Institute of Archaeology


Fun and Funerals: Variety Entertainment Scenes on Eastern Han Stone Sarcophagi from the Southwest

30 January 2020, 6:00 pm–7:00 pm

Fun and funerals: Variety Entertainment Scenes on Eastern Han Stone Sarcophagi from the Southwest

Hajni Elias (University of Cambridge) will give the next ICCHA China Night Research Seminar of 2019-20 at the UCL Institute of Archaeology on 30 January.

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







ICCHA Centre Administrator (Rui Pang)


Room 612
Institute of Archaeology
31-34 Gordon Square


Representations of acrobatic performances known as Baixi 百戲 feature prominently in Eastern Han dynasty tomb art.  The consensus amongst scholars has been that these images were included in the tomb, along with banqueting scenes, to represent enjoyments pursued by the deceased in the afterlife and also signify wealth, power and pleasure.  They have also been studied as the origin of China’s spectacular performance arts and traditional Chinese theatre.  This talk examines the iconography of these scenes found on Eastern Han period stone sarcophagi unearthed from tombs in the southwest, present-day Sichuan province, and suggests an alternative interpretation.  Baixi performances were a component of the social activities associated with funeral rites which would have drawn large numbers of people who required feeding and entertaining as part of a social network of obligations.  This interpretation regards the images less as portrayals of an imagined afterlife and rather as scenes associated with the activities surrounding the large social gatherings which would have assembled for funeral rites.  They give us an insight into an aspect of early China’s funerary practices rarely mentioned in text but visible in art.


This talk will be presented in English. No booking is required and all are welcome.

Any enquiries about the event or work of the International Centre for Chinese Heritage and Archaeology (ICCHA) may be directed to the Centre Administrator, Rui Pang.

The International Centre for Chinese Heritage and Archaeology, a joint association between the School for Archaeology and Museology of Peking University and the UCL Institute of Archaeology, is tasked with bringing China's cultural past to western scholars. Through its China Nights events and Guest Lecture Series, the Centre endeavours to promote all aspects of Chinese history and prehistory and strengthen academic links between China and Europe. In addition, the ICCHA regularly hosts world-class conferences, bridge the gap in archaeological thought and theory.