Medallion from Sukhothai underglaze fish plate T-717.
Last modified:
28 Oct 2001

Chinese ceramics on Turiang

The Chinese ceramics, categorised here in five groups, correspond to patterns of the Yuan dynasty (AD 1279-1368) or the early years of the succeeding Ming dynasty. The celadon came from the Longquan kilns in Zhejiang province; the other ninety per cent of the items came from Guangdong province.

Monochrome bowls

There were great numbers of bowls, 15-17cm in diameter and 6-7cm high. Some have traces of a dark glaze; others appear unglazed. Their creamy clay and bevelled foot-ring design could easily allow confusion with Vietnamese products, but for reddish lumps of clay affixed in many cases to the interior. These were for stacking in the kiln, an unusual method. Similar lumps were found in the brown glazed storage jars and the green glazed dishes, both of which are definitely of Chinese origin, so it was concluded that the bowls are also Chinese. The rim of these bowls is either slightly everted, or pinched inwards for an 'S'-shaped side profile.

Green glazed saucers

Photo of saucers with lumps of red stacking clayThese are small flat plates, 12-13cm in diameter, made of a near-white clay with a thin green glaze which varies from pale blue-ish green to grey-green to dark-green. The body colour and texture also vary. The foot-rings are always well carved, but vary in detail. The bases are roughly recessed and of small diameter. Some have a broad unglazed stacking ring on the interior, some have spur marks, and some have the same lumps of red stacking clay. The wide variation in all the details is common for Guangdong ware, and suggests that there may have been many different family-sized workshops, each supplying the same types of product - a pattern of manufacturing still familiar in the region.

Brown glazed storage jars and bottles

Storage jar with rim fragment stuck to baseA number of Chinese storage jars, 22-39cm high, are made of cream-coloured clay with remaining traces of brown glaze. The necks are short, concave and well finished with a rounded rim. Each jar has four small lug-handles, evenly placed around the shoulder. One of these jars contained 52 covered boxes, described below. However, most of the Chinese jars were found empty, while many of their Thai counterparts were filled with cargo or provisions. One jar has a rim fragment from another jar stuck to its base, the result of a firing accident.

Chinese brown-glazed jar 1Chinese brown-glazed jar 2The same clay, lug-handles, and well-shaped base are seen in a number of bottles, 15-20cm high. These bottles are thinly potted and feature a tall neck with a rounded rim. Glazes vary.

Other brown glazed ware

Photo of cup and bowl
Chinese brown-glazed cup
Chinese brown-glazed bowl
Cup (top) & bowl

The Turiang carried an estimated 800 cups and bowls of blackish brown glazed ware. The 'cups', averaging 9cm in diameter, are thinly-potted with rounded sides and a pronounced recess below the rim. The glaze is almost matte, free from blots and stops short of the base. A high well-made foot-ring with a concave base, together with the clay, indicate Chinese manufacturing. The 'bowls' are similar in form and size - slightly larger, averaging 10cm in diameter. These are S-sided with a straight rim. The glaze is sometimes uneven and lumpy because of blistering, leaving the surface with lighter coloured patches, and slightly glossier than the first type. The clay is coarser than the first type, and the foot-ring surprisingly roughly finished.

Unusual footring on brown-glazed bowlSome larger bowls, 14.5-16.5cm in diameter and 6-7cm high, were distinguished by the unusual cut of the base, with a slanted cut reversing to leave a lower centre. It is no longer possible to tell whether these bowls were originally glazed. Some had large spur marks on the interior.

photo of basinsTwo thickly-potted basins with a thick straight rim, 20-23cm in diameter and 8.5-10.5cm high, are also believed to be of Chinese origin because of their clay and glaze, although similar forms have been noticed among Vietnamese wares. The interiors are brown-glazed, but the exteriors left unattended. The clay is rather coarse. One basin had patches of the red stacking clay stuck to the interior.

Fifty-two small covered boxes were found inside a broken Chinese storage jar. These boxes were complete with lids. They have a finely potted rim and recess between the two parts, and a blackish brown glaze.

Photo of covered boxes
Photo of jarlets

Just two of the lids were fixed to the body by small spots of glaze, a practical feature found with similar boxes from other shipwrecks, including the Longquan and the Xuande. (A gentle knock is sufficient to separate the two parts.) It took the investigators a very long time to match up all the others, as all are slightly different in diameter - so, contrary to common belief, the rims are not moulded. Two of the lids have an 'X' mark, drawn in a black glaze contrasting with a brownish background. The glaze, clay, foot-ring and concave base are very similar to those of the cup-bowls, and the boxes almost certainly originate from China. The boxes are of three diameters, 5.5, 7.5 and 8cm. They have an oval profile; some proportionately higher than others.

Eight jarlets were recovered, each with two ring handles and a dark brown glaze and 5-6.5cm high.


Large celadon guan - drawing.
Photo of flower stamped inside base of jar.
Drawing of mark inside lid of celadon guan
Photo (24K)
The most impressive celadon items from the Turiang are 'guan-style' covered jars, with carved decorations of lotus flowers, and vertical lotus petals around the lower body. Two jars were recovered, and four lids. The rounded foot-rings are thick, with a deep base recess. Strong convex base-plates were fitted after initial potting - an unusual technique sometimes used with heavy pots to relieve stress during firing. One jar has a well-executed flower stamped into an unglazed circle inside the base. One lid is small and plain, without any handle or decoration. The other lids have lotus-bud handles and wavy rims, with carved exterior floral decoration similar to the jars. One of these has a stamped design on the inside, covered in glaze, with eight characters including luck, wealth and long life. These jars are each 28cm high, and weigh 6-7kg.

Photo of small guan.Photo of small guan with lids.Two smaller guan jars were found, 14-15cm high, with four lids. The lids are flatter than for the large guan; one is decorated.

Large dish with peony sprays at centre and cavetto, diameter 41cm

Large dish with bracket-type rimAlso interesting are a few very large dishes, up to 45cm diameter. These have impressed and incised decorations of varying degree, in the centre, on the cavetto (the curving surface of the interior sides), and sometimes also on the exterior. One of these dishes has a weak radial fluting on the cavetto. The rims are sometimes plain, and sometimes beautifully foliated. The glaze is opaque, thick, and covers the foot except for an unglazed stacking ring.

A number of other Longquan celadon dishes are between 26 and 28 cm in diameter. These often display a stamped floral motif in the centre, under the glaze, and frequently feature a foliated rim with a high vertical edge. Some of these pieces have incised radial striations on the cavetto, made by a five or six pronged tool. The glaze is similar to the large dishes. The clay varies from reddish-brown to grey.

Underside of celadon plate T-983, showing remains of the circular tubular support stuck off-centre to the base.
Celadon plate T-957 showing remains of tubular support stuck to the base.
Celadon plate T-983 showing remains of tubular support stuck to the base.
Yet another Longquan celadon dish type is slightly smaller, 25-26 cm in diameter. These dishes have a proportionately smaller foot-ring which is fully glazed. These dishes are made from bright red clay, and the opaque glaze has frequent black impurities. The layer of glaze is thick, but badly abraded. Rim edges are straight and high. The recessed bases are always free from glaze, and show scars from tubular supports.

As noted in 'ceramic issues', many of the Longquan celadon dishes had scars or remains of tubular supports.

Interior of unidentified celadon plate
Exterior of unidentified celadon plate
Second plate interior/exterior
Two unidentified celadon plates were recovered. These are undecorated but for radial striations, and have a translucent glassy glaze similar to that on Si-Satchanalai celadon from later shipwrecks, and not otherwise seen elsewhere. However, the glaze extends down the exterior walls and over the whole foot-ring, which suggests Chinese manufacture. External glaze drapery and teardrops are rarely seen on Chinese ware, but in this case are around the foot-ring; the feature is common on Thai ware, but only further up the side. These plates are 25.5cm in diameter and about 5.5cm high. On the unglazed area of the base is a thin circular scar from a tubular stacking support. The whitish clay is more smooth and compact than for Thai ceramics, and the rim is bent more to the horizontal, although the lip of the rim has a raised edge also seen on Si-Satchanalai plates. Three plates found but not recovered were similar but for an opaque celadon glaze. This suggests a Chinese origin for the whole group, and the plates were found among the Chinese and Vietnamese ceramics. No similar plates have been identified at known kiln sites in Thailand, but plates and bowls of this type have been found in the Tak-Omkoi burial sites of western Thailand.

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