Stone bust image
Clay minature warior

Han Artefacts

Very little in terms of actual pieces from the Han Dynasty remain in existence. Many of the items made in the period were ephemeral - that is - not meant to last. This is because the Qin period was seen as the source of all that was worthwhile and very little real cultural change took place. What did happen was that as iron tools took over from bronze and paper became more common as a means of recording, so the form of what was produced changed. Below are examples of friezes carved during the Han period. Instead of being the simple geometric designs of the Qin period, they have now become complex pictures. They also show the slimmer line adopted by the Han to show themselves. These pieces all come from the Shanxi Museum in Zhengzhou. Firstly are bowmen going off to war.

Han bowmen

The next two are part of the same frieze and tell the story of the emperor going off to visit his officials (the two kneeling figures on the right of the first piece). The emperor is accompanied by soldiers and servants. The horses carved in this relief show the finer body shape and different structures to the older horses of the Qin. Through trade the Han dynasty obtained a lighter, faster breed of horse from the Xiongnu (Huns) and this is reflected in both these reliefs and in other statuary.

Part of a Han frieze

Part of a Han frieze

Once again this frieze shows soldiers guarding the emperor or going off to war and, once again, these figures are slimmer wearing less armour than the Qin pieces.

Soldiers marching, a frieze from Zhengzhou

And now ordinary women, in this case dancers and musicians

Frieze of women dancers and musicians, Zhengzhou


Artefacts from emperor Wu Di's tomb have been collected in a museum near his tomb but they are limited to the larger items. Most of the smaller ones have been put into the Provincial Museum in the old Qin capital of Xianyang which is not far away from this site. Below is a horse remaining from the sculptures placed along the avenue which led to the tomb. This particular horse is shown standing over a conquered foe.

Horse from Wu Di's tomb site showing it standing over an enemy

Below are Han clay horsemen. You can see remnants of colour on the clay.

Han clay horsemen from the Xianyang City Museum

Ranks of clay warriors manufactured for a general's tomb during the Han period. They each stand about 30 centimetres tall

Ranks of Han clay warriors, Xianyang City Museum

Below, these even smaller clay figures were buried in another grave and depict all walks of life from peasants to generals. They were an attempt to take the whole of society to the grave to serve the master on the other side. These miniatures are about 25 centimetres high on average.

Very small Han clay figurines

Kilns such as these were used to produce the above clay figures. These kilns were in northern China near Taiyuan in 1986 but no longer exist.

Pottery kilns, Taiyuan

The Han were the first to develop four and even six and eight wheeled carriages. Before that, all wheeled vehicles, whether carriage or wheel barrow, were two wheeled. This cart is a modern version of an earlier, strengthened cart and is at Pingyao.

Four wheeled cart, late Han period

The carriage below is also housed at Pingyao but is an 18th century AD replica of a Han carriage.

Four wheeled carriage, Pingyao