take care of him in the afterlife. Some graves included more than 1,000 bodies and more than a ton of bronze and jade objects. Naturally, a king's subjects hoped he would live a long and happy life!

Now, however, we believe that clay objects can substitute for the things the po loved and needed during its lifetime, just as a Han dynasty lord or lady loved these acrobats. They will also impress the other spirits in the afterlife for all eternity and show that our lord was a very important man. The things we include in our Great Lord's grave show what is important to him and to us as a people. We include many things—mingqi is the Chinese word for "spirit goods" —objects that show that he was wealthy and powerful.


Next button
Chinese Ceramics HomeFor TeachersExplore the CollectionOnline/Print Resources
Artworks in the Tomb Treasures section are only available as an online exhibit
Updated 2/12/2001 USC Pacific Asia Museum  Copyright&Credits
boys playing boy playing