WHITE GLAZED CERAMIC VASES AND POTS OF THE LY DYNASTY (11TH - 12TH CENTURY) AT HANOI MUSEUM

White glazed ceramics of the Ly dynasty is a mainstream line in the history of Vietnamese ceramics. It was the main item serving the life of the Thang Long Imperial Palace and the aristocracy. Although white glazed ceramics of the Ly period are very rare, they are sometimes found, for example in a tomb at Gio Pagoda - Hoai Duc District  (found beautiful white glazed artifacts of the Ly period). In Hanoi Museum, there are quite a lot of white glazed ceramics of the Ly dynasty such as bowls, plates, pots, tureens, vases, jars and lotus dishes. This article introduces a type of white glazed ceramic that may be called a vase or a pot.

Vietnamese experts have never had a definitive and satisfactory answer about the exact name. Therefore, the temporary convention is that containers with small-sized spouts are called pots, while those with large or relatively large spouts are called jars.

1. Ceramic pot (BTHN 4353/Gm 4351)

The pot is spherical, medium in size, 8cm high, 4cm in mouth diameter and 7cm in bottom diameter. Its shape is proportionate with a slender neck, flared mouth, bulging body, short and slightly curved proboscis and low and flat base. The yellowish white glaze evenly covers the whole body and mouth. The shoulders of the pot near the neck are embossed with lotus pattern. The pot shoulders are bulging. At the position symmetrical with the spout, there is an artistic small knob. Overall, the pot is only chipped in a few small places leaving the entire quite intact, proportionate and solid.  

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2. Melon-shaped pot with knob (BTHN 10131)

The pot has a height of 6cm and a bottom diameter of 4cm. The whole body is slim and tall, with light gray enamel color. The pot has a short spout and curved handle. The mouth of the pot is round, cut in about the middle of the ends of the handle. This is a type of mouth-making rarely seen in the Ly-era spouted vases. More specifically, the pot lid is attached to the body and the top of the lid is shaped like a lotus flower. The middle of the protrusion is a knob/fruit stalk that is shaped very naturally. This is a typical shaping style of the Ly period, showing the ability to grasp and love nature and apply it skillfully. This style of realism is also seen in a sample of the Ly dynasty white enamel pottery vase in the collection of Clément Huet in the Royal Bruxell Museum (Sweden) (code H1854, 10.5cm high). Compared to Clément Huet's version, Hanoi Museum's version is almost the same in shape and knob on the lid. Differences are that the Hanoi version has a straight lid and the mouth is on the shoulder and middle of the handle; meanwhile, the Clément Huet's has a separate lid, and the mouth is on the top and has a lotus decoration and dots on the body. It can be said that the melon-shaped white pottery pot is unique to the Ly dynasty white glazed ceramic collections in Vietnam.

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3. Melon-shaped vase decorated in lotus flower style (BTHN 781/Gm779)

The vase has a slim shape almost like the BTHN 10131 pot with a height of 17.7cm, mouth diameter of 4.2cm and bottom diameter of 5.8cm. The vase has an upright mouth, small neck and bulging shoulder. The whole body of the large vase poses elongated lotus wings with the bottom flat for carpentry. The high handle is curved, the handles are broken, but one can be imagine that this type of jar usually has a curved and wide design. The whole body of the jar is covered with white to light yellow glaze. The whole body of the vase is shaped like elongated lotus wings, while the flat bottom is not decorated. The spout is high, curved, and the handle, although broken, can be visualized as curved and wide. The whole body of the vase is covered with yellowish white glaze.

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4. Spherical vase with dragonhead-shaped spout and parrot-shaped handle (BTHN 4337 and BTHN 10427)

The vases have a height of 17cm, mouth diameter of 9cm and bottom diameter of 9.5cm. The two vases, one having a lid, are basically similar. The whole body is covered with yellowish white glaze, and the shoulder and lid are embossed in the shape of lotus flowers similar to that in the pot coded BTHN 4353. The vase has a shoulder bulging and then tapering downwards, a tapered base and an unadorned concave bottom. The characteristics of this vase lie in the theme of carving, the dragonhead-shaped spout and parrot-shaped handle. Since the dragonhead is in the framework of decorative shaping for the spout, it is very small in size. However, structural details such as nose, forehead, mouth, gills, cheeks, ears and mane are all very clearly shown  (identical to the large dragonheads of the Ly dynasty). Likewise, the parrot shape adorns the handle being symmetrical with the dragonhead. Despite the very small size, the artisan clearly showed a slim parrot shape with a large and crooked beak, a multi-layered trimmed feather and head turned backwards in a peaceful sleeping position.

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 It can be said that the group of vase and pot relics above is unique in the white enamel pottery collection of Hanoi Museum. It has added extremely rare and unique materials, such as the melon-shaped vase with knob, to the study of the history of potteries in the Ly period as well as the cultural life of Thang Long at that time. According to archaeologists, Ly-era potteries have so far only been identified with traces of authentic production in Thang Long that have not been seen in other areas of Dai Viet. If this is the case, these potteries are all authentic products of Thang Long potters. With only 5 artifacts, but all beautiful in style and pattern and perfect in enamel color, it proves the talent of Thang Long potters when they could produce pottery that represent the high level of Vietnamese pottery techniques and include characteristics of Vietnamese culture.

 

Ngô Thị Thanh Thúy