A Large Painted Pottery Figure of A Storyteller

Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 AD)

Reference#: P6793

Height: 23 ½ inches (59.7 cm.)

The Quest for Eternity – Chinese Ceramic Sculptures from the People’s Republic of China, LA County Museum 1987, number 38, page 117.

The hollow figure of a short, pot-bellied man standing in a comic pose with the knees slightly bent, the shoulders shrugged with the left hand holding a small drum to the chest, and the head leering forward to emphasize the exaggerated smile. The pottery molded and fired to a greyish tone, with traces of pale-russet tone pigment throughout.

This type of figure has only been found in tombs of Sichuan province. Similar in features and poses, they are fascinating and charming exhibitions of a type of art form enjoyed in that area during the Han dynasty called shuochang or “talking and singing.” These energetic entertainers, somewhat like court jesters, probably sang and acted out well-known stories while keeping time and exaggerating the action by the beat of the drum. This expressive figure is caught mid-act. With his shoulders raised and his forehead wrinkled beneath his small cap in an almost caricatured expression, one can only imagine the humor of his theatrical story.

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