| Thai ceramics are ranked among the finest in
the world. Because of the small number of remaining written
records, ceramics have helped historians to find out more about the
history of the Thai people.
|Ban Chiang : Prehistoric
is on the Korat Plateau in north eastern Thailand. It is the
plateau where the discovery of beautiful thousands year-old
pottery were found. Previously this area was thought to be an
uncivilized backwater, although it actually possessed a highly
developed culture that had a great impact on the whole region.
The deepest levels at Ban Chiang can be dated to B.C. 3,600. The
early pots are undecorated or have simple pressed or incised
patterns. The ones from later periods are superbly shaped vessels
of buff color clay decorated with swirling, fingerprint-like
designs. Besides pots, Ban Chiang made many types of ceremics
such as vases, jars, animal figurines, ladles, crucibles, phalli,
spindle whorls and beads. Unglazed, low-fired pottery has been
found at other sites throught Thailand. One of the major ones is
at Ban Kao in Kanchanaburi province, north eastern of Thailand.
From Ban Kao, the historians found distinctive earthenware pieces
including tripod vessels with hollow tapering legs. Another site with
particular fine examples was unearthed in the 1980's at Ban
Prasat. Ban Prasat ware is typically in black or red clay.
The pieces have less decoration than Ban Chiang, but the shapes are
When Ban Chiang wares first
appeared, they were priced very high in the antique markets of the
world. This resulted in a flood of cleverly repaired and
repainted pieces as well as "genuine fakes". The fake Ban Chiang
pieces were made in the same way and from the same materials by skilled
craftsmen. It is extremely difficult to tell the real from the
false without examination by an expert.
The Thai people were thought
to have moved south from China moving down from South China into
Vietnam, Laos and finally theChaopaya River Basin. There then
followed a long period of Khmer rule. The Thai people finally
broke free from the Khmer yoke in the 13th century. The Great
Thai King Ramkamhaeng of Sukothai was the founder of the modern state
and was the King that brought potters from China to set up the famous Sukothai
Around 1300, Sukothai
established itself as one of the more important Thai kingdoms.
The quality of the ceramics improved during this period and the demand
for fine ceramics, from ceremonial use to building materials increased
greatly. There were kilns at various places like Pa Yang, Goh
Noi, Sukothai Town, Pitsanuloke and Nakorn Thai. In some of these
places, the historians found that many kilns were built, especially at
Goh Noi, the oldest site. It is estimated that there were betweem 600
to 800 kilns built over the centuries thoughout this region.
Si Satchanalai or
There are also records of
the kilns of Si Satchanalai that are believed by some
to have started even before Sukothai kiln, perhaps as early as the
C10th. This is the Goh Noi and Pa Yang Kiln Sites. Their
Domestic wares included:
- coarse, sandy earthenware shards with cord-marked, stamped or incised
decorations; round-bottomed pots, kendis and jars.
- reddish or gray bodies, unglazed stonewares. Some of them were
partially glazed with fly-ash from the fuel; vases with wide, flat
shoulders and narrowing down to a small button-foot, short neck and
- roughly made from iron-black clay full of impurities, dishes have
flat bottoms, non-glazed on outside, rich olive glaze.
- large dishes with underglaze black decoration, well drawn floral or
fish design in the center, thinly potted. There were stem-trays,
bowls, kendis and animals, mythological and human figurines.
high-fired stonewares, covered with a natural feldspathic, wood-ash
glaze with iron. Colors are dark Jade greens or deep olive-green,
but can vary to nearly white, gray, honey yellow or brown. The best
celadons of Sawankaloke are a beautiful sea-blue-green. Since
celadon glaze is difficult to control and has a critical maturing point
above which it melts, the glaze is often not applied down to the
foot. If applied to the foot, it tends to run down unevenly
and thickly and might stick to the support. Celadons are heavily
potted dishes, bowls and stem-trays.
Decorated Wares - finely potted, thin, transparent glaze or
grayish, with green or milky blue tinge, brownish black or gray black
underglaze iron decoration. There are covered boxes, mostly round
boxes in different sizes from three to eighteen centimeters. Some
are in the shape of a bird, frog or crab. Floral or leaf decoration are
Brown and Pearl
Incised Wares - applied brown glaze only, the pattern was
incised into the body. There are covered boxes and miniature
- rich honey or dark brown glaze, similar look to celadons but range is
much smaller. The common objects are small pear or gourd shaped
vases with two handle. There also are bowls and jars.
- white glaze both in cream and white, heavily potted, similar to
Ceramic Wares: Singburi and Ayuthya Wares
The great years of the
ceramics industry of Thailand clearly fell between the 14th century and
the middle of the 16th century. This was a period of great
prosperity both for Ayuthya and LanNa in the north of Thailand.
During the later Tak period, historian found more remaining ceramics
from Sukothai , Lan Na and the Golden Age of Ayuthya periods.
In 1569 during a large
Burmese attack, many constructions were destroyed and resulted in the
end of the great Sukothai ceramic industry. The new kilns were
built at Singburi around the year 1600, but produced only coarse
utilitarian goods. Chinese wares were imported into the country
to fulfill the need for pottery and porcelain.
Many types of earthenware
and stoneware were made in Singburi during the Ayuthya capital period.
Generally, Singburi wares were jars with looped handles, covered with a
lack-lustre brown glaze. In 1767, there was another attack from
Burma which caused many kilns to be destroyed and greatly decreased
production of Thai ceramics from this area.