Royal treasures identified at Vietnam city museum

By Ha Dinh Nguyen, Thanh Nien News

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Ancient Japanese jars at a private museum in Ho Chi Minh City. The closest one is still attached to a shell after being fished from sea. It is said to have been made from molten lava mud. Photos by Ha Dinh Nguyen

Ho Chi Minh City archeologists on Monday examined antiques at a private museum and identified many as original royal items.
The antiques belonging to the museum of construction and housing development company Southern Investment include an incense bowl of blue glaze pottery, 33 centimeters tall and decorated with two dragons admiring the moon.
It was identified as a king’s item as the dragon legs have five fingers. Based on blurred Chinese words at the bottom, the archeologists said the bowl belonged to King Tu Duc, who ruled between 1847 and 1883.
There’s a bronze burner of 72 centimeters high, 40 centimeters in diameter and three centimeters thick, said to be made in the southern province of Binh Duong under the order of King Thanh Thai (1889 – 1907) as a gift to Chinese migrants in Ho Chi Minh City’s Chinatown.
A copper pedestal engraved with a lion with dragon head is said to be part of the seat of a high-ranking mandarin from the 18th or 19th centuries.

Experts also examined three Japanese jars that are said to be rarely seen in Vietnam. They have high necks and hoses in the shape of women’s breasts.

Two of them were made of blue glaze pottery from the 15th – 17th centuries.

The other’s age has not been identified but is said to be much older.

It was fished from the sea and is still attached to shell debris. Some experts suggested that it was made from lava mud and baked at a very high temperature to explain its lightness and durability.

Three similar jars of clay from the 14th-15th centuries were found in southern Vietnam, including one fished from the Dong Nai River.

Two statues of Harihara, the combined deity form of Hindu gods Vishnu and Shiva, from between 7th and 9th centuries, were also found. One lost an arm and the pedestal while the other had lost its head and part of legs.

Two Indian-style Buddha statues of 32 centimeters tall were made of sandstone in the 7th century. The heads and parts of the legs were also lost.

The museum owner said fishermen dug the statue out from deep in a cave in a remote area at Tho Chu island off the southern province of Kien Giang, after they noticed worshiping pedestals on the ground.

The statues were found with six agate balls that had been carefully smoothed. The use of the balls is still uncertain but they have holes, likely in order to be stringed together into a prayer chain.

Acopper animal statue that archeologists called one the most beautiful of its kind ever found in Vietnam

Among copper antiques are many smoking pipes from the 17th-18th centuries during the Cham period, metal spirals said to protect warriors’ arms during the 14th-15th centuries, and an animal statue of 18.5 centimeters long and 9.5 centimeters tall that looks like a pig, whose age is yet to be identified but which is said to be among the most beautiful ancient animal statues found in Vietnam.
Dr Pham Huu Cong, deputy director of Ho Chi Minh City Museum of History, said most of the some100 antiques examined were “original, in very good condition and very valuable.”

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