Though not famous for its high quality, Vietnam ceramics nevertheless are creative and have a sort of rustic beauty different from that of the carefully refined ceramics from some other countries. There is an air of innocent carelessness about them as if the craftsmen who produced them were quite liberal in their creation not relying too much on the rules of symmetry and decoration.
The country first began production of glazed ceramics about two thousand years ago. Their original purpose was to serve the needs of village life: bowls for eating, pots for cooking, tall vesself for storing water or rice, basins for cleaning hands, incense burners for worshipping. Vietnamese potters never specialized in manufacturing ceramic wares for the royal families. The same village kilns served the needs of both royalty and the common people.
photo courtesy Tommy Chiu
Blue pattern ceramics are the most popular though other colour combinations can be found too, like crimson red, green and black or red, black and indigo. Two particularly popular decorative themes are dragons and lotuses while other patterns include flowers, birds or traditional village life scenes.
photo courtesy Noel Y.C.
Quite distinctive are ceramics produces by the Cham ethnic minority group. As they have done for centuries, the Cham potters don't use a wheel. Instead they use their hands, bamboo-made circles and shells to shape pieces of clay into the work they want. To fire their pottery they simply place the objects between branches of wood in a heap, cover the heap with another layer of wood and then burn the wood. Their finished pots, vases, jars and vessels look simple but beautiful.
photo courtesy Erik Christensen
Nowadays the rugged ceramic wares of the old days have been greatly improved and adapted to suit modern tastes. The choice is enormous: from the smallest bowls to gigantic vases nearly 2 m high. But they all still emanate the folkloric flavor Vietnamese ceramics have had for centuries.