Nat’l museum unveils rare 14th century Chinese bowl in virtual series

Published August 24, 2020, 5:40 PM

by Hanah Tabios

The National Museum of the Philippines  (NMP) recently shared to the public a 14th century bowl found in an underwater heritage site located at the southern tip of Palawan as part of its “Museum From Home” series.


According to NMP, the porcelain blue and white bowl was among archeological finds from a 15th century shipwreck, something that a pearl diver accidentally discovered in 1993.

The discovery led archeologists and museum researchers from the Underwater Archaeology Division of the NMP to dig deeper into the site in 1995.

The site eventually yielded remains of a wooden ship that contained over 4,000 various objects from different countries.

It has since been dubbed the Pandanan shipwreck site.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) previously surmised the ship, one of the best preserved pre-Spanish trading ships within the jurisdiction of the Philippines, to be a Southeast Asian cargo boat travelling from either Vietnam or Southern China.

The online Museum of Underwater Archaeology (MUA) said the ship carried mostly ceramic goods, 70 percent of which were Vietnamese along with lesser quantities of Chinese and Thai ceramics, as well as undetermined number of earthenware pots and stoves. 

“The non-ceramic items consist of glass beads, iron cauldrons, bronze gongs, small guns, a bronze weighing scale as well as other natural and manufactured products. A Chinese coin dated to the reign of Chinese emperor Yongle (1402–1424) of the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) provided the basis of the relative dating of the site,” the NMP said. 

The bowl is considered a very remarkable find as it was manufactured in the 14th century during the short reign of the Mongolian-led Yuan Dynasty period (1279 – 1368), almost 100 years before the Pandanan vessel sailed in the middle of the 15th century. 

“This period also saw the earliest mass production of porcelain blue and white ceramics, specifically during the years 1328 – 1352, making Yuan dynasty ceramics very rare due to its very narrow production and export period,” it stressed. 

Archaeologists and scholars speculate that the bowl may have been a merchant’s heirloom piece.

Another theory also surfaced about the bowl, along with other unique ceramics, being part of a tribute to a king or a ruler. 

“The blue and white bowl and the rest of the archaeological assemblage of the Pandanan shipwreck proves that the Philippines has been an active participant in international trade during the 15th century,” the NMP said.