Goat Pen

Accession Number

Goat Pen


Artist Nationality
Chinese (culture or style)

Object Creation Date
25-220 CE

Medium & Support
earthenware with glaze

6 15/16 in x 8 7/8 in x 7 7/8 in (17.62 cm x 22.54 cm x 20 cm);6 7/8 in x 8 7/8 in x 7 7/8 in (17.46 cm x 22.54 cm x 20 cm)

Credit Line
Museum purchase made possible by a gift from Helmut Stern

Label copy
This well-modeled miniature shows a goat family -- three ewers and a ram—in their pen anxiously watching for their master to appear in the upper compartment to let them out to pasture. This kind of realistic physical and psychological detailing helps make Han mortuary models charming and accessible to viewers today.
Han mortuary objects were made of earthenware, glazed or unglazed. Unglazed objects were hand painted with white slip or black, orange, and red pigments as seen in the pottery dog displayed adjacently (1993/1.96). The glazed objects, like this goat pen, used lead as the fluxing agent and iron and copper oxides, respectively, as colorants to make russet and green glazes. Lead glazes are poisonous for both potter and user, and the mortality rate for potters attracted to this bright glaze was high. Fortunately pots with lead-based glazes were confined to burial objects throughout Chinese history.
(Label for UMMA Chinese Gallery Opening Rotation, March 2009)

Subject matter
By the Western Han dynasty, basic household bowls, plates, basins, jars, etc. were produced in great quantity, not only for use in daily life, but also specifically for tombs as mingqi (明器)(literally "bright objects"), or grave goods, as a way to provide for the deceased.  These mingqi included everything one would need during the afterlife.  Naturally, these objects reflected daily life during the Han.  Mingqi could include houses, towers, gates, granaries, livestock pens, chicken coops, wells, cooking stoves, storage vessels, dishes, incense burners, lamps and figures such as horses, dogs, anthropomorphic animals, and people such as officials, guardians, servants and entertainers, and more.  The number of ceramic mingqi items in a tomb could reach numbers of a few to several hundred objects.

During the Western Han, it was common for northern potters to create pigsties as mingqi, by the Eastern Han, a variety of domesticated livestock in their pens could be found in tombs. 

Physical Description
A red earthenware ceramic model of a goat pen, containing one ram and three ewes, with a small shed over the pen with stairs.  The exterior and goats are covered in a green lead glaze with iridescence and calcification.

Primary Object Classification

Primary Object Type
funerary sculpture

Collection Area

If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit http://umma.umich.edu/request-image for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form. Keywords
animal housing (farm structures)
architectural models
ceramic (material)
grave goods
lead glaze

12 Related Resources

Death and Dying
(Part of 8 Learning Collections)
Grief and Mourning Rituals
(Part of 5 Learning Collections)
Heavens, Hells, and Afterlives
(Part of 3 Learning Collections)
Kindergarten Tour: Family Portrait
(Part of: Visit UMMA: Curricular Tour Descriptions for Teachers)
Kindergarten Tour: Shape Up
(Part of: Visit UMMA: Curricular Tour Descriptions for Teachers)
Second Grade: My Community, My World
(Part of: Docent Curricular Tours)

& Author Notes

Web Use Permitted

On display

UMMA Gallery Location ➜ FFW, Mezzanine ➜ M06 (Shirley Chang Gallery of Chinese Art)