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Title: Tang sancai
Author: Jiang, Qichen
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2009
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This thesis studies Tang sancai, a multi-coloured lead-glaze ceramic decorated ware which emerged in the Tang dynasty (AD 618 - AD 907), attaining mass production in the middle of the Tang era and declining towards its end. It examines the functions of sancai in its different aspects, namely as burial objects, as containers for ritual offerings and as architectural material. I argue that Tang sancai ware as burial objects were employed exclusively by the Tang imperial and elite families. The approach to my argument is made, in a first stage, through the observation of the physical locations of tombs that contained Tang sancai wares to demonstrate that these tombs belonged to the Tang imperial and elite family members. In a further step, I bring up two Tang decrees which laid down regulations for burials, to indicate that there was a strict hierarchical system for the allocation and utilization of burial land. These two Tang texts enable us to establish that the tombs located around the area of the imperial tombs belonged to the Tang officials and elite, and therefore not to ordinary people. In addition, the study I undertake of the structure of the tombs, with layout and organization mirroring palatial environments, reinforces my argument to that end. Lastly, I look at the cost of production of Tang sancai showing that it was higher than that of unglazed ceramics and that, consequently, sancai wares were, from an economical point of view, inaccessible to the common people. This thesis also reflects on the agency of Tang sancai, considering its aesthetic qualities and its suitability in the functions for which it served, as a force in engaging the viewers. The lasting debate on whether Tang sancai utensil-shaped wares were used for everyday eating and drinking is dealt with in this thesis by carefully examining the locations of the shards that were excavated at the sites of imperial palaces. My research enables to point out that this data is not sufficient to ascertain that this type of Tang sancai was used as daily wares. On the contrary, on the grounds that these locations were the places where ritual performances took place, I argue that sancai utensil wares were used as presentation containers for ritual performances. In the absence of records in Tang texts which could have informed about the relationship between Tang sancai and religious practice, I borrow an evidence from Japan, in the form of the hand-brush writing on a couple of Nara sancai dishes, which were copies of Tang sancai made in Japan during the time of Tang, mentioning that these vessels were specifically for use for ritual ceremonies. Furthermore, on the basis of analyses made on lead-glazed ware, some scholars assert that such ware is poisonous and could not have been used to contain food or drink, as much as no evidence exists to show that ancient Chinese had used lead-glazed wares for that purpose. This leads to the clarification that Tang sancai utensil-shaped wares were not produced for everyday use, their purpose having actually been to serve as vessels for offerings in rituals. I further observe that this connection between sancai and ritual-themed objects, initiated by the Tang, has in fact pervaded through the succeeding dynasties affirming its role in religious ceremonials. Finally, this thesis also looks at Tang sancai as an architectural material to show that it was skillfully used in decorating buildings, not only as tiles and tile-ends, but also as large-sized roof ornaments. The research reveals, in the process, the possible dates when sancai architectural material started to be used popularly during the Tang era.
Supervisor: Rawson, Jessica Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Archeology ; Tang sancai ; Tang ceramic ; Tang three-colour ceramic ; Tang sancai kilns ; Huangbao Kiln ; Huangye Kiln ; Neiqiu kiln ; Liquanfang Kiln ; Daminggong ; Tang court life ; Tang cobalt blue ; Japanese Nara sancai ; Tomb guardians ; Tang camels ; Tang architectural material ; Tang sancai in export trade ; Burial objects ; Tang lavish burials ; Sogdians ; Tang religious rituals