Dr. SAKAI Takashi shared his research into the glazed ceramic shards found in the Segaran district of the Trowulan archaeological site, East Java, Indonesia as well as a number of other Southeast Asian sites. Trowulan was the former capital (1293-c. 1527) of the Majapahit Kingdom, the largest and last of the Hindu Java kingdoms.
Dr. Ea Darith introduced the latest Angkor ceramic discoveries based on 20 years of laboratory research and intensive excavations. He introduced his study of Angkorian kilns and ceramics dating from the early 9th century to the end of the 15th century which led to the conclusion that kiln technology and the production of Angkorian stoneware ceramics advanced in two primary phases. SEACS members can watch a video of this talk on our Membership Premium Video page.
Our speaker, Khun Atthasit Sukkham of the Southeast Asian Ceramics Museum, Bangkok University, focused on a trade time period that merits more attention: the last half of the 18th to the early 20th centuries. Based on his and Clifford Pereira and Asyaari Muhamad's research, we looked at six shipwrecks found in Southeast Asia in this time period, which had ceramic assemblages: the Samed Ngam, Diana, Tek Sing, Desaru, Francis-Garnier (Man Nok or Ruea Mail) and Tha Krai. By analysing the origins, typologies, dates, functions and selections of these ships’ ceramics, it was clear that the Chinese-made armorial, Chinese-made bencharong and European ceramics offer diagnostic evidence of post-peak ceramic trading patterns. These ceramics were products for sale, remains of earlier ceramic shipments or utensils for on-board living. This body of evidence is comparable with that of terrestrial archaeological sites that suggest other cultural influences among the more recent maritime ceramic trade in Southeast Asia. SEACS members can watch a video of this talk on our Membership Premium Video page.
SEACS' much anticipated visits (offered on two separate dates) included a tour of the facilities with special emphasis placed on the ceramics kept at the Centre. The tour was followed by a special 90-minute talk by HCC conservators that focused on good storage & display practices for ceramics, and the topics of evaluating cracks and other flaws, restoration techniques and whether-or-not to repair.
Guest speaker Chen Kelun (陈克伦), Senior Curator of the Shanghai Museum and an expert on Chinese blue-and-white ceramics, shared with us the fact that most of the kiln sites of Yuan blue-and-white production that have been discovered to date are in Jingdezhen, concentrated in Hutian (湖田) and Lao Cheng (老城, meaning the ‘old town’ areas). Evidence from the latest archaeological finds show that the production of blue-and-white in Jingdezhen had begun by 1330 at the latest. Technological innovation was the key driver for the production of large-sized blue-and-white wares. The diversity of decorative motifs and designs that illustrated his talk demonstrated the multiplicity of cultural sources, including Islamic culture. SEACS members can watch a video of this talk on our Membership Premium Video page.
Dr. Michael Flecker was SEACS' 23rd William Willetts Lecture speaker following the Society's 53rd AGM on 26 March 2022. His topic as the marine archaeologist who oversaw the many years' work on both ships (the Temasek and the Shah Muncher) was "Historical Shipwrecks in Singapore Waters". Remarkably, the first ancient shipwreck ever found in Singapore waters is contemporary with 14th century Temasek, and currently assumes this name. An excavation carried out in stages over four years resulted in the recovery of approximately 4.4 tonnes of ceramic shards and a handful of very significant intact pieces. The Temasek Wreck carried more Yuan dynasty blue-and-white porcelain than any other documented shipwreck in the world, along with Longquan celadons, shufu-ware and moulded qingbai-ware from Jingdezhen, cruder qingbai-ware from Fujian kilns, and brown-ware probably from Cizao (a town in Quanzhou). From the location of the site, the many parallel finds from Singapore terrestrial sites, and importantly a common dearth of large blue-and-white plates, the ancient port of Singapore, or Temasek, was the most likely destination. The second shipwreck has been identified as the Shah Muncher, an Indian-built, European-design Country Ship voyaging from Canton to Bombay. On 8th January 1796, she was forced upon the rocks of Pedra Branca by the current. Approximately 5 tonnes of Chinese ceramics were recovered, including an astounding variety of intact pieces. The Shah Muncher sank twenty-three years before Raffles re-established the port of Singapore. Nonetheless, her cargo provides insights into the types of goods that would have been purchased by Singapore’s fledgling community along with those that would have been transhipped at the new port. SEACS members can watch a video of this talk on our Membership Premium Video page.
Our 53rd GM will be held on Saturday afternoon, 26 March from 3:00 to 5:00 pm via ZOOM. According to our Constitution, members were given two (2) weeks' notice in writing of the Annual General Meeting, including the date, time and venue of the meeting, and the agenda of the meeting. Details were sent all members by e-mail.
Dr. Sharon Wong reported on the possible technological transfer of ceramic production between Angkor and China during the 9th to 14th centuries looking at two distinctive ceramic products: covered boxes and roof tiles. Could the study of these ceramics provide a new placing of Angkor and the port cities of China, such as Guangzhou and Quanzhou, into the interregional networks of maritime Asia? SEACS members can watch a video of this talk on our Membership Premium Video page.
Professor Yeo Kang Shua joined us on 14 January to share the stories behind the restoration of one of Singapore’s most famous temples: Wak Hai Cheng Bio (also known as the Yueh Hai Ching Temple), a project which he led. He presented an overview of the conservation project, highlighting specific issues with restoration/conservation of a plaster ornamentation with fresco painting, as well as the replication of the roof’s distinctive ceramic shards ornamentation. SEACS members can watch a video of this talk on our Membership Premium Video page.
Champa (present-day central Vietnam) was once described as a maritime kingdom with a thriving trade in which ceramics became a significant commodity. Our speaker explained in words and pictures how the study of Champa ceramics enables us to gain a better understanding and awareness of Champa’s domestic economic network as well as its international trade relations. SEACS members can watch a video of this talk on our Membership Premium Video page.
The distribution of ancient Chinese ceramics made for export to other parts of Asia, the Middle East and as far as Europe, principally via the sea route through Southeast Asia, reveal many interesting facets. Large quantities of early Chinese ceramics from the Tang (618-907 CE), Song (960-1279 CE) and Yuan (1279-1368 CE) periods have been recovered from the Musi River to the surprise of many! SEACS members can watch a video of this talk on our Membership Premium Video page.