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A work made of buff earthenware with pigment.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of buff earthenware with pigment.


Northern dynasties, 6th century



About this artwork

In ancient China, clay figures were buried in tombs to accompany the deceased into the afterlife. It was believed that these figures would “live” within the tomb, providing perpetual companionship and protection to the tomb owner. This particular figure, wearing a soft cap, cowl-neck tunic, and boots, may represent a Central Asian entertainer in the act of balancing an object on his forehead, which is pierced with a hole that would have supported a stick (now lost).

The figure, depicted with remarkable realism and vividness, exemplifies the meticulous observation and skillful techniques of its craftsmen. With its inclined body, hands pressing on thighs for stability, and a steadfast stance, the figure animates an intense moment of suspension. The open mouth and wide eyes convey the figure’s keen concentration on the task at hand.


Currently Off View


Arts of Asia




China (Object made in)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

501 CE–600 CE


Buff earthenware with pigment


H.: 27 cm (10 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Stanley Herzman in memory of Gladys Wolfson Herzman

Reference Number


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Extended information about this artwork

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