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

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Vessel in the form of a mythical beast

  • Stoneware with celadon glaze
  • 18.8 x 17.7 x 12.6 cm
  • Sawankhalok ware
  • 15th-16th century, Ayutthaya period
  • Origin: Ban Pa Yang kilns, Si Satchanalai, Sukhothai province, North-central Thailand
  • Gift of Osborne and Gratia Hauge, and Victor and Takako Hauge
  • S2005.294


Hand modelled mythical beast with four legs (feet broken off), curly tail, wide open mouth, accessories on chest and a protuberance on forehead. A crack on neck.
Clay: grey stoneware with black inclusions.
Glaze: celadon, glossy, crazed.
Decoration: none.

Curatorial Remarks

1. (Candy Chan, Research Assistant, May 25, 2003) Animal figurines of this type were made in Pa Yang kilns in Si Satchanalai. They were possibly used as propitiatory offerings to the spirits. They are still used nowadays in Thailand (Shaw 1987, 27).

Spinks believes that the animal and human figurines were used as votive offerings and placed inside the shrines (spirit houses) to guardian spirits of the households or some local spirits of nature such as hill, stream field or sacred tree. Today, the custom of presenting spirits offerings in Thailand is still practicing as a belief of animism (Spinks 1971, 75–88).

Shaw, John C. 1987. Introducing Thai Ceramics; also Burmese and Khmer. Chiang Mai: Duangphorn Kemasingki.

Spinks, Charles N. 1971. The Ceramic Wares of Siam. Bangkok: The Siam Society.

2. (Louise Cort, 20 May 2008) Roxanna Brown documented a celadon-glazed figure of a horse with rider and four foot soldiers or attendants recovered from the Belanakan shipwreck, which she dates to circa 1424/30–1487 (Brown 2004, pl. 58-4). The ship also carried celadon-glazed dishes and jars with ring handles, together with Vietnamese celadon and blue-and-white.

Changed Date from 14th–mid 16th century to 15th–16th century.

Brown, Roxanna Maude. 2004. "The Ming Gap and Shipwreck Ceramics in Southeast Asia". Ph.D. Dissertation, Department of Art History, University of California, Los Angeles.

3. (Louise Cort, 22 Dec 2014) Archaeologists Kikuchi Seiichi and Abe Yuriko observed that this figure is hollow and has a spout at the top of the head, not in the mouth.

Changed title from Figurine: mythical beast to Vessel in the form of a mythical beast.

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