Lime-paste container with bail handle

  • Unglazed earthenware (possibly low-fired stoneware), hand-formed
  • 7.8 x 7.6 x 6.8 cm
  • 15th-19th century, Restored Later Le, Tay Son, or Nguyen dynasty
  • Origin: Probably Central Vietnam
  • Provenance: Mekong River Delta, Southern Vietnam
  • Gift of Osborne and Gratia Hauge, and Victor and Takako Hauge
  • S2004.108


Small vessel with bail handle and appliqued forms and small opening in top. Hand-formed. Hardened lime in interior.

Curatorial Remarks

1. (Louise Cort, 11 July 2002) The Hauges acquired this vessel as "Oc Eo." They knew a Vietnamese military officer stationed in the Mekong delta area; he recovered pots from the swampy margins of rivers during the low-water season. Such pots were said to be "from Oc Eo."

2. (Louise Cort, 30 June 2003) Tran Ky Phuong, independent researcher, Da Nang, pointed out the bird shapes on the handles. He suggested that they might have been made by Cham potters in the south and date to the 18th or 19th century. He recalled that, when he was young (i.e., in the 1950s), glazed stoneware lime pots that could no longer be used because the lime had hardened were still deposited under a big tree (cay da, related to the bodhi tree) near the gate to the village, where they were "worshipped." (I neglected to ask the nature of the worship.) This custom was in force "throughout Vietnam."

3. (Louise Cort, 26 April 2005) The shape of this earthenware vessel mimics that of glazed stoneware lime pots with areca nuts and tendrils modeled at the base of the handles. Philippe Truong dates this form of the lime pots from the 15th century (Truong 1997, 392, fig. 426).

Truong, Philippe. 1997. "Limepots". Pp. 391–395 in Vietnamese Ceramics—A Separate Tradition, edited by John Stephenson and John Guy. Chicago: Art Media Resources.

4. (Louise Cort, 28 April 2005) Nguyen-Long 2001, 20: "[Lime] pots come in many sizes, from tiny personal to large ritual vessels.... The closed limepot is a container for slaked lime. Approximately one third of crushed limestone is placed in the pot together with one-third of water with the remaining space allowing for effervescence.

"To make a quid in the simple classic way one needs areca nut, betel leaf and lime. Slaked lime is removed from the limepot with a small spatula and spread on the betel leaf. The areca nut is then placed on the leaf, and the ingredients folded into a neat package. This is the quid. The quid was used to facilitate social exchange at all levels of society and as the Vietnamese saying goes, 'The quid is the beginning of the story.'

"Limepots were never discarded but rather placed on the family, village or pagoda altar. Retired limepots were also placed around the village banyan tree. Such a village tree was itself an object of veneration.

"The action of the lime-laden spatula passing through the narrow mouth of the limepot caused a build up of lime which eventually formed a collar around the mouth. As the collage grew in size the mouth of the vessel became choked with lime and eventually closed. When this happened the limepot went into retirement."

Nguyen-Long, Kerry. 2001. "The Vietnamese Limepot." TAASA Review (The Journal of the Asian Arts Society of Australia) 10(2): 20–21.

5. (Louise Cort, 28 May 2007) The ceramics storeroom of the Dong Nai Museum in Bien Hoa contains ceramics recovered within the province, primarily from the Dong Nai River, especially in the vicinity of Bien Hoa. The collection includes three small lime-paste pots of this size, bearing heavy wood-ash deposits, which have the appearance of brown glaze; perhaps they were otherwise unglazed.

6. (Louise Cort, 2 June 2007) The collection in the ceramics storeroom of the Phu Yen provincial museum, Tuy Hoa, included some unglazed brown lime pots, larger in size than S2004.108–109, with a bail handle, a small round opening on the shoulder of the hemispherical container, a molded flower shape in the center of the dome, and applied tendrils descending from the two ends of the handle onto the shoulder. (They closely resembled S2005.158–161.) These two small pots seem to be smaller versions with more abbreviated decoration of the same nature.

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