Circular dish  "Hôi An"


Vietnam, mid. 15th century, private collection from Finland.

Hội An Wreck lies 22 miles off the coast of central Vietnam in the South China Sea, at 16.04°N 108.6°E approximately. It sank in typhoon area known as “Dragon Sea” and has been named after the nearby town of Faifo, known in modern geography as Hội An. The ship was carrying a large cargo of Vietnamese ceramics from the mid- to late-15th century. The provenance of the pieces was known to be the kilns of the Red River Delta (Vietnamese: Châu thổ sông Hồng), such as Chu Dau in the Hai Duong province, modern North Vietnam. Hai Duong was known as the largest ceramics production centre in Medieval Vietnam. The only pieces remaining at the kiln sites were wasters (pieces that had fused, collapsed or exploded in the firing process). Intact examples of the wares produced were rare, since all were exported.

Discovered by fishermen in the early 1990s, the Vietnamese government made several attempts to organise an investigation of the site but were confounded by the water depth of 230 feet (70 m). Found by fishermen in the 1993 and eventually excavated in 1996-2000, the Hoi An shipwreck is one of the greatest archaeological finds of the late 20th century. When the wreck was found there was excitement among collectors and archaeologists, for it promised the first cargo consisting solely of Vietnamese wares. According to the contract with the Vietnamese government, all pieces unique to the cargo were retained by Vietnam's museums for display along with 10% of the repetitive pieces. The remaining 90% was sold at auction in 2000 by Butterfields in San Francisco, USA with the Vietnamese Salvage Agency, Saga Horizon and the Vietnamese Ministry of Culture dividing any money made. The project partners were: Oxford University MARE, Saga Horizon, Vietnam National Salvage Agency (VISAL) and the National History Museum (Hanoi).

A fine blue and white porcelain glazed dish decorated with a beautiful peony design and surrounded by a border of blue and white foliage. The exterior depicts decorative petal lappets enclosed with scrolls. Excellent condition. Age-related wear, minor abrasion. Fritting and glazing flaws in the rim. Lovely patina. Size approx. 23,4cm x 23,1cm x 5,4cm. Weight c. 714g.

NB! Complete with original HOI AN HOARD inventory lot number (sticker). This piece has been officially recorded by the Vietnamese authorities (VISAL) whose stickers are affixed. Number: 172265.

References, sources and citations:

Vietnamese Ceramics from the Hoi An Excavation: The Cu Lao Cham Ship Cargo, John Guy, Orientations, Sept. 2000.

Vietnamese Ceramics – New Discoveries, John Guy, in Butterfields (ed.), Treasures from the Hoi An Hoard: Important Vietnamese Ceramics from a Late 15th/Early 16th Century Cargo, (San Francisco: Butterfields), XII–XIX, 2000.

Dragon Sea: A True Tale of Treasure, Archeology, and Greed off the Coast of Vietnam, Frank Pope, 2007.

Maritime Archaeology in Southeast Asia, in John Miksic (ed.), Southeast Asian Ceramics: New Light on Old Pottery, (Singapore: Southeast Asian Ceramic Society), pp. 35–47