In the aftermath of the musical tradition institutionalised during the Zhou Dynasty through the development of fundamental musical instruments in the context of the rites, ceremonies and palatial entertainment, music was given great importance during the Han Dynasty, in both political and cultural terms.
After the imperial unification of China there occurred a significant cultural and artistic exchange, bringing the Han into permanent contact with both the other ethnicities of China and the peoples of Central Asia and the Mediterranean along the Silk Road. Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty promoted the institution of the music with the aim of collecting and organizing the various genres of popular music characteristic of the several regions of the vast empire, including the remote areas of the west. Music emerged thus associated with the extension of the imperial authority over the territory and China's diverse cultural realities, playing at the same time a key role in the context of the representation of different identities, corresponding to the taste for the exotic that circulated along the Silk Road.
Music, along with dancing and poetry, was one of the main forms of the entertainment of the aristocracy and the learned class of Han society, being thus widely portrayed in the funerary sculpture.
Among the variety of the musical instruments, both the guqin 古琴, a stringed instrument of the zither family, and the xiao 簫, a vertical end-blown bamboo flute, are widely represented in the iconography of the terracotta funerary sculpture. The guqin 古琴, was regarded as the instrument of the sages for its association with the philosopher Confucius, being considered one of the four arts of the scholar, together with painting calligraphy and the weiqi 圍棋, a board game. The xiao is precisely one of the characteristic musical instruments in the music of the Qiang, one of the ethnic minorities of the north-western region of Sichuan Province, which became popular during the Han Dynasty, becoming one of the main instruments that accompanies the guqin 古琴.