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Sancai horse, Tang Dynasty, 7-8th century.
Sancai plate, Liao Dynasty, 10-12th century.

Sancai (Chinese: pinyin: sāncǎi; literally "three colours") is a type of ceramics using three intermingled colors for decoration.


The Sancai technique dates back to the Tang Dynasty. However, the colors of the glazes used to decorate the wares of the Tang Dynasty generally were not limited to three in number. In the West, Tang sancai wares were sometimes referred to as egg-and-spinach by dealers, for their use of green, yellow, and white (though the latter of the two colors might be more properly described as amber and off-white or cream).

Sancai wares were northern wares made using white and buff-firing secondary kaolins and fire clays [1]. At kiln sites located at Tongchuan, Neiqui county in Hebei and Gongxian in Henan[1], the clays used for burial wares were similar to those used by Tang potters. The burial wares were fired at a lower temperature than contemporaneous whitewares. Burial wares, such as the well-known representations of camels and horses, were cast in sections, in moulds with the parts luted together using clay slip. In some cases, a degree of individuality was imparted to the assembled figurines by hand-carving.


Italian pottery was heavily influenced by Chinese ceramics. A Sancai ("Three colors") plate made in Northern Italy, mid-15th century. Musée du Louvre.

Sancai travelled along the Silk Road, to be later extensively used in Syrian, Cypriot, and then Italian pottery from the 13th to the middle of the 15th century. Sancai also became a popular style in Japanese and other East Asian ceramic arts.


  1. ^ a b Wood, Nigel (1999). Chinese Glazes. A.C. Black, London. ISBN 0-7136-3837-0.


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