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

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Jar with four ornamental lugs and incised decoration

  • Unglazed stoneware
  • 39.1 x 22 cm
  • 19th-early 20th century, Nguyen dynasty
  • Origin: Central Vietnam
  • Provenance: Mekong River delta, Southern Vietnam
  • Gift of Osborne and Gratia Hauge, and Victor and Takako Hauge
  • S2005.178

Description

Jar with elongated ovoid body, short neck, rolled lip, flat base and four lugs on the shoulder.
Clay: brown stoneware.
Glaze: none.
Decoration: three incised rings below the neck.

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: 420 and 422.

Curatorial Remarks

1. (Louise Cort, 30 June 2003) The elongated form of this jar reminded Mr. Tran Ky Phuong, independent scholar, Da Nang, of jars he had been told in Quang Nam province were used by Cham to dispose of cremated remains, which were placed in the jar, which was then filled with earth and sealed with beeswax (no lid); the jar was discarded into a river (cf. S2005.134 and 135). But upon reflection he was not sure, because this jar is unusually large and has the four minimal lugs just below the rim.

2. (Louise Cort, 28 January 2005) Marie-France Dupoizat groups this jar among Indochinese jars of unknown origin. "They come without possible doubt from kilns in Indochina in the large sense, probably from kilns of the earliest Indianised states. Their style suggests a very early date of fabrication....The precision of their provenance depends on the good faith of the dealers: they reportedly were from Oc-eo" (Dupoizat 1988, 420).

She documented the weight of this jar as 5.3 kg.

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.

3. (Louise Cort, 12 October 2005) Archaeologist and ceramic specialist Morimoto Asako noted that this jar was the same type as the "nuoc mam" jars (S2004.195–211), but larger. She recalls seeing more jars of this type in the south than in Central Vietnam.

4. (Louise Cort, 14 July 2006) According to Dr. Lu Hung and Mrs. Nguyen Thi Hong Mai, Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, Hanoi, the VME has jars like this in its collection. Mrs. Mai will check where they were collected, but she recalls they were found in the south. This jar is surprisingly heavy for its size.

5. (Louise Cort, 19 October 2006) This jar seems related in the form and placement of its lugs to S2005.141.

6. (Louise Cort, 23 May 2007) At the Museum of Vietnamese History, Ho Chi Minh City, Mrs. Tran Thi Thanh Dao mentioned that people came to the museum to sell jars of this type that they found in Vung Tau, Dong Nai, and Binh Duong provinces. One person sold a jar to the museum (acc. no. 9471) that he described as Khmer, 17th–18th century, suggesting that he had found it in the Mekong Delta. Jars of this type are used in the Mekong Delta (especially An Giang province, with a large population of ethnic Khmer) for preparing salted river fish (‘mam’ in Vietnamese, ‘mam bo hoc’ in Khmer; in contrast to salted ocean fish, ‘nuoc mam’). Sizes ranged up to 30–35 cm in height.

7. (Louise Cort, 26 May 2007) The Vung Tau Ba Ria Museum owns six hundred cylindrical jars of the slightly rounded type (S2004.208) recovered from a shipwreck off Hon Ba island, one kilometer offshore from Vung Tau. All measure consistently about 36 cm in height. The wreck had been located by fishermen and the museum recovered the contents. A report has been published.

The vice-director of museum, Pham Quang Minh, said he agreed with a 19th–20th century date for jars of this type, as one jar excavated from the shipwreck contained coins of the Minh Mang reign (1820–1841) of the Nguyen dynasty. He understood jars of this type were made in Khanh Hoa province north of Nha Trang. He said they served as containers for salted freshwater fish (mam) or salt. Other staff suggested use as containers for nuoc mam, beans, or rice.

Recovered along with these jars were many round-bottomed plain earthenware pots of two sizes (h. 11.5 cm, diam. of mouth 16 cm; h. 18 cm, diam. of mouth 22 cm). The pots had smooth walls, were rather heavy for their size (suggesting they were not finished with paddle and anvil) and showed horizontal scraping on the interior, suggesting instead that they were finished with a ring-shaped scraper such as used by Cham potters. (On 2 June we saw scrapers used to thin and finish wheel-thrown pots made by women potters in Hoa Vinh commune, Tuy Hoa district, Phu Yen province.)

The museum also owns some small jars of this type, both straight-walled and rounded-walled, collected from a temple dedicated to Mieu Ba in Ho Tram, Xuyen Moc district. Women worshippers offered containers of lime to the goddess. The majority were brick-red earthenware, of a shape similar to S2005.165 or 168, and a few were copper-green glazed pots with bail handles (broken off), similar to S2005.159–160.

8. (Louise Cort, 27 May 2007) On view in the Binh Duong Museum in Thu Dau Mot are pots dated to the 16th–17th centuries collected along—or within—the Dong Nai River. They include a large jar resembling S2005.155; a tall, smooth cylindrical jar with slightly curving walls and four small lugs applied just below the rim over incised lines (resembling S2004.211 and S2005.178); two shorter, wider cylindrical jars with slightly curving slides and vertical lugs applied over incised lines at mid-shoulder (resembling S2004.206 and S2004.208); a pot resembling S2005.138 but without lugs; and a cylindrical wide-mouthed pot with a band of jabbed decor using a four-toothed comb resembling the decoration on the round jar S2005.142.

9. (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 two shelves holding jars of this type with curved walls, in various sizes, and one self of straight-walled cylindrical jars in various sizes.

10. (Louise Cort, 31 May 2007) The Khanh Hoa Museum, Nha Trang, owns more than 90 vessels of this type collected from the formerly ethnic Cham (now ethnic Vietnamese, or Kinh) community of Ninh Thuy, Ninh Hoa district, where they were used in Cham households for water, rice, etc. They are said to date to the 19th–20th century. They display a wide range of color and hardness as the result of differences in firing temperatures.

Sherds of jars like this were recovered on the riverbank at Lu Cam, five kilometers upriver from Nha Trang on the left bank of the river. We spoke with the ethnic Vietnamese (Kinh) potters who still operate kilns and heard about the river boats that used to take pots to market as far as Cam Ranh and Phan Rang. This kiln is believed to have been active since the 19th century. The present community hall (dinh) was established in 1874.

11. (Louise Cort, 7 June 2007) Three staff members of the Hoi An Municipal Museum, Quang Nam, commented (with some hesitation) that potters in Thanh Ha, the community on the outskirts of Hoi An, were making jars somewhat like this. (The ancestors of the potters in Thanh Ha had come from Nghe An and Thanh Hoa provinces in the sixteenth century.)

12. (Louise Cort, 14 November 2014) Curators at the Khanh Hoa Provincial Museum, Nha Trang, during a visit on 31 May 2007, identified S2005.152 and S2005.174 as types formerly made at kilns once active in the districts of Ninh Hoa and Khanh Vinh, to the interior from Nha Trang. S2005.170 and 171 were also identified as coming from Khanh Vinh, 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.


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