Mac dynasty (1527-1593) lasted for a short time but leaving impressive records in many aspects: economy, military, education and foreign affairs. Mac dynasty took Confucianism as its official ideology but did not restrict other ones. Thus, Buddhism and Taoism and folk rituals were recovered. Together with the growing up of the architectural buildings, the traditional villages specialized at producing ritual and worshipping items (lamp stand, incense burner...) were developed. The most famous worshipping collection was the grey-blue glazed one of Dang Huyen Thong - a craftsman who is said to be the father of Chu Dau ceramic (Hai Duong village).
The term "grey-blue glazed ceramic" was firstly mentioned by experts of Vietnam Fine Arts Museum to dedicate to a type of ceramic that has a surface that is covered by a heavy blue glaze, partly mixed with grey or yellow brown glaze. It has a heavy and thick bone. Experts said the craftsmen must have been excellent at fire controlling and bone material so they could make such big size ceramics with an even and heavy glaze.
Drawing: typical dragon decorations on the Mac grey-blue glazed ceramic
The grey blue glazed ceramic was well-known for the large scale objects such as lamp stand, incense burner, stupa model. The decorative subject was related to the dragon and lotus.
Since 1991, Dr. Nguyen Dinh Chien - former vice director of Vietnam National Museum of History (VNMH) has studied the inscription on the grey-blue ceramic. He has collected a lot of information about it from various museums locally and internationally. Then he built a serial of standard through date to style and to pattern. The interesting fact finding is that most grey-blue ceramics belonged to Dang Huyen Thong whose real name Dang Mau Nghiep and his wife Tu Am Nguyen Thi Dinh who came from Hung Thang commune, Nam Sach district (now Minh Tan commune, Nam Sach district, Hai Duong province). Those owned by Dang Huyen Thong were produced for unique one or per order so they are considered as those of valuable in the antique market locally and internationally.
Below there are some notable items kept in the VNMH:
1. Lampstand, grey-blue and brown glazed, Mac dynasty
Date: 4th month, 4th year of Doan Thai reign (1588)
Lampstand with two sections, upper section in blossoming lotus shape, lower section in tall jar shape. Applied decorations including winged dragons on neck, bands of dragon in lotus petal, dragons in bodhi-leaves, geometric pattern. Inscription engraved on body, indicates that it was made by Dang Huyen Thong of Hung Thang commune, Thanh Lam district in 4th month, 4 th year of Doan Thai reign (1588).
2. Grey-blue incense burner
Size: 25cm (H), 26,5cm (Dia)
Date: Mac dynasty, 8th month, 5th year of Dien Thanh reign (1582)
Flattened rim, cylindrical neck, bulbous body, inscription carved on six handles indicates that it was made by Dang Huyen Thong of Hung Thang commune, Thanh Lam district, in 5th year of Dien Thanh reign (1582). Applied decorations including winged dragons, lotus petals, geometric pattern. Grey blue glaze.
3. Incense burner, grey-blue glazed
H: 23 cm
Dia: 37 cm
Date: Hung Tri reign (1588 – 1591), Mac Mau Hop King.
It has 3 parts: mouth, cylindrical neck, bulbous body. Dragons carved on the rim and on the neck. Grey-blue and yellow brown glazed.
4. Incense burner, grey-blue and yellow - brown glazed
Date: Mac dynasty
Flaring mouth, cylindrical neck, bulbous body, six handles with inscription, characters are carved on four handles read peaceful country, featuring dragon and flower motifs. Grey blue and yellow brown glazed.
5. Incense burner, grey -blue glazed
Dia: 24,2 cm
Date: Hưng Trị reign (1589).
Rolled rim, cylindrical neck, bulbous body, four animal-head legs, inscription carved in six handles indicating that it was made by Dang Huyen Thong from Hung Thang commune, Thanh Lam district, of the 2nd year of Hung Tri reign. Applied decorations including bands of dragon, lotus petal, lotus scrolls, monster masks, geometric, character of "Phuc".
6. Lamp- stand (lower section), grey-blue glazed
Date: 2nd month, 2nd year of Hưng Trị reign (1589).
The upper part of the stand is carved with bands of geometric design, lotus petals, dragon in lotus petal, dragon inside round cartouches. 14 columns of inscription indicate that it was made by artist Dang Huyen Thong from Hung Thang commune, Thanh Lam district, in 2nd month, 2nd year of Hung Tri reign (1589), and names donators offering the lamp stand to To Lai pagoda.
At present, the Vietnamese grey-blue glazed ceramic works are kept at several local and foreign museums, such as: Hai Duong Museum, Ha Tay Museum, Hai Phong Museum, Ho Chi Minh History Museum, Vietnam Fine Arts Museum and some in South Korea, USA, Belgium, Germany, Japan, Turkey... On 10th of February lunar year, Hung Thang village opens a festival to celebrate the father of the ceramic Dang Huyen Thong at his worshipping temple at Hung Thang village, Minh Tan commune, Nam Sach district, Hai Duong province. On 10/2/2004, Vietnam Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has ranked Dang Huyen Thong Temple as the national historical relic.
VN: Dinh Phuong Cham
EN: Tran Trang