Head and Partial Torso of a Horse'
China (Han dynasty)
206 BC - AD 220
Museum no. A.16-1935
This horse's head comes from a tomb of the Han dynasty (206 BC - AD 220). By this period it was common in China for tombs to be highly decorated and for beautiful objects to be buried alongside the body, since it was thought that the burial place became the home for the immortal soul. Jade was especially important in this process, due to its supposed magical powers to preserve the dead body. The unique nature of this head - no other animal carving in jade of its size is known - has caused uncertainty over its dating, but recent archaeological discoveries in China reinforced its assignment to the Han period.