Comical caricatures of performers were especially popular in Szechwan Province during the Eastern Han dynasty (A.D. 25-220). Used as tomb figurines, they provided entertainment in the afterlife, and an entire troupe might be interred with the deceased. Drummers like the one represented here specialized in a kind of storytelling that was part spoken, part sung. This one sings merrily, his brow wrinkled in laughter. His heavy body suggests he may be a dwarf. Performers of similar build appear on Han tomb tiles decorated with scenes of juggling and sword balancing.
Although ceramic Han tomb figures were mass-produced, this type is surely one of the most engaging and expressive examples of Han dynasty figural art.