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21 April 2006 Newsletter

21 April 2006

Dear Friends:

  • Next Meeting — Thursday, May 11

    The next meeting of the WOCG will be co-hosted with the Asia Society and Galerie Brigitte on Thursday, May 11, 6:40-8:30 pm. Dr. Nora Taylor, Professor of SE Asian Art History at Arizona State University, will survey Vietnamese 20th century art with a focus on recent work by Vietnamese women artists. Nora is currently a Fellow at the Freer and Sackler Galleries.

    This will be a slide-illustrated presentation and reception at HNTB Architecture, 421 7th Street, NW, Washington. Nearest metro is Gallery Place-Chinatown. Parking is on the street parking or in the Verizon Center (until recently called the MCI Center). Reservations are required. Cost is $7 for WOCG and Asia Society members. You can pay at the door. Make reservations by phone 202-833-2742 to the Asia Society.

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  • "Glorious Pots" Opening a Rousing Success

    The April 8 opening of the "Glorious Pots" exhibition went extremely well. The crowd was large and interested. The new exhibition space at Towson University's Asian Arts Center brilliantly displays our ceramics. For those who have not yet seen the show, the web site towson2006 does a good job showing all exhibits and giving pertinent information, like directions, etc. Saturdays are the best time to visit "Glorious Pots". Traffic is moderate and there is plenty of parking near Towson's Fine Arts Center. Our Members' Exhibition remains open until May 20.

    "The show has been mentioned in the City Paper and the Baltimore Sun and I expect to see more media attention for this significant installation."

    Louise Cort's April 8th keynote lecture "The Extraordinary and the Ordinary: Two case studies of Angkorean Khmer Ceramics, and a postscript" was a tour de force. To an SRO audience Louise analyzed of the decorations on three probably unique ceramic bottles from 13th century Cambodia and reported on her recent visit to the central highlands of Vietnam. Minority groups there strongly value large storage jars, including ancient Khmer jars. A summary of her talk is at end of this notice.

    Director Suewhei Shieh of the Arts Center reports "We have received numerous compliments from the visitors since the exhibit opened last week. It is truly a proud presentation. I hope members of the Washington Oriental Ceramic Group, especially those who graciously lent their treasures to the show, would take pride in this venture and come visit the exhibit to see every single piece in the spotlight. So far, the show has been mentioned in the City Paper and the Baltimore Sun and I expect to see more media attention for this significant installation."

    Let me thank again all of the members who so graciously lent their pots and textiles for the show and to those who spent their Saturday, March 25,carefully packaging the show pieces. It is a great show and we did it from our own resources! All members should be proud of what we have produced. Thank you.

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  • A Reminder

    All good and great things must come to an end and "Glorious Pots" is over at 4 pm on Saturday, May 20. Then we must pack the pieces carefully before Towson transports them back to the Rehfusses for pick-up by their owners. Insurance stops when they are returned to Hedy and David's. We need volunteers to carefully pack the pots at the Asian Arts Gallery at Towson on Monday, May 22 from 12:00 noon. Towson staff will also help. This packing operation should take about 2-3 hours.

    Contact David at 703-503-3195 or if you can help.

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"The Extraordinary and the Ordinary: Two case studies of Angkorean Khmer Ceramics, and a postscript"

Khmer Ewers

Louise Cort discussed three ceramics with human shapes or decorated with heavenly figures of the Khmer Empire (802-1431 CE). (Two of three are illustrated in Cort, L. et al., "Asian Traditions in Clay-The Hauge Gifts", Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 2000, page 149, nos. 83 and 84.) She discussed the source of their unusual design and applied decoration. These include heavenly figures, garudas and human faces.

Cort, the ceramic detective, traced from sculptures and structures of Angkorean Cambodia the sources of the pots' decorations. She found that the towers and gates of Bayon, the royal temple in the Angkor complex built by Jayavarman VII (r.1181-1219) (J-7), include similar decorative attributes as on the jars.

Large Storage Jars in Vietnam

The ethnic minority groups inhabiting Vietnam's mountainous central highlands greatly value large storage jars. These jars came from China, Thailand, Vietnam and surprisingly some of the oldest storage jars are Khmer, dating to Cambodia's Khmer Empire (809-1431 CE). Cort visited the central highlands this year.

For centuries the isolated trading village "Ban Don", not far from Boun Me Thout on the Cambodian border has been the trading center for these jars. Highlanders would travel for days to trade for jars at Ban Don. The best were worth an elephant. Good ones had a value of two buffalos. This trade was greatly disrupted by the American war. Before then they were commonly found in the long houses of the Jaray ethnic minority and other highland groups. The Ethnological Museum in Hanoi has built a large Jaray long house on stilts on its grounds whose rooms are filled with these jars.

In highland long houses these valued heirloom jars are placed in along a wall by rank and value, secured to make sure they are not broken. The most valuable are placed nearest the door. Cort called the central highlands a museum for large storage jars. The jars had practical uses like fermenting rice wine. Highlanders' practices included ritual breaking of these large jars at funerals, so they could escort the dead people into the next world. The belief patterns and uses of these large jars by the Vietnam highlanders are quite similar other large jar lovers, like Borneo long house dwellers.

See you on May 11th.


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