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Bảo tàng lịch sử Quốc gia

Vietnam National Museum of History

10/01/2019 15:27 3696
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The famous jar was recognized as National treasure in 1st review along with 30 other masterpieces. This is the biggest jar found in Vietnam and probably in the world because of its originality and belonging to Dong Son culture.
The famous jar was recognized as National treasure in 1st review along with 30 other masterpieces. This is the biggest jar found in Vietnam and probably in the world because of its originality and belonging to Dong Son culture.
The jar was accidentaly discovered in Dao Thinh village, Tran Yen district, Yen Bai province by a resident of Dao Thinh village in september 1961. While fishing in the Red river he saw the jar on the site of a landslide on the riverbank. Then the jar was taken to the museum and now it is represented in the main hall of the Vietnam's National Museum of  History together with the famous Dong Son bronze drum.

Dao Thinh bronze jar in National Museum of  History.

Coupling pair in the cover of the Dao Thinh jar

Decoration ornaments on Dao Thinh jar


We have visited the place where the jar was found, the place which formerly used to be a riverbank is now in the middle of the Red river, the river changed its flow during last 50 years. The riverbanks of the Red river in the territory of Yen Bai province were the places of discovery of tens of various bronze jars, among them was Hop Thinh bronze jar which has rich decoration but rather small size, only Dao Thinh jar is biggest and it deservedly is recognized as a National treasure

Dao thinh jar has cilindrical shape with cover, mouth diameter of 61 cm and bottom diameter of 60 cm and 98 cm tall. Decoration ornaments on the jar are analogous to the decoration on Ngoc Lu bronze dum: In the center of cover a 12-point star simbolizing the sun, around the star the ornaments which are typical for Dong Son culture especialy the ornament of flock of birds with long beaks flying counterclockwise. The key feature of the jar is 4 statues of coupling pair in the jar’s cover (or maybe 5 statues), according to local people, they shaw 5th statue in the center of the jar’s cover when it was just taken out from ground which then had been broken and lost. There is no one subject of Dong Son culture having such real and living decoration: a couple having sex, a man with long hair wearing loincloth and a knife,  hugging position of the pair and especially large penis of the man really describe the sex scene that symbolizes fertility of life and the Yin and Yang philosophy.

In its time, bronze jars were used for storaging rice seeds, maybe the ancient people through the scene wanted rice to be multiplied like a human.

The ornaments’ theme on the body of the jar are anologous the ornaments’ theme on other Dong Son bonze drums. The biggest ornaments are the pattern of 6 boats with men in stylized costume moving paddles on board, carrying armaments and dancing, above the boats are flying birds, between the boat are dragons in head-to-head position. This is the scene of ancient boat skating holiday according to the scholars’ interpretation.  The ornaments on handles and cover’s edge of the jar are rice culms, the most common decoration theme among peoples cultivating rice.

The Dao Thinh bronze jar is so beautiful to be belonged to ordinary people, in all probability it might have belonged to notable people, its decoration isn’t inferior in beauty to the decoration on most famous bronze drums, the jar has bigger dimensions than bronze drums so the casting technique of the jar must have been analogous to the casting technique of bronze drums so that  to find out who owned the Dao Thinh jar is quite intresting task.

When Dao Thinh jar was just discovered in 1961, inside the jar were  found traces of ash. a human tooth, another small bronze jar with the wooden cover and some copper ashes, hence the version that the jar was used as a tomb could correspond to reality. Dong Son people usually used extruded stem for burial of the death, using bronze jar as a tomb was very rare case that led us to high status of the jar’s owner. Trace of ash found in the jar perhaps evidenced about cremation ritual for the death? Despite the fact, this version of cremation needs more evidences because in many other tombs of the same age cremation traces were not found.

There are thinking about particular use of the jar, the common use of the jar was for storaging precious goods because the jar is precious itself and precious jar shall not be used for storaging odinary things, perhaps it was used for storage of such precious good as rice seeds because, we all know about the significance of rice as key food for ancient people. Rice seed will keep its ability of germination if stored in a good vessel as the Dao Thinh jar. The coupling pair in the jar’s cover symbolizes the wishes of the ancient people for rice to multiply as human.

According to experts' harsh assessment, the honor of the Dao Thinh jar as a National treasure was absolutely accurate. The jar is beautiful not only in form, decoration ornaments but also in the spirit of fertility of ancient peoples in Vietnam which has been continuing to this days in many local festive  events.


Associated professor: Trịnh Sinh

Translator: Nguyen Thai Hung