• Stoneware with celadon glaze
  • 17.9 x 17.1 x 17.1 cm
  • 14th century, Tran dynasty
  • Origin: Red River Delta kilns, Hai Duong province, Vietnam
  • Provenance: Mindanao, Philippines
  • Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
  • F1992.31


Ewer with phoenix-head spout and loop handle, missing lid.
Clay: pale gray, fine-grained clay. Base unglazed.
Glaze: smooth, translucent, grass-green.
Decoration: relief blossom forms applied around the shoulder; incised floral scrolls on the rounded body.

Published References

1. Cort, Louise Allison. 1994. "In Search of Ceramics in Vietnam." Asian Art and Culture VII(1): fig. 3 (as 12th–13th century).

Curatorial Remarks

1. (Louise Cort, 24 June 1992) This rotund ewer with phoenix-head spout and loop handle (perhaps the vestige of a dragon form) has relief blossom forms applied around the shoulder and incised floral scrolls on the rounded body. The base is unglazed and does not have the application of iron pigment (the so-called "chocolate base") found on many blue-and-white Vietnamese ceramics. It once had a lid, which is now missing. The glaze is smooth, translucent, and grass-green in color. The blossoms and incised floral scrolls indicate a relationship to decor on Chinese Yuan dynasty (1279–1368) green-glazed wares from the Longquan kilns and suggest a 14th century date for the piece.

While blue-and-white Vietnamese ceramics have become somewhat known in Western collections, the green-glazed wares of Vietnam have come to the attention of scholars only recently, through contact with excavation sites and Vietnamese museum holdings of excavated materials. Some of the green-glazed wares, especially large dishes, are so close to Chinese pieces in appearance that they may have been misidentified as Chinese when found in sites outside Vietnam. The green-glazed wares predate the blue-and-white wares, representing the influence of Song (or Five Dynasties) through Yuan green-glazed wares. The dates for the series of ewer shapes ranges from 11th to 14th century.

We are fortunate to be able to represent this important dimension of Vietnamese ceramic production with a well-made piece in perfect condition. I saw kindred pieces in the Museum of History, Hanoi, the Hai Hung provincial museum, and as sherds in the village of Chu Dau in Hai Hung province, center of a major historical ceramic production center for both green-glazed and blue-and-white wares. This piece probably comes from Chu Dau.

2. (Louise Cort, 19 March 1998) Celadon-glazed ewers of this general type are published in Stevenson and Guy, eds. 1997, pls. 115–121.  All are dated 13th–14th century. Some of these and others are discussed in Lam 1997, 128–45, in the same volume. See especially fig. V8 which, in addition to applied rosettes and incised floral decor, has a six-lobed body. (The incised decor is organized within the lobes.) Lam proposes a Buddhist metalwork prototype, not necessarily Chinese.

The ewer published as Lam's V8 appears in Machida Shiritsu Hakubutsukan, ed. 1994, no. 13. The Nakamura Sanshiro collection belongs to the Machida City Museum.

A celadon-glazed ewer with rosettes and lobed body, but no floral decor, is published in Ozaki, ed. 1992, 88 (base), and no. 8, dated 13th century. The same ewer is published in Hiromu and Noriiki 1993, no. 14.

Changed date for this piece from 12–13th century to 13th–14th century. [Region: added "Northern Vietnam"; Period: added "Ly (1009–1225 or Tran (1225–1400)".]

Stevenson, John, and John Guy, eds. 1997. Vietnamese Ceramics, A Separate Tradition. Chicago: Art Media Resources.

Lam, Peter. 1997. "Vietnamese Celadons and Their Relationships to the Celadons of Southern China." 128–145 in Vietnamese Ceramics, A Separate Tradition, edited by John Stevenson and John Guy. Chicago: Art Media Resources.

Machida Shiritsu Hakubutsukan (Machida City Museum), ed. 1994. Betonamu, Tai, Kumeeru no tōji—Nakamura Sanshirō korekushon [Vietnamese, Thai, and Khmer ceramics—the Nakamura Sanshiro collection], Machida Shiritsu Hakubutsukan zuroku 88. Machida: Machida Shiritsu Hakubutsukan.

Ozaki Naoto, ed. 1992. Betonamu no tōji (Vietnamese Ceramics Exhibition). Fukuoka: Fukuoka-shi Bijutsukan (Fukuoka Art Museum).

Hiromu Honda, and Noriki Shimazu. 1993. Vietnamese and Chinese Ceramics Used in the Japanese Tea Ceremony. Singapore, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.

3. (Louise Cort, 21 May 2004) A ewer of similar shape and decoration is in the Brow collection in Hong Kong (Arts of Asia vol. 34 no. 2, March–April 2004, 85, fig. 12). The glaze is considerably yellower, indicating a firing with more oxygen. The Brow ewer bears a lotus-leaf shaped lid that does not appear to belong. The handle is formed as a flattened "D" shape, in contrast to the loop form of the Freer ewer's handle. The Brow ewer is dated 11th–13th century (height 20 cm).

Brow, James R., and Hoang Brow. 2004. "Vietnamese Ceramics: A Ten Thousand Year Continium." Arts of Asia 34(2): 78–94.

4. (Louise Cort, 10 August 2004) During a visit of Washington Oriental Ceramic Group members to Freer storage on 17 April 1998, Amb. Jack Lydman commented that he would date this ewer to the sixteenth century.

5. (Louise Cort, 18 February 2005) Changed Dynasty from Ly or Tran to Tran.

6. (Louise Cort, 14 May 2009) A celadon-glazed ewer of related type was excavated from a grave in Lam Dong province in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. Bùi Chí Hoàng et al 2000, p. 143.

Bùi Chí Hoàng, Vu Nhat Nguyen, and Pham Huu Tho. 2000. Nhung Suu Tap Gom Su O Lâm Ðong (The Collections of Ceramics in Lam Dong). Ðà Lat: So Van Hhóa Thông Tin Lâm Ðong [Lam Dong Ministry of Culture and Information].

7. (R. Anderson per J. Smith, Oct. 12, 2010) Transfer of remark from Provenance Field: "(Louise Cort, 30 March 2005) The ewer was purchased in the Philippines by John Forbes. It was submitted to the National Museum of the Philippines for approval to export (see documentation in object file).

According to John Forbes, in conversation, the ewer was found in northeast Mindanao. Associated pieces were Ming dynasty undecorated celadon and blue-and-white porcelain. The pieces were 'bought together' by the dealer in Manila who sold the ewer to Mr. Forbes, and Mr. Forbes feels this indicates that they probably came from the same excavation. There is, however, no proof of that."

8. (Louise Cort, 15 May 2015) Changed Date from 13th-14th century to 14th century, based on the date of Longquan ware celadon-glazed vessels with applied floral rosettes. This date also agrees with that used for similar ewers by Yajima Ritsuko (Machida City Museum 2013, nos. 128-130).

Machida City Museum. 2013. Masuda korekushon--Buetonamu toji no nisennen. Machida: Machida City Museum.

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