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Model of a four-storied pavilion


Artwork Details

Model of a four-storied pavilion
earthenware with glaze
11 7/16 in x 10 in x 9 1/4 in (29 cm x 25.4 cm x 23.5 cm);11 7/16 in x 10 in x 9 1/4 in (29 cm x 25.4 cm x 23.5 cm)
Gift of Domino's Pizza, Inc.


Subject Matter:

Copies and Invention in East Asia (August 17, 2019 - January 5, 2020)
Spirit Objects
By the Han dynasty (200 BCE–220 CE) in China, small-scale minqi, or “spirit objects,” made of soft, low-fired ceramics were the dominant form of burial goods. These lively sculptures offer a vivid picture of life on an estate. The most commonly represented animals are horses, dogs, pigs, and domesticated birds such as chickens and ducks; ducks were kept in a fenced pond, as seen in the example here. The impressive, tall structure is probably a watchtower, but towers also had symbolic meaning, as tall buildings were considered steps toward the celestial realm of gods and immortals. On top of the tower a bird spreads its wings, expressing the wish that the deceased will have an untroubled afterlife.

By the Western Han dynasty, basic household bowls, plates, basins, jars, etc. were produced in great quantity, not only for use in daily life, but also specifically for tombs as mingqi (明器), literally "bright objects", or grave goods, as a way to provide for the deceased. These mingqi included everything one would need during the afterlife, naturally, these objects reflected daily life during the Han. Mingqi could include houses, towers, gates, granaries, livestock pens, chicken coops, wells, cooking stoves, storage vessels, dishes, incense burners, lamps and figures such as horses, dogs, anthropomorphic animals, and people such as officials, guardians, servants and entertainers, and more. A tomb could contain anywhere from a few, to several hundred ceramic mingqi items.
Mingqi, of course included residential buildings such as this multi-storied tower. Most information we have of Han dynasty houses comes from architectural ceramic models and depictions on tomb bricks; only the foundations of a few Han Dynasty buildings have been excavated, revealing modest sized to small structures. Upper middle class houses were mainly one or two rooms, surrounded by a courtyard, and could be multiple stories. Houses of the well-to-do were heavily fortified with high walls, corner watchtowers, and covered, elevated passageways, and would have been confined to rural areas.  
These ceramic models of multi-storied houses give important information about wooden post-and lintel construction during the Han dynasty. The majority of these structures are courtyard style walled residencies with a gated entrance; sometimes animals are represented in these courtyards. The houses generally have flat façades, with overhanging roof eaves supported by bracket sets, roof ridges with corner finials, balconies, lattice windows, open doors and occupants in rooms looking out, or on balconies. Commonly, a bird or owl is situated on the uppermost roof ridge as a conduit between the world of the living and the spirit world of the deceased.  

Physical Description:

This red earthenware four-story pavilion is surrounded by a courtyard wall with a hipped roof covered gateway. Each story is similar in construction but graduated in size with the smallest story on top. These small, single-bay rooms feature a door entrance below a lattice window. Waving figures can be seen in the doorways. The overhanging roof eaves supported by a triple bracket set display roof ridges imitating tile work and provide the base for the next storey’s roof balcony. The entire structure is covered in a green lead glaze, with iridescence and calcification.
This model is a part of 1993/1.71.1 through 1993/1.71.5.

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