Painted Terracotta Model of a House - LA.516
Origin: China
Circa: 1 st Century AD to 3 rd Century AD
Dimensions: 41" (104.1cm) high
Collection: Chinese Art
Style: Eastern Han

The earliest depiction of houses, going back to the Neolithic period, were modelled in ceramic. Before the Han period, such models more often consisted of a single cylindrical chamber with a roof, but during the Han dynasty designs of much more complex architectural complexes appeared throughout the country. Especially from the 1st century AD, tomb mingqi production expanded to include new types of artefacts, ranging from everyday tools to figures of domestic animals and architectural models. Tombs in Henan, Shanxi, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces have yielded a large quantity of architectural models featuring multi-storey buildings with overhanging roofs, brackets, pillars, ornamental balustrades, latticework windows and hinged doors. The majority was lead-glazed in sparkling colours including green, yellow, brownish and black, but unglazed painted examples are also known, especially in Sichuan.
Such models and other miniature or non-functional objects are collectively known as mingqi (spirit articles) and have been traditionally interpreted as surrogates for objects of value placed in the tomb. Yet recent archaeological evidence have highlighted that these objects might have instead constituted an integral part of the strategy to recreate the earthly dwelling of the deceased. The replication of the living world and its constituents within the tomb might have been induced by various ideological factors, including a new religious trend emphasising the separation of the dead from the living and other material manifestations of different philosophical ideas, but also possibly by the effort to reproduce a self-sustaining version of the world- a fictive and efficacious comprehensive replica, made up of both real sacrificed humans and animals (the 'presented') and elements such as the multi-storey house (the 're-presented').
Daily life has thus been vividly reproduced by capturing in a still image the various figurines peaking out from the house balconies and doors: look at the matron hieratically standing at the entrance door, holding a fan and looking towards his labourers to her right, either washing, holding a winnowing fan or a sickle, or again, at the archer perilously leaning outward on the balustrade of the third floor, shooting to the sky. Traces of the original red paint are also visible under the roof and on the brackets, suggesting that the entire house must have once been colourfully decorated with draperies, providing a vivid picture of what a wealthy abode must have looked like during the Han period. Furthermore, this house is composed of three storeys, a combination rarely encountered on domestic architecture of the period (usually made of one of two storeys) and more often employed in the depiction of military outposts such as watchtowers. Its architectural details, including lattice windows and bracketed pillars are extremely well preserved, as well as the upturned tiles on the overhanging roof, thus providing an indelible picture of this long-gone archaeological past.
TL tested. - (LA.516)