Kendi with molded decoration

  • Stoneware with iron and white glazes
  • 18.4 x 16.6 x 14.7 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
  • S2005.48


Kendi, molded with depressed globular body, tall flaring neck, turned-down lip, slightly splayed foot, recessed base, and bulbous spout on shoulder. Scars from three stacking supports on base of footring.
Clay: grey clay.
Glaze: brown iron glaze covering the body and base; bluish-green glaze covering the tubular neck completely on the outside and partially on the inside.
Decoration: molded in low relief, with a row of hexagonal motifs on shoulder, dragon designs on body bordered by two ridges, and two flower designs on spout.

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. Harrison 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 (Harrison 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, pls. 31, 67).

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, 18 February 2005) A kendi of this form (h. 19 cm), with the same type of decoration of dragons chasing flaming pearls, but with monochrome green glaze, was in the collection of H. W. Seigel, Hong Kong, which is now in the museum on Koln (Museums for Ostasiatische Kunst der Stadt Koln 1972, no. 174). The piece is dated to the first half of the 17th century. The entry references Michael Sullivan, "Kendi," ACASA 11, 1957, figs. 20, 21, 25.

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

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

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