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Burial Models. Sneaking a Peek at the Customs and Traditions of the Han Dynasty Era Essay


One of the most famous eras in the Chinese history, the epoch of Han Dynasty rule definitely deserves being considered closer, for it was a true cultural breakthrough in the development of the Chinese nation.

Not only did the Chinese people achieve impressive results in developing their agriculture and expanding further into the Asian territory, but also introduced completely new idea of afterlife into their realm, therefore, shaping people’s vision of the world greatly. Naturally, such fields as science, economy, and art were taken to a new level where new means of cultural and economical analysis could be sought.

As a result, a number of unique artworks was created on the given time slot. To embrace every single discovery that was made in the Han era and analyze the artifacts that allow considering the value of the given discovery is practically impossible; however, by choosing some of the most outstanding artifacts, one can possibly dive into the history of China.

Though seemingly minor artifacts, the burial models known as the Farm shed with grain mill (n. d.) and the Animal pen with figures (n. d.) an be used to evaluate the progress that the Han Dynasty contributed to, as well as define the tracks of the principles that will become the pillars of the modern Chinese culture later on.

The Exhibit and Artifacts

Before going any further, a few words must be said about the place that allows for analyzing the artifacts in question. A courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago, the given artifact, unfortunately, is not featured in any exhibition at present and can only be viewed in the Gallery 133, which is devoted to the Ancient Chinese art and culture.

The same can be said about the second artwork that is going to be analyzed in the given paper as an element of the Han Dynasty culture. It is not represented in a specific exhibition yet, and is only available in a corresponding gallery (Gallery 207). The collection in which the given artifact is located is also titled as Asian Art.

The fact that the given art objects are not featured in any exhibition at present is a real shame, since each of them represents the principles of the new burial rituals.

While the given artifacts might not seem an object that can be valued as a work of art, it still should be, since it not only conveys the key ideas of what the Chinese traditions and rituals at the time were, but also represents an attempt at interpreting the life and culture of the era, which, in fact, qualifies as an artistic endeavor.

Although the two objects in question both, in fact, represent the Han Dynasty era and, therefore, are supposed to share similar features, they still are quite different. Whether these were the artists’ individual styles, or the differences in the actual purpose of the objects that were modeled by unknown artists, but the two models share few similarities. To start with, both of the artifacts are of a relatively similar color pitch.

Combining the elements of greenish and yellowish, the two artifacts are immediately associated with earth, settlements and quiet peasant life, which, perhaps, was the exact intention of the people who created these objects. When it comes to shape, however, the differences appear, which is quite expected, since the objects have completely different purposes.

The model of a farm shed has a clearly rectangular shape; even though the edged are rounded quite a bit and most of the straight lines have been curved in a rather unpredictable way, the given work of art still has a rectangular shape. The earthenware, on the contrary, is shaped in a very unusual way, with one side being rounded, while the other one is absolutely straight.

According to the description offered in the gallery, the Farm shed with grain mill (n. d.) In its turn, the Animal pen with figures (n. d.) was traditionally used as a “mingqi, or ‘spirit utensils’ that accompanied the deceased in burials of the Easter Han Dynasty” (Animal pen with figures, n. d., para. 1).

It is quite peculiar that, according to the descriptions provided by the creators of the gallery, such artifacts as the Animal pen with figures were first used only as a part of a burial ceremony for wealthy people.

However, as the views that were more liberal started spreading across the state, such objects were used as a traditional element of any burial ritual. As for the second object the Farm shed with grain mill was also an attribute of a burial ritual and was supposed to glorify the agricultural achievements of the era.

The two artifacts are built of the same materials, i.e., earthenware with green lead glaze (Animal pen with figures, n. d., para. 1; Farm shed with grain mill, n. d., para. 1). As it has been stressed above, both objects show the increase in the significance of the cultural and economical breakthrough that China was witnessing at that moment.

The two artifacts have a number of features in common; however, by far the most evident similarity concerns the way in which they are used. Indeed, while the given objects are the models of completely different things, they, in fact, share such a similarity as their purpose, both being a part of a burial ritual.

Another detail that brings the given artifacts closer is the concept of a quiet and dignified life that they share, as well as the transience of life.

Interpretation and Analysis

The artifacts mentioned above are more than merely the reminders of the existence of another great civilization. On the contrary, these remains of an ancient culture can be seen as a time machine that allows for being transported into the time period when the Han Dynasty reigned China.

These artifacts help picture the world in which they were created and understand the way in which the new philosophy glorifying steady life and agriculture started affecting the lives of people who lived at the time of the Han Dynasty reign.

In a way, the given artifacts represent the way in which the history of social relationships changed in the Chinese empire, as well as reflect the changes that philosophy and religion in general can make to the society.

When taking a closer look at the elements of the exhibits, one will be able to spot the fact that the given artifacts, in fact, allow to draw increasingly clearer line between the representatives of different social backgrounds.

For instance, the animals that are depicted at the foreground of the Farm shed with grain mill (n. d.) show clearly that a stricter stratification of society took place at the given point in history, seeing how the necessity to support agricultural development of the country appeared.

It is quite impressive that the authors of given artifacts managed to capture time in a bottle by creating the works that represent not the casual relationship, but the changes that took place to the social relationships at the time.

However, the aforementioned conclusions are primarily the result of the observation combined with the background research on the issue that was previously carried out.

When considered outside of context, the given artifacts can hardly tell one anything except an obvious fixation on the agricultural issues in the Chinese society at the time of the Han Dynasty rule. While the place that is portrayed in the artifacts can hardly be defined, seeing how the aforementioned elements can be attributed to a number of cultures (Adams et al., 2000).

Compared to the artifact mentioned previously, Earthenware with green lead glaze (n. d.) seems to have just as much value. Even though it does not put just as strong an emphasis on the social stratification of the Chinese population at the era of the Han Dynasty rule, it still conveys a very clear message concerning the shift towards a more clear distribution of social roles in the imperial China.

Even though the artifacts in question might not tell as much to an average person as they can to the one who is aware of the changes that occurred to China in the Han Dynasty epoch, they still leave an impression and help one sink into the atmosphere of Imperial China.

Reference List

Adams, P. V. et al. (2000). Experiencing world history. New York, NY: New York University Press.

Animal pen with figures (n. d.). Web.

Farm shed with grain mill (n. d.). Web.

This Essay on Burial Models. Sneaking a Peek at the Customs and Traditions of the Han Dynasty Era was written and submitted by user Madilynn Cortez to help you with your own studies. You are free to use it for research and reference purposes in order to write your own paper; however, you must cite it accordingly.

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Cortez, Madilynn. "Burial Models. Sneaking a Peek at the Customs and Traditions of the Han Dynasty Era." IvyPanda, 29 Dec. 2019,

1. Madilynn Cortez. "Burial Models. Sneaking a Peek at the Customs and Traditions of the Han Dynasty Era." IvyPanda (blog), December 29, 2019.


Cortez, Madilynn. "Burial Models. Sneaking a Peek at the Customs and Traditions of the Han Dynasty Era." IvyPanda (blog), December 29, 2019.


Cortez, Madilynn. 2019. "Burial Models. Sneaking a Peek at the Customs and Traditions of the Han Dynasty Era." IvyPanda (blog), December 29, 2019.


Cortez, M. (2019) 'Burial Models. Sneaking a Peek at the Customs and Traditions of the Han Dynasty Era'. IvyPanda, 29 December.

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