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Celadon Wares

Besides iron-painted wares, the Turiang shipwreck (1400/20 A.D)  also carried some Thai Sawankhalok celadon small jars, both elongated and coconut shaped form with two lugs set on the shoulder and snuggling against the neck, and vases.  The glaze shows more maturity as compared with the early Mon celadon plates.  By the time of Nanyang shipwreck (1420/30s), finely potted big celadon plates with carved motif were produced.  The glaze is relatively thick, smooth and even.  In some examples, the glaze pooled to an attractive deep greenish or greenish blue tone on the inner bottom.  Such big plates were very popular and continued to be produced to around the 1480s.  The earlier plates were fired on spurred disc support and 3 spur marks could be seen on the interior bottom.  Majority of those found in the Nanyang wreck has the spur marks.  But this wreck also has some fired on tubular support which left a circular scar mark on the outer base.  The use of spurred disc was replaced totally by tubular supports subsequently.  Dr Brown also observed that circular scar mark of the earlier pieces tends to be bigger averaging around 8-9 cm in diameter.  The later pieces has a smaller circular mark of about 5-7 cm.  The external wall of the plate is either plain or decorated with carved vertical striations.   The paste varies in quality, the good ones are more fine grained and show less black specks.  The quality of the clay affects the glaze as the black specks will tarnish the appearance of the transparent glaze.  There is still insufficient information available to build a chronology of the celadon plates base on decorative elements.

15th Sawankhalok plates and big bowls

Besides plates, the more varied form of vessels were produced such as stem bowls, gourd shaped vases and ewers.  The standard of the potting is good and the glaze thick and glossy.

For the domestic market, there is an interesting category of small figurines with majority showing a maternal figurine cuddling a baby.  There are also other variations such as a male figurine carrying a cockerel or female carrying a lotus. Curiously, majority of the maternal figurines were deliberately broken at the neck.   Some suggested that the figurines served a ritualistic purpose and were broken to protect pregnant women. 

15th Sawankhalok celadon and brown glaze figurnes

By the Ming Hongzhi period, production of big plates were phased out. Other smaller celadon vessels such as jars, vases and bowls continued to be exported in increasingly dwindling quantity till the mid 16th century.  The quality of the pieces were poor as compared with the earlier pieces.  The glaze appears thinner and runny in quality.

Brown Glaze Wares

Sawankhalok dark brown glaze vessels were part of the Thai Ceramics cargo for export market during the 15th and early 16th century period.  Small jars (elongated and coconut shaped with two lugs) and vases were produced both in celadon and dark brown glaze.  

Celadon and dark brown version of Coconut shape jar 

For the domestic markets, there are also impressive figurines and statues made in brown glaze.  

15th Century Sawankhalok Brown glaze figurative examples

Revival of underglaze iron black Wares

Before 1480s Ming blue and whites were only found in small quantity such as those in Royal Nanhai, Pandanan and Hoi an shipwreck.  However, by 1500, (Ming Hongzhi period), Chinese blue and white wares emerged as the most highly demanded ceramics in Southeast Asia.   Vietnamese blue and white and Thai celadon/brown wares lost consumer favour and the demand was low and the quality deteriorated drastically.  In an attempt to revive interest in Thai ceramics,  during the early 16th century (Zhengde period) the potters re-introduced decorations in underglaze iron-painted black.  They were successful in identifying a niche in the cover boxes category.  The potters adopted the Vietnamese jar/cover box partitioned composition but adapted the Chinese inspired floral scrolls for decoration.  Besides cover boxes, there are also smaller number of other vessels such as vases, jars, kendi and bowls.  Such iron black wares were recovered from the Espanola,  Singtai and Xuande wreck which could be dated to the Zhengde period.

Thai cover box  and Vietnamese jar with decorations in vertically partitioned panels

Thai floral scrolls inspired by Chinese version (Hongzhi) on the right


Interestingly, some Sukhothai bowls with iron-black painted the solar swirl (cakra) motif were also salvaged from the Xuande wreck.  This is something new as Sukhothai kilns were thought to have ceased production by the 1460/80s.



Brown/white and white wares of the 16th Century

During the early 16th century, the Thai potters also introduced wares with incised motif which is then glazed in opaque brown and white.  This category is generally of high quality and the clay used is more fine grained less black specks.  There are also some other interesting variations such as vessel left unglaze and decorated with brown spots.  It was also during this period that opaque white glaze wares were introduced.  The clay is generally of poor quality with black specks.  It is covered with a layer of white slip and then glazed.

This figurine is partially covered with white glaze and other portion in unglaze state and decorated with brown spots.

Jar with opaque white glaze.   The paste is coarse showing  much impurities.


Kilns in Si Satchanalai and Sukhothai were destroyed during the Burmese invasion in the 1560s and production ceased and were not revived.


Table showing the key shipwrecks of 15th/16th century  with Thai ceramics

The below table shows the main shipwrecks with Thai ceramics used by Dr. Brown in developing her chronology of Thai ceramics.  The Chinese ceramics in the cargo mix are important in determining the dating of Thai ceramics.

Period Shipwreck Type of ceramics Additional information
Thai Vietnamese Chinese
Hongwu - Xuande

(1368 - 1430

Rang Kwien (Sank in Gulf of Thailand)

(ship of uncertain origin)

Sawankhalok Mon type celadon plates, olive-brown glaze baluster jar, dark brown elongated jar with two ring handles on the shoulder, San Kampaeng plate, unidentified kiln pottery pots Vietnamese iron-brown painted and underglaze blue bowls Celadon jarlets with impressed motif and brown jars which most probably originated from Fujian kiln.  Some celadon bowls and dish which could be from Longquan Only 264 peices recovered.  Too few to provide estimate of proportion and size of ceramic type in cargo.
Song Doc (Sank in South China Sea/Vietnam)


Sawankhalok Mon type celadon plates, San Kampaeng plate Vietnamese iron-brown painted and underglaze blue bowls, plates and iron-painted and celadon jarlets Longquan plates, brown jarlets most probably from Guangdong There were quite substantial number of Vietnamese ceramics. 
Turiang (Sank in South China Sea/Malaysia)

(ship of Chinese origin)

Sukhothai iron painted black fish or /floral motif plates , jars and vases. 

Sawankhalok iron painted plates with fish or floral motif. 

Iron painted floral motif bowl Longquan celadon plates and jars, dark brown glaze jars, bowls  and cover boxes Wreck partially destroyed by trawling activities.  About 1200 pieces recovered out of estimate of 8000, with 35% Thai, 57% Chinese and 8 % Vietnamese.
Ko Si Chang II (Sank in Gulf of Thailand)

(ship of Chinese origin)

Sawankhalok iron painted plates with fish or floral motif Chinese celadon Number of ceramics to few to estimate the proportion and size of each type in the cargo.
Maranei (Sank in Indonesian water)

(ship of Chinese origin)

Sawankhalok iron painted floral motif plate, celadon and dark brown  glaze jars.  Sukhothai  iron painted fish motif plates and vase, floral motif bowls and jars.  Suphanburi and Singburi storage jars. Iron-painted floral bowls, celadon jar and beaker Chinese celadon and brown glaze wares 1156 ceramics recovered.  There were some 60 coins with latest from the Yongle period
Xuande - Chenghua

1431 - 1488

Nanyang (1424/50) (Sank in South China Sea near Malaysia)

(ship of Southeast Asian tradition)




Sawankhalok celadon, small number sukhothai iron painted plates No Vietnamese wares small number celadon and brown glaze wares Estimated cargo of 10,000- 15,000 Sawankhalok celadon,  a small number of sukhothai plates and chinese celadon and brown glaze wares.  Earliest appearance of Sukhothai plates with fish encircled by floral scrolls on the inner wall.
Longquan (1424 /50)

(Sank in South China sea near Malaysia) 

(ship of Southeast Asian tradition)

Sawankhalok celadon, sukhothai underglaze iron painted wares No Vietnamese wares  Longquan celadon wares Estimaed 100,000 pieces comprising about 40% longquan celadon, 20% Sukhothai underglaze and 20% Sawankhalok celadon
Kho Kram  (1450)

(sank in gulf of Thailand)

(ship of South China Sea tradition)

Sawankhalok celadon, small number Sukhothai underglaze iron black plates Vietnamese blue and white, Champa green glaze brown glaze jars Estimated 5000 pieces comprising mainly Sawankhalok celadon, some Sukhothai underglaze black pates and small quantities Vietnamese blue and white, champa green glaze saucers and Chinese monochrome wares
Royal Nanhai (1460)

(sank in South China sea near  Malaysia)

(ship of hybrid South China Sea tradition)

Thai Sawankhalok celadon 3 Vietnamese blue and white Small number Chinese blue and white and brown glaze wares. ( In my opinion the blue and white could be dated to Zhengtong period about 1440 to 1450) Estimated 20,000 mainly Thai Sawankhalok celadon
Pandanan (1470)

(Sank near Palawan in Philippines)


Sukhothai and Sawakhalok ceramics Champa ceramics, Vietnamese blue and white Chinese blue and white. (In my opinion, they are dated to Jingtai to Tianshun ie 1450 to 1460) 4722 pieces recovered consisting mainly of Champa ceramics and a dozen of Thai Sukhothai and Sawankhlaok dishes, 80 Vietnamese blue and white and some Chinese blue and white, celadon and brown glaze wares
Belankan (1480 - 87)

(sank in Indonesia water)


Sawankhalok celadon plates Vietnamese blue and white wares Chinese blue and white.  (In my opinion, they are dated to Tianshun to Chenghua  ie 1460 to 1470) Estimated 40,000 pieces comprising 80% Sawankhalok celadon, 18% Vietnamese blue and white and 2% Chinese blue and white
Hongzhi  - Jiajing

1488 - 1567

Lena cargo (1488 -1500) (Palawan Philipinnes)





small number of sawankhalok celadon jarlets, bowls and bottles Some Vietnamese blue and white wares Chinese blue and white.  Consisted of mainly Hongzhi blue and white wares.  No sukhothai iron brown decorated wares or Sawankhalok big plates
Ko Samui  (1500 - 1520)


Sawankhalok celadon and brown/opaque white glaze wares, white glaze and jarlet with brown spots.  First appearance of wares decorated with brown and opaque white glaze
Espanola Sawankhalok iron painted cover boxes, Sawankhalok brown, white jars First appearance of Sawankhalok iron painted cover boxes.

(1520 - 1570)

Sawankhalok iron painted cover boxes and bowls.  Sawankhalok brown small  jars. 
Xuande Sawankhalok iron painted vases and cover boxes.  Small number of Sukhothai iron painted bowls with the solar swirl (cakra) motif. Chinese blue and white (In my opinion dated to Zhengde period ie around 1510-1520)                                                        


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Written by : NK Koh (16 Jul 2011)



The Ming Gap and Shipwreck Ceramics in Southeast Asia       -  Roxanna Maude Brown

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