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  You are in: Home > Archaeology >The mingqi Pottery Buildings of Han Dynasty China  

The mingqi Pottery Buildings of Han Dynasty China
206 BC–AD 220

Architectural Representations and Represented Architecture

Qinghua Guo

Qinghua Guo teaches East Asian architecture at The University of Melbourne, Australia. She is a committee member of the International Society for Chinese Architectural History Studies, and the International Society for Manchu Architectural History Studies. Her publications include Chinese Architecture and Planning: Ideals, Methods and Techniques (2005), A Visual Dictionary of Chinese Architecture (2002) and The Structure of Chinese Timber Architecture: Twelfth Century Design Standards and Construction Principles (1999).


An enormous number of burial objects have been unearthed from ancient tombs in archaeological excavations in China. These mingqi were made in all kinds of materials and in a broad range of forms, techniques and craftsmanship. In this book Quinghua Guo examines a particular type of mingqi – pottery building.

The striking realism of the pottery buildings suggests that they were modelled after actual buildings. They bring to life courtyard houses, manors, towers, granaries and pigsty-privies, as well as cooking ranges and well pavilions. These pottery buildings, excavated across all of China, were previously little known or appreciated, but now occupy a special place in Chinese culture: They preserve knowledge of antiquity and demonstrate the architectural quality and structural variety of the period. The author identifies the typology of the pottery buildings they signify in terms of ontology and semiology, in order to provide a conceptual map for classification, and identifies building systems reflected by the mingqi to detect architectonic systems of the Han dynasty.

Key features of this volume include: (1)
Cross-disciplinary research – architectural study interlocking with archaeological study; (2) architectural study interlocking with graphic study – the pictorial records have been recognized as valuable and authentic materials for the study of Chinese antiquity by art historians; (3) the Han pottery buildings are important architectural models from the ancient world, and are contrasted with wooden houses of Middle-Kingdom Egypt and brick buildings of the Minor civilization, Crete, allowing cross-cultural comparisons.

Preface and Acknowledgments

Introduction: History and Research
1 Fortified Courtyard Houses
2 Multi-Storeyed and Multi-Eaved Buildings
3 Towers
4 Granaries and Storehouses
Colour plate section
5 Stoves and Wells
6 Pigsties and Privies
7 Roof Types and Ridge Ornaments
8 Production Methods and Techniques
9 Utilization or Representation? Gate-Shaped Tomb Bricks

Glossary of Chinese Characters

“Qinghua Guo’s The Mingqi Pottery Buildings of Han Dynasty China is a study of an intriguing and important aspect of Chinese architecture and burial practice that has never been fully understood. Mingqi is a complex term referring to objects of almost any variety placed in Chinese tombs. The subset of Han grave goods discussed in this book are pottery works shaped like buildings. More architectural mingqi are found in Han (206 BCE–220 CE) tombs than in earlier or later periods; thousands survive and hundreds are illustrated in the book. Guo tells the reader at the outset that she will not attempt to discuss the origins or evolution of mingqi. Rather, her purpose is to “present salient points of an architectonic nature … from the standpoint of architectural representation”.
…The strength of The Mingqi Pottery Buildings of Han Dynasty China is that it brings the attention of English readers to an aspect of Han architecture through more than 200 examples and invites them to evaluate the reliability of this architecture in miniature as evidence of the appearance of full-size buildings.” Society of Architectural Historians


Publication Details

Hardback ISBN:
Paperback ISBN:
Page Extent / Format:
216 pp. / 246 x 171 mm
Release Date:
Hardback, March 2010; Paperback, January 2016
  Illustrated:   Colour and mono photographs
Hardback Price:
£35.00 / $59.95
  Paperback Price:
£29.95 / $44.95

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