Altar Table with Six Offerings

Accession Number

Altar Table with Six Offerings


Artist Nationality
Chinese (culture or style)

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
earthenware with glaze

6 7/16 in x 10 1/16 in x 6 1/2 in (16.3 cm x 25.5 cm x 16.5 cm);6 7/16 in x 10 1/16 in x 6 1/2 in (16.3 cm x 25.5 cm x 16.5 cm)

Credit Line
Gift of Jiu-Hwa Lo Upshur

Subject matter
A sancai  三彩 (three-color ware) mingqi 冥器 (funerary goods) altar table with five offerings of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

This type of earthenware figure was mass produced in low-temperature fired kilns to be buried with the deceased as a type mingqi or “bright object.”  Mingqi were made to supply the tomb occupant with everything they would need for the afterlife; they reflect the lifestyle and time in which the deceased lived.  During the Ming dynasty, these were manufactured with a three-color glaze palette similar to sancai ware of the Tang dynasty, but could include new colors such as aubergine and turquoise in addition to the green, amber, cream, and cobalt typically associated with sancai.

Since the Qin dynasty (221 - 206 BCE), ceramic figures have been used to replace human sacrifice in burial practices as mingqi 明器 (literally bright objects), or grave goods, as a way to provide for the deceased.  Mingqi could include houses, towers, gates, granaries, livestock pens, chicken coops, wells, cooking stoves, storage vessels, dishes, incense burners, and lamps.  Figures could include horses, dogs, anthropomorphic animals and people such as officials, guardians, servants and entertainers. By the Han dynasty, they also included representations of common people engaged in the activities that consumed their daily lives such a cooking. The tombs in southern provinces of Sichuan and Shaanxi have revealed a vast array of figures in playful and humorous poses.  As grave goods, these mingqi included everything one would need to ensure a comfortable transition into the afterlife. 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 miniature table glazed in brown and amber with green legs. Six objects are placed on the table in two rows of three. In the back row is a central ding censer with a green glaze; it is flanked by two two vases with globular bodies and tall straight necks. The front row has a central amber glazed bowl filled with a pig-head. This is flanked by green glazed bowls stacked with flat-shaped, possibly vegetal, offerings. 

Primary Object Classification

Primary Object Type
funerary sculpture

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
Sancai (Chinese ceramics style)
altars (religious fixtures)
ceramic (material)
grave goods
lead glaze
stoneware (pottery)
tables (support furniture)
three-color ware (Chinese ware)
votive offerings

& Author Notes

All Rights Reserved

On display

UMMA Gallery Location ➜ AMH, 2nd floor ➜ 205 (Albertine Monroe-Brown Study-Storage Gallery) ➜ Cabinet H ➜ Shelf 3