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Object Monday: Han Dynasty cocoon-shaped jar

Cocoon-shaped jar  (MMA 2012.91.60)

Cocoon-shaped jar, China, Han Dynasty 221 BC-220 AD (MMA 2012.91.60)


This painted earthenware likely was a funerary offering in a Han Dynasty tomb, one of a suite of goods that accompanied the deceased into the afterlife. The vessel rests on a raised foot ring and its narrow neck suggest it was meant to held liquids, perhaps wine, to accompany the deceased on their journey.  It’s barrel-shaped form represents a silkworm’s cocoon, referencing the importance of the silk industry to the Han Dynasty economy. The vessel is decorated with a repeating cloud-scroll (yunwen) motif, evoking the celestial realm and the Taoist immortal paradise.

Cocoon-shaped jar
Earthenware with polychrome painted decoration
27 cm tall x 32 cm across
Han Dynasty, ca. 221 BC – 220 AD
Archaeology collections
Gift of Eison Eige
MMA 2012.91.60


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