Advanced Search

K-12 Educator
K-12 Student
Museum Visitor
UMMA Docent
UMMA Staff
University Faculty
University Student
Between and Mortarboard

UMMA Object Specific Fields

Query builder


Accession Number



Artist Nationality
Chinese (culture or style)

Object Creation Date
late 7th century - early 8th century

Medium & Support
earthenware with sthree color glaze and mineral pigment

31 1/4 in x 11 1/8 in x 8 3/16 in (79.4 cm x 28.2 cm x 20.8 cm)

Credit Line
Transfer from the College of Architecture and Design

Subject matter
This is an earthenware sancai (三彩, literally "three color") mingqi  (明器, literally "bright objects") figure of the Tang dynasty (618-906). The presence of a Central Asian groom within the tomb would indicate the wealth and high status of the occupant, being not only well-to-do but also cultured and cosmopolitan. The clothing style and facial features are indicative of the ethnicity of the groom, who has one hand raised as if pulling on the reigns of a horse. Historical Chinese records confirm that Central Asians were often entrusted by the court to train horses. 

During the stable and peaceful Tang Dynasty, the Silk Road brought exotic luxury goods to China, including metalwork, glass, precious stones, ivory, and textiles from Central Asian, India, and the Middle East. The bustling Tang capital of Chang’an (modern Xi’an) was a bit like the Paris and New York of today in its cosmopolitan mix of peoples, cultures, music, foods, and goods, especially from Central Asia.  

Sancai was one of the most brilliant innovations of Tang dynasty potters. Working with the same clay used to produce white wares, potters added iron, copper, and cobalt oxide colorants to create the typical three-color palette of cream, amber, olive green and cobalt blue. Sancai ware can contain any combination of just two to all four colors.  Cobalt oxide was a new import from Persia and was a key component in the development of the three-colored glaze palette.  Lead flux made it possible for these colored glazes to fuse to the earthenware body at relatively low kiln temperatures. It also allowed glazes to run, which made them very difficult to control, yet aesthetically appealing.

Sancai, flourished from around 680 to 750 under the patronage of the Tang elite for the production of tomb figurines and mingqi, or funerary pottery. Since the Qin dynasty (221 - 206 BCE), ceramic figures have been used to replace human sacrifice in burial practices as a way to provide for the deceased. The number of ceramic mingqi items in a tomb could reach numbers of a few to several hundred objects.

Physical Description
This is an earthenware standing figure of a military official or warrior. He wears Tang dynasty styled armor including a helmet, elbow-length gauntlets, a cuirass with plaques, and taces, worn over a long tunic, loose pants, and boots.  His arm is raised to hold a weapon, and he stands on a rock-styled base, which is covered in amber, green, and cream glazes. The head of the figure is unglazed with traces of mineral pigment. 

Primary Object Classification

Primary Object Type

Additional Object Classification(s)

Collection Area

If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form. Keywords
figures (representations)
military officers

& Author Notes

All Rights Reserved