⟨ Craft ⟩

Annamese porcelain

The land that will never vanish

Words and Photography / Ron Lam
Translation / Iris Heung

早前在一個廢墟中策劃展覽,展期間想買點小吃,於是造了湯丸,丈夫為了讓湯丸看來更好看,居然特意在網上訂了一堆安南燒的飯碗來。

一般的青花器物,被讚頌的都是其精致的紋樣,偏偏受大部份日本人青睞的安南燒,並非早期技術精湛的佳品,而是後期,在安南燒的產地經濟衰落後,大量生產出來的造工糙粗、形態一點都不嚴謹的「劣作」。丈夫找來的那幾口,更似乎是燒成時的失敗作品,碗底裡黏著了窯裡掉下的陶泥,生產的工匠大概沒想到,這被他堆在窯旁的垃圾,在近百年後,會有人願意花錢將之買下,且珍而重之。工藝的優劣佳拙,界線實在難以劃分,但想來,定必與技術無關。

話說回來,安南其實是地方的名字,領土是現時越南的中部地區,於679年被唐高宗定名,縱然1054年至1804年間輾轉更名為大越,但中國仍稱呼當地方安南,之後因為中國戰爭,法國取得當地主權,它又更名為安南保護國,至1948年,拼入越南之中,從此安南便不大存在了。安南燒,龐統一點說,就是在這段時期,生產於這片土地上的陶瓷品,現時也作為越南青花器物的稱呼。

安南這個位處遠方,已然消失的國度,原本該早就給一般日本人遺忘了,但因為一項工藝的傳承,這地方的存在,永久地被人認知。

I recently curated an exhibition in an abandoned area. After knowing my idea of selling rice balls in the exhibition space, my husband ordered some Annamese porcelain rice bowls to give the food a better presentation when I served.
 
The Annamese porcelains in its early period were high in quality. As time went by, the economy of the area that produced Annamese porcelain began to decline, which, in turn, led to a considerable drop in the quality of the porcelain. While blue and white porcelains are usually loved by people for their delicate patterns, Japanese people prefer the poor-quality subpar Annamese porcelains that were produced in their later phase. The bowls my husband bought can even be considered as failed products with some excessive clay stuck to the bottom of the bowls. The workmen who made this would be surprised to know that after almost a hundred year, these bowls that should end up in trash bin would be bought by someone who genuinely appreciates them. There is only a very flimsy boundary between the exquisite and the inferior craftwork. No matter how is the boundary defined, it should be unrelated to the technique of the craftsman.  

The name Annamese porcelain came from a place called Annam that was once located in the central region of the current Vietnamese territory. The name was first given by Emperor Gaozong of the Tang Dynasty. Although it was renamed Đại Việt from 1054 to 1804, China continued to call the area Annam. As a result of the Sino-French War, the area became a French protectorate. In 1948, Annam finally became a part of Vietnam and no longer existed on its own. Annamese porcelains are basically the product of this piece of land during the days when it was called Annam. Although Annam has ceased to exist, the term Annamese porcelain is still used to categorize the blue and white porcelain from Vietnam.

Annam was a place far away from Japan that has disappeared from the map, so why is it not yet forgotten? As long as the craft from this region continues to shine, a place will continue to exist in people’s minds.