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

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Jar with four horizontal lugs

  • Stoneware with remnants of white slip under degraded iron glaze
  • 42.3 x 43.3 cm
  • 12th century, Northern Song or Southern Song dynasty
  • Origin: Guangdong province, China
  • Provenance: Vietnam
  • Gift of Osborne and Gratia Hauge, and Victor and Takako Hauge
  • S2005.22


Jar of ovoid form with short neck, chipped rolled lip, slightly recessed base, four horizontal grooved lug handles on upper shoulder.
Clay: greyish buff stoneware.
Glaze: abraded brown glaze, matte, possibly underfired, applied over white slip; base unglazed.
Decoration: four stamped floral motifs on shoulder, incised undulating lines on body.

Curatorial Remarks

1. (Louise Cort, 17 July 2002) This jar might range in date from Southern Song to Yuan or even early Ming. The shoulders bear four impressed lotus motifs. The original glaze appears to be wholly lost, and the jar may originally have been somewhat underfired. The interior appears to be glazed or stained.

2. (Candy Chan, Research Assistant, April 15, 2003) Two similar jars collected in Sarawak are in the collection of the Sarawak Museum. They were identified as Guangdong wares dating to 10th-11th century (Moore 1970, 34–38, pls. 4a–b).

Moore, Eine. 1970. "A Suggested Classification of Stonewares of Martabani Type." The Sarawak Museum Journal XVIII(36–37): 1–78, pls. 1–21.

3. (Candy Chan, Research Assistant, April 21, 2003) Some fragments of jars with stamped design similar to this jar were recovered from Nipah Bay, western side of the island of Tioman, off the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Over four hundred sherds of large stoneware jar with a majority of them were ceramics made in Guangdong province, South China during the Northern Song dynasty (960–1126). The stoneware jars were probably used as containers for wine as well as sauces and pickles exported to Southeast Asia (Lam 1985, 104–07, pl. 199; Martin 2002, 63–70).

Lam, Peter Y. K. 1985. "Northern Song Guangdong Wares". Pp. 1–30 in A Ceramic Legacy of Asia's Maritime Trade. Kuala Lumpur: Southeast Asia Ceramic Society.

Martin, Jean. 2002. "The Island of Tioman and the Trade in Ceramics to Southeast Asia and Shipwrecks from the 11th–19th century". Pp. 63–70 in Taoci No. 2: Les Céramiques du fond des mers les nouvelles découvertes—Actes du colloque de la société française d'Étude de la céramique orientale. Paris: Suilly-la-Tour.

4. (Louise Cort, 29 January 2004)  Potter Mark Hewitt, Pittsboro, North Carolina, suggests that the jar was slipped but never glazed, and was fired in a cool part of the kiln to a temperature slightly above bisque.  He admired the stamped designs between the lugs and the incised undulating line around the midsection.

5. (Louise Cort, 14 October 2005) Archaeologist and ceramic specialist Morimoto Asako, Fukuoka, identified the stamped floral motifs on the shoulder as peonies. (Chrysanthemum motifs came into use in the Yuan dynasty.) Jars of this type are found in 12th century layers in Hakata excavations, and it is uncertain whether they continued to be imported. The jar was probably made at a kiln in Guangdong or Fujian province. In Japan it would be said to be Guangdong, but there is no definite proof. The concave base resembles that of the "Tradescant jars" from the Zhangzhou kilns in southern Fujian.

Traces of brown glaze or burial soil can be seen on the surface and should be analyzed.

6. (Louise Cort, 22 December 2005) Changed Origin from Guangdong province to Guangdong or Fujian province. Changed Date from 11th–12th century to 12th century.

7. (Louise Cort, 17 July 2006) Dr. Luu Hung, Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, Hanoi, pointed out that we had seen jars of this type in the material excavated from the Dai Lang grave site in Lam Dong province, housed at the Lam Dong provincial museum, during our research trip to the Central Highlands in March (Bùi et al. 2000, 130).

Given the worn condition of this jar, it is quite possible that this jar came out of a similar context and entered the antiques market in Saigon.

Bùi Chí Hoàng, Vũ Nhẩt Nguyễn, and Phạm Hữu Thọ. 2000. Những Sưu Tập Gốm Sứ Ở Lâm Đồng (The Collections of Ceramics in Lam Dong). Đà Lạt: Sở Văn Hhóa Thông Tin Lâm Đồng [Lam Dong Ministry of Culture and Information].

8. (Louise Cort, 3 November 2011) According to Pariwat Thammapreechakorn, this jar may be a product of the Qishi kilns in Dongguan city, Guangdong province.

9. (Louise Cort, 27 January 2014) Following my research trip to kiln sites and museums in Guangdong and Fujian provinces with Li Baoping in October 2012, I feel it is likely that--as Dr. Pariwat suggests in Note 8--this jar is a product of a kiln in Guangdong, such as Qishi.

The sherds collected at the Qishi site, Shiwan district, Foshan, in the course of road building, now housed in the Foshan Municipal Museum, bear light brown translucent glaze and stamped Northern Song era dates corresponding to the late 11th and early 12th century. Peter Lam published and discussed these sherds (Lam 1985, p. 8; p. 26, figs. 77, 79).

Like the jar fragments among the Qishi finds, this jar was formed on the wheel, without the use of paddle and anvil. Throwing marks are visible on the lower wall, and where they end corresponds to a luting seam visible on the internal wall. Above that point the wall is smooth. A second seam can be detected on the wall above the widest point of the body, just above the undulating incised line. A single line incised around the shoulder served to align the placement of the four lugs. The stamped motifs are positioned slightly below that line, and slightly to the left in the space between the two lugs. Because of the staining of the lower two-thirds of the jar's wall (from long-term burial up to that point for storage?), and because of the underfired glaze, it is truly difficult to determine whether the jar is coated with slip beneath the glaze or with glaze alone. A wavy lower edge, either of slip or of poorly vitrified glaze, is visible about 3 cm above the base. (Ceramic Legacy 1985, p. 104, makes no mention of slip.)

A jar of this type (h 39.2 cm), in the collection of Juan T. Lim in the Philippines, has clusters of three impressions of a floral stamp between each pair of lugs, an undulating line incised around the body slightly below midpoint, four horizontal lugs with single lengthwise grooves, and a short neck with rolled rim. The intact glaze is described as yellowish-brown, on a buff clay body. The entire group is dated broadly to tenth-twelfth century (Brown 1989, no. 102). The jar is also published in Valdes et. al. 1992 (p. 100, 12b), and Long dates it to eleventh-twelfth century (p. 86).. She refers to a group, ncluding that jar, characterized by "horizontal stranded lugs" and notes that some show traces of paddle depressions on the upper interior walls, while others (including 12b) do not (p. 186).

Another jar of this type (h. 37.4 cm), with extreme glaze loss similar to that of the Sackler jar, was found on Tioman Island, Malaysia, is in the Sarawak Museum, and is dated (by Peter Lam?) 11th-12th century (Ceramic Legacy 1985, p. 104).

Changed Origin from Guangdong province or Fujian province to Guangdong province.

Roxanna M. Brown, ed. Guangdong Ceramics from Butuan and other Philippine sites. Manila: Oriental Ceramic Society of the Philipines and Oxford University Press. 1989.

A Ceramic Legacy of Asia's Maritime Trade. Kuala Lumpur: Southeast Asia Ceramic Society, 1985.

Peter Y. K. Lam. Northern Song Guangdong Wares. In A Ceramic Legacy of Asia's Maritime Trade, pp. 1-30. Kuala Lumpur: Southeast Asia Ceramic Society, 1985.

Peter Y. K. Lam. Decorative Techniques and Motifs in Guangdong Trade Wares of the Song Dynasty. Pp. 47-57 in Roxanna M. Brown, ed., Guangdong Ceramics from Butuan and other Philippine sites. Manila: Oriental Ceramic Society of the Philippines and Oxford University Press, 1989.

Cynthia O. Valdes, Kerry Nguyen Long, and Artemio C. Barbosa. A Thousand Years of Stoneware Jars in the Philippines. Manila: Jar Collectors (Philippines), 1992.

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