Han Dynasty 206 BC-220 AD

The Han period of Chinese art is widely viewed as being the classical period.  Jade carving, bronze and iron casting, lacquer, sculpture, painting, and ceramics all reached heights of excellence.  Mythological as well as historical events are depicted in the art of this period. 

Eastern Han Horse  AD 25-220.  Earthenware with traces of painted decoration. 

This horse was made for a tomb and was most likely placed with others like it in a massive group. In life horses are valued by the Chinese for hunting and military campaigns, in death horses were revered as a means of transport for the soul in the afterlife.
Western Han Horse with Rider, 2nd-1st century BC
earthenware with painted polychrome decoration

Historical records indicate that when an importand military official died, the Han courts would give them elaborate funerals including full military courtege.  It is likely that this piece was ment to be a representation of one of the riders in such a funerary procession.

As with most Han sculpture, the artist has focused attention on the heads of the figures.  The accuracy of rendering in this piece suggests the attributes of the Samanthian breed from Xinjiang Provence in Central Asia, prized by the Chinese for its strength and speed.  The rider's face is characteristic of the period with a simple and abbreviated, yet naturally molded.  This type of horse and rider are often represented in stone sculptures on a much larger scale.
Model of a Building Made for a Tomb.  AD 25-100 
 Earthenware with incised decoration and traces of paint 

Large scale watch tower from the Denver Art Museum

 These pieces were fired with a led glaze.  The feet of these pieces are in the shape of bears.  Pieces like these were filled with grain and places in a tomb to supply the dead with food in the after life.

above images from the Field Museum, Chicago

 Cocoon Jar from the Philadelphia Museum of Art

above images from the Philadelphia Museum of Art

 above images from the Museum of East Asian Art, Bath, England