Covered Bencharong Toh Jar, 19th century
Overglaze stoneware 8 1/4 in. x 6 7/8 in. (Diam.) (20.96 cm x 17.46 cm)
Crocker Art Museum, gift from Doris Duke's Southeast Asian Art Collection2003.53.19.a
Beginning in the 16th or 17th century, Chinese potters at the kilns of Jingdezhen produced five-color (bencharong) overglaze ceramics for the Thai market. The shapes and motifs of these porcelain and stoneware ceramics differ from those of Chinese ceramics because the potters relied on pattern books that the Thais supplied. The same motifs used on the Chinese manufactured ceramics are also found on Indian cotton printed textiles (sarasa) of the same period, indicating that the Indians followed similar pattern books.
Production of bencharong ware increased in the 18th and 19th centuries, with the most common shapes being rice bowls (both covered and uncovered), stem plates, and toh jars. The form of the toh jar, a bowl with a dome-shaped cover, mimics small reliquary urns of bronze or clay, the knob taking the place of the umbrellas that surmounted the traditional reliquary and the large architectural chedi (Sanskrit: stupa).
While Jingdezhen potters fabricated the pots, the glazed vessels were sometimes shipped to Canton for painting and the final overglaze, a common practice during the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911). The figures on this toh jar represent two of the most common decorative motifs, heavenly beings from one of the six lower heavens (theppanom) and the half-man and halflion (norasingh). As with most bencharong, the entire ground is filled, in this case with the flame-like design called kanok.