Discovering Asia's ceramic development

The Royal Nanhai ship (+/- 1460)

Sisatchanalai celadon plate from the 'Royal Nanhai', diameter 29cm
Reverse of plate above The tubular support scar is only 6cm in diameter - smaller than on the Longquan. Glaze 'drapery' around the footring indicates high-temperature firing.
Sisatchanalai celadon plate from the 'Royal Nanhai', diameter 29cm
Sisatchanalai celadon bowls, diameter 12, 8.5 and 11cm
Sisatchanalai celadon dish from the 'Royal Nanhai', diameter 23.5cm
Dish with stright rim; single border decoration high on cavetto.
Sisatchanalai celadon bowl from the 'Royal Nanhai'; plain exterior; diameter 17.5cm
Compare similar bowl from the Nanyang
Sisatchanalai celadon jars, height 13 and 15cm
Jar from Maenam Noi in Singburi province, volume about 80 litres, height 68cm
Thai jar, height 15.5cm

This wreck was discovered in 46 metres of water, 40 nautical miles from the coast. The site has been excavated, and more than 21,000 ceramic pieces recovered. These are mainly Sisatchanalai celadons of later character. A few Chinese and Vietnamese blue-and-white ceramics assisted in dating. The ship was about 28 metres long with a beam of 7-8 metres, and again of 'South China Sea' type. Hull planks and transverse bulkheads were joined with wooden dowels. Frames were fastened with bolts and nails. She was built from tropical hardwood of Hopea species.

The Royal Nanhai did not have any Sukhothai underglaze ware on board, even though the kilns must still have been in production. However, she carried very fine Sisatchanalai celadon, showing the technique, form and decoration of these kilns at their very best. Also on board were the precious items in a hidden compartment.

4,446 plates were recovered; 3,415 were intact. They were found stacked between bulkheads, with an average of 32 pieces in each stack. On the two plates (top left), note the foliated rims, carved after the application of a grey slip on the outer edge - which accents the bracket design, as do the incised lines. The glaze is thick and transparent. Decoration has now been added to the exterior of all celadon plates.

Sisatchanalai celadon water-droppers, diameter 6.5 and 7cm
Celadon 'water-droppers', with lotus petal decoration on the shoulder: use is unknown.
Sisatchanalai jarlets and a water-dropper, height 7.5, 6.5, 7.0 and 7.5cm
Jarlets and water-dropper, with various carved striations.
Chinese brown-glazed jarlets, height 7.5, 7.5, 4.5 and 7.5cm
Chinese brown-glazed jarlets, similar to jarlets on the Longquan.

Large storage jars for the Royal Nanhai, such as that shown on the right, came from Singburi (like the smaller jar on the Nanyang, a type also seen on the Royal Nanhai). They are quite different from the Singburi jars seen on the later Xuande and Singtai sites. Large storage jars on the earlier wrecks had come from Suphanburi, but the only Suphanburi jars on the Royal Nanhai were smaller.

schematic plan of the Royal Nanhai site

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