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34 of 10,402

China, Henan or Hebei province

Well-head

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Object Details

Culture

China, Henan or Hebei province
Eastern Han dynasty (AD 25-220)

Date

1st or 2nd century

Medium

Lead-glazed earthenware

Dimensions

Height: 9 1/2 inches (24.1 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of F. Eunice Shatzman, Class of 1949, and Herbert F. Shatzman

Object
Number

2008.072.034

BRIEF DESCRIPTIONThis is a ceramic model of a fanciful wellhead. It served as a tomb furnishing to p(…)

BRIEF DESCRIPTIONThis is a ceramic model of a fanciful wellhead. It served as a tomb furnishing to provide a source of water for the deceased in the afterlife.WHERE WAS IT MADE?This was made in either Henan or Hebei province in China.HOW WAS IT MADE?This elaborately decorated wellhead was likely created with a variety of clay making techniques. The base could have been made on a wheel, while other sections were molded by hand or made using a fired clay mold. A lead glaze with copper oxides was applied to the clay prior to firing. The copper oxides impart the greenish color to the glaze.HOW WAS IT USED?This model of a wellhead was made to furnish a Han tomb. Wellheads were popular among the Han dynasty tomb furnishings, so that the soul would not be without an adequate supply of fresh water. Tombs served as a house for the spirit of the deceased. They were filled with objects to provide for the spirit and prevent the spirit from turning into a ghost that would harass the living. Many of the funerary practices of the Han were adopted from the preceding Bronze Age. Han tombs provide us with a wealth of information about daily life and social practices because people from all social classes—not just imperial families—constructed tombs filled with objects from their lives. Imperial tombs were large-scale projects that took many years to build—often, emperors began work on their tombs in the second year of their reigns and reserved one-third of their personal treasury for the construction. More modest tombs consisted of several chambers built into the earth with stone tiles, each filled with objects for entertainment, feasting, housing, and protection. Painted on the walls are scenes from daily life, memorials of the deceased, and funeral processions.WHY DOES IT LOOK LIKE THIS?Some wellhead models resemble actual wellheads used by the living, while others, such as this rather fanciful one, represent heavenly types. To see a more realistic model of a wellhead, search for object number 98.088 in the keyword search box.This wellhead was meant to be seen from one side only; the back lacks the incised details seen on the front. Notice the small bucket perched on the edge of the well; it could be raised and lowered from the pulley that you see between the two upright posts. The tree motifs on either side of the posts might represent jade trees or other mythical trees in the Daoist paradise of Mt. Kunlun. Look at the birds at the base of the posts; they might symbolize the escorts that would accompany the hun (the part of the soul that ascends to heaven) to this paradise.

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