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Dog
Green glazed pottery
Eastern Han dynasty
H. 29.0cm, Depth 20.8cm
Excavated at Gansu province
National Museum of Shaanxi History

This figurine was formed from brownish clay in a mold that splits right down the middle into right and left sides. The overall form was coated in green glaze. Here the dog has a relatively large head, with ears raised, mouth open, and teeth exposed as his long tail curls up above his back and then down to his hips. His somewhat small feet are split into three, giving him an innocent look. Here the dog is fitted with abbreviated features in a lovable generalized form which differs in feel from the more realistic style seen in the dog at cat. No. 12.

Northern and Southern dynasties

The Eastern Han dynasty fell in 220 as a result of chaos at the end of the reign. This led to a 360 year period of fragmented rule in China, spanning the Three Kingdoms era and the Northern and Southern Dynasties era. In 317 an ethnically non-Chinese tribe invaded from the north, and this pushed the ethnic Chinese further south where they formed the Eastern Jin dynasty. During subsequent decades the non-ethnic Chinese formed various dynasties in the Yellow River area to the north, while the ethnic Chinese formed their dynasties in the Yangzi River region, splitting the present-day Chinese geographical sphere into a northern/ southern divide.
This political and geographical split had a great effect on tomb structures which had been established during the Han dynasty. The tombs of the rulers and high officials of the Wei and Jin dynasties of the ethnic Chinese did not have large tumulus structures like those seen in the ethnic Chinese Han dynasty, rather they were built as underground tomb channels located in the mountain foothills. The northern Sixteen Kingdoms based their tomb building on the unique tribal custom of hiding their tombs in the so-called OqianmaiO style. This practice meant there was a temporary lapse in the creation of tomb figurines.

The Northern Wei dynasty, established in 386 by the Xianbei Tuoba people, built cave chambers in the mountain side at Datong. In 494 Emperor Xiaowen moved the capital to Luoyang, and proceeded to build a stronger and more sinified political structure. Xiaowen built the Chang tomb for himself in the hilly area of Beimang, and this area was designated the burial grounds of the Tuoba people who had moved to the central plains from the north. This site saw the revival of the tumulus-form tombs, and excavations have revealed an increased number of tomb figurines from this period.

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