China and Southeast Asia: Ceramics and interactions in the past millennium

7 August 2012

7 August 2012 and 9 August 2012

The Angkor Research Program and the China Studies Centre warmly invites you to partake in the Chinese Ceramics Workshop.

China has been a major player in trade and diplomacy in Southeast Asia for a millennium. Chinese ceramics were ubiquitous to that engagement from the 9th to the 19th C. They are its single most consistent, physical index. The tradewares were exported in vast quantities through the official tributary trade system, legitimate private trade and smuggling, and together with the dispersal of goods were the distribution of peoples, material and spiritual cultures and technologies. Archaeological porcelain fragments will be available for handling and discussion during the workshop, and there will also be a tour to the Chinese ceramic exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales guided by Baoping on Thursday, August 9th.

RSVP required as space is limited by 31 July 2012.


Tuesday August 7th

Introduction: Prof. Roland Fletcher, Director of the Angkor Research Program (University of Sydney)
Welcome Speech: Professor David Goodman, Academic Director, China Studies Centre (University of Sydney)

Chinese Ceramics in Sumatra: Recent Discoveries
Dr John N. Miksic (National University of Singapore and Singapore Institute of Southeast Asian Studies)

The two major kingdoms of Malayu and Srivijaya were important links in the east-west trading network. Both formed in the 7th century CE. The study of Chinese ceramics in Indonesia has been the province of collectors and art historians rather than archaeologists. As a result, we have little data on the precise provenance of many important examples, including those in the National Museum in Jakarta.

During the past few years archaeologists have been conducting important excavations in the highlands of West Sumatra. It now seems that the capital of the kingdom of Malayu moved far into the hinterlands of Sumatra in the 13th century. Previously the port of Muara Jambi in the lowlands had been the kingdom's centre. Chinese ceramics of the 13th through 16th centuries there illuminate important aspects of Malayu's economy and society during this critical period of history.

Unfortunately local rivermen have recently begun to use suction devices to search for artefacts on riverbeds in both Jambi and South Sumatra. In Palembang, Srivijaya's capital, a large quantity of items has come onto the backstreet antique market. These antiquities include ceramics of many varieties, including some which may have extraordinary value both commercially and academically. This talk will show examples of these recent finds.

Chinese export wares in Art Gallery of New South Wales
Mrs. Yin CAO, Curator of Chinese Art (Art Gallery of New South Wales)

The collection of the export wares in the Art Gallery of New South Wales is quite diverse both chronologically and geographically. The earliest examples include the Xing ware and Changsha ware of the Tang dynasty (618-907), and later pieces throughout the Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. Geographically, the objects indicate the Chinese potters produced ceramics all over China to meet the wide demands from different continents, from Southeast and South Asia, the Middle East to Europe. This presentation selects a group of the fine examples to map out the long history of Chinese export wares that enhance the cultural exchange between China and the outside world.

Technology, Tradition, or Taste? Similarities between Vietnamese and Chinese Ceramics
Dr. Ann Proctor (formerly National Art School, Sydney)

Compared to the well documented history of Chinese ceramics, the study of Vietnamese ceramics is relatively new and under-researched. Many factors have contributed to the similarities in wares produced for export by these two entities: colonization of Vietnam by the Chinese, migration of Chinese potters to Vietnam, similar belief systems that have produced a common vocabulary of motifs and the geographical location of Vietnam and China on the same trade routes supplying markets within Southeast Asia and beyond. This presentation will review some of the recent research into Vietnamese ceramics, in order to shed light on the multifaceted reasons for both similarities and differences between Chinese and Vietnamese wares. I will also point out some of the gaps in our knowledge to date.

Lunch - Angkor Research Program, Old Teachers' College (A22) Room305

Kiln technology transfer from China to Cambodia in the 12th century
Dr. Don Hein, independent scholar and formerly site director for a few archaeological projects in Southeast Asia

Excavation in December 2011 to January 2012 at Torp Chey near Siem Reap in Cambodia revealed several kilns in stratigraphic sequence within one mound of seven found at the site. The kilns were similar to others previously recorded at other sites in Cambodia, being of a single chambered crossdraft type built at an incline of clay with a firebox at the lower end and having three horizontal exhaust vents at the upper part. What made this find exceptional was that it was the first time that intact vents were found, and that the kilns were side stoked.

Side stoking has not previously been reported in any Southeast Asian country and the existence of the technology at Torp Chey must represent influence from outside the region, most probably from China where the firing method has been practiced for centuries prior to the twelfth century when the Torp Chey was established. However the technical detail of the side stoke component of the Cambodian kilns is distinctly different from its Chinese origins and suggests the introduction was carried by persons only casually informed of the technology and the Cambodian potters were obliged to invent certain aspects of the method.

This event of technology transmission from China to Southeast Asia concerning the means of production is extremely rare and its understanding is vital to defining the history of kilns in the region, and to those of Cambodia in particular.

Chinese ceramics at Angkor: a preliminary analysis of the distribution of covered boxes from several surface collections and excavations

Ms. Linda McLaren, MA research student (University of Sydney)

Despite indigenous production of Khmer glazed pottery, imported Chinese ceramics have been found in large numbers at Angkor. Studying their distribution and frequency can potentially inform us on aspects of economic and social organisation in relation to this foreign trade. The ware type, covered box is consistently found in ceramic assemblages at Angkor at exceptionally high proportions compared to other ware types, and was also among the first types of wares to be regularly exported to Southeast Asia by the Chinese. Inscriptions at monuments in Angkor also demonstrate that hundreds of boxes from China were offered to local monasteries on single occasions, probably as high status items for both ritual and utilitarian use. This research provides preliminary results of quantitative analyses of qingbai (bluish-white glazed) and white ware covered boxes from excavations and surface collections at Angkor and compares them with shipwreck artefacts found across Southeast Asia and other dated wares from excavated kiln sites and tombs in China. New technologies for dating, such as chemical characterisation of sherds are also referenced.

Praying to Compassion: ceramic figures of Bodhisattva Guanyin found in Angkor, Java and the Philippines and the life of earliest Chinese traders in Southeast Asia
Dr. Baoping Li (University of Sydney)

This talk introduces a few ceramic figures of Guanyin or the Bodhisattva of Compassion found in Angkor the capital of the Khmer empire, the Philippines, as well as Trowulan in Java, the capital of Majapahit (c. 1293-1500) one of the greatest empires in the history of Indonesia. Based on comparisons with similar figures found from kiln and residence sites across China, the Japan-bound Shin'an wreck discovered in South Korea, and collections of Europe and America museums, the Guanyin figures found in these countries are dated to the Yuan to early Ming dynasty, and sourced to the porcelain kilns in Jingdezhen, Jiangxi, and celadon (greenware) kilns in Longquan, Zhejiang. According to Zhou Daguan, a Yuan dynasty envoy who visited Angkor in 1296, among the "sought after Chinese goods" are celadons from Longquan and Quanzhou (Marco Polo's Zayton). He also observed that Chinese traders lived in Angkor since there "women are easy to get, housing is easy to deal with, and it is easy to do trade", and they were highly respected by the local people and were even addressed as a Buddha. Most of the Guanyin figures found in Southeast Asia were probably brought there and placed in a small shrine of the Chinese family as object of worship, as they did back in China. These figures link the China ceramic trade and interaction with different countries, and provide valuable insights into the life of earliest Chinese emigrants in SE Asia.

Closing Comments: Prof. Jeffrey Riegel, Head of School of Languages and Cultures, University of Sydney. Followed by afternoon tea and discussion.

Thursday August 9th

A tour to the Chinese ceramic exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales guided by Dr. Baoping Li, all welcome, no RSVP required.

Speaker Biographies

John N. Miksic is Associate Professor in the Southeast Asian Studies Department, National University of Singapore and head of the Archaeological Unit in the Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. He completed one MA in International Affairs at Ohio University, and another MA and PhD in the Department of Anthropology at Cornell University. His dissertation, Archaeology, Trade, and Society in Northeast Sumatra, was based on fieldwork in Sumatra at the site of Kota Cina ("Chinese Fort"). He worked as a Rural Development Planning and Management Advisor in Bengkulu, Sumatra and taught archaeology at Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta, before he moved to Singapore in 1987. He has served on committees of the National University Museum and the Asian Civilisations Museum. He has received awards from Singapore and Indonesia for his contributions to the study of Southeast Asian culture. He serves on the board of non-profit organization devoted to the preservation of the culture and art of Cambodia (the Center for Khmer Studies). Current research includes a translation of a 17th-century Malay manuscript, the archaeology of ancient ports on the shores of the Straits of Melaka, and early cities in Indonesia, Cambodia, and Myanmar.

Yin Cao, Curator of Chinese Art, Art Gallery of New South Wales. Yin's academic career started with a Bachelor of Arts degree in archaeology from Peking University; then museological training at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., and a Master's degree in Chinese archaeology from Harvard University. She subsequently obtained museum experience as a key member of the Preparatory Committee for the establishment of the Arthur M. Sackler Museum of Art and Archaeology at Peking University, before becoming Assistant Director at that museum in the 1990s. She continues to be a consultant for the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation for the Arts, Science and Humanities in New York. Amongst her other achievements, she was responsible for co-curating the inaugural exhibition at the Lee Kong Chian Art Museum of the National University of Singapore in 2000.

Ann Proctor has an BA in Art History from ANU, an MA in Asian Art History and a PhD in Art History and Theory, both from the University of Sydney. She has worked in education in Australia, the Philippines and the West Indies, principally as a teacher of art and art history. She has also been an arts writer since the 1980's and for the past decade has been an active member of The Asian Arts Society of Australia, currently serving on the management and editorial committees of that organization. From 2003 to 2009 she taught Asian Art History and Theory at the National Art School, Sydney. She has also taught at the University of Sydney, the Australian National University and in Vietnam. Her publications include various articles in Ceramics Art and Perception, TAASA Review and her thesis, Out of the Mould: Contemporary Sculptural Ceramics in Vietnam, was published in 2009.

Don Hein has a background in ceramic studies, an MA in history from Monash University and a PhD in archaeology from Deakin University. He has spent many years in Southeast Asia studying ancient kiln sites in Thailand, Burma and Laos, and has visited China, Vietnam and Cambodia including taking part in the 2007 excavation of the Mount Kulen Sar Sie kiln site, and the 2011-2012 excavation of the Torp Chey kiln site, both near Angkor, Cambodia. In addition to working in Thailand during the 1970s where he was the site director for Thai Ceramics Archaeological Project 1980-87, he has fulfilled the same role for the Lao Australia Archaeological Project 1988-91 and Myanmar Australia Archaeological Project 1988-2003. He has been active in archaeological training programs including one in Cambodia in 2011, with another planned for later this year, both organised by Louise Cort, curator of Ceramics at the Freer-Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian Institution, Washington.

Linda McLaren is currently doing a Master degree by research at the University of Sydney. She has been an independent researcher interested in the archaeological study of glazed Chinese ceramics found on shipwrecks and at terrestrial sites in Southeast Asia prior to the 18th century. She has firsthand experience of several archaeological sites in Southeast Asia and kiln sites in China.

Baoping Li is a Research Fellow at the Department of Archaeology, University of Sydney. He received his BA and MA degrees from the Archaeology Department of Beijing University, and then worked in Beijing for the English journal China Archaeology and Art Digest. He did his PhD at the University of Queensland, then worked there as an Australia Postdoctoral Fellow funded by Australia Research Council. He is currently studying Chinese ceramics found in Angkor and elsewhere in Southeast Asia, with financial support from ARC and the China Studies Centre of USYD. Baoping's speciality is Chinese ceramics and their global exporting and he investigates these through an approach integrating historiography, archaeology, art history, and chemical sourcing of trade ceramics to understand the patterns of China's long term, international trade network.

Time: see program for detail

Location: New Law School Annexe Seminar Room 346

Cost: FREE

Contact: Dr Martin King

Email: 18301936391c1c3f1e1d1d711b0c141d4d562d21387e1833