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

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Jar, commercial container for fish sauce (nuoc mam)

  • Stoneware with iron glaze
  • 33 x 34.3 cm
  • early 20th century, Nguyen dynasty
  • Origin: Southern Vietnam
  • Provenance: Bangkok or Saigon,
  • Gift of Osborne and Gratia Hauge, and Victor and Takako Hauge
  • S2005.77

Curatorial Remarks

1. (Louise Cort, 27 January 2006) The traces of a paper label may be the remains of a commercial label, indicating that this jar was bought new by the Hauges as a container for some commercial product.

2. (Louise Cort, 1 March 2006) The Dak Lak Museum, Buon Me Thuot, exhibits a jar of this type with dull brown glaze said to be used by the Mnong ethnic group.

3. (Louise Cort, 3 March 2006) In a Mnong Gar household, nine jars of this type were displayed along the interior wall on the left side of the house, suspended in slings woven from plant fiber. They hung above a row of eight large, slender jars. The house owner distinguished among various fine points in the variation of the jar shapes. The hanging jars were termed tay. They were ranked as least valuable of the various jar types, and they were used regularly to make rice beer for guests (but not important guests, who were served with rice beer made in the tall standing jars). They could be acquired in trade for a small pig. Local people did not know where they were made, but they were acquired from traders from Phan Rang, Cambodia, and Laos, and locally in Buon Don village on the border, a center for elephant trading.

4. (Louise Cort, 13 March 2006) The Kon Tum Provincial Museum had collected a jar of this type from a Xe Dang community in Dak To district (h. 19 cm, diam. 20 cm; registration number 4069), where it was known as xen xin. It corresponded to the "yang" of the Mnong, Ma, Co Ho, and Stieng, but was not as popular in the northern Central Highlands. It bore yellowish ash deposits on the shoulder.

5. (Louise Cort, 13 March 2007) Jars of this general type were documented by Leedom Lefferts during a research trip to upland communities in Mondolkiri and Ratanakiri provinces, northeast Cambodia.

6. (Louise Cort, 23 May 2007) Fragments of jars with necks of this type—with thick unglazed rim and shiny brown or yellow glaze—are in the collection of the Museum of Vietnamese History, Ho Chi Minh City, excavated from the Hung Loi kiln site in District 8. This was a kiln established by immigrant potters from Guangdong province.

7. (Louise Cort, 27 May 2007) In the Binh Duong Museum, Thu Dau Mot, was a larger jar of this type, with unglazed straight rim and shiny amber glaze. It was on view among products made at the kilns that were active in Thu Dau Mot and vicinity during the 19th–20th century. (Forty kilns were recorded in Thu Dau Mot in 1861.)

Changed Origin from China, Guangdong or Fujian province to Southern Vietnam. From Period deleted Qing dynasty or modern period.

8. (Louise Cort, 28 May 2007) The ceramics storeroom of the Dong Nai Museum in Bien Hoa contains ceramics recovered within the province, primarily from the Dong Nai River, especially in the vicinity of Bien Hoa. Three jars of this type are in the collection, one with a shiny brown glaze and the others with glaze abraded. One of the staff members said that these were commercial containers for nuoc mam that would have been reused in a household for preparing sour shrimp; his mother has two such jars that she uses for that purpose.

9. (Louise Cort, 29 May 2007) Two or three jars of this type (but with a slightly narrower mouth) are in the collection of the Binh Thuan Museum in Phan Thiet. They were said to have been made in Phan Thiet until thirty years ago (at a factory in Duc Long ward) as containers for nuoc mam. The museum also preserves two jars of the same sort in their original packaging: the mouths were stopped with clay lids that were sealed with a coating of lime paste that covered the entire jar, and a paper label was pasted over the mouth.

10. (Louise Cort, 31 May 2007) A jar of this type is in the collection of the Khanh Hoa Museum, Nha Trang. It was recovered from the riverbed at Lu Cam, a site 5 kilometers upriver from Nha Trang, where ceramics dating from the 18th–20th century have been recovered and where pottery kilns have operated since the 19th century.

11. (Louise Cort, 2 June 2007) The Phu Yen Museum, Tuy Hoa, has three jars of this type in its collection. The glaze on one is shiny; on the other two it is dull brown. These differences may results from variations in firing at a single workshop or from differences among workshops. I did not examine the jars closely.

Changed Title from Jar to Jar, commercial container for fish sauce (nuoc mam).

12. (Louise Cort, 3 Nov 2011) Pariwat Thammapreechakorn, Southeast Asia Ceramics Museum, Bangkok, noted that black-glazed jars of related shape were made at the Shiwan kilns, Guangdong province, in the mid-late 19th century.


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