Court Lady

Accession Number

Court Lady


Artist Nationality
Chinese (culture or style)

Object Creation Date
9th century

Medium & Support
earthenware with mineral pigment

9 1/16 in x 3 1/8 in x 2 3/16 in (23.02 cm x 7.94 cm x 5.56 cm)

Credit Line
Gift of Willard A. and Marybelle Bouchard Hanna

Subject matter
An earthenware polychrome mingqi  (明器) ("bright object") figure of a court lady of the Tang dynasty (618-906). Her sumptuous robes and hairstyle was in high fashion during the Tang.  This figure would have been included in a tomb to accompany the deceased in the afterlife and was indicative of the wealth and status of the occupant. 

Since the Qin dynasty (221 - 206 BCE), ceramic figures have been used to replace human sacrifice in burial practices as mingqi as a way to provide for the deceased.  Mingqi could include houses, towers, gates, granaries, livestock pens, chicken coops, wells, cooking stoves, storage vessels, dishes, incense burners, and lamps.  Figures could include horses, dogs, anthropomorphic animals and people, such as officials, guardians, servants, and entertainers. By the Han dynasty, they also included representations of common people engaged in the activities that consumed their daily lives, such a cooking. The tombs in southern provinces of Sichuan and Shaanxi have revealed a vast array of figures in playful and humorous poses.  As grave goods, these mingqi included everything one would need to ensure a comfortable transition into the afterlife. The number of ceramic mingqi items in a tomb could reach numbers of a few to several hundred objects.

Physical Description
An earthenware figure of a tall thin woman dressed in sumptous robes that she has gathered in her left hand, her hair coiffed high upon her head.  It is covered in a white slip with traces of polychrome mineral pigment.

Primary Object Classification

Primary Object Type
funerary sculpture

Additional Object Classification(s)

Collection Area

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ceramic (material)
figures (representations)
grave goods
mineral pigment

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