About The Southeast Asian Ceramic Society (SEACS)

Formed in 1969, the Southeast Asian Ceramic Society’s purpose is to widen appreciation and acquire knowledge of the ceramic art of China and countries adjacent to China, especially those of Southeast Asia. To pursue this aim, local members meet for periodic discussion, to hear talks by experts, and to study and compare ‘pots’.

The Society organised its inaugural Exhibition at the University Art Museum, Singapore in 1971. This landmark exhibition featured 350 examples of Khmer, Annamese and early Thai pottery, drawn largely from the university’s collection built by its curator, William Willetts. A substantial number of pieces also came from the collections of Helen Ling, the society’s first president, Don Sinclair and other members of the first council.

The historian John Guy noted that this “presentation of the then little known ceramic tradition of Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam caused a stir amongst the oriental ceramic cognoscenti.” Furthermore, “the Willetts pioneering Catalogue for the Society inspired a generation of younger scholars and stimulated the interest of government archaeological departments throughout Southeast Asia.” As a consequence, ceramic societies emerged in ensuing years in West Malaysia, Jakarta, Manila and Hong Kong, following the lead of the Singapore chapter.

A further 10 exhibitions were held between 1971 and 2009, and in 1999 the Society announced the launch of an annual William Willetts Lecture, to be held immediately after the Society’s Annual General Meeting.

In 2009, the society celebrated its 40th anniversary by publishing a work that encapsulated the progress made in the study of Southeast Asian ceramics (Southeast Asian Ceramics: New Light on Old Pottery) and arranging an exhibition of the same name held at the NUS Museum, Singapore.

In 2019, SEACS celebrated its 50th anniversary with an extensive series of programmes including a field trip to the kiln sites of Jingdezhen and Longquan, and an exhibition in the National Library of Singapore that featured representative ceramic items from each of the society’s exhibitions since 1969.

We look forward to our next fifty years. 

William Willetts Lectures

According to the Minutes of the 135th Council Meeting held on 29 April 1999:

“Point 3b. Name of Annual Lecture Following the Annual General Meeting: It was unanimously agreed to name the lecture, which follows the AGM,  The William Willetts Lecture in memory of Mr Willetts who founded the Society.”

The first William Willetts Lecture was held in 1999. Below is the list of all the William Willetts Lectures held since then:

2020 Cancelled due to the Covid-19 Virus

2019 Assoc. Professor Peter Borschberg: “Singapore, the Santa Catarina Incident and the Launch of ‘China Mania’”

2018 Professors Leonard Andaya and Barbara Watson Andaya: “The Chinese Trade Network of the Southeast Asia Archipelago”

2017 Professor John Miksic: “How Full is Our Bowl?”

2016 Professor Wang Gungwu: “By Land or Sea: Ceramics and Silk”

2015 Dr. Stacey Pierson: “What makes a Masterpiece? The Five Classic Wares of the Song and their Histories”

2014 Dr. Kenson Kwok: “How Peranakan is it?”

2013 Dawn Rooney: “Reflections on Southeast Asian Ceramics: Willetts’ Foresight”

2012 Professor Kwa Chong Guan: “Art of Angkor: Monuments and their Dating” (Recorded and uploaded to Youtube)

2011 Natalie SY Ong & Alvin Chia: Launch of SEACS Online Museum

2010 Rose Kerr: “Chinese Ceramics made for export to Southeast Asia in the Victoria & Albert Museum”

2009 Professor Peter Y.K. Lam: “Putting Broken Pieces Together: Dating evidences for 14th – 19th Century Chinese Ceramic Finds in Singapore”

2008 Dr John Miksic: “Strange Discoveries: Mysterious Artefacts in Singapore”

2007 John Guy: “Asian Ceramics in Production and Trade in Southeast Asia’s ‘Age of Empires’”

2006 Professor Wang Gungwu: “Tribute and Trade: The Ming Dynasty”

2005 Heidi Tan: “New Insights on Rare Vietnamese Ceramics in the Asian Civilisations Museum Collection”

2004 Professor Kwa Chong Guan: “The Indianisation of Southeast Asia”

2003 Dr Kenson Kwok: “Blanc de Chine – the Hickley Collection”

2002 Mr Anthony Lin: “The Imperial Porcelains of the Kangxi Era”

2001 Mr Dorian Ball “Salvage from Shipwrecks – Recovering Antique Porcelain for Collectors”

2000 Mrs Jean Martin: “Chinese Blue and White Ceramics: Singapore 1978 in Retrospect”

1999 Mr. Christopher Frape: “The Jade Culture of Ancient Vietnam”

Exhibitions organised by the Southeast Asian Ceramic Society, Singapore

11th exhibition, 2019 – SEACS 50th Anniversary

10th exhibition, 2009 – Southeast Asian Ceramics: New Light on Old Pottery

9th exhibition, 1993 – Ceramics in Scholarly Taste

8th exhibition, 1991 – Spirit of Han: Ceramics for the Afterlife

7th exhibition, 1983 – Song Ceramics

6th exhibition, 1982 – Vietnamese Ceramics

5th exhibition, 1981 – Khmer Ceramics, 9th – 14th Century

4th exhibition, 1979 – Chinese Celadons and Other Related Wares in Southeast Asia

3rd exhibition, 1978 – Chinese Blue and White Ceramics

2nd exhibition, 1973 – Chinese White Wares

1st exhibition, 1971 – Ceramic Art of Southeast Asia