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Tri-colored Tang

An Introduction to Tri-colored Tang

Tangsancai refers to the tri-colored glazed pottery of the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A. D.). It is called "tri-colored” because yellow, green and white were normally used, although some pieces are also in two or four colors. Tri-colored glazed pottery was immensely popular during the height of the Tang Dynasty. It was sold domestically as well as exported to far away countries. After the late-Tang period, tri-colored pottery production dwindled; the works produced were also not as exquisite and high quality as those of the prime Tang period. By the Five Dynasties Period, tri-colored pottery was no longer produced. However, its impact on colored pottery and porcelain of later periods were immense. Even though its glory was short lived, Tri-colored glazed pottery is still a most favored artifact for people today.

The tri-colored glazed pottery of the Tang Dynasty was developed 1,300 years ago by drawing on the skills of Chinese painting and sculpture and employing on the bodies the techniques of clay-strip forming and incising. The tri-colored glazed pottery is a low-melting glazed pottery. It was made by adding metallic oxides to the colored glaze and calcining the object to create different colors, namely the predominant yellow, brown and green. The chemicals in the glaze change gradually in the firing process, creating a variegated effect with a majestic and elegant artistic attraction. The lines thus produced were rugged and powerful. Its loose and brittle base and its low waterproofing properties meant it was not as practical as the blue and white porcelain that had already emerged at the time.

Unearthed tri-colored glazed potteries are usually horses, camels, female figurines, and dragon-head mugs, figurines of musicians and acrobats, and pillows. Of these, the three-colored camels have won the greatest admiration. The camel was the major form of transport on the ancient trade route during the Tang. From these gazed potteries, we can imagine the travelers and camels making their hard journey across the desert, depending on one another for survival. The large figures and camels’ resolute expressions represent the hardships associated with traveling on the long road.

The tri-colored glazed pottery was usually used as burial objects. The pottery pieces of this category were used by the aristocrats as funerary objects. The finds today are limited in number and are considered to be rare treasures, valued for their brilliant color and life-like shapes.Findings of buried Tang-style tri-colored pottery were mostly concentrated around Xi’an and Luoyang, both northern Chinese cities. From excavations of kiln site, the Gong County in Henan, Xing Kilns in Hebei and Yaozhou kilns of Shaanxi were the centers of production. In the south, areas such as Changsha and Wuhan had Tang mausoleums that unveiled works of tri-colored pottery.

Now the tri-colored glazed pottery has been continued to improve through the centuries, it has been developed even further and its varieties number several hundred. The once tri-color glaze has expanded to include yellow, purple, black and blue and its artistic quality has also soared.

Today imitations produced in Luoyang, Xi'an and other cities of China are well received as tourist souvenirs because of their close resemblance to the authentic works. When you travel in Xi’an or Luoyang you can buy one as the gift for your friends.

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