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Tall Chinese Han Dynasty Pottery Spear Thrower

East Asia, China, Han Dynasty, ca. 206 BCE to 220 CE. A fascinating mold made ceramic figure of a spear throwing warrior. The figure stands on its own, with the legs spread in a dynamic stance, the body thrown slightly to one side, one arm out as if for balance, and the other raised to release a spear. A round perforation through the hand shows where the figure once held his weapon. Size: 7.35" W x 15.55" H (18.7 cm x 39.5 cm)

Tomb figures like this one are part of a class of artifacts called mingqi - sometimes known as "spirit utensils" or "vessels for ghosts". They became popular in the Han Dynasty and would persist for several centuries. Alongside figures like this one were other warriors, animals, musicians, athletes, structures... anything the deceased might need to recreate the world of the living. Even though they were mass produced, mingqi of the Han Dynasty often show a high level of detail and naturalism. These were designed to assist the po, the part of the soul of the deceased that remained underground with the body while the hun, the other part of the soul, ascended. Caring for the po seems to have taken on a new level of meaning in the Han period, with more elaborate rituals and tomb construction arising.

Condition: Head has been reattached, with added clay and overpaint along the repair line. Otherwise the figure is in good condition, with fine remaining white pigment as shown and light deposits on surface. Surface wear commensurate with age including small chips and nicks.

Provenance: private Hawaii, USA collection

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