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Tri-colored glazed pottery, originated in Tang Dynasty


Tang Tri-colored glazed pottery was discovered in 1899, when a railway was under construction. At that time, many pieces of exquisite pottery were unearthed from tombs of the Tang Dynasty near Luoyang, Henan Province. The pieces of pottery were in yellow, green and white colors or in yellow, green and brown colors. Since they were unearthed from tombs of the Tang Dynasty (618- 907), they were called Tang Tri-colored glazed pottery(called Tang Sancai in Chinese).


There are a great variety of Tang Tri-colored glazed pottery pieces. With unique shapes, they covered almost every field of life, from models of architecture to plates, bowls and other articles of everyday use, from horses, carriages to toys, from figurines of beautiful noble ladies to those of the heavenly kings with a fiery temper. They displayed the colorful social life and the splendid culture of the Tang Dynasty.


The production of glazed pottery in China could date back to ancient times. Single-color glazed pottery appeared during the Han Dynasty. Fine glazed pottery was made during the Tang Dynasty. The craftsmen mastered metallic oxide property and coloring mechanism. They applied glaze of different colors to a single article, creating the Tang Tri-colored glazed pottery with unique artistic effects.


The base of pottery was made of kaolin, a kind of fine clay. After the base was shaped and dried by airing, it was baked in a kiln. Then the base was glazed and baked in the kiln again. Minerals of different metallic elements were mixed with glaze. With lead as a flux, the glaze was applied to the surface of the base. When the base was baked, the metallic oxides of different colours melted in the glaze and spread around.


The various colors of glaze appeared with the interaction of different metallic elements. Copper, iron, manganese and cobalt elements showed green, yellow, purple and blue colors separately. The difference in the content of various metallic elements also showed different colors. All this brought about a great variety of magnificent glaze.



Colored glaze was usually not applied to the head of a pottery figurine. After the base was baked, a few touches of Chinese ink were painted to feature the eyes, eyebrows and beard. The facial expression and inner world of a figurine were portrayed most vividly.

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