Male Attendant

Accession Number

Male Attendant


Artist Nationality
Chinese (culture or style)

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
earthenware with mineral pigment and glaze

19 in x 6 in x 5 in (48.26 cm x 15.24 cm x 12.7 cm)

Credit Line
Gift of Jiu-Hwa Lo Upshur

Subject matter
A sancai (三彩 ), meaning "three-color ware", mingqi (冥器), meaning "funerary goods" male attendant 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 needed for the afterlife, and 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 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 earthenware sancai-glazed figure of a male attendant is standing on an octagonal cream and green dais, wearing a long green tunic over an amber-colored underrobe, with amber and green sleeves, carrying an amber-glazed bowl. His hair, hat and face are painted with polychrome mineral pigments, and his tall hat painted to match his garments in an orange-amber color. The head has been sculpted and painted separately from the body.

Primary Object Classification

Primary Object Type
funerary sculpture

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
Chinese ceramics styles
Sancai (ceramics style)
ceramic (material)
ceramics (object genre)
figures (representations)
grave goods
lead glaze
stoneware (pottery)
three-color ware (Chinese ware)

& Author Notes

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