The term Sawankhalok covers the production of many hundreds of kilns of central Thailand. (It is frequently used interchangeably with the term ‘Si Satchanalai’, but refers to a wider area not covered by specific Si Satchanalai kilns.)
Sawankhalok was in full production by the mid-1300s. The kilns producedUnglazed wares
- Monochrome white, black, brown, celadon, and olive wares
- Brown glaze with incised decoration inlaid with white
- Underglaze iron decorated wares.
Sawankhalok/Si Satchanalai clay is finer than Sukhothai clay and has many small black spots, due to the high iron content of the clay. Sometimes, the inclusions can be red or silver coloured. Like Sukhothai, Sawankhalok mainly created relatively simple shapes – jars, bottles, krnfid, bowls and plates.
The earliest Sawankhalok/Si Satchanalai wares included dishes decorated with underglaze iron depictions of flowers in the bases, with fish on the cavettos. Secimens of the flowers and fish design have been found on the Turiang shipwreck, dated to around 1370.
15-16C. H: 11.7 cm, D: 12.2 cm. NUS Museum S1980-0082-001-0
The motif of classic scrolls with spiky leaves such as seen above and on Yuan wares decorated with cobalt blue, probably originated before 1350. Our covered jar above, however uses an underglaze iron black decoration. The colour is actually black, not blue, as cobalt was not a mineral that the Thai potters used (even though mines were found as near as Yunnan in southern China in the early 15th century). Brown 1988: 76] This is unlike Vietnamese production, which used cobalt for underglaze blue decoration from the 15th century on.
Sawankhalok celadon appeared around 1400, but excavations of the kiln sites have provided little help as to the chronology as they have been severely disturbed.
Kendi with underglaze iron black decoration with oatmeal-coloured biscuit and a distinct pontil scar. Examples have been found in Java, Kalimantan, Sumatra, and Bali; they are, however, rare in the Philippines and Sulawesi [Guérin & van Oenen 2005: 158] 15-16C. H: 14.2 cm, D: 16 cm. NUS Museum S1954-0054-001-1
Roxanna Brown and her colleague Sten Sjóstrand (2003: 35–37), an expert in maritime archaeology, put together information from shipwrecks to construct a chronology of Sawankhalok/Si Satchanalai wares.
Among the first Thai exports were underglaze iron painted designs, mostly of flowers and fish. Miksic (2009: 63-64) sums it up thus:
“The Turiang shipwreck, dated approximately 1370, carried Si Satchanalai plates decorated with underglaze iron-painted designs of simple flowers and fish, but the Nanyang (c. 1380), Longquan (c. 1400) and Royal Nanhai (c. 1460) included Sawankhalok celadon plates. These green plates were major Thai exports until the late 15th century; on shipwrecks of the Hongzhi period, beginning in 1488, they are replaced by celadons from Burma, although Sawankhalok celadon bowls and ring-handle jars continue to appear into the early 16th century.”