Jar Item Number: Ia250 from the MOA: University of British Columbia
Bulbous jar with wide mouth, relatively narrow base and six lugs on the shoulder. Just below the lugs stretch two horizontal dragons with scaly sinuous bodies amidst a background of waves. Lugs are vertical and grooved. The lower third of the jar is unglazed. A set of inked numbers on the inside neck.
Chinese ceramics were important trade items in Southeast Asia during the 11th - 16th century C.E. This jar was probably exported from China to the Philippines via the Burmese port of Martaban from which the generic name for large jars is derived. They are also referred to as dragon jars because they often have a moulded dragon decoration on their sides. These pot-bellied jars were designed for long journeys at sea, with lugs big enough to pass a rope through and as containers for food, oil, water and for packing smaller porcelains. Besides China, Martaban jars were also manufactured in other parts of Southeast Asia such as Burma, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam and are still being manufactured today in parts of Asia. Due to their physical characteristics - resonance, vitreosity and durability - Chinese ceramics became fully integrated with the ideology and ritual in Philippine societies and played an important role in all aspects of cultural life (Langrick, p. 61). Their functions were varied and included utilitarian, ceremonial, religious roles, as heirlooms, in mortuary ceremonies as burial goods and as items of prestige. Treasured for their supernatural powers, large jars were considered to harbour spirits or household gods while some spoke prophesying events. As mortuary objects ensuring adequate protection of the departed soul, large jars have been found as grave goods, in inhumation burials where bodily remains are encased and in cremation burials where ashes of the dead are placed.
Probably hand-built with clay rings of varying sizes. These were fused together by holding a mallet with a convex face against the inside surface of the jar and tapping gently with a concave mallet held against the outer surface.
Excavated at a burial site in Barrio Bayan, town of Puerto Galera, oriental Mindoro Province, Philippines.
In many indigenous groups of the Philippines, supernatural power was attributed to ceramics because of the ringing sound emitted when lightly tapped and their vitreous, shiny glazed surfaces which impart an impermeable quality. The ringing sound was seen as a magical voice able to attract the attention of powerful ancestor spirits. Their impermeable and seemingly imperishable surfaces were believed to have great protective power against all kinds of influences, from evil spirits to poisons (Langrick, p. 55-56). While the dragon is a traditional Chinese symbol embodying the yang or male principle and emblematic of good fortune, it is also associated with the mythical Naga serpent by the peoples of Southeast Asia.
exchange; status; ceremonial; mortuary