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Tomb Figures

In many ancient Chinese tombs, pottery, clay and wooden figures accompany the dead.

In Chinese Slavery Society about 4000 to 2500 years ago, living people were buried with the dead as sacrifices. As time went on, however, artificial tomb figures instead were produced and used to lie with the dead. According to Confucius, filial piety was a basic moral principle, and spiritual and material sacrifices to dead relatives or friends were traditional Chinese rituals.

Tomb burial began to become popular in the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (770-221B.C.) and was most prevalent from the Qin to the Tang dynasties. Tomb figures were made in imitation of various real life people, Such as slaves, dancers, soldiers and so on. Beside these human figures were placed horses, vehicles, cooking utensils and livestock figures. The Terracotta Warriors in Emperor Qinshihuang's mausoleum represent the first development peak of Chinese tomb figure creation. The later Han Dynasty tomb figures do not appear in Such large numbers or on Such a grand scale; they are, however. scattered throughout more regions, made of a greater variety of materials and convey more ideas.

The Qin Dynasty tomb figures are rigid with no big variation in style. The Han Dynasty tomb figures, by contrast, are lively, vivid and display greater diversity. There are male and female figures, sitting, standing, singing and dancing. They even include figures of cooks, storytellers and children. They wear all kinds of clothes and all manner of expressions. Tomb figures in different regions have different characteristics. The female tomb figures in central China appear quiet, elegant and refined, and reveal their position in the master and servant relationship by their different expressions. Tomb figures in Sichuan Province are cryptic but convey an impression of varied and active movement and a strong sense of humor. The singing and dancing figures unearthed from this region are very small but have attractive gestures and animated expressions. They are the cream of ancient sculptures. The horse and chariot tomb figures' of the mid and late Han Dynasty, such as the wooden horses and chariots unearthed at Weiwu, Gansu Province, appear simple and strong. They attest to the tomb owner's nostalgia for his past military life and show off his luxurious lifestyle.

In the Wei, Jin, the Northern and Southern dynasties, soldier warriors with armor and helmets appeared. They are riding on horses and have flags or weapons in their hands. In Yuan Shao's Tomb of the Northern Wei Dynasty, there are two figures of ethnic Hu people. One is an old man with a long nose, deep eyes and long beard; the other one is a child squatting on the ground, sleeping, with his head resting on his knees. His hair is loose and Curled and his clothes very simple. As Buddhist art spread into China in the Wei and Jin dynasties, several ethnic and foreign craft techniques were introduced to the Han people, and blue and white porcelain tomb figures were added to the pottery figures.

Tomb figures reflect the social life of an historical period. In the Tang Dynasty, the three-color tomb figures began to be made, ushering in a glorious stage of development for Chinese sculpture. The number of women figure sin creased; they appeared as domestic servants, singers and dancers. The tomb figure s' appearance reveals the aesthetics of the Tang people. The women have rounded faces, graceful eyebrows, big eyes and tiny mouths, and they wear hair ornaments of gold flowers and coils of different styles. They have full figures and wear tight shirts that leave their chests uncovered, scarves on their shoulders and long skirts that touch the ground. Their expressions are dignified, and they look at ease and comfortable. Most noticeable of the Tang tomb figures are the very graceful singing and dancing figures. Looking at them, we can imagine the magnificent singing and dancing scenes at the Tang imperial court at the height of its prosperity.

Tomb figure making reached its highest development peak in the Tang Dynasty. From the Song Dynasty, the Custom of burying tomb figures gradually disappeared. (Fig.3-16)(Fig.3-17)

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