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

Print | Back to Normal Layout


  • Stoneware with deteriorated iron-brown glaze
  • 19.6 x 11.5 cm
  • Cizao ware
  • 13th-14th century, Southern Song or Yuan dynasty
  • Origin: Zengzhushan kiln, Fujian province, China
  • Provenance: Thailand
  • Gift of Osborne and Gratia Hauge, and Victor and Takako Hauge
  • S2005.38


Jar of conical form with small mouth and broad shoulder tapering towards foot and flat base. Finger-impressed marks on foot left by potter while removing vessel from the throwing wheel.
Clay: grey stoneware.
Glaze: iron-black glaze, deteriorated.
Decoration: none.

Curatorial Remarks

1. (Candy Chan, Intern, 20 March 2002) Bottles of this type were unearthed on the Quanzhou shipwreck in Quanzhou bay, in Fujian province, Southern China, in 1974. This shipwreck is dated to late 13th century, late Southern Song to early Yuan period (Quanzhouwan Songdai  haichuan fajue baogao bianxiezu 1975, 1–18, no.10, pl. 16).

This bottle type was also found in large quantities in front of the Whisky Distillery site on the Mae Klong River, Thailand. They were identified as "probably from Quanzhou kiln, Fujian province" and it was suggested that they probably had been used for containing wine or other liquid (SPAFA Final Report 1985, 69, 79, fig. 9).

A bottle of this type classified as Fujian ware, is in the Muzium Sultan Abu Baka, Pahang, Malaysia, and is dated 12th–14th century, Song to Yuan dynasties (The Southeast Asian Ceramic Society, ed. 1985, 113, pl. 238).

Quanzhouwan Songdai  haichuan fajue baogao bianxiezu (The Study Group for the Sung Dynasty Wooden Sea Vessel). 1975. "Quanzhou wan Song dai hai quan fa jue jian bao (Excavation of the Sung Dynasty Wooden Sea Vessel in Ch'üanchow Bay, Fukien Province)." Wenwu (Cultural Relics) 10: 1–18.

SPAFA. 1985. Technical Workshop on Ceramics (T-W4): Final Report.  Bangkok: SPAFA.

The Southeast Asian Ceramic Society, ed. 1985. A Ceramic Legacy of Asia's Maritime Trade: Song Dynasty Guangdong Wares and Other 11th to 19th Century Trade Ceramics Found on Tioman Island. Malaysia: The Southeast Asian Ceramic Society.

2. (Candy Chan, Research Assistant, 24 March 2003) A similar bottle dated to the 14th century was found on the Riau Islands, Indonesia. Adhyatman suggests that these bottles were probably used as containers for holy water at ceremonies in East Java (Adhyatman 1981, 95, pl. 21a).

Bottles of this type dated to the Yuan and the Ming periods were found in Tuban, East Java, one of the Majapahit harbors in the 14th–15th centuries (Ridho and Wayono 1983, 77–87, pl. 1).

Chen refers to this vessel type as Zengzhushan bottles because they were produced in the Zengzhushan kiln of Cizao, Quanzhou, Fujian province during the Southern song period. Because 2015 shards were discovered on the Pescadores (Penghu) Islands, the largest amount to have been found so far, Chen believes that the Penghu islands were used as a transshipment site for the Chinese ships departing from Quanzhou destined for Southeast Asia in the Song and Yuan periods. He thinks the bottles were used as wine containers (Hsin-hsiung 1985, 115–126, pls. 117–120).

Adhyatman, Sumarah. 1981. Keramik kuna yang ditemukan di Indonesia : berbagai penggunaan dan tempat asal (Antique Ceramics Found in Indonesia : various uses and origins). Jakarta: Ceramic Society of Indonesia.

Ridho, Abu, and M. Wayono. 1983. "The Ceramics Found in Tuban, East Java." Bōeki Tōji Kenkyū [Trade Ceramics Studies] 3: 77–87.

Chen Hsin-hsiung. 1985. Penghu Song Yuan taoci (Shards of the Sung and Yuan Period Found in the Pescadores Islands). Taiwan: Penghu xianli wenhua zhongxin (Penghu County Cultural Center).

3. (Candy Chan, Research Assistant, 28 March 2003) Eight bottles of this type were unearthed in the Zengzhuzhan kiln site at Cizao, Jinjiang, Fujian province, dating to the Song and Yuan periods. Similar bottles were also found in three sites in Quanzhou (Quanzhou shipwreck, Quanzhou Gymnasium, and Fuhoushan), all of which date to the Song period (Peng et al 1982, pls. 6:1, 7).

Bottles of this type dating to the Song period were excavated at a construction site in Fuhoushan within Quanzhou city, Jinjiang region, Fujian province. Xu suggests that they were wine containers (Quan 1987).

Bottles of this type dating to the Song and Yuan periods, were discovered on the Dinghai coast, Lianjiang, Fujian province in 1994 (Ming 1996).

Peng Chen, Wang Tian Zhu, and Wang Bao Ling. 1982. "Reconnaissance and Excavation of Ancient Kiln Sites at Cizao, Jinjiang, Fujian." Kaogu(5): 489–498.

Quan Xu Qing. 1987. "Song chuan chutu de xiaokou taoping niandai he yongtu de tantao [Discussion of the dating and function of small necked porcelain vases from Song dynasty shipwrecks]". Pp. 128–130 in Quanzhouwan Songdai haichuan fajue yu yanjiu [Excavation and study of Song Dynasty shipwrecks from Quanzhouwan]. vol. 2. Beijing: Haiyang chubanshe.

Wu Chunming. 1996. "Fujian Lianjiang Dinghai shenchuan taoci di kaocha [Study of ceramics recovered from shipwrecks from Dinghai area, Lianjiang county, Fujian province] " Fujian wenbo 2: 60–63.

4. (Candy Chan, Research Assistant, 4 April 2003) McKinnon says that bottles of this type are often called 'Tang wine jars' (McKinnon 1977, 69–70, pls. 36–37).

McKinnon, E. Edwards. 1977. "Oriental Ceramics Excavated in North Sumatra." Transactions of the Oriental Ceramic Society 41: 58–119.

5. (Louise Cort, 17 September 2003) Bottles of this type were found in 1961 at the village of Kampong Pengkalan Bujang, Central Kedah, Malaysia, a site that had been investigated by H. G. Quaritch Wales in the 1930s, when he found quantities of ceramics and glass. Lamb found numerous fragments of roughly conical stoneware bottles of varying size (Lamb 1961, 25[fig. 5], 106[pl. 45] (a similar vessel found in the Sarawak River and now in the Sarawak Museum). The jars were found in the context of Chinese glazed ceramics (included mold-formed qingbai wares) datable to Southern Song.

Lamb, Alastair. 1961. "Research at Pengkalan Bujang; A Preliminary Report." Federation Museums Journal—Miscellaneous Papers on Early Hindu and Buddhist Settlement in Northern Malaya and Southern Thailand VI(new series): 21–37 + pl. 26–80 and Frontispiece.

6. (Louise Cort, 24 May 2005) A bottle of this type was among the imported Chinese, Korean and Thai ceramics offered at local shrines on islands in the Tokara group of the Nansei island groups, located between southern Kyushu and Taiwan and including the Okinawa and Yaeyama islands further south (Meitoku 1993, 11–45). The offerings were made between the late 12th and 16th centuries. In the mid-15th century one island in this group was recorded as having only 30 some households, and now it is completely unpopulated, but the ceramics accumulated on the island included Southern Song Longquan celadon and Jian ware, Koryo period celadon, and Ming cobalt-decorated porcelain (ibid., 18–19, figs. 4–5).  The bottle (ibid., figs. 4–15 and 5–15, h. 23.4 cm) bears a thin brown glaze only on the shoulder, while the rest is unglazed stoneware of a light reddish-brown on the surface, black-flecked gray on the interior.

Kamei identifies the bottle as made in the Quanzhou kilns and states that few examples have been excavated in Japan with the exception of the Hakata sites. Other finds:

Shuri Castle, Naha, Okinawa. Nankai kotoji.

Peng-hu (Pescadores) Islands, Taiwan, ten examples, in a site also containing 14th century Longquan celadon, white ware, and black-glazed ware (Tsang 1992, 424–439).

Sarawak, Malaysia, examples ranging from 19 to 37 cm. tall and said to have been used to transport wine and other liquids from China (Zainie and Harrison 1967).

Sumatra, Kota Cina (McKinnon 1976).

Philippines, paper by C. Grau Abaya at the 1968 Manila seminar, classified as Type IX-C, of fairly early date.

Kamei Meitoku. 1993. "Nansei shotō ni okeru bōeki tōjiki no ryūtsū keiro (Trade Routes of Trade Ceramics in the Nansei Islands, Japan)." Bōeki Tōji Kenkyū [Trade Ceramics Studies] 11: 11–12 (English summary), 12–45 (Japanese).

Tsang Cheng-hwa. 1992. Archaeology of the Peng-hu Island. Taiwan: Institute of History and Philosophy Academia Sinica.

Zainie, Carla, and T. Harrisson. 1967. "Early Chinese Stoneware Excavated in Sarawak, 1957–1967." The Sarawak Museum Journal XV: 30–90.

McKinnon, E. E. 1976. Research into the Disposition of Ceramic Sites in North Sumatra. Kota Cina, Sumatra: SEACS Singapore.

7. (Louise Cort, 12 October 2005) According to archaeologist Morimoto Asako, Fukuoka, small-mouthed bottles of this type are said to have been made at the Zengzhushan kiln in the Cizao kiln complex, in southern Fujian province. Bottles of different forms were exported to Japan and to Southeast Asia. The time(s) of manufacture and the intended contents remain unclear.

8. (Louise Cort, 14 October 2005) According to Morimoto Asako, these bottles are commonly ascribed to the Cizao kiln complex, although she did not see them there. These bottles feel a bit heavy for Cizao ware, which was made with good clay. In Japan, three types of bottle in this family are found, but all are larger—probably reflecting a variation in time of production. They are recovered mainly from sites in Hakata—the main source for Chinese stoneware in Japan. There the contents of the large ships were probably broken down into smaller containers and shipped out to interior ports.

9. (Louise Cort, 9 January 2006) Two smaller bottles of this type were collected by Dr. Sarah Bekker in the 1960s in Ayutthaya, where they were said to have been recovered from the river. They bore spidery black markings said to be traces of riverweed.

10. (Louise Cort, 19 October 2006) A bottle of this type in the Musée du Quai Branly, Paris (71.1968.2.169 D; h. 29.5 cm, diam. 11.5 cm) was collected by Daniel Leger from a Bahnar Jolong community, Kon Klong village in Kon Tum province, Central Highlands of Vietnam. He described the bottle as a "jar of alliance with the spirit of the waters" (tongong jri). He recorded the use of the bottle as follows: (1) "domestic," unknown; (2) "commercial," exchange; (3) "socio-ritual," found by the ancestors Yaa-Bbok of Yaa Jao in the river Ddaak Yaa Rot, which flows out of the river Ddaak Honglaang, which originates in turn from the river Bola, and considered a sign of alliance with the spirits of the river Yaang Ddaak; the spirits of the springs would be invited to come and drink the rice-beer of alliance in order to prevent the drying-up of the water sources and to renew the flow of water. Leger noted that the bottle was classified in local terms by its cylindrical form, its aesthetic appearance like a ficus (tongong jri), and its ritual function.

11. (Louise Cort, 28 May 2007) A bottle of this type, unglazed, is on view in the Dong Nai Museum among materials recovered from the Dong Nai River in the vicinity of Bien Hoa City (including Angkorian stone sculpture and pre-Angkorian, Angkorian, Chinese, and Ban Bang Pun ceramics; see S2005.238). It is labeled "9th–10th century." Four more jars are in storage.

12. (Louise Cort, 4 June 2007) Four jars of this type, said to have been recovered from a shipwreck in July 2006, were on display in the Binh Dinh Provincial Museum, Quy Nhon. Other material, in storage, included Yuan dynasty Longquan ware dishes with stamped central motifs, fluted cavettos, and everted flat rims and Longquan ware small jarlets, and Putian ware cups.

13. (Louise Cort, 7 June 2007) A bottle of this type was on display in the Museum of Trade Ceramics, Hoi An, Quang Nam province. No information was provided about its origin.

14. (Louise Cort, 22 September 2011) According to Pariwat Thammapreechakorn, bottles of this type date to the 12-13th century. There is no evidence for them in Thailand in 14th century contexts. They are recovered in Thailand from the Mae Klong riverbed and from some shipwrecks.

15. (Louise Cort, 10 July 2012) Bottles of this type form the cover image and a significant topic in the narrative of Heng 2009. Heng identifies them as "Cizao small-mouth bottle (mercury jar)" (plate 11). He discusses the history of the designation and the limited evidence for use of such bottles in north Borneo for storage of mercury, but he concludes that there is no widespread evidence for use of the bottles to store and, especially, to transport mercury (bid., 257, n. 115). Instead, he points to the tendency of Chinese archaeologists to identify the bottles as wine bottles and notes, "Southern Fujian was known, during the Song and Yuan periods, as a major producer of glutinous rice, which was used to produce rice wine. This rice wine was undoubtedly bottled in locally produced ceramic containers. The substantial quantities of small-mouth-bottle shards recovered from sites in the region dated to between the twelfth and the fourteenth century suggest that the demand for southern Fujian rice wine was consistently high during the Southern Song and Yuan periods" (ibid., 188-189).

A bottle of this type is identified by Li Jian'an as coming from the Jinjiang Yishan kilns, a subgroup of the Cizao kilns that also produced celadon-glazed vessels and "soy-sauce"-brown glazed wares (Li 2005, 42, fig. 12).

Heng, Derek. 2009. Sino-Malay Trade and Diplomacy from the Tenth through the Fourteenth Century. Athens, OH: Ohio State University.

Li Jian'an. 2005. Some questions on the Research of the Export Ceramics in Song and Yuan Periods in Fujian Area (in Chinese). In Cheng, Pei-Kai, ed., Proceedings of the International Conference: Chinese Export Ceramics and Maritime Trade, 12th-15th Centuries. Hong Kong: City University of Hong Kong.

16. (Louise Cort, 3 December 2013) At the Jinjiang Museum, Fujian, last October, Li Jian'an told Li Baoping and me that the true "Coxinga" bottle is this shape. Such bottles were made at Cizao kilns. Glazed versions are early (Northern to Southern Song); unglazed are later (late Southern Song to Yuan).

Changed Date from 12th-14th century to 13th-14th century.

17. (Louise Cort, 28 February 2017) A technical study of four Chinese bottles was undertaken by HART Fellow Brice Vincent in March 2014, primarily to look for the presence of mercury to help identify them as “mercury jars”. The study included examination using stereomicroscopy, and compositional determination using x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (XRF). Glaze compositions were determined, but unfortunately no traces of mercury were found on any of the bottles. The bottles in this study included: 1) S2005.36, 2) S2005.37, 3) RLS2013.16.2, and 4) S2005.38. See DCSR laboratory records filed under LRN:8089.

18. (Louise Cort, 28 February 2017) Brice Vincent has excavated jars of this type in the upper layer of the site of the bronze-casting workshop near the royal palace within Angkor Thom, Cambodia. The occasional identification of such bottles as "mercury jars" was of interest because of the possibility that the mercury would have been used for the mercury gilding process on bronze images, but the bottles are recovered from the upper layer (dating 13-14 century), whereas the workshop itself dates to the 11th-12th century. Jars of this type have also been recovered from other sites within Angkor Thom, and only at such sites in Angkor as a whole. The other find sites include the Baphuon, Prasat Suor That, and the royal palace. The bottles clearly were used to convey something of value to the late Angkorian economy, but seemingly not mercury; their function is not yet understood.

field notes

Submit Comment 0 comments total

No field notes found.