Earthenware model of a cart with bullock and human figures

From China
Six Dynasties period, 6th century AD

A model from a tomb

From the time of the Han dynasty (206 BC-AD 220) tomb models showing aspects of daily life were common in China. After the fall of the Han dynasty the spectacular range of funerary models diminished, reappearing only after a few centuries with a new emphasis on figures, rather than buildings which had been more common in the Han. Fifth-century tombs in Henan in northern China and Shaanxi in central China revealed groups of ceramic figures.

This large earthenware tomb model is slightly later in date, from a period of disunity in China known as the Six Dynasties (AD 265-589). The model has been scientifically tested by a method known as thermoluminescence, which may be used for dating ceramic objects. It is a relatively rare piece, which anticipates the large tomb figure industry which grew from the seventh century AD.

The bull pulling the cart is flanked by two men. Their features show that they are not Chinese. Underneath the bull is a jug. The model was executed with a great care for realistic detail.

Find in the collection online

More information


J. Rawson (ed.), The British Museum book of Chi (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)


Height: 42.000 cm
Length: 54.500 cm

Museum number

Asia OA 1925.10-15.3



Find in the collection online

Search highlights

There are over 4,000 highlight objects to explore