Vietnamese Shiwan-type Vessels of Old Saigon and Lai Thieu
Many Chinese from Fujian and Guangdong
settled down in Vietnam during the Ming/Qing period. One
distinct physical evidence of their presence are the Chinese style temples.
The roof of the temples are decorated with colour glazed ceramics depicting
human subjects, animals, birds, flowers and etc. They are similar to those
that were produced by the Guangdong Shiwan potters. In fact, those dated
to the Mid to late 19th Century were indeed produced by Shiwan potters engaged
from Guangdong Shiwan and shipped to Vietnam. Some of the potters settled
down in old Saigon (present day Ho Chiminh) and continued to produce the Shiwan
type wares. Their descendents inherited the technology and ensured
the continuity and further development of this ceramics art form. To
find out more about Shiwan ceramics, please read this
19th Cent. Old
Saigon coloured glaze ceramics
Vessels produced during that period are
similar to those produced in Shiwan. To differentiate them from the actual
Shiwan counterparts, one needs to have comprehensive knowledge of products from
both region. In the Ho Chiminh Museum of Fine Arts, there are some
examples on display and labeled as Old Saigon ceramics. Indeed, it would not be
surprising that mainland Chinese ceramics experts identify them as products from
Old Saigon coloured glaze Shiwan-type vessels in Ho Chiminh Museum of Fine Arts
However, over time stylistic differences in
terms of the decorative elements and vessel forms became evident. Some of
such examples were also on display in the Ho Chiminh Museum of Fine Arts.
showing stylistic differences from those made in Shiwan
Early/Mid 20th Cent. Lai Thieu Ceramics
By the begining of the 20th Century, a new
ceramics centre emerged in Lai Thieu in Binh Duong province, located about 100
km north of Ho Chi Minh City. Back in history, Binh Duong used to be a part of Song Be province, which was
divided into Binh Duong and Binh Phuoc in 1997 A.D. Many of the
potters were formally from old Saigon and were forced out of the city due to the
urbanisation which resulted in space constraints.
Lai Thiu shiwan type ceramics featured a
even wider range of decorative motifs and stylistic differences from those
made in Shiwan became even more distinct with introduction of Vietnamese
Shiwan type examples from 1st half of 20th Century
Interestingly, new innovations in Chinese
ceramics continued to exert a strong influence in Vietnam. The potters in
Lai Thieu also produced blue and white and overglaze enamelled household wares
such as bowls, dishes, teapots, cups, chopsticks holders and etc.
Stylistically, the decorations are very similar to those produced in Chaozhou
Fengxi kilns (潮州枫溪) in
Guangdong. In fact, in essence it can be classified as a branch of the
Fengxi products. Ceramics wares from Chaozhou were exported to Vietnam
during the late 19th/early 20th century. However, in 1923 A.D the
Vietnamese Government introduced exorbitant import tax on imported ceramics
wares. According to his book on Chaozhou Fenxi kiln (枫溪潮州窑),
Mr Li Bingyan （李炳炎）mentioned
that as a result of the tax rate hike,
Chaozhou Fengxi ceased the export of such wares to Vietnam. As such wares
was in demand, the merchants in Vietnam arranged for some of the Fengxi potters
to come to Vietnam to produce them locally. Even the porcelain clays used
in Fengxi were imported.
early 20th Cent. blue and white wares
Lai Thieu overglaze enameled wares
used basically the following pigment colours : black, crimson red/red, green and indigo.
The composition and decorative elements are similar to
those made in Chaozhou. Some examples from Chaozhou Fengxi (潮州枫溪)
and those made in Lai Thieu are illustrated below.
early 20th Cent. overglaze enamelled wares
early 20th Cent. overglaze enamelled wares
Bien Hoa Ceramics
first ceramics vocational training school of Indochina, Bien Hoa Vocational Training School, was founded in 1903.
1913, the school was renamed the Bien Hoa Fine Arts School. In 1923,
the couple, Robert Balick and Mariettee Balick, managed the school. They
were instrumental in the production of new line of ceramics with interesting glaze
effects using natural
materials, such as rice straw ash, sand in Da Nang and laterite.
In 1925, the ceramics wares from the Bien Hoa Fine Arts
School were successfully exhibited and sold in Paris. At that exhibition, Bien Hoa
ceramics was awarded the honorary certificate
by the French Government.
ceramics exhibited in Ho Chiminh Museum of Fine Arts
Written by: NK Koh (15 Feb