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Asian art

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Bowl decorated with Buddhist figures

18th century


Bencharong ware



Bencharong ware is a polychrome porcelain made in the city of Jingdezhen (the porcelain capital of China) and richly decorated to Thai tastes with bright enamel glazes. It is thought that Buddhist books and paintings were supplied as references and sent to Guangzhou merchants, who acted as intermediaries to the Chinese potters and decorators for foreign orders. As with Western orders, new, alien ceramic shapes were communicated by maquettes in wood or perhaps metal. While the name Bencharong derives from the sanskrit words ‘pancha’ and ‘ranga’ meaning five colours, Bencharong wares can also be found with as little as three and as many as eight colours.

Bencharong wares were first commissioned by the Thai kings of Ayutthaya in the 18th century during a peaceful period of rule that was congenial to picnics and tours and where Bencharong wares could be used to store and serve food. After the fall of Autthaya to the Burmese in 1767 Bencharong wares became more widely used and Lain Nam Thong wares superseded them as the exclusive wares of royalty.

This bowl, decorated on the inside and outside, is a particularly fine example and is decorated with alternating images of 'thepanom' and 'norasingha', both minor Buddhist deities belonging to the Theravada school of Buddhism. Typically the 'thepanom' (celestial beings who live in one of the six lower Buddhist heavens) sit cross-legged in a praying posture, nude except for a petalled collar, bracelets and crown. Typically the 'norasingha', believed to reside in the mythical Himaphan forest in the Himalayan mountains, has a human head, the hindquarters of a lion with a flame-tipped tail, and the hoofs of a deer, however in this example the norasingha’ is depicted with human feet.

Asian Art Department, AGNSW, Nov 2015


Other Title

Bowl decorated with thepanon and norasingh

Place where the work was made



18th century

Media category


Materials used

porcelain with enamel decoration


9.5 x 20.0 cm


Gift of Mr F. Storch 1985


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Bencharong ware

Works in the collection



Where the work was made

Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

Referenced in 6 publications


Professor Philip Courtenay, Carter's Antiques and Collectables, 'Thai Bencharong wares', pg. 18-19, Sydney, 2000, 7 (colour illus.), 18, 19 (colour illus.).

Ewen McDonald, AGNSW Collections, Sydney, 1994, 183 (colour illus.).

Jackie Menzies (Editor), The Asian Collections Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Export Ceramics', Sydney, 2003, 142 (colour illus.).

Jackie Menzies and Edmund Capon AM, OBE, Asian Collection Handbook, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'South-East Asian Art', pg. 83-95, Sydney, 1990, 93 (colour illus.).

Jill Sykes, Look, 'Frederick Storch 1927-2003', pg. 12, Sydney, Feb 2004, 12 (colour illus.).

Thai-Oz News, Fairfield, 19 Aug 1993-01 Sep 1993, 15 (illus.).