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Altar Table with Five Offerings


Artwork Details

Altar Table with Five Offerings
earthenware with glaze
5 1/4 in x 9 3/4 in x 5 1/4 in (13.3 cm x 24.7 cm x 13.3 cm);5 1/4 in x 9 3/4 in x 5 1/4 in (13.3 cm x 24.7 cm x 13.3 cm)
Gift of Jiu-Hwa Lo Upshur

On Display

Not currently on display


Subject Matter:

This is a Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) sancai  (三彩 , three-color ware) mingqi (冥器, funerary goods) altar table with five offerings .

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 with black legs, glazed in brown and amber. It has five objects placed on the table in two rows - three in back and two in front. In the back row is a central bowl holding a green duck, flanked by two other bowls holding what looks like logs of firewood and split bamboo. In the front row are two bowls stacked high with round fruit. 

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