Unlike the ritual jades and bronzes displayed in the
previous two sections, grave goods in the Han (206
BCE-220 CE) and Tang (618-907) dynasties were often made
of softer, more cost-effective materials, including
low-fired ceramics (pottery) and wood. The works in this
section include both mingqi, or "spirit
articles," which are objects made specifically for tombs,
and luxury goods, such as elaborate silk
textiles and lacquerware, which were found in tombs but
which the deceased may have also used in life. The
life-sized terra-cotta soldier from the Qin dynasty
(221-207 BCE) is also mingqi but is
exceptional in its large scale. More common in the Han
and Tang dynasties were the reduced-scale images that
appear in this section.
The emergence of mingqi indicates a shift in the conception of the afterlife to an extension and idealization of the earthly life of the deceased-a reflection of earthly status and a perfection of earthly pleasures. Figures of attendants, guards, entertainers, and pets, along with models of buildings, household furnishings, carriages, carts, and draft animals, transformed the silent tomb into a lively setting for the afterlife, as similar as possible to the living world of the elite. Mingqi also served the centuries-old practice of demonstrating filial piety and, at the same time, family wealth and status, by lavishing resources on the burial of relatives.