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. Shu-fu Ware in the Philippine context is described in Addis as being manufactured in Jingdezhen in the county of Fuliang in China and as having at least two of the following characteristics: slip decoration in the interior impressed by a mould; a neat, splayed, square-cut foot and an opaque, milky, pale bluish-white glaze (p.4-5). Addis dates Shu-fu Ware to the Yuan Dynasty (1260-1368 C.E.) and perhaps later.


This bowl is part of a collection of Chinese ceramics found in burial context in the Philippines and was excavated at a burial site 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).

Specific techniques

The thickened welt of glaze just below the rim is, according to Medley, a feature due to the method of glazing. When applied, the glaze was evidently allowed to run towards the rim after dipping (p. 175-176). Addis especially points out the foot of this group of dishes and distinguishes it from a classical Sh-fu foot which slightly splays outwards, is completely covered with glaze on the outside, strong, solid and neatly cut on all surfaces (p. 4-5). Rather, this type of Sh-fu dish has feet which are about 1/4 inch high, not at all splayed and having bases which are either not cut at all, being left crudely flat, or is very shallow and roughly cut leaving a coarse foot rim about 1/4 inch wide (p. 9).

Physical description

Broken, reassembled and repaired round bowl with a foliated rim of eight lobes and unglazed flat foot. The cavetto is decorated with a moulded design of eight panels each containing a motif although this is only faintly discernible. Glaze appears to be thickest just below the rim both on the inside and outside. Centre has some grit incorporated. Exterior surface is plain. A set of inked letter and numbers on the foot.