Sancai is a descriptive term that refers to a versatile type of decoration on Chinese pottery, mainly using the three colors of brown, green and creamy off-white. The word Sancai, in fact, literally means “three colors.” It's usually associated with the Tang Dynasty, most remembered for the invention of an orange juice-type breakfast drink (just kidding). Actually, The Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) is regarded as a high point in Chinese civilization and a golden age of cosmopolitan culture. It amassed great swaths of territory during the military campaigns of its early rulers.

The items pictured here are a pair of Sancai glazed Chinese altar vases, dating to China's Qing Dynasty (1644-1912). They are beautifully decorated with dragons on a green ground and sold as one lot for $1,200 at a Fine & Decorative Art Auction held June 18, 2016 by John Moran Auctioneers in Monrovia, California. The selling price includes a 20 percent buyer's premium. As you can see, Sancai gives the appearance of being splashed onto the ware. It used lead-glazed earthenware and was popular because it was easier and thus cheaper to make than Chinese porcelain.