Discovering Asia's ceramic development

Underglaze decorated ware

Vietnamese bowl from the Turiang, diameter 14.5cm
Vietnamese bowl (above) and Sukhothai wares (below) from the Turiang.
Sukhothai plate from the Turiang
Similar flower.
Sukhothai bowl from the Turiang
Similar chevron scroll on the rim.

Sukhothai underglaze bottle-vases from the Turiang, heights 22 and 25cmLong before the Chinese made blue and white pottery using cobalt, a black iron oxide was used to paint motifs below a clear permanent glaze. This technique, used at Cizhou in northern China, developed independently from the contemporary celadon production in southern China.

By the end of the 14th century the underglaze technique appeared in Sukhothai and Sisatchanalai in Thailand, and in Vietnam. At Sukhothai, production continued until the end of the 16th century. Indigenous underglaze motifs included stylised flowers and fish. Fish, and the chrysanthemum representing long life and happiness, were preferred at Sukhothai and Sisatchanalai. In Vietnam, a flower motif was common.

It is possible that the underglaze decoration technique (painting with oxides and then applying glaze) arrived in both Thailand and Vietnam with immigrating Chinese potters. The Turiang shipwreck (c.1370) is the first known case of similar Vietnamese and Thai underglaze decorated products being found together and clearly contemporary.(1)

Other underglaze decorated wares from Sukhothai were found on the Longquan, Xuande and Singtai shipwrecks.

Underglaze painted ware of this period is rare. Collectors beware: modern Thailand produces many copies, some of which use old techniques.

  1. Comparative photos may also be found in the Turiang report.

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