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A Box or Two….

Soth East Asian Ceramic Boxes

Some fascinating ancient boxes, just released on Moorabool.com

We’re pleased to offer a small selection of South-East Asian ceramic boxes, fresh to Moorabool.com.

Collection of South East Asian Ceramic Boxes

These pottery and porcelain objects were produced in vast quantities in certain places as trade goods, and as a result are found all across South-East Asia.

Khmer bird pot, 12th century
Khmer bird pot, 12th century

The earliest we have are the Khmer examples, with one delightfully shaped like a small plump bird; his beak and eyes protrude from one side, balanced by a tail at the rear. A small conical cap to the top is almost a miniature Buddhist stupa….

Song Dynasty, 13th century
Song Dynasty Qingbai, 13th century

Equal date is the amazing large white glazed porcelain box with a peony rose moulded to the top. This is from Song Dynasty China, 12th-13th century, of a type known as ‘Qingbai’.

Thai 15th century

I like the Thai pieces from the 15th century for their sophisticated moulded patterns. The ‘Deer’ and the ‘Flower’ boxes we have are particularly tactile pieces, encouraging you to explore their design with your fingertips.

Swipe Left, South Australian Museum:Swipe Right, our example. Thai, Swankalok,

The other Thai pieces are a larger form, made to hold more. These are a distinct high-fired stoneware, and the kiln sites for these were traced & excavated in the 1980’s in Thailand, known as Sawankalok. Australian scholars were a major part of this study, and an important collection of these pieces can be seen in the Art Gallery of South Australia. Interestingly, there is an almost identical box to one of our pieces there, the only difference being a complete reversal of the colour scheme; ours is like the ‘negative’ of theirs!

What were they used for?
The answer to that is “whatever you need a box for!”
Much like a Tupperware box today, they would have been used for whatever the locals needed a small container to hold. In some regions they were probably highly prized expensive imports, used in such prestigious occasions as wedding dowries and burials of the more wealthy. In some of the Indonesian island kingdoms, for example, they are found in ‘caches’, large groups of buried ‘treasure’ including ceramics and precious metals – probably a local wealthy person burying their prized possessions in a time of conflict and never coming back for them.

Hoi An Shipwreck, c. 1490
Hoi An Shipwreck, c. 1490


Another amazing source of these boxes are shipments that never made it to the market place. Boxes from well-known shipwrecks that we have include the Vietnamese products from the late 15th century Hoi An wreck, and a few from the early 17th century Ming Dynasty Bihn Thuan wreck, sold off in Melbourne a few years ago.

Here’s a selection currently in stock:

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