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

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Jar with eight vertical lugs and incised decoration

  • Stoneware with iron glaze
  • 58.2 x 33.2 cm
  • Quang Duc ware
  • 18th-mid 20th century, Restored Later Le, Tay Son, or Nguyen dynasty
  • Origin: Phu Yen province, Central Vietnam
  • Gift of Osborne and Gratia Hauge, and Victor and Takako Hauge
  • S2005.171


Jar of cylindrical form with broad, round shoulder tapering towards foot and flat base, tapered tall neck with rounded rim. Eight grooved loop handles with thumb-pressed ends on shoulder. A luting ring mark on the middle of the body showing that the jar was luted together from two halves.
Clay: brown stoneware.
Glaze: iron brown with silvery lustre, glossy, opaque.
Decoration: two incised tigers/panthers design alternate with two incised hands design on the upper body.

Published References

1. Dupoizat, Marie-France. 1988. “Recherches sur les Jarres en Asie du Sud-Est.” Ph.D. Thesis, L'École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris: 76, 499–500.

Curatorial Remarks

1. (Candy Chan, Research Assistant, April 29, 2003) David Rehfuss (a collector of Vietnamese ceramics and president of the Washington Oriental Ceramic Group, WOCG) showed me a photograph that he took from a two-weeks study tour to Vietnam in October–November 1999, organized by the Asian Ceramics Research Organization, ACRO. The photograph has a gourd shaped bottle and a lime pot with a broken handle that coated with plenty of sea shells. They show similar glazing technique as this vessel. These 'sea-shell glazed wares' were products of Tuy Hoa, capital township of Phu Yen province in Central Vietnam. (Tuy Hoa Town is situated on the banks of the mouth of the Da Rang River.)

I quote below David's notes:

"Phu Yen Province in Central Vietnam has made ceramics with sea shells from the 18th century until 1945. The addition of calcium makes a very fine shiny glaze, a Chinese technique imported from South China. Phu Yen province is on the coast, south of Binh Dinh province. Kiln was found along a river (possibly *Da Rang River). The kiln site is well known. Professor Trinh Cao Truong (a practicing archaeologist working for the Institute of Archaeology in Hanoi, North Vietnam) said that shells were put in kiln chamber for glaze-making. Quang Nam province and Phu Yen province are two centers making 'sea-shell' glazed large jars, yet it is the most common product in Phu Yen province. Professor Truong says that there are many examples in the Phu Yen Provincial Museum in Tuy Hoa (the capital township of Phu Yen province)."

2. (Candy Chan, May 12, 2003) The hand motifs on this jar also appear on some Chinese jars dated to the 17th century, but they usually appear in pair with face design (Adhyatman and Ridho 1984, 103, pl. 33).

A jar from a collection of Philippines with applied hand and face motifs is said to have possibly been produced in South China during the 17th to 18th centuries. Borneo still produced jars with this design today (Valdes et al 1992, 141, pl. 92).

A "red-bodied" Vietnamese jar from the collection of Sabah Museum has applied hand and face design and is dated to third quarter of the 18th century (Harrisson 1986, 49, pl. 114). The head is in profile with similar features as the image of Charles III on a Spanish eight reales piece struck between 1772 and 1789. Harrison claims that the hand motif was the armorial of the city of Antwerp, which appeared on the coins from the 17th century onwards. She identifies a brown-glazed jar with face and hand design from the Princessehof Museum, Amsterdam (ibid., pl. 115) and one with brown glaze from the Sabah Museum (ibid., pl. 117) to be produced in Guangdong province in South China in the late 18th century. She supposes this unusual motif is designed to attract people who used jars to preserve human remains.

Adhyatman, Sumarah, and Abu Ridho. 1984. Tempayan di Indonesia (Martavans in Indonesia). Rev. 2nd ed. Jakarta: Himpunan Keramik Indonesia (The Ceramic Society of Indonesia).

Valdes, Cynthia O., Kerry Nguyen-Long, and Artemio C. Barbosa. 1992. A Thousand Years of Stoneware in the Philippines. Makati, Metro Manila: Jar Collectors (Philippines) with the support of Eugenio Lopez Foundation Inc. and in cooperation with the National Museum and the Oriental Ceramic Society of the Philippines.

Harrisson, Barbara. 1986. Pusaka: Heirloom Jars of Borneo. Singapore: Oxford University Press.

3. (Louise Cort, 30 June 2003) Mr. Tran Ky Phuong, independent scholar from Da Nang, suggested that the animals on this jar could be the tiger (representing power) and the fox (standing for cleverness or wisdom). He felt this was probably a modern jar, made in Bien Hoa as recently as the 1950s. It would have been made for sale to an upland minority market, for use in preparing wine. The lugs would be used to tie on a cover.  See also S2005.175.
The dense layer of shells on the base is of interest.

4. (Louise Cort, 22 August 2003) The form of this jar is most closely related to the one published by Harrisson as no. 117 (see remark 2, above), attributed to Guangdong and to the second half of the 18th century.
According to Kerry Nguyen-Long (Nguyen-Long  2003, 68), Chinese potters from Fujian and Guangdong were permitted to settle on Pho Island in the Dong Nai River in 1679 but relocated their kilns to Cholon (the Chinese section of Saigon) following the Tayson rebellion of 1778. New migrant potters arrived in Bien Hoa (capital city of Dong Nai province) and neighboring Song Be province in the late nineteenth century, and the Cholon potteries moved there when production ended in Cholon in the early 1940s. If this jar was made in Bien Hoa (see remark 3, above), then a likely date would seem to be either 17th–18th century or late 19th–20th century. The earlier date would agree with Harrisson's dating of the Chinese jar in the Sabah Museum.

Nguyen-Long, Kerry. 2003. "Ceramics of Bien Hoa." Arts of Asia 33(4): 67–78.

5. (Louise Cort, 29 January 2004) Potter Mark Hewitt, Pittsboro, North Carolina, said that the extra drips of glaze beneath each of the lugs were probably accidental, or else "cultivated accidents." When the potter dipped the jar upside down into the glaze vat, extra glaze was trapped inside the lugs; when the jar was set upright, the extra glaze ran down the shoulder.

This jar has scars of seashells on the glazed base.

6. (Louise Cort, 28 January 2005) Marie-France Dupoizat reproduces this jar (Dupoizat 1988, 76) with reference to jars of the same sort in the catalogue prepared in the 1930s by Paul Guilleminet (1888–1966) of the indigenous connoisseurship of various types of jars used by the Bahnars in the central highlands of Vietnam. (He conducted his research while living in Kon Tum.) This Hauge jar resembles his Family XXIII, type 4, "height 60–70 cm, eight ears of three projections, well glazed in an attractive uniform black, and undecorated; value: 15 buffaloes in 1940" (Dupoizat 1988, 74).

The jar is also documented as her H22 and weighs 7 kg. She groups jars with shell adhesions on the base and body among her Vietnamese jars but comments, "They were made in Vietnam, but we know nothing of their kilns of origin or their date of fabrication, except that they seem to me to be recent in date: 18–19th century" (Dupoizat 1988, 495).

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

7. (Louise Cort, 14 October 2005) Archaeologist and ceramic specialist Morimoto Asako, Fukuoka, recalled seeing a similar jar in the collection of the Hong Kong Museum of Art.

8. (Louise Cort, 24 May 2007) Two much more elaborately decorated jars of this ware are in the collection of the Museum of Vietnamese History, Ho Chi Minh City. Both were seized by customs and turned over to the museum. Jar 6485 (h. 32 cm) bears four lugs and a double row of applied dots around the shoulder just below the lugs. Hand-modeled figures of lizards are applied to the shoulders between the lugs. The bar body bears a design of a dragon executed with painted white slip and incised details, reminiscent of the approach to decorating water jars at the kilns in Ratchaburi, Thailand, that were established by immigrant potters from Guangdong. The glaze is shiny and black on the body but matte on the shoulder. The inside is unglazed. The flat base (diam. 12 cm) is encrusted with the remnants of small shells.

The second jar (6431, h. 33.0 cm) is much more clumsily formed, with an elongated neck but no clear definition of the shoulder. Around the shoulder is a painted band of white slip, combined with hastily incised designs too abstract to interpret. The lower body is incised with bands of alternating straight and wavy lines. Over the white slip, the glaze appears green; over the rest of the body, it appears reddish-brown because of the color of the clay body. Shell scars appear on the lower half of the body and the flat base.

9. (Louise Cort, 31 May 2007) The Khanh Hoa Museum, Nha Trang, is said by its curators to own a jar like this that was recovered from Bich Dan, a location on the ocean side of Hon Tre island, offshore from Nha Trang. I did not see the jar.

10. (Louise Cort, 2 June 2007) The Phu Yen Museum, Tuy Hoa, owns a tall, unglazed jar with six lugs and two rows of applied clay buttons (h. 56 cm, diam. mouth 18 cm, diam. base 16 cm). The dense, dark brown clay body contains numerous white inclusions. Although the surface is matte, the flat base is shiny and shows the scars of many shells. Another, larger jar of the same type (h. 68 cm, diam. 45 cm, diam. mouth 28.5 cm, diam. base 28 cm) shows no traces of shells.

The museum also owns a lime paste pot with a brownish surface and shells adhering to its slightly concave base, a small gourd shaped bottle with greenish glaze and overall shell scars, and a round bottle with shiny black surface and shell scars (diam. base 9.5 cm; acc. no. 1066).

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. The elderly potter also spoke of making flower pots to send by boat to Hue.

The kilns also made jars; they were fired in the front of the kiln, where they would become hard, while roof tiles and other products were fired at the back. Jars were made from a green clay, to which no sand was added, while tiles and other soft wares were made from black clay. Both men and women made jars, but in the case of very large ones, women shaped while men turned the wheel. The jars were fired in huge kilns four times the size of the ones presently in use, about 2 meters high at the tallest point within the chamber. The kilns had two fireboxes and two low chimneys about 50 cm tall. Those kilns were in use until the American war (when they were damaged or destroyed by bombing). The various sizes of jars were also understood as standard measures. People came from the mountains to buy then, and local Kinh people took jars into the mountains to trade.

The potter told us he used to use shells in the kiln firing, scattering them between unglazed vessels so they would not stick. Any kind of sea shell (from the beach 4–5 kilometers away) could be used. The shells "became water" and added color to the ceramics.

Meanwhile, south of Tuy Hoa, in Hoa Vinh commune, Tuy Dong district, ethnic Vietnamese (Kinh) potters make earthenware. The potters are women. They have been here seven generations (roughly 140–150 years). The vessel forms include bowls and small jars. Round-bottom cooking pots are shaped on a turntable-like wheel, by a process of coiling onto a flat base, throwing, then scraping inside and outside with a ring-shaped bamboo tool. These pots resemble the pots recovered from a shipwreck site off Vung Tau, together with cylindrical stoneware jars with rounded walls (note above).

11. (Louise Cort, 5 June 2007) In the Quang Ngai Provincial Museum, Quang Ngai, a large jar (h. 58 cm) with a wide conical neck and rounded rim and eight vertical grooved lugs on the upper shoulder, bore incised designs of two tigers sitting on their haunches and two open left hands. The dqark green (wood-ash?) glaze was wiped off the design areas. The jar appeared to be made of dark brown clay. The jar was collected in 1999 from Son Mua village, in northern Son Tay district, an area near the borders with Quang Nam and Lon Tum provinces populated by the Cadong ethnic group.

12. (Louise Cort, 14 June 2007) According to Dr. Nguyen Dinh Chien, Museum of Vietnamese History, Hanoi, this jar probably dates to the 19th century.

13. (Louise Cort, 7 October 2008) At the Dak Lak Provincial Museum, Buon Me Thuat, during our research trip with Dr. Luu Hung, Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, in March 2006, we were shown a jar of this type with shell-scarred brownish-black glaze over a dark clay body containing granules of white sand or stone.

14. (Louise Cort, 14 November 2014) Curators at the Khanh Hoa Provincial Museum, Nha Trang, during a visit on 31 May 2007, identified this jar and S2005.170 as a type formerly made at kilns once active in the district of Khanh Vinh, to the interior from Nha Trang. Jars S2005.152 and 174 were associated with both Khanh Vinh and the adjacent interior district, Ninh Hoa. S2005.172, 173, and 177 as from Ninh Hoa. S2005.178 was associated with Ninh Hoa as well as Lu Cam, a kiln upriver from Nga Trang.

15. (Louise Cort, 18 July 2016) A jar from this kiln is in the collection of the National Museum of Natural History, Anthropology Collection, E404544. It has two rows of bosses circling the shoulder beneath an uneven dark green translucent glaze similar to that on the bottle S2005.156. Shell scars appear on the flat base. The jar was part of a large group of Asian objects given to the NMNH by the Philadelphia Trade and Convention Center. Pending further research in the NMNH archives, it is possible that this jar and the rest of the collection could have come from the Philadelphia Commercial Museum, a component of the Center, established through purchase of items remaining from the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, opened in a permanent building in 1899, and closed in 1994.

According to the Thanh Nien News, 23 March 2015 (accessed online), the potter with whom we had spoken, Nguyen Trinh (see Note 7), died in early 2014.

Changed Origin from Tuy Hoa to Quang Duc village; to Ware added Quang Duc ware.

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