AGE: – Han dynasty 206 BC – 220 AD
CONSTRUCTION: – Earthenware
DESCRIPTION: – Chinese Han Dynasty Earthenware Cocoon Jar
HEIGHT: – 30cm
DEPTH: – 21cm
WEIGHT: – 2.75 Kg.
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Grey coloured Chinese Han Dynasty earthenware Cocoon Jar with orange and white painted swirl motives still remaining. Although a jar such as this is generally believed to have been used to hold liquids, it was possibly never used in daily life for this purpose, but instead more than likely made to accompany a deceased person into the afterlife.
Considering that it would have been awkward to pour liquids from a vessel such as this, and that the Chinese from early times placed great importance on symbolism in life and in death, the most likely reason for the manufacture of a shape such as this is because it perhaps resembles the shape of a silk worm cocoon. The silk worm and the manufacturing of silk played a major role in the economy of China since very early times.
Possibly the person this jar accompanied into the afterlife was a manufacturer of silk. By placing a jar such as this in his/her tomb, it is believed would ease their way into the afterlife by providing familiarity to that which he/she was accustomed to whilst living.
The practice of placing items for use by the deceased in the afterlife dates back to neolithic times in China. A custom that was practiced up to, and during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). After the Ming Dynasty the practice of placing these kinds of Mingqi funerary objects with the deceased declined.
Mingqi funerary objects from these early times gives an insight into what kind of pottery was made and used during the Han Dynasty for everyday living. Many of these mingqi funerary objects were copies or replicas of objects used in daily life.
Miniature terracotta houses, granaries, vessels and images of animals and human figures, were specifically made to accompany a deceased person into the afterlife. Anything that was believed to bring comfort and familiarity to the deceased during their journey into the other world and beyond was made solely for this purpose.
In the tomb of the first Emperor of Qin, prior to the Han Dynasty no expense was spared, life sized terracotta objects, now known as the terracotta army with life size figures of horses and chariots, bronze vessels, jade and ivory ornaments, silver and gold jewellery were entombed with the Emperor.
The Han Dynasty lasted for a period of 400 years – Western Han from 206 BCE – 9 CE, with the Xin dynasty ruling from 9 -23 CE, followed by the Eastern Han from 25 – 220 CE
Learn more about the Han dynasty