In prehistoric times, most of the designs on the surface of the ceramics were created with sticks while the products were still wet. All of the pottery products from this era had useful applications for household duties and cooking. Most of the pottery products from the Bronze Age were formed on turn tables and had diverse styles. As well as cooking utensils, there were also artistic ceramics and products for tool production. The diverse products were decorated with carved images and covered by a different colored layer of an enamel-like substance. The adornment of pottery products from this period was performed using bronze tools. [Source: Vietnamtourism. com, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism ]

Iron Age pottery products developed in all regions of the country. These products were produced at low temperatures using somewhat rudimentary techniques. The form and ornamentation of the Iron Age pottery products was quite unique to this period. This craft developed from traditional experience, and from the influence of the Chinese. Architectural pottery, including bricks and tiles, also originated during this time and small simple statues of animals, such as pigs and oxen, were introduced.

In his piece “A Historical Overview of Vietnamese Ceramics,” Phan Cam Thuong wrote: “Ceramic making first appeared in Viet Nam during the country’s primitive stages of development when people gave up their wild existence to live in settled communities, and began inventing new tools and household goods. Artifacts found in archaeological sites dating back as far as the middle of the Stone Age, approximately ten thousand years ago, have been discovered at Bac Son. In the Neolithic Era, when the techniques for making stone objects had reached a high level of sophistication, ceramic products of period also began to take on an artistic character. They were no longer rudimentary jars for containing water or pots for cooking. Hoa Loc ceramic products in particular are endowed with rhythmic designs showing original geometric thinking. [Source: “A Historical Overview of Vietnamese Ceramics” by Phan Cam Thuong, Vietnam Art, VietNam Cultural Windows. Phan Cam Thuong is a researcher, art critic and writer of over 12 books in the art and art history fields. He is now a professor at the Hanoi Fine Art University and an acclaimed artist.

“The invention of pottery probably started from observation of the effect of fire on the surface of the earth. Primitive people must have noticed that on places over which fires had passed, the earth became very hard. They began to dig holes, which were baked and turned into containers for harvested rice or water. All the shapes of ceramic products likewise came into existence in the same natural way. Ancient rice bowl and dishes for instance are shaped like cupped hands the form we make with our hands to hold spring water. Jars and bottles used as containers have the same shape as fruits.

“Knitted and woven products such as baskets and bamboo cages also influenced the shape of early ceramic products. Ancient jars were made by plastering knitted objects with clay before putting them into a kiln. At high temperatures, the knitted cage would burn, leaving on the ceramic jars its traces, which became small decorative motifs. Many ancient ceramic products of the Stone Age in Viet Nam bear such traces of decorative motifs. This is one possible explanation as to how the decoration on the outer surface of pottery was invented. Ceramic objects decorated with rhythmic design came into existence after the emergence of the potter’s wheel.

Today we can accurately reconstruct the process of shaping and decoration employed in each of the three stage of ceramic art of the Bronze Age: Phung Nguyen (4,000 years ago), Dong Dau (3,300 years ago) and Go Mun (3,000 years ago). The processes involved in making ceramic of this period are similar to those still used in the Vietnamese countryside today. The techniques used to decorate ceramic objects of the three above-mentioned stages became the early models for decorative motifs used on the bronze objects of the Dong Son period. Sa Huynh and Dong Son ceramic in period of the Iron Age reached a remarkably high level of technical sophistication, even as precious bronze objects were beginning to come into common use. We must also add that the tools used during this period were primarily made of iron whereas the household goods were often ceramic and instruments made of bronze. Sa Huynh ceramic objects, characterized by their thickness, were generally made in the South of serve as tombs or as containers for possessions of the dead. The interaction between the shaping of bronze objects and that of ceramic is obvious; many of the ancient ceramics have the same shape as the bronze objects and vice versa.