About this object

History of use

Chinese ceramics were important trade items in Southeast Asia during the 11th - 16th century C.E. Due to their physical characteristics - resonance, vitreosity, 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. As burial goods, imported Chinese ceramics constitute the vast majority of goods excavated in the Philippines. Buried with the deceased, they acted as indicators of wealth, protected the departing spirit from evil and served as provisions for the afterlife. Turned-over plates and bowls were used to cover certain parts of the body - the head and neck, hands, pelvis and feet - establishing a protective area around the body. Much of the excavated ceramics are consciously miniaturized replicas of larger, more functional vessels. These miniatures served as symbolic substitutes as provisions for the afterlife. In addition, small jarlets and bottles and other containers were used for ritual substances (oils, herbs, aromatic resins) and for food offerings necessary for the departing spirit. It is also important to note that much of the trade ceramics excavated in the Philippines show little or no evidence of usage before burial. Dehua White Wares probably originated from Dehua in the southern Chinese province of Fujian from the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279 C.E.) and continuing over a period of 150-200 years (Locsin, p. 1 & 6). Large quantities have been excavated from Philippine burial sites. From the condition of trade ceramic pieces shown in published sources and in the Tecson collection, it appears that most of the wares were kiln seconds or rejects. They were nevertheless regarded with high esteem and actively traded.


This bottle is part of a collection of Chinese ceramics found in burial context in the Philippines and was excavated in Lumban, Laguna Province, Philippines. Repairs were done by specialists employed by archaeologists and the Philippines National Museum. They were artists by training.

Cultural context

exchange; status; ceremonial; mortuary

Iconographic meaning

In many indigenous groups of the Philippines, supernatural power was attributed to Chinese 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). The lotus is frequently depicted in Chinese art symbolizing purity and perfection, summer and fruitfulness.

Specific techniques

Turned in three parts and then luted together.

Physical description

A miniature bottle with long neck, trumpet-shaped mouth and splayed foot. The body and foot are moulded with raised linear designs of overlapping upright lotus petals. The vase is luted in three sections: at the base of the neck, midway down the body and at the junction where the foot begins to splay. A large hollow at the base forms a narrow foot rim on which the vase rests. Glaze covers the inside of the trumpet mouth and down the exterior surface until just short of the base. The exposed parts reveal a chalky white body. A set of inked letter and numbers is written on the narrow foot rim.