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

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Kendi with molded and stamped decoration

  • Stoneware with copper-green lead glaze
  • 18.2 x 16.5 x 14.8 cm
  • Zhangzhou ware
  • 16th-17th century, Ming dynasty
  • Origin: Zhangzhou kilns, Fujian province, China
  • Gift of Osborne and Gratia Hauge, and Victor and Takako Hauge
  • S2005.47


Kendi, mold-formed with depressed globular body, tall flaring neck, turned-down lip, slightly splayed foot, recessed base, and mammiform spout on shoulder.
Clay: grey clay.
Glaze: green, glossy, translucent lead-silicate glaze tinted with copper; covers the entire vessel and part of the inside of the tubular neck.
Decoration: molded in low relief, with a row of half chrysanthemum flowers on shoulder, a band of floral scrolls on body bordered by two ridges, and two flower designs on spout.
Marks: a stamped hexagonal swirl on base.

Curatorial Remarks

1. (Candy Chan, Research Assistant, April 14, 2003) Six kendis of this type are in the University of Malaya Collection in Kuala Lumpur. They are said to have been made for the Southeast Asian market in South China during the 16th and 17th centuries.

Kendis are vessels served both domestic and ceremonial purposes in Southeast Asia. They are usually used as water containers for drinking or for washing hands. A covered kendi is used to serve medicine to patients in Lombok, Indonesia. Miniature kendi with a mammiform spout may use for feeding babies. Small zoomorphic kendis may have been used as toys or water-droppers. Chinese glazed kendis also had been converted to bases of water-pipes for smoking since the late sixteenth century. Kendis play important roles in religious ceremonies such as weddings and funerals in Southeast Asia, when they are containers for sacred water. This kendi of typical Southeast Asian form with a squat body and a mammiform spout is used as a symbol of fertility (Khoo 1991, 19–26, 80–82, figs. 98, 100, 102).

Khoo Joo Ee. 1991. Kendi: Pouring Vessels in the University of Malaya Collection. Edited by Dawn F. Rooney. Singapore: Oxford University Press.

2. (Candy Chan, April 15 2003) Adhyatman dates a Chinese green lead glazed kendi of this type to the late 17th century (Adhyatman 1987, 97, pl. 139).

A lead-glazed kendi of this type is in the collection of the Princessehof Museum and is dated to 1600–1640. It is classified as lead-glazed polychrome stoneware made in Guangdong province, China. Harrisson describes that the body is molded from two equal halves as can be seen from the seam running across the base, up the sides, and along the spout (Harrisson 1995, 53–55, pl. 68). However, the seam on the spout of this kendi does not run up from the body. The whole body and the spout could possibly be molded from four parts, then the thrown neck is added on the top.

A Chinese kendi of this type is in the Collection of the National Museum Singapore and is dated to the Qing dynasty (1644–1911), 17th/18th century. Chee categorized all the kendis in the National Museum Singapore into five groups according to the shape of the spouts: 1. Straight spouts; 2. Curved spouts; 3. Bulbous spouts; 4. Flanged spouts; 5. Zoomorphic spouts. This kendi type belongs to the bulbous spout group, which is sometimes described as "onion-shaped" or "mammary" (Chee 1984, 24–25, 67, color pl. III, pl. 31).

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

Harrisson, Barbara. 1995. Later Ceramics in South-East Asia: Sixteenth to Twentieth Centuries. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press.

Chee, Eng-Lee Seok. 1984. Kendis. Singapore: Singapore National Museum.


3. (Louise Cort, 17 September 2003). A green lead-glazed kendi of somewhat simpler design but of the same type of ware is said to have been excavated in Sulawesi as part of a horde of personal possessions buried for safekeeping (Ozaki ed. 2001, no. 120).

Ozaki Naoto, ed. 2001. Indoneshia, Suraueshi to ni watatta sansai—Kōchiyaki ten—Honda Hiromu-shi korekushon ni yoru (From the Sulawesi Island, Indonesia—Kochi Type Colour Glazed Ware; Collection of Honda Hiromu). Fukuoka: Fukuoka-shi Bijutsukan (Fukuoka Art Museum).

4. (Louise Cort, 14 January 2007) The treatment of the motifs in the mold-impressed designs on this kendi seems so close to the Freer green-glazed jar, F1902.204, that both must be from the same general area. The Freer jar is identified as Zhangzhou ware from Fujian province, so this bottle is given the same identification.

Changed Origin from Fujian or Guangdong province to Fujian province, Zhangzhou kilns. Added Zhangzhou ware. Changed period from Ming or Qing to Ming.

5. (Louise Cort, 22 September 2011) Pariwat Thammapreechakorn questions whether this kendi should be classified as Zhangzhou ware.

6. (Louise Cort, 15 June 2015) A kendi of the same form, with variations in the molded motifs, both the main motif of two dragons and the supplementary motifs, and the same dark green lead glaze, is in the collection of the Princessehof National Museum of Ceramics (Stroeber 2013, no. 77, p. 187). It is slightly taller (h. 19.5 cm) than this kendi. It is dated to 1600-1640 and said to have been made in Guangdong. It was donated to the museum by the heirs of R. Verbeek and found in Indonesia. This kendi was published earlier in Harrisson 1995 (see note 2).

Stroeber, Eva. 2013. Ming: Porcelain for a Globalised Trade. Stuttgardt: Arnoldsche Art Publishers.

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