The Hanoi Museum preserves a large quantity of Tran Dynasty ceramics of various styles. The number of brown patterned ceramics is smaller than that of celadon and white-glazed ceramics, but they have many unique features. Amongst these ceramics, the brown-patterned flower vase with the registration number BTHN 1500 is impressive.


Brown patterned ceramic vase from the Tran Dynasty (13-14 centuries)

(overall height: 43.3cm, body: 20cm Ø, base: 20cm Ø)

The vase, with brown patterns on a white glazed background, is tubular, tall, and slim, with a flared edge at the opening, a concave neck, a body tapering to the flat base (overall height: 43.3cm, body: 20cm Ø, base: 20cm Ø), and two curved straps on each side the shoulder. The decoration on the vase's body is unique; the body is divided into three patterned decorative bands separated by brown lines.

The most prominent patterned band is decorated with a sin-shaped leaf and peony flower patterns in the middle. The sin-shaped flower stalks are not evident but are "hidden" beneath the brown line; within the sin-shaped leaves are large-sized peony shapes; the flowers all have winding, spreading, string-shaped petals and are airy.

The most notable pattern appears within the decorative top band, with two symmetrical peony flowers interspersed between two embossed lion figures. The peony flowers have four large petals, two stalks, and leaves on both sides. The embossed pair of lions are slim, with a high head, a fur mane, fur covering the lion's body, and a long, curved tail. The entire figure illustrates a lion with a lofty head and body, which appears to demonstrate the king of the jungle's invincible power. The lion image is not brown-coloured but only embossed and then glazed.


An embossed lion decoration on the shoulder of the vase.

An embossed wave pattern appears within the decorative bottom band. The wave pattern is also very different: the bottom is a steady winding layer of little waves, and the waves above are very sparse and suddenly rise very high. Each wave is portrayed as free-flowing while clearly showing the defined peak of each wave within the wave pattern.

Firstly, brown-patterned ceramics with a tall, slender, tubular form were not rare in the Tran Dynasty; this remarkably slim-shaped vase is similar to various types of jars and vases from the Ly Dynasty. It shows the influence of traditional Ly Dynasty ceramic production with the Tran Dynasty's decorative patterns.

Secondly, Vietnamese brown-patterned ceramics have extensive and varied patterns in general. However, the lion design embossed on glazed pottery has only been found on this brown-patterned ceramic vase until now.

The brown pattern represents the theme of a peony flower and the rapidly changing waves compared to the standard peony flowers and waves on stone sculptures at pagodas and Thang Long palaces from the Tran Dynasty. Tran Dynasty artists transformed artistic styles, allowing the pattern to evolve rapidly. The artists skipped over minor details, focusing mainly on the key elements, making the overall pattern structure both tight but liberal, allowing a sense of elegance within the changing nature of Tran Dynasty art.


 Ngô Thị Thanh Thúy