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Follow the monstrous fish

Published Jan 02, 2023
Updated Jan 02, 2023

📍 🇸🇬 Follow the monstrous fish

This beautiful blue-and-white ceramic jar was made in Northern Vietnam in the 14th century and it may have been found in Indonesia. Originally conceived for the Vietnamese elite, the blue-and-white designs (motifs of lotus, clouds and plants) that we can see on the jar are characteristic of the artistic influence of the Yuan dynasty ceramics (1279-1368), exported during the 14th century across the world. The sophisticated decoration highlights the Makara, the monstrous fish situated on the body of the vase and painted with underglaze cobalt-blue.

First seen in Indian art and literature, Makara means in Sanskrit "sea-creature". This water monster is a hybrid creature usually depicted as a half animal such as a crocodile and a half aquatic animal - generally a fish. According to Hindu mythology, this creature, symbol of water and life, is also the vehicle (Vahana) of Hindu river goddess Ganga and the sea god Varuna.

Considered as the guardians of doors, gates and thresholds, the Makara are highly represented in south and southeast Asian art on sculpture and to decorate the temples.

This Jar decorated with a fish can be seen in the Asian Civilisations Museum of Singapore.


Steven Darian, « The Other Face of the Makara », Artibus Asiae, 1976.

Credit photo Asian Civilisations Museum of Singapore.

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13th-14th century