The dragon pots of Rat-Jar-buri, Thailand

Reading Time: 5 minutes
Details from a Rattanakosin dragon jar © Arno Maierbrugger

Thailand’s Ratchaburi province, situated a convenient two-hour drive southwest of Bangkok, is not only full of pleasant  geographical features such as the fertile land along the basin of the idyllic Mae Klong river with its paddy fields or the Tanao Si mountains which lie in the east stretching towards the Myanmar border. No, this province is also well-known as Thailand’s hub for ceramic wares, particularly meticulously manufactured and designed water jars, which make people call the town of Ratchaburi, where most of the jars are made and which is also the capital of the province with the same name, Rat-Jar-buri, or simply Jar-town.

The highest-valued example for those water jars is the Ratchaburi ong mangkon, or dragon-designed water jar, which has its roots in China from where was imported in earlier times. Chinese merchants found that red clay in Ratchaburi province had a special quality and could be used to make the jars, and so they established a first factory there in 1933. Later on, Thai craftspeople began experimenting with their own production and took on the art of ong mangkon, which was later expanded with designs of flowers and other plants.

With more kaolin clay sourced from other provinces such as Chonburi, Rayong and Chanthaburi, Thai jar makers expanded their production and began to sell the jars – which turned into a symbol for the entire Ratchaburi province – countrywide and even raised interest from abroad. Selecting designs that were deemed auspicious, makers chose various depictions of the dragon as it is a mystic animal for the Chinese and made it the most popular design for a Ratchaburi water jar.

However, over time, the popularity of ong mangkon has somehow waned because of the technological advancement that has brought forth new containers with lighter weight and easier use, mainly made of plastic materials, or new competition from cheap Chinese or Vietnamese ceramic production. Thus, the traditional ceramic wares from Ratchaburi are today more collectors’ items or home decor rather than pots for practical use.

But a visit of a water jar manufacturing site, one of the handful that have survived the lifestyle changes in Thai society,  is still rewarding as everything is made by hand by experienced and highly skilled workers.
Moreover, for Thai people the Ratchaburi jars are part of their culture and history.

These days, people in Thailand including the younger generation are rediscovering the jars as artistic heritage and put them to new use, for example as flower pots, for home and garden decoration or for their originally intended use as environmentally friendly water containers in times of drought, Chayakorn Prathompat, manager of Rattanakosin Ratchaburi Pottery, a family-owned business and the largest of the remaining five or so traditional water jar potteries in Rachtaburi. tells Investvine.

His jars are entirely made by hand and even baked in a wood-fired traditional huge brick stove called dragon stove. It gets soon clear that jar making by hand is a tedious process, particularly when traditional methods of forming shape, molding and burning in a tunnel stove are used. While Rattanakosin pottery has its own craft skills training courses for those interested in a profession as traditional jar maker, Chayakorn says it has become difficult to find junior staff which is why he often invites school classes to convey to them the history and knowledge of the local pottery craftsmanship, hoping that one or the other gets caught on it and desires to become an artisan.

Jar producers such as Rattanakosin – other well-known factories in Ratchaburi being Thao Hong Tai, Aong Rung Sin, Aong Din Thong, Siamrat Krueang Klueap and Racha Ceramics – offer domestic shipping through special channels with protective packaging to individual customers, while merchants show up personally and buy the ceramic wares directly from the factory and sell them all around the country. In Bangkok, original Ratchaburi dragon jars can be found in some art and handicraft shops, namely in Chinatown, selected home decor or ceramic and pottery boutiques and sometimes at Chatuchak market in the north of the capital. Elsewhere, they are also sold at Damnoen Saduak Floating Market in Ratchaburi town, one of the most popular floating markets in Thailand.

Some factories are able to export around 80 per cent of their ceramics, with international shipping being organised through agents. Most popular target markets are Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, the European Union, US, the Middle East, as well as Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos. The price for one new, glazed water jar starts at around 500 baht (approximately $15) depending on size and design patterns, while antique dragon jars from Ratchaburi can reach collectors’ prices of 16,000 baht ($480) and more.

All pictures © Arno Maierbrugger

Do you like this post?
  • Fascinated
  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Angry
  • Bored
  • Afraid

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Details from a Rattanakosin dragon jar © Arno Maierbrugger

Thailand’s Ratchaburi province, situated a convenient two-hour drive southwest of Bangkok, is not only full of pleasant  geographical features such as the fertile land along the basin of the idyllic Mae Klong river with its paddy fields or the Tanao Si mountains which lie in the east stretching towards the Myanmar border. No, this province is also well-known as Thailand’s hub for ceramic wares, particularly meticulously manufactured and designed water jars, which make people call the town of Ratchaburi, where most of the jars are made and which is also the capital of the province with the same name, Rat-Jar-buri, or simply Jar-town.

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Details from a Rattanakosin dragon jar © Arno Maierbrugger

Thailand’s Ratchaburi province, situated a convenient two-hour drive southwest of Bangkok, is not only full of pleasant  geographical features such as the fertile land along the basin of the idyllic Mae Klong river with its paddy fields or the Tanao Si mountains which lie in the east stretching towards the Myanmar border. No, this province is also well-known as Thailand’s hub for ceramic wares, particularly meticulously manufactured and designed water jars, which make people call the town of Ratchaburi, where most of the jars are made and which is also the capital of the province with the same name, Rat-Jar-buri, or simply Jar-town.

The highest-valued example for those water jars is the Ratchaburi ong mangkon, or dragon-designed water jar, which has its roots in China from where was imported in earlier times. Chinese merchants found that red clay in Ratchaburi province had a special quality and could be used to make the jars, and so they established a first factory there in 1933. Later on, Thai craftspeople began experimenting with their own production and took on the art of ong mangkon, which was later expanded with designs of flowers and other plants.

With more kaolin clay sourced from other provinces such as Chonburi, Rayong and Chanthaburi, Thai jar makers expanded their production and began to sell the jars – which turned into a symbol for the entire Ratchaburi province – countrywide and even raised interest from abroad. Selecting designs that were deemed auspicious, makers chose various depictions of the dragon as it is a mystic animal for the Chinese and made it the most popular design for a Ratchaburi water jar.

However, over time, the popularity of ong mangkon has somehow waned because of the technological advancement that has brought forth new containers with lighter weight and easier use, mainly made of plastic materials, or new competition from cheap Chinese or Vietnamese ceramic production. Thus, the traditional ceramic wares from Ratchaburi are today more collectors’ items or home decor rather than pots for practical use.

But a visit of a water jar manufacturing site, one of the handful that have survived the lifestyle changes in Thai society,  is still rewarding as everything is made by hand by experienced and highly skilled workers.
Moreover, for Thai people the Ratchaburi jars are part of their culture and history.

These days, people in Thailand including the younger generation are rediscovering the jars as artistic heritage and put them to new use, for example as flower pots, for home and garden decoration or for their originally intended use as environmentally friendly water containers in times of drought, Chayakorn Prathompat, manager of Rattanakosin Ratchaburi Pottery, a family-owned business and the largest of the remaining five or so traditional water jar potteries in Rachtaburi. tells Investvine.

His jars are entirely made by hand and even baked in a wood-fired traditional huge brick stove called dragon stove. It gets soon clear that jar making by hand is a tedious process, particularly when traditional methods of forming shape, molding and burning in a tunnel stove are used. While Rattanakosin pottery has its own craft skills training courses for those interested in a profession as traditional jar maker, Chayakorn says it has become difficult to find junior staff which is why he often invites school classes to convey to them the history and knowledge of the local pottery craftsmanship, hoping that one or the other gets caught on it and desires to become an artisan.

Jar producers such as Rattanakosin – other well-known factories in Ratchaburi being Thao Hong Tai, Aong Rung Sin, Aong Din Thong, Siamrat Krueang Klueap and Racha Ceramics – offer domestic shipping through special channels with protective packaging to individual customers, while merchants show up personally and buy the ceramic wares directly from the factory and sell them all around the country. In Bangkok, original Ratchaburi dragon jars can be found in some art and handicraft shops, namely in Chinatown, selected home decor or ceramic and pottery boutiques and sometimes at Chatuchak market in the north of the capital. Elsewhere, they are also sold at Damnoen Saduak Floating Market in Ratchaburi town, one of the most popular floating markets in Thailand.

Some factories are able to export around 80 per cent of their ceramics, with international shipping being organised through agents. Most popular target markets are Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, the European Union, US, the Middle East, as well as Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos. The price for one new, glazed water jar starts at around 500 baht (approximately $15) depending on size and design patterns, while antique dragon jars from Ratchaburi can reach collectors’ prices of 16,000 baht ($480) and more.

All pictures © Arno Maierbrugger

Do you like this post?
  • Fascinated
  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Angry
  • Bored
  • Afraid