Pair of Chests

Accession Number

Pair of Chests


Artist Nationality
Chinese (culture or style)

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
glaze on earthenware

4 1/4 in x 5 in (10.8 cm x 12.7 cm)

Credit Line
Gift of Jiu-Hwa Lo Upshur

Subject matter
Sancai (三彩), or "three-color ware", mingqi (冥器) ("funerary goods") storage chests 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, and 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 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
A pair of green glazed rectangular chests on amber glazed dais, with amber central locks and handles on opposing sides.  

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)
ceramic (material)
chests (case furniture)
grave goods
lead glaze
stoneware (pottery)
three-color ware (Chinese ware)

5 Related Resources

Before 1492
(Part of 3 Learning Collections)
Cabinet H: Shelf 2
(Part of: Albertine Monroe-Brown Study-Storage Gallery)
W21 Mueggler - ANTHRCUL 337 - Death, Dying, Afterlife
(Part of: Resources Made by Isabel Engel)

& Author Notes

All Rights Reserved

On display

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