Vietnamese ceramics refers to ceramic art and pottery as a form of Vietnamese art. Vietnamese pottery and ceramics has a long history spanning back to thousands of years ago, including long before Chinese domination, as archeological evidence supports.
Much of Vietnamese pottery and ceramics after the Chinese-domination era was largely influenced by Chinese ceramics, but has developed over time to be distinctly Vietnamese. Vietnamese potters combined indigenous and Chinese elements. They also experimented with both original and individual styles as well as incorporated features from other cultures, such as Cambodia, India and Champa.
Vietnamese ceramics were an essential part of the trade between Vietnam and its neighbors during pre-modern times through all the dynasties.
The Cát Tiên archaeological site in south Vietnam is site located in Cát Tiên National Park. Accidentally discovered in 1985, this site ranges from Quảng Ngãi Commune to Đức Phổ Commune, with the main archaeological artefacts concentrating in Quảng Ngãi, Cát Tiên District, Lâm Đồng Province, southern Tây Nguyên. The unknown civilization which developed this site inhabited it between the 4th century and 9th centuries CE. A number of ceramic ware was found in this site.
Bát Tràng porcelain and pottery is a type of ceramics made in the village of Bát Tràng, now merged into suburban Hanoi. The village is located in an area rich in clay suitable for making fine ceramic. Bát Tràng ceramics were esteemed with products rivaling that of Chu Đậu, and later joined by pottery from Đồng Nai, Phu Lang, and Ninh Thuận. The history of pottery production in the village can be traced back as far as the 14th century CE, and in subsequent centuries having been a popular manufactured product extensively traded by local merchants as well as European trading ships throughout Southeast Asia and the Far East. Bát Tràng nowadays still continues producing bowls, dishes and vases not only for the local market but also for exporting to Japan, one of the important market of Vietnamese ceramics. The gas kiln is more and more popular than electric or tradition wooden kiln. Beside the traditional decoration technique by brush, it appears recently the decoration technique using screen printing on rice paper. The new technique is applied mainly for the producing religious products like incense burners. But all other processes of making vessels are still very much handmade which is very important. There is another beautiful thing of Bát Tràng that is the old family houses. It is left only two or three this kind of old house which still keep the spirit of old Bat Trang, where it is found the big size vases, or bows with the decorations from the 14th century, the most popular period of Bat Trang Ceramics.
Another impressive type of ceramics is found in Bat Trang during the Nguyen dynasty (1802-1945) is "gốm hoa nâu", brown patterned ceramics. It has a long history in Vietnam, appeared from the Ly dynasty (1010-1225). There are different techniques and products produced at different periods. During the Early Le dynasty (1428-1527), brown patterned was used with other colors. During the Mac dynasty (1527-1592), it was found majority on candle-holders and incense burners. During the Nugyen dynasty (1802-1954), it appeared on very fine Bat Trang flower pots.
The trade in Vietnamese ceramics was damaged due to the plummet in trade by Cham merchants after the 1471 Vietnamese invasion of Champa. Vietnam's export of ceramics was also damaged by its internal civil war, the Portuguese and Spanish entry into the region and the Portuguese conquest of Malacca which caused an upset in the trading system, while the carracks ships in the Malacca to Macao trade run by the Portuguese docked at Brunei due to good relations between the Portuguese and Brunei after the Chinese permitted Macao to be leased to the Portuguese.
Due to the so-called Nanban trade in the 16th-17th century, fragments of Vietnamese ceramic were found in a northern part of Kyūshū island. Among them was a wooden plate with character showing the date 1330 on it. Whether the Japanese went to Vietnam or Vietnamese traders came to Japan or if it all went through China is not quite clear. Vietnamese history records showed that when Lord Nguyễn Hoàng founded Hội An port at the beginning of the 17th century, hundreds of Japanese residents were already there.
One of the more famous items is An'nan ware (安南焼), which was exported to Japan and used in Japanese tea ceremony although the high-footed bowls were originally used for food. The bowls had an everted rim, high foot, were underglazed with cobalt floral decorations, lappets above base, unglazed stacking rings in well and were brown washed on the base. The diameters can range from 9 to 15 centimetres. They were produced in the 16th and 17th century.
Hội An wreck
The Hội An wreck lies 22 miles off the coast of central Vietnam in the South China Sea. The ship was carrying a large cargo of Vietnamese ceramics from the mid- to late-15th century. The provenance of the pieces was known to be the kilns of the Red River Delta (such as Chu Đậu) because excavations in the region had been ongoing since their discovery in 1983. The only pieces remaining at the kiln sites were wasters (pieces that had fused, collapsed or exploded in the firing process). Intact examples of the wares produced were rare, since all were exported. When the wreck was found there was excitement among collectors and archaeologists, for it promised the first cargo consisting solely of Vietnamese wares.
In 1996 over 250,000 intact examples of Vietnamese ceramic were recovered. 10% of unique ware was kept by the government for national museums, while the rest was allowed to be auctioned off to pay for recovery costs.
While ceramic ware in the traditional style is still being produced and enjoys popularity, increasingly modern ceramics are produced for export. Centres of ceramic production include Lái Thiêu in Southern Vietnam.
One of the noteworthy examples of modern ceramic art is the Hanoi Ceramic Mosaic Mural, which is affixed on the wall of the dyke system of Hanoi. With a length of about 4 km, the Ceramic Road is one of the major projects that were developed on the occasion of the Millennial Anniversary of Hanoi.
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Media related to Ceramics of Vietnam at Wikimedia Commons