Ceramics in Mainland Southeast Asia:
Collections in the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

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Jar, type used in Japan as a vase

  • Unglazed stoneware
  • 31 x 21 cm
  • 17th-19th century, Restored Later Le, Tay Son, or Nguyen dynasty
  • Origin: Central Vietnam
  • Provenance: Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam
  • Gift of Osborne and Gratia Hauge, and Victor and Takako Hauge
  • S2005.154


Jar of cylindrical form with broad, round shoulder tapering towards foot and flat base, tall neck with rolled rim. Four vertical lugs on shoulder.
Clay: brown stoneware.
Glaze: none.
Decoration: two alternating rows of applied bands and incised waves; combed decoration on the lower shoulder.

Curatorial Remarks

1. (Louise Cort, 28 January 2005) Marie-France Dupoizat classified this jar (her H8) among her "Cham jars" (Dupoizat 1988, 427–28, 431–32). She notes the historical importance of the Cham in facilitating trade between the coast and the interior, and she comments that "it appears possible that these jars were made by the Cham; most of them come from the region around Binh Dinh, and they have a style that is neither Chinese nor Vietnamese" (ibid., 428).

Dupoizat, Marie-France. 1988. "Recherches sur les Jarres en Asia du Sud-Est". Ph.D., L'École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales.

2. (Louise Cort, 12 October 2005) Comments from Morimoto Asako, archaeologist specializing in Vietnamese and Chinese ceramics recovered from Hakata [Fukuoka], Short-term Visitor to study the Hauge collection:

Seems to have an iron slip or wash on the surface. Fine dense clay suggests that it comes from the north of Vietnam.

(later) Like S2005.137 and 138 also Central rather than Northern Vietnam?

3. (Louise Cort, 13 October 2005) Further comments from Morimoto Asako:

The jars S2005.153 and S2005.154 come from the same place, as shown by the clay, the shape of the neck and lugs, and the decor. Both jars were shaped in two stages, with a seam at mid-body. In addition, the body of S2005.153 was trimmed from the base to the shoulder. She is now certain that they are from Central Vietnam. The body shape (in relation to Chinese jars) suggests a date in the 18th or 19th century.

4. (Louise Cort, 18 October 2005) Preparing for her talk to the Washington Oriental Ceramic Group, Morimoto Asako grouped S2005.152 (closely related in form to S2005.176), S2005.153, and S2005.154.

5. (Louise Cort, 18 February 2006) According to Dr. Phu, a Cham curator at the History Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, to whom I showed photographs of this group of jars in February, 1998, they were used by the Jarai and the Chulung, ethnic groups living in the Central Highlands of Vietnam.

6. (Louise Cort, 18 February 2006) A photograph (roll 50, no. 13) taken by Peggy Sanday in a Jarai community near Pleiku in the summer of 1995 shows a jar of this type used as part of the installation for the Grave of the King of Fire. The lower half of the jar is buried in the loose earth, within an enclosure, and some empty glass bottles and porcelain bowls are grouped around it.

7. (Louise Cort, 12 July 2006) According to Dr. Luu Hung and Mrs. Nguyen Thi Hong Mai, Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, Hanoi, the VME does not own any jars of this type. Dr. Hung recalled that we saw jars like this during our research trip to the Central Highlands in March this year, at the Kon Tum Provincial Museum, on 13 March.

One jar we saw there was accessioned as 509.162. It had been collected from a Xe Dang village in Kon Plong district, which lies between Kon Tum city and the coast. The jar measured h. 36.0 cm, diam. of mouth 14.0 cm, diam. of base 13.5 cm—slightly larger overall than this jar.  It had two applied ridges around the shoulder, with wavy combing between them and the four lugs applied over them, and with more wavy and straight combing below the lower ridge.

A smaller jar of this type, acc. no. 3029, had been collected from a Hre community in Kon Plong district. The Hre name for the jar was ‘K'rech Yo’ (minus diacriticals). It was made of unglazed sandy reddish-brown clay, bore the same scheme of decoration, and measured h. 20.0 cm, diam. of base 8.5 cm.

We saw more jars of this type on 14 March in the home of a female potter in the. They were stored behind the hearth in the kitchen, and the rim of one was broken off above the high, conical neck.

We also saw jars of this type in the Lam Dong provincial museum in Da Lat. Dr. Hung mentioned that this area had easy access from the south, more difficult from the north. The jars had been recovered from excavations of the Dai Lang cemetery site, excavated in 1983. One was 83DLG2NM27K1H6, height 19 cm, with a string-cut base indicating that the wheel had revolved clockwise.

8. (Louise Cort, 18 October 2006) A long neck of an unglazed brown stoneware jar was excavated from the My Son G group, outside the enclosing wall to the east and north (if I recall correctly), together with Chinese qingbai boxes dating (TL) to 12th–13th century and Longquan ware celadon-glazed lotus bowls, according to a report by Federico Barocco at the European Association of Southeast Asian Archaeology meeting in September.

9. (George Williams, research assistant, 30 January 2007) In anticipation of the upcoming exhibition, Taking Shape, and to reflect current understanding, changed Date from 18th–19th century to 17th–19th century.

10. (Louise Cort, 29 May 2007) The storeroom of the Binh Thuan Museum, Phan Thiet, houses one large (h. 49 cm) jar of this type (BTBT Gm 134). It was collected from a community of the K'ho ethnic group, La Da commune, Ham Thuan Bac district.

11. (Louise Cort, 4 June 2007) A small, rather crudely formed jar of this type was in the storeroom of the Binh Dinh Provincial Museum, Quy Ngon (h. 16.5 cm, diam. of mouth 8.5 cm). The everted rim was thick. The four lugs, applied on the shoulder,were elongated and quickly shaped. They lay over two applied ridges framing a band of undulating combing. The unglazed clay was smooth on the body, but on the string-cut base many white granules and even a few larger pebbles could be seen. The color ranged from brown to orange (in a shadow where the heat had been diverted by another vessel).

12. (Louise Cort, 6 June 2007) Unglazed brown jars of this type are still made at a workshop in My Thien, Chau O village, Binh Son district, near the northern border of Quang Ngai province. The workshop is located south of the bridge over the Tra Bong River at Chau O and west along the river. The workshop is operated by a husband and wife, Deng Van Trinh, age 45, and Pham Thi Thu Cuc, age 41. The husband said he is the fifth generation in his family to operate the workshop. His son is studying to be a doctor, so he will be the last generation. His family came here from Thanh Hoa province in northern Vietnam, and her family came from Quang Ngai, although their ancestors too were originally from Thanh Hoa.

The whole area of My Thien used to be full of workshops making pots, with seven or so kilns (used cooperatively?), fired with coal and wood, but most ceased production during the French war. Products of the workshop are marketed to Hoi An, Hanoi, Tay Nguyen (Central Highlands) and Ho Chi Minh City. Some lime-paste pots are sent to Taiwan. S2005.153 and 154 are especially close in style of decoration, with folded vertical lugs applied over raised ridges framing incised combing, to the jars made here, and Cuc identified photographs of them as "theirs."

Cuc is the potter, and her mother (Nguyen Thi Nguyen, age 62) assists by kicking the wheel, which is a ball-bearing wheel set low above the ground surface. (Older wheels were wooden wheels that turned on a pivot set in the ground and were lubricated with vegetable oil.) Cuc makes a small jar by forming the upper and lower halves separately, using a process of coiling and throwing, then joining the two halves at once. (Larger jars are made in up to five sections.) Trinh and Cuc work together to add the lugs and two rows of bosses (applied over guidelines incised on the shoulder, one line for each row).

13. (Louise Cort, 7 June 2007) Three staff members of the Hoi An Municipal Museum, Quang Nam, commented that they had found jars like this in Hoi An, although without applied bosses. They were still used by people living here.

The Museum of Trade Ceramics displayed the rim of a jar of this type, said to have been recovered from the 129 Tran Phu site (a shophouse). It was dated "17th–19th century."

14. (Louise Cort, 14 June 2007) Dr. Nguyen Dinh Chien, Museum of Vietnamese History, Hanoi, suggests a date of 18th or 19th century for this jar. The form is similar to that of glazed jars dated to that period.

15. (Louise Cort, 22 October 2010) A wide-mouthed Maenam Noi jar of a type related to S2005.315 was excavated from a large trash pit in the city of Kyoto at the intersection of Oike and Tominokoji streets. The inner wall of the jar was coated with glossy black lacquer, and numerous drips of black lacquer streaked the outside. Analysis of the lacquer revealed that it was thitsiol, the primary ingredient in lacquer from Thailand, Cambodia, and Burma. Since traces of tree bark were mixed with the lacquer, seemingly the jar had been used to transport the raw material. Dutch East India Company records show the import to Japan of large quantities of lacquer from Cambodia, China, Thailand, and Vietnam during the 1620s and 1630s. By comparison with similar jars excavated from Sakai, Osaka, and Nagasaki, the jar dates to the first half of the seventeenth century. The same trash pit also yielded fragments of a Central Vietnamese jar similar to S2005.154 containing remnants of lacquer. It also held various Japanese wooden and ceramic containers, wooden tools, and brushes, suggesting that a lacquer workshop had operated in the vicinity (Kyoto-shi Maizo Bunkazai Kenkyujo 2010, 51).

Kyoto-shi Maizo Bunkazai Kenkyujo (Kyoto City Archaeological Research Institute). 2010. Kyoto—Hideyoshi no jidai—Tsuchi no naka kara [Kyoto in the Age of Hideyoshi—From the Earth]. Kyoto: Kyoto-shi Maizo Bunkazai Kenkyujo.

16. (Louise Cort, 22 Dec 2014) According to archaeologists Kikuchi Sei'ichi and Abe Yuriko, jars like this were made at kilns in Quang Binh province.

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