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

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Covered box

  • Stoneware with iron glaze
  • 6.1 x 9.1 cm
  • 15th-16th century, Ming dynasty
  • Origin: Fujian province or Guangdong province, China
  • Gift of Osborne and Gratia Hauge, and Victor and Takako Hauge
  • S2005.44a-b


Molded box of compressed form with short foot, slightly recessed base, covered by a lid with flat top. Finger nail impressions inside the lid created by pressing the lid into a mold.
Clay: buff-grey stoneware.
Glaze: dark brown, medium gloss, translucent. Interior of the box and the medallion of the lid are covered with a thin layer of caramel glaze; inside of lid, flange, foot and base are all unglazed.
Decoration: the lid is decorated with a medallion with three floral sprays inside a circular frame textured with herringbone design.

Curatorial Remarks

1. (Candy Chan, Research Assistant, April 8, 2003) This box type of different sizes can be set one inside the other, an economical way for packing.

2. (Candy Chan, Research Assistant, April 9, 2003) Three boxes of this type from a Hong Kong collection were displayed at the Hong Kong Museum of Art in 1979. These boxes were said to have been produced probably in South China in the 14th/15th century, and to have been among the main types of ceramics traded in the Far East before 1660. It mentions that similar boxes were recovered from a Thai shipwreck in the Gulf of Siam (Ip 1979, 14–15, 68, pl. 29).

Similar boxes were excavated at two grave sites in Puerto Galera, Mindoro, and on Verde Island in the Philippines. There are burial objects dating from the 10th to 15th century (Locsin and Locsin 1967, 127–131, pl. 152).

Ip Yee. 1979. "Southern Chinese Kilns". Pp. 14–17 in South-East Asian and Chinese Trade Pottery. Hong Kong: The Oriental Ceramic Society of Hong Kong.

Locsin, Leandro, and Cecilia Locsin. 1967. Oriental Ceramics discovered in the Philippines. Rutland, VT and Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle Co.

3. (Candy Chan, April 25, 2003) A brown-glazed cover box lid of this type was collected from a wreck site near Rayong, Thailand. Green and Harper were told that this cover box lid was found together with five bowls with black underglaze decoration (Sukhothai wares) and three celadon bowls (Si Satchanalai wares) (Green and Harper 1983, 78).

Green, Jeremy, and Rosemary Harper. 1983. The Excavation of the Pattaya Wreck Site and Survey of Three Other Sites, Thailand, 1982. Australian Institute for Maritime Archaeology Special Publication No. 1. Fremantle: Australian Institute for Maritime Archaeology.

4. (Candy Chan, April 29, 2003) A brown-glazed covered box of this type is said to have been produced probably in the kilns of Thanh-hoa along the Ma River, North Vietnam, during the Tran dynasty (1225–1400), in the 13th century or beginning of the 14th century (Ciarla 1999, 82, 155, pl. N 154).

Ciarla, Roberto. 1999. "Il Cuore Della Collezione: Le Ceramiche Invetriate Vietnamite (The Heart of the Collection: The Glazed Ceramics from Vietnam)". Pp. 45–48 in Ceramiche e bronzi dall'Oriente Estremo: la donazione Ivanoe Tullio Dinaro, edited by Museo nazional D'arte Orientale. Roma: Museo nazional D'arte Orientale.

5. (Louise Cort, 30 June 2003)  Mr. Tran Ky Phuong, independent scholar, Da Nang, felt these three boxes seemed more Vietnamese than Chinese. In a Vietnamese context they would have been used to hold areca nuts or tobacco for preparing betel chews.

6. Louise Cort, 18 February 2005) A box of this type (d. 9 cm) was in the collection of H. W. Siegel, Hong Kong, which is now in the museum on Koln (Museums for Ostasiatische Kunst der Stadt Koln 1972, no. 168. The piece is dated "Song."

Museums for Ostasiatische Kunst der Stadt Koln, ed. 1972. Form und Fabre: Chinesische Bronzen und Fruhkeramik. Cologne: Museums for Ostasiatische Kunst der Stadt Koln.

7. (Louise Cort, 27 January 2006) Evidence from related works seems to point to a Chinese rather than Vietnamese provenance, and a date of Ming, 15th–16th century, is used provisionally.

8. (Louise Cort, 27 January 2006) A round box of this type, with iron glaze surrounding the mold-decorated pattern on the top of the lid (h. 3.5 cm, diam. 6.1 cm), is said to have been recovered in the Philippines and is dated Ming dynasty, 15–16th century (Toyama Satō Bijitsukan 2000, no. 350).

Toyama Satō Bijitsukan (Sato Art Museum Toyama), ed. 2000. Fuiripin ni wattata yakimono—seiji to hakuji wo chushin ni—Toyama Sato Bijitsukan Seki korekushon (Trade Ceramics Found in the Philippines from Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Seki Drzik of Sato Art Museum Toyama). Toyama: Toyama Satō Bijitsukan, Machida Shiritsu Hakubutsukan (Machida City Museum), and Yamaguchi Kenritsu Hagi Bijitsukan—Uragami Kinenkan (Hagi Uragami Museum).

9. (Louise Cort, 15 January 2007) Seven boxes of this type, in assorted sizes, are in the Osothsopha (Osotspa) collection (Pariwat 1996, 92). They are identified as possibly from Guangdong province and dated to the Yuan period, 13th–14th century.

Pariwat Thammapreechakorn, Lertrit Sawang, and Kritsada Pinsri. 1996. Sinlapa khrư̄ang thûai nai Prathēt Thai (Ceramic Art in Thailand). 2nd ed. Bangkok: Ostospa Co. Ltd.

10. (Louise Cort, 3 February 2008) Boxes of this type were recovered from the Pandanan shipwreck in the Philippines. On the evidence of items aboard the wreck, it is dated mid-15th century. Two boxes in the collection of the National Museum, Manila (Pn 2194, diam. 8.4 cm; Pn 132, diam. 7 cm), are illustrated in Brown 2004, pl. 49, H.

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.

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