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

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  • Earthenware with red and black pigment
  • 14.5 x 15.7 x 12.5 cm
  • Sawankhalok ware
  • 16th century, Ayutthaya period
  • Origin: Sawankhalok kilns, Si Satchanalai, Sukhothai province, North-central Thailand
  • Gift of Osborne and Gratia Hauge, and Victor and Takako Hauge
  • S2005.344


Kendi of compressed globular form with a mammiform spout, tall flanged neck, splayed foot and slightly concave base.
Clay: orange red earthenware.
Glaze: none.
Decoration: red stripes on upper body and black paint on mouth and tubular neck.

Curatorial Remarks

1. (Louise Cort, 23 December 2003) Related kendis are published in DiCrocco 1991, 84–98. Thai earthenware of this type, with smooth levigated clay and with slip decoration, formerly was known as "Late Haripunjaya ware," because many examples were found in the Lamphun area, associated with the Haripunjaya kingdom which fell in 1292. "They have also been found in Chiang Mai, Phayao, Kalong and burial sites in the Tak and Omkoi-Mae Tam areas.... And sherds have been reportedly found in the Pegu area of lower Myanmar as well" (ibid., 92). DiCrocco points out that this production was flourishing by the mid-16th century and seems to have continued to the late 19th century. The center of production, as yet unidentified, may have been somewhere in the vicinity of Lamphun, and the area of use is associated with the old Lan Na kingdom and its connections within Burma.

Di Crocco, Virginia M. 1991. "Ceramic Wares of the Haripunjaya Area." The Journal of the Siam Society 79(pt. 1): 84–98.

2. (Candy Chan, Research Assistant, April 23, 2003) Kendis of this shape with flanged tubular neck and mammiform spout were also made in Si Satchanalai in the fifteenth century, but they are glazed stoneware painted in underglaze iron (Willetts 1971, 141, pls. 183–185).

A bronze kendi found in East Java dating to 14th–15th century has a similar shape as this kendi (Adhyatman 1987, 82, pl. 78).

Willetts, William. 1971. Ceramic Art of Southeast Asia. Singapore: Southeast Asian Ceramic Society.

Adhyatman, Sumarah. 1987. Kendi, wadah air minum tradisional (Kendi, traditional drinking water container). Himpunan Keramik (Jakarta): Yayasan Nusantara Jaya.

3. (Louise Cort, 4 September 2006) A fragment of a saucer-like earthenware object coated with white slip and painted with red pigment lines was recovered from the unexcavated shipwreck known as the Koh Kong wreck, off the southwest coast of Cambodia, off Koh Sdeck island, Kiri Sakor district, Koh Kong province. The wreck was identified in February 2006, and the recovery is being tracked by the National Museum. Images provided by Hab Touch, Deputy Director, show a red-slipped kendi and two black earthenware kendi with elongated spouts; brown-glazed jars of three sizes, also brown-glazed bottle, kendi, and vat, and unglazed mortar, from the Tao Maenam Noi kilns, Singburi province, Thailand; celadon bowls and a gourd-shaped bottle from the Si Satchanalai kilns; unglazed earthenware pots with complex paddle-impressed textures; an earthenware stove; and a Zhangzhou-ware dish with cobalt kylin design. Cumulatively these wares suggest a date in the 16th century, and they also suggest that the ship must have loaded at Ayutthaya and was heading along the coast to the east. According to Darryl Collins, the wood recovered is charred, suggesting that the ship sank after a fire. 

4. (Louise Cort, 4 September 2006) Two stoneware bottles with elongated necks recovered from the Ko Kradat shipwreck (1979) are said to be products of the Si Satchanalai kilns and to date to the mid-16th century (Sāyan 1990, 24, 49–50, nos. 29–30). The bottles are decorated with a broad horizontal band of iron pigment at the shoulder framed by pairs of narrow stripes. Below, three narrow stripes form the lower frame for a wide band of the light-colored body, on which a nonrepresentational design is brushed repeatedly using the iron pigment. This earthenware kendi appears to use red and white slips to imitate that design format, with the decoration on the band of white slip approximating the appearance of the decoration on the stoneware body. This resemblance confirms a 16th century date for the earthenware kendi.

Changed Period from Lan Na Kingdom or Bangkok Period to Ayutthaya period; changed Date from 16th–19th century to 16th century.

Sāyan Phraichānčhit (Sayan Prishanchit), Siriphan Yapsanthīa (Siriphan Yapsanthea), and 'Atcharā Khǣngsārikit, eds. 1990. Khrư̄angthūaičhāk thalē (Ceramics from the Gulf of Thailand). Vol. 2, Bōrānnakhadī sī khrām (Underwater Archaeology in Thailand). Bangkok: Krom Sinlapākǭn (Fine Arts Department).

5. (Louise Cort, 9 January 2008) According to information collected by Leedom Lefferts on 31 January 2007 at the National Museum in Ayutthaya, the Thai term for kendi is khon thoo.

According to Australian anthropologist Carol Warren, the Balinese word for this vessel shape is caratan (pronounced "charatan"). 

6. (Louise Cort, 8 March 2008) "Perhaps the earthenware item most characteristic of medieval Buddhist sites in Myanmar is the sprinkler pot, or kendi….These are found across South and Southeast Asia, generally attributed to the first and early second millennia A.D., from Pakistan to Laos and down the Malay peninsula to Java, though it is only in the Buddhist countries that their function appears to focus on ritual libration. Buddhist cosmology and practice are bound up with the ritual pouring of water, reflecting the story of how Buddha, at the moment of his enlightenment, was able to call on the water he had poured in previous lives to witness his good deeds to come back and wash away the forces of evil" (Hudson et al 2001, 58 [references omitted]).

Hudson, Bob, Nyein Lwin, and Win Maung (Tanpawady). 2001. "The Origins of Bagan: New Dates and Old Inhabitants." Asian Perspectives 40(1): 48–74.

7. (Louise Cort, 13 March 2008) A painted earthenware kendi of this type, but with a dish-shaped mouth, is said to have been collected from "Sukhothai" (presumably the city, not the province). It is dated to the sixteenth century (Ho 1995, fig. 7).

Ho Chuimei. 1995. "Intercultural Influence between China and South East Asia as seen in Historical Ceramics". Pp. 118–140 in South East Asian and China: Art, Interaction and Commerce, edited by Rosemary Scott and John Guy. Colloquies on Art and Archaeology in Asia no. 17. London: Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

8. (Louise Cort, 29 May 2008) Don Hein, in Washington to present the Pope Memorial Lecture, noticed the fine incised horizontal lines on the surface of the clay. The clay was low-fired, and seasonal moisture led to cracking. The base of the vessel was inverted in a chuck to be trimmed before the spout and top were attached.

9. (Louise Cort, 24 October 2011) According to Pariwat Thammapreechakorn, Southeast Asia Ceramics Museum, Bangkok, kendis of this type (S2005.343 and 344) are recovered within Sukhothai province, although not from kiln sites.

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