This statuette of a standing court lady or dancer forms a pair with another partially glazed and cold-painted earthenware figurine in the Smart Museum collection (Smart Museum object number 1973.66). Such clay funerary sculptures, called in Chinese mingqi, or “spirit vessels,” appeared in China as early as the fourth century BCE. Slender and lithe, the two women wear identical high-waisted dresses with long diaphanous stoles draped over their shoulders in a manner typical of the early Tang dynasty (618–907). Within 50 years plumpness and loosely draped clothing had become the stylish female norms (see Smart Museum object number 2007.98). Mingqi were surrogates, occasionally life-size but mostly of smaller scale, as here, for living servants and animals or made as inexpensive substitutes for valuable objects in precious materials for use by the wealthy owner of the tomb in the afterlife. As the practice of mingqi expanded beyond the social elite, the use of molds rather than hand-formed shapes streamlined the system of production. In this example from the second half of the seventh century, the front and rear halves of the head and body were shaped in separate molds and then joined together before firing in the kiln (the original seam lines are visible along the sides). Some details, such as the elaborate topknot of the hairdo, however, were fashioned by hand, adding a note of individuality.