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Eastern Han dynasty (25-220 CE)
Height: 48.2 cm, width: 19 cm
Unearthed from the Pengshan area, Sichuan province
The figurine wears a round-brimmed conical hat, a round-necked top, double layers of garments with a belt and sleeves rolled up, pants, and shoes. His hair is pulled back and fastened. His eyes are partly closed, and his face has a comely smile. He carries a broadsword on his waist, a dustpan shaped object in his left hand, and a long-handled cha spade in his right.
Similar figurines are otherwise named "laborer figurines" or have names based on what they carry. Though its identity remains to be further discussed, experts suggest this image is probably related to flood control, which can be verified by other unearthed artifacts. Figurines of men holding cha spades unearthed from the Dujiangyan and Lushan areas are dated back to the Eastern Han era. The one from the Dujiangyan area was found meters away from a statue of Li Bing (a great administrator and engineer of the Warring States period). Therefore, it is believed to belong to a group of three stone figurines mentioned in the Li Bing statue inscription. The one from the Lushan area wears a conical hat, and its clothes and ornamentation are very similar to this figurine. The stone and pottery figurines are both seen holding a cha spade. Cha can refer to either a sewing needle or a tool for digging trenches. It is so widly used that it is even described in The Book of Han, Treatise on Rivers and Canals, “cha are lifted like clouds in the sky, trenches irrigate the field like rain.”
Today, the Sichuan province is praised as the land of natural abundance, and its fertile lands benefit from an extensive irrigation system, which was constructed by Li Bing, a honorable governor of what is now Sichuan province during the Qin dynasty (221-207 BCE). Therefore, the figurines of irrigation system construction reflect how the local people attached great importance to water control.