Cylindrical jar

  • Unglazed stoneware
  • 31.1 x 16.7 cm
  • My Xuyen-Phuoc Tich ware
  • 16th-19th century, Later Le dynasty to Nguyen dynasty
  • Origin: My Xuyen-Phuoc Tich kilns, Thua Thien-Hue province, Central Vietnam
  • Provenance: Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam
  • Gift of Osborne and Gratia Hauge, and Victor and Takako Hauge
  • S2005.134

Curatorial Remarks

1. (Louise Cort, July 30, 2002) Chinese?

2. (Louise Cort, 30 June 2003) Mr. Tran Ky Phuong, independent scholar, Da Nang, said that according to information he heard in Quang Nam province, a jar of this shape would be used, in Cham funeral practices, to hold the cremated remains; the jar of remains, filled up with earth and sealed with beeswax (no lid), would be thrown into the river.

3. (Louise Cort, 9 November 2004) Five jars of this type from Japanese collections were included in the exhibition at the Urasenke Chado Shiryokan in Kyoto, "Wabicha ga tsutaeta meiki: Tonan Ajia no chadogu", nos. 64–68. They are attributed to Vietnam and dated 17th century. The dating is based on excavation of similar vessels from datable archaeological sites.

In Japan these vessels are known as "kiritame" vases. They were especially valued in the context of sencha (gatherings for drinking Ming style steeped tea).

Changed Origin from Thailand to Vietnam. Added 17th century to Dated.

Chadō Shiryōkan, ed. 2002. Wabicha ga tsutaeta meiki—Tōnan Ajia no chadōgu [Famous objects handed down in wabi tea—Southeast Asian tea utensils]. Kyoto: Chadō Shiryōkan.

4. (Louise Cort, 14 October 2005) Archaeologist and ceramic specialist Morimoto Asako, Fukuoka, observed that this vessel is the size of the standard jar called "kiridame" in Japan. These have been identified by Kikuchi Seiichi as coming from kilns near Hoi An. This vessel was completely coated with fly ash in the kiln; the ash later fell off, leaving the reduced gray body. The piece is well fired.

A Saigon name card was found inside the jar, indicating the provenance.

5. (Louise Cort, 18 October 2005) Preparing for her presentation to the Washington Oriental Ceramic Group, Morimoto Asako grouped S2005.134–135, and 137–138 as related. S2005.134 and 135 are more concretely identified as coming from the My Xuyen kilns, north of Hue.

6. (Louise Cort, 14 July 2006) According to Dr. Lu Hung and Mrs. Nguyen Thi Hong Mai, Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, Hanoi, Phuoc Tich village, location of the My Xuyen kilns, is about 40 kilometers north of Hue. The name of the district is Phong Dien.

7. (Louise Cort, 7 January 2007) The name "kiritame" or "kiridame" given to these jars in the Japanese chanoyu context refers to their use in the preparation room for holding cut flowers (kiri=cut, tame=hold). As such they were utilitarian vessels rather than display pieces. Hasebe Gakuji proposes that the original use of the vessels was to ship mercury, citing an unidentified essay by another Japanese scholar.

Mercury was produced in central Vietnam. Although Japan had produced mercury early on, by the mid–16th century its sources were depleted and it was importing mercury from China, as recorded in documents by Portuguese and Spanish merchants. Mercury was important for alloying gold and silver and for extracting cinnabar. Mercury was also imported from Holland and Vietnam. Methods for shipping included using glass bottles wrapped in leather. The document of Tokugawa Ieyasu's estate, the Sumpu onwakemono ondogu cho (1615), listed "one cylinder of mercury," indicating the form of the containers used for mercury. An auction catalogue of the 1930s included a "namban mercury jar vase," so named on the wooden container for the heirloom vessel (Hasebe 1993, 117).

Hasebe Gakuji. 1993. "Tōnan Ajia no tōki (Southeast Asian Ceramics)". Pp. 101–108 in Nanban, shimamono; Nankai hakurai no chato (Nanban and Shimamono: Exported Southeast-Asian Ceramics for Japan—16th–17th century). Tokyo: Nezu Bijutsukan (Nezu Institute of Fine Arts).

8. (Louise Cort, 24 May 2007) A jar of this type in the Vietnamese Museum of History, Ho Ci Minh City, was sold to the museum in 2001 and said to have been found in the Mekong Delta.

9. (Louise Cort, 31 May 2007) A jar of this general type, with wide mouth and straight-cut rim (h. 22.5 cm), is in the collection of the Khanh Hoa Museum, Nha Trang. The jar is distinguished from the My Xuyen version by a horizontal line incised around the neck and another around body at shoulder level. These differences suggest that jars of this type may have been made at more than one kiln. The jar was recovered from the river at Lu Cam, a river-mouth port five kilometers west of Nha Trang that was said to have been active from the 18th century into the 20th century. The museum curators said many such jars were recovered there. Two more jars of this type are in storage.

10. (Louise Cort, 2 June 2007) The Phu Yen Museum, Tuy Hoa, has a jar of this type in its collection (measurements not taken; acc. no. 1104). The clay body is grayish-brown with some irregular areas of medium gray. The neck bears two horizontal grooves deeply incised below the rim, and a single groove is incised lightly on the curve of the shoulder.

At this museum, all unglazed stoneware was attributed to the Quang Duc kiln site in Tuy An district, 30 kilometers north of Tuy Hoa. During a visit to the kiln on 3 June, we were told by an elderly potter (age 83), that Cham potters had worked there 500 years ago; Chinese potters from Chaozhou, Guangdong province, were here in the 17th–18th century, for three generations only; ethnic Vietnamese (Kinh) potters came three hundred years ago, in the 18th century, from Binh Dinh. Two workshops still operate. According to museum staff, the products used to be shipped by coastal boat south to Nha Trang and north to Binh Dinh province.

11. (Louise Cort, 4 June 2007) The Binh Dinh Provincial Museum storage housed three jars of this type in varying sizes—heights 33 cm, 27 cm, and 23 cm. This range strongly suggests that the jar sizes represented various standard capacities.

12. (Louise Cort, 5 June 2007) The Quang Ngai Provincial Museum, Quang Ngai, displayed a jar of this type excavated in 2002 from the My Cang kiln, Xa Tinh Thien, Son Tinh, across the river to the north of Quang Ngai. The jar (h. 37.0 cm) had a rounder upper body and more tapered lower body and bore two widely-spaced incised lines around the widest part of the upper body. The vessel shape was termed binh.

13. (Louise Cort, 7 June 2007) The curators at the Hoi An Municipal Museum, Quang Nam province, attributed S2005.134 and 135 to the My Xuyen kilns and also said such jars had been made in Thanh Ha (within Hoi An) until the twentieth century. They were not certain of how the jars had been used, although they mentioned their use in constructing the walls of graves of the ethnic Viet (Kinh).

The Museum of Trade Ceramics in Hoi An displayed two jars of this type, one very large (height approximately 38 cm). They were identified as from Central Vietnam and dated 17th century.

14. (Louise Cort, 8 June 2007) The Archaeology Museum, Hue, exhibited materials excavated in July 1993 from the My Xuyen kiln site, Phong Binh village, Phong Dien district. The exhibit dated the site to the 17th–18th century. The main products of the site appear to have been this type of cylindrical jar and a flat-bottomed, wide-mouthed pot with horizontally striated sides. Both products were exported to Japan, where this type of jar was known as kiridame (Nezu Bijutsukan ed. 1993, nos. 129–130, dated 16th–17th century) and the striated pot was known as shimekiri (Nezu Bijutsukan ed. 1993, nos. 118–122, dated 15th–16th century).

The largest jar on view (height 39 cm; 93.MX.ST.01) bore two widely spaced incised lines at the shoulder. The other sizes (all plain) measured 31 cm, 28 cm, 29 cm, and 22.5 cm tall. Of those, four were underfired and pale orange in color, while the last was gray. Other products of the My Xuyen kiln included a round-bodied jar (h. 17 cm, diam. 15 cm) with narrow mouth (diam. 3.5–5 cm) and small foot (diam. 4 cm); lime pots with bail handles or knob tops in various shapes and sizes (generally gray and high-fired, bearing fly-ash glaze); small rounded jars of various shapes and sizes (two jars on exhibit measured h. 12 cm and h. 5 cm); a urinal with a handle; and a stack of three saucer-shaped lamps with thumb grips. A low sagger made of gritty brown clay held two small lime pots.

Included with these local products were fragments of Chinese porcelain appearing to date to the 16th or early 17th century and the lid of an incense burner made of unglazed earthenware decorated with touches of white slip, possibly a Guangdong product.

The My Xuyen kiln sites lies north of Hue on Route 49, within Phuoc Tich village, just south of the river marking the border with Quang Tri province. Gray and red sherds are scattered broadly along the paths of the village on one bank of a stream. A schoolteacher in the village, Le Trong Dao, told us that the My Xuyen kilns had operated until the French war (1945) but that kilns now operated only in Phuoc Tich. During his childhood (he was 65) ten kilns had been in operation. They made two major jar shapes: dooc for holding water carried from the river to the house (height 40 cm, diam. 70 cm) and hu, round-bodied bottles with small mouths. (He owned one hu, height 33 cm, diam. 35 cm, which he said had been made 300 years ago in Phuoc Tich.) He said potters had come to the area in 1470 from Thanh Hoa province.

Nezu Bijutsukan (Nezu Institute of Fine Arts), ed. 1993. Nanban, shimamono; Nankai hakurai no chato (Nanban and Shimamono: Exported Southeast-Asian Ceramics for Japan—16th–17th century). Tokyo: Nezu Bijutsukan.

15. (Louise Cort, 10 February 2008) Morimura Kenichi proposes that this type of cylindrical jar with wide mouth was used to ship brown sugar from Giao Chi (Japanese Kochi; Cochin) to Japan (Morimura 2002, 259–261). Morimura points out the abundance of such jars excavated from sites within Sakai in strata dating between 1553 and 1615; this abundance indicates that such jars were containers for something commonly used in daily life, not for luxuries or rarities. The jars were made with ceramic lids and sometimes fired with the lids in place, as indicated by differences in coloration on the vessel body. (Jars S2005.134 and 135 do not show this.) Lids made for these jars are found in some Sakai sites. (Morimura does not describe the shape, but mentions that the edge of the lid reached to the shoulder of the jar, suggesting a cylindrical cup shape.) The wide mouth on these jars, and the existence of ceramic lids that would have protected the contents but not provide a tight seal, indicates that the contents were solid rather than liquid. [Morimoto is not aware of the use of lime paste to seal ceramic lids onto jars for nuoc mam, cf. S2005.77.] Brown sugar (kurosato) is listed as an export from Giao Chi to Japan on a world map belonging to the venerable Kawamori family of Sakai and dated by Morimura to 1591–1598.

Morimura Kenichi. 2002. "15~17 seiki ni okeeru Tōnan Ajia tōjiki kara mita tōji no Nihon bunkashi—Sakai kango toshi iseki shutsudo ibutsu wo chūshin to shite (The History of Ceramics in Japanese Culture from the Standpoint of Southeast Asian Ceramics from the Fifteenth Century to the Seventeenth Century: Centering on Artifacts from Sakai Kango-toshi Relics)." Kokuritsu Reikishi Minzoku Hakubutsukan Kenkyū Hōkoku (Bulletin of the National Museum of Japanese History) 94: 251–294 (Japanese), 295–296 (English summary).

16. (Louise Cort 10 February 2008) Morimoto Asako gives the name of the kiln site in My Xuyen from which jars of this type were recovered as Con Tren (Morimoto 1993, 140 and 142). She reported that the kiln body had not yet been identified in an 8-meter deep mound of remains, which consisted mainly of unglazed stoneware vessels—cylindrical jars, large basins, and lime-paste pots in jar form with lid and hole in the shoulder. (This type of lime-paste pot was identified in exhibitions at the Fine Arts Museum, Hanoi, etc., as "Cham" type.)

Morimoto Asako. 1993. "Betonamu no koyōseki (Kiln sites in Vietnam)". Pp. 125–154 in Nanban—shimamono; Nankai hakurai no chatō (Nanban and shimamono; Exported Southeast-Asian ceramics for Japan 16th–17th century). Tokyo: Nezu Bijutsukan (Nezu Institute of Fine Arts).

17. (Louise Cort, 21 February 2008) With regard to Morimura's proposal that this type of jar was used to transport palm sugar, Jean Biagini (Biagini and Mourer 1971, 216) visited a Vietnamese-run pottery several kilometers upriver from Phnom Penh and recorded that one major product was a wheel-thrown cylindrical jar (h. 40–50 cm, diam. 25–30 cm), with a clay lid (fashioned by hand), used for containing palm sugar. 

Biagini, Jean, and Roland Mourer. 1971. "La Poterie au Cambodge [Ceramics in Cambodia]." Objets et Mondes VI(2): 197–220.

18. (Louise Cort, 7 August 2008) The dating of these jars cannot be conclusive until further work by archaeologists and historians becomes available. According to teacher Le Trong Dao of Phuoc Tich (note 13), potters from Thanh Hoa moved to My Xuyen in 1470. The evidence from archaeological finds of such jars in Japan supports dates in the 16th–17th centuries for production of jars of this type and their export to Japan (and presumably more widely in Asia). Although it is assumed that the jars served as containers for some kind of (or kinds of) commercial products, we do not know how long their use in that manner continued beyond the 17th century, and whether it included distribution within the region as well as on international trade routes. The Hauges' acquisition of these two jars in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) does suggest regional distribution. According to teacher Dao, the My Xuyen kilns operated into the mid-20th century, but their late products did not seem to include jars of this type; however, museum staff in Hoi An (note 12) said jars of this type had been made at the Thanh Ha kilns into the 20th century.

For the moment, the date 16th–19th century is given to these jars. Changed Date from 16th–17th century to 16th–19th century.

19. (Louise Cort, 7 October 2008) A jar of this type was excavated from the Dai Lang cemetary site in Lam Dong province (h. 28 cm, diam. 13.5 cm; registration number 83DLCQNM18K1H3 34).

20. (Louise Cort, 23 July 2009) The village of Phuoc Tich has been recognized as a national art architecture relic by the government of Vietnam, according to online articles from the Vietnam New Service 4 April and 18 June, 2009 (http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn). According to the articles, the village was established in the late 15th century on the site of an older Cham settlement. Its formation was an aspect of the southward migrations organized during the Le dynasty in the reign of Le Thanh Tong. Further migrations took place in the mid-16th century under the Nguyen Lords. The Nguyen court in Hue designated Phuoc Tich as the source of om ngu, clay pots used for cooking in the Forbidden City. This enterprise enabled villagers to build Hue-style traditional wooden houses, which are now designated as a cultural heritage.

21. (Louise Cort, 22 Dec 2014) According to archaeologists Kikuchi Sei'ichi and Abe Yuriko, the kilns at My Xuyen operated from the sixteenth century and expanded in the seventeenth century to nearby Phuoc Tich. Production continued at My Xuyen until the end of the seventeenth century or into the eighteenth century. According to local tradition, potters came to Phuoc Tich from Nghe An.

Archaeological sites of the residences of 17th century priests in Hoi An yielded many bottles of this type. They probably originated as containers for liquids such as nuoc mam (fish sauce).

Bottles of this type, widely made at kilns in central Vietnam, are recovered from 18th and 19th century levels of excavations at Hoi An.

Bottles of this type are found in Sakai, from the archaeological layer created by the 1615 summer campaign (natsu no jin). They are also found at the site of Sen no Rikyu's (1522-1591) mansion. One hypothesis is that they were used to transport sugar syrup to Japan.

Some texts state that they were used to import mercury to Japan, but there is no record of such import.

The earliest finds of such bottles in Japan so far are at the Otomo site in Oita prefecture, which was destroyed in 1590.

A bottle of this type (h. 28.9 cm), excavated from Hoi An, in the Trade Ceramics Museum, Hoi An, was published in Kyushu National Museum, ed., 2013, p. 140, no. 2. It is dated to the Le dynasty, 17th century. The commentary (p. 237) mentions that bottles of this type are common at sites in central Vietnam dating to the 17th century, under Nguyen rule.

During the Taisho and early Showa eras (ca. 1912-1940), kilns making unglazed stoneware (arayachi) in Tsuboya, the pottery center at Naha, Okinawa, made imitations of these vessels to serve the market for "namban" utensils among collectors of tea (chanoyu) utensils. They have been published erroneously (Nezu Institute of Fine Arts 1993, nos. 129-130; Kyushu National Museum, ed., 2013, p. 153, no. 128). A sloping shoulder distinguishes them from the angular shoulder of the original Vietnamese jars.

Kyushu National Museum, ed. 2013. The Great Story of Vietnam. Dazaifu: Kyushu National Museum.

Nezu Institute of Fine Arts. 1993. Nanban and Shimamono: Exported Southeast-Asian ceramics for Japan, 16th-17th century. Tokyo: Nezu Institute of Fine Arts.


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