The Development Of Vietnamese Pottery Through History

September 29, 2018

You might know that the origin of porcelain and pottery dates from 20,000 years ago in China, and the word China is, indeed, used to regard such clay and porcelain items. However, the ancient Vietnamese had also developed a great industry of pottery as soon as it appeared. Hence, the development of pottery reflects both historical and aesthetic aspects of Vietnamese culture.

In this article, let’s track the traces of shaping clay from the earliest to the latest changes to have an overall look at the Vietnamese pottery culture.

Prehistoric period

Vietnamese pottery began in the Hòa Bình- Bắc Sơn culture and was known as the Neolithic/ Stone Age era. The first traces of pottery found in the Viet territory age 6,000 to 7,000 years old.

Later on, the Bronze and Iron Ages ( 2000 B.C – I century) had given birth to many cultures such as Phùng Nguyên, Gò Mun, Đồng Nai, etc. In those periods, the pottery industry had evolved and expanded widely over the region so-called as ‘Vietnam’.

Pottery vase under Sa Huỳnh culture ( 2000-2500 years old) photo: Wikipedia

The Chinese domination period (I-X century)

For over 1000 years, the Chinese culture had spread its enormous influence on the southern land (Vietnam.) The pottery industry in this period inherited the original methods and also adapted some Chinese techniques such as ceramic glazing, making pottery by the ceramic turntable or in molds, and so on.

*  The Lý – Trần dynasties (XI – XIV century) – the independence period.

During 4 centuries, under 2 dynasties: Lý (XI-XII century) and Trần (XIII-XIV century), the pottery culture developed independently from Chinese culture, which opened the culture rehabilitation stage for Đại Việt (Vietnam). Ceramic products in this period had reached perfection in shape, decoration, and coloring. They represented the quintessence of the arts in ceramic, especially items from the Hoa Nâu Lý Trần collection.

Glazed jar from the Hoa Nâu Lý Trần collection photo: gomdonga.com

*The Lê dynasty ( XV-XVI) – the era of exporting Vietnamese ceramics.

In the XV century, the Lê dynasty boomed in prosperity. During this era, the pottery industry organized in good order with the establishment of several pottery trade villages. Ceramic products from Bát Tràng, Thổ Hà, and Phù Lãnhtrade villages expanded their markets to foreign countries. There were official records of mass trading pottery to Japan and some south-east Asian countries. Within the years 1596-1873, Japanese potters had adapted Vietnamese ceramic technique and called it Kotchi (Giao chỉ) ( La ceramique Japonaise – Oneda Tokomosouke).

Swan ‘Hoa Lam‘ Vase under the Le Dynasty photo: baomoi.com

* The Nguyễn dynasty (XVI-XVIII century) –  the Blue era of ceramics.

There wasn’t any innovation in the pottery industry in this period. The only remarkable collection was “Bleu de Huế” (Blue of Huế), containing sophisticated blue-white patterned porcelains which belonged to the royal Nguyễn family. These products were marked with Chinese characters: Nội phủ thị (Vietnamese transcription, meaning for internal (royal) use). Sadly, the products weren’t authentic Vietnamese pottery. They were indeed exclusively ordered from China for the royal Nguyễn. The pottery industry suffered in blues as it failed to make a change.

Wine Bottle from Bleu de Huế collection. Photo: khanhhoathuynga.wordpress.com

In modern times:

In modern times, Vietnamese pottery is competing with other strong competitors such as Taiwanese, Japanese and Chinese pottery in the market.  The hidden cards of Vietnamese pottery to succeeding in such a competitive environment lie in the rusticity, simplicity, yet, elegance and more importantly, durability in every product. Some famous Vietnamese ceramic brand names are Bát Tràng, Minh Long, Đông Triều, etc. Are working their best to provide products to meet the domestic as well as international demands.

Bat Trang Pottery (Photo: hanoi.for91days.com) Minh Long Pottery (Photo: sbf-neu.edu.vn)

Overall

Over the centuries, the Vietnamese Pottery culture has been through peaks and bottoms. From the sophisticated minds and hands of our potters, many legacies had been made and kept with our utmost respect. We take pride in the culture that the ancestors had gifted to us, and with much appreciation, we wish to develop Vietnamese ceramics more well-known to the world.