Ceramics in Mainland Southeast Asia

Earthenware from Lamphun

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The city of Lamphun, capital of Lamphun province, was formerly known as Haripunjaya (Haripunjaya) and was the center of a Mon kingdom in northern Thailand. In the late thirteenth century, Haripunjaya was incorporated into the power sphere of Chiang Mai.

Virginia Di Crocco (1991) has reviewed the ceramics associated with Haripunjaya and distinguished between the earthenware made during the era of the Haripunjaya kingdom and a type formerly known as "late Haripunchai" ware. Proposing a long continuity of earthenware production in the vicinity of the city, which continued to be an important center of habitation and pilgrimage, she renames the later earthenware as Lamphun ware. She identifies a characteristic production of unglazed long-necked water bottles (nam ton) and spouted water bottle (kendi) beginning by the mid-sixteenth century and continuing through the late nineteenth century. John Shaw suggests that the center of production may have shifted to Chiang Mai (Shaw 1989, 104, n. 1).

Such vessels played special roles in receiving guests and conducting religious worship, and the potters lavished attention on their decoration. Some vessels are textured with fine-line rouletted patterns. A variety of slips including red, brown, black, and white was used both to cover the vessel surfaces and—most distinctively—to inlay fine repeat designs impressed by stamping or rouletting. Sometimes two colors of slip were applied together and marbled while still wet.

These elegant and decorative products of the Lamphun kilns were widely distributed. Sherds are found in Chiang Mai, Phayao, and Kalong in northern Thailand (Shaw 1989, 104). Don Hein found them at kiln sites in Sawankhalok (Hein, pers. comm. 2008). Hundreds were recovered from the grave sites in the mountains near Tak (Shaw 1989, 105). Hein identified them further along an overland route in the vicinity of Pegu, in Lower Burma (Hein at al 1989, 11–12, pl. 4). Fragments of a nam ton were excavated from Hakata, the old port city associated with Fukuoka in southern Japan, in a context datable to the late sixteenth century (Arishima 1991, 121, figs. 4–26, pls. 3–16).

John Shaw mentions stoneware with streaky brown glaze found in association with Lamphun earthenware at several sites within the old Haripunjaya domain (Shaw 1989, 104). This would accord with the proposed model of a stoneware kiln associated with a central city ("muang"), but a kiln has not yet been identified.