Steatite, or soapstone, could be easily carved, given the softness of the material. At the same time when the material was cut into a desired shape and the surfaces smoothed and left unadorned, the natural mottled patterns were found to be quite attractive. Jars, bowls, censors dishes and handwarmers are among the shapes known to have been produced during the Tang period when the material appears to have come into its own. The present box is a shape common also in contemporaneous ceramics, such as the colorful lead-glazed sancai wares. The two, in fact, represent the extremes of the Tang aesthetic—the bold, flamboyant, aggressive sancai, and the natural, subdued. understated stone of the present box.