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Bảo tàng lịch sử Quốc gia

Vietnam National Museum of History

07/04/2018 20:27 99
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Ceramic jug with blue ornaments of swan draw is a typical exemplar of the family of ceramic artifacts with white glaze and blue ornaments. Craft of white glazed ceramic artifacts with blue ornaments in Vietnam has been originated since the period of Tran dynasties in 14th century and it still exists today. The craft has reached its peak in 15th century which not only met domestic demands but also was exported to many countries abroad.

Ceramic jug with blue ornaments of swan draw is a typical exemplar of the family of ceramic artifacts with white glaze and blue ornaments. Craft of white glazed ceramic artifacts with blue ornaments in Vietnam has been originated since the period of Tran dynasties in 14th century and it still exists today. The craft has reached its peak in 15th century which not only met domestic demands but also was exported to many countries abroad.

After researching documents published in many foreign countries as Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, Japan and in the Middle East countries we have learned that many Vietnamese ceramic jugs with blue ornaments had special features especially the exemplar which is been saving now in Tokapi Saray museum, Istanbul Turkey, in this jug an inscription written by blue glaze:“Đại Hòa bát niên tượng nhân Nam Sách châu Bùi thị hý bút”which means the jug was made by man named Bui (or woman named Bui Thi Hy) in 8th Dai Hoa lunar year of Le Nhan Tong Kingdom (1450)

Swan ornament in the jug.

The ceramic jug with blue ornaments of swan draw is from unique collection discovered from shipwreck near Cu Lao Cham island in 1999 – 2000 and now has been saving in National Museum of History

There are more than 240,000 pieces were found in Cu Lao Cham shipwreck apart from thousands of pieces and debris which have been found and taken away by individuals before official exhuming. In the shipwreck was also found some ceramic from Champa kingdom, China and Thailand which have been considered by researchers as private belongings of ship crew. The rest of ceramics goods wares which have been originated from Hai Duong and Thang Long, Northern Vietnam.

The age of the shipwreck was also subject for discussion among archeologists. In Vietnam, researchers determined the age of the shipwreck from the middle to the end of 15th century under early Le kingdom, however the opinion is differ from the opinion of Butterfiels which has determined the age from the end of 15thcentury to the middle of 16th century.

In our point of view, the ceramics from Cu Lao Cham shipwreck clearly tell us about strong development of ceramic production for export of various unique shapes, glazes and ornaments typical only for tradition of Vietnam

Could we classify the ceramics we will find that they are mainly household goods for saving things and for eating except some ceramic for religious needs as kendi vase, incense burner. Many of them have got traditional shapes as bowls and basins of spherical shape, cups, boxes, vases but there were also newer unique forms as kettles in dragon, phoenix or other animals and fruits shapes. Vases and kettles in pipa shape, boxes in crab and fish shapes etc. there were also other ceramics which have the shapes typical for Chinese ceramics of Yuan – Ming dynasties.

Among ornaments in Cu Lao Cham ceramics, the most impressive are blue flowers ornaments, blue ornaments and ornaments of other colors were drawn in glaze layer for secondary burning. Vietnamese ceramics in 15th century were decorated in 2 ways:

- With thin lines of detailed ornaments, collectors of Vietnamese ceramic called “pake”.

- With thick and simple lines

Experience and workmanship of manufacturers could be seen through every type of ceramics.

Besides blue ornaments, there also have been golden ornaments on some pieces as on pipa with the height of 26 cm, besides ornaments of clouds and water waves there also have been ornaments in 3 layers of leaves, parrots and unicorns. There was a first time such ornaments were found in Vietnamese ceramics and the question is where the technique of making golden ornaments came from? May by from Vietnam?

Among Cu Lao Cham ceramics also have been found some pieces with cobalt blue glaze and golden ornaments, ceramic cups with thin white glaze and ornaments of dragons, clouds, waves in inner side. These cups have very thin body; some of them have the transparency so that they can refer to porcelains, they were found besides the Cu Lao Cham shipwreck in Chu Dau (Hai Duong), Hanoi citadel and Lam Kinh (Thanh Hoa)

Findings in Cu Lao Cham shipwreck have caused many surprises for Vietnamese ceramics researchers home and abroad and will cause more discuses and publications in the future.

This ceramic jug with blue ornaments of swan draw has largest dimensions with the height of 56.5 mm and mouth diameter of 23.8 cm, it has lotus form, flat round mouth, body which goes narrow towards bottom. Blue ornaments were on the body from mouth to bottom in 7 bands comprising of withy flower, lotus flower petals, gong-shaped cloud, water waves, trees, leaves of religious ficus and 4 swans in various positions in the background of bamboo bushes that look unlike other themes on ceramics of China and Japan

Ceramic jug with blue ornaments of swan draw

Regarding the origin of the jug, many researchers supposed it has been originated from Chu Dau ceramic works where many archeology exhumings have been carried out by Hai Duong museum together with Australian archeologists.

Formerly Chu Dau ceramic works (Thai Tan commune, Nam Sach district, Hai Duong province in present) was biggest ceramic producing center of Vietnam, it appeared in 14th century and has reached the peak of development in 15 – 16th centuries. Chu Dau ceramic works produced high quality ceramic goods of household and religious purposes for domestic market and export. Chu Dau ceramics combined many producing techniques as embossing, engraving, applying, drawing blue and golden lines on glaze. There have been used many types of glaze as white-blue, brown, green, white-golden, emerald color etc, However there is an opinion until now by doctor Bui Minh Tri which supposed the jug was made in ceramic works of Thang Long (Hanoi in present)

This ceramic jug with blue ornaments of swan draw by its form, dimensions and decorations is a typical exemplar of high quality ceramics with blue ornaments. Decoration themes on the jug not only escaped from Chinese classic themes but also represented the nature of freedom, innovation and folklore of Vietnamese people in Northern flatland. Decoration themes of the jug show us about loveliness of Vietnamese homeland in early Le kingdom in 15thcentury, the powerful state in south-east Asia of those times.

This jug is deservedly an unique artifact, typical for traditional Vietnamese ceramic handcrafting in 15th century

Since moving to National Museum of History, the jug is being presented in many specific exhibitions home and abroad. According to exclusively precious and rare value of the jug, the prime minister has enacted the decision 1426/QĐ-TTg on December 1st 2012 recognizing the jug as a national treasure of 1st review together with 30 museum exhibits selected from Vietnamese cultural heritage.

Doctor Nguyen Dinh Chien

Translator: Nguyen Thai Hung


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