Martavans (Dijkman 2013)
Below article is an attempt at verifying the origins of the Martavan, which currently is located at the Puri Ageng, Blahbatu, Gianyar - Bali, in the protecting hands of A.A.Ratu I Gusti Ngurah Jelantik, which - according to legend - is the booty carried to mainland Bali by either I Gusti Ngurah Jelantik according to the Babad Blahbatu, or I Gusti Tenganan Jelantik according to the 'Dalem Sawang' (both sources mentioned by Giambelli, 1995), after the raid on the kingdom of Bungkut, Nusa Penida.
Images above: martavan at Puri Ageng, Blahbatu, Gianyar - Bali, photographed by the author GD with kind permission of A.A.Ratu I Gusti Ngurah Jelantik, 2009
martavan type 'IV K1' by Adhyatman et al. (1977)
Blahbatu Martavan: from Chinese origin, 17th century
Three experts on martavans (Miedema: 1964; Adhyatman: 1977; Meulenbeld: 1987, see sources below) have to date published their findings on martavans (tempayan). From these sources the following picture arises: The martavan at Puri Ageng Blahbatu may be of the type identified by Adhyatman et al. as 'IV K1', dating back to the 16th to 18th century, in 1977 on display at 'Museum Pusat' (Jakarta). The 'IV K1' is described as follows:
"Of conical shape; the everted lip has an upturned mouth rim and features a band of buttons. At the base of the short neck is a moulded band. With applied ochre relief decorations and covered by a black shiny Temmoku-like glaze. On the shoulder are four vertical handles with long narrow ends on a band of buttons. From each handle vertical bands with buttons hang to halfway down the body and end on a moulded band. The unglazed lower body and flat base are coated with a brown slip and the inside of the mouth is glazed. Ht 71 cm, D 65 cm. Museum Pusat No.431"
Unfortunately, the exact measurements of the Blahbatu Martavan were not taken during the visit to the Puri Ageng Blahbatu in 2009. Having discussed the appearance and most likely measurements of the martavan at Blahbatu with historical art expert Pier Terwen (Leiden, Netherlands, 2013), however, and having compared the pictures taken at Blahbatu with 'IV K1' at Museum Pusat, it is likely that the Blahbatu Martavan is of the same type. Noteworthy detail is that the curved lip of the Blahbatu Martavan has been taken off, probably due to earlier damages.
The Blahbatu Martavan, according to Miedema, ('Pots from Kuang-Tung/Canton', p.9), would fit the following description: "The pots, which are most frequently found in Indonesia and the Philippines, don't originate from the area around Martaban, although they have been given the exclusive name of 'martavans'. The pots have virtually no foot profiling and typically show, without exception, a hollow, unglazed but mostly brown base ('standvlak'). The material is light grey stoneware, the wall is covered with a strongly coloured, gleaming glaze, often brown, but also green, and sometimes a play of colours. From these characteristics it may be inferred that the present, large group of 'martavans' was manufactured in the South-Chinese coastal province of Kuang-Tung. The large distribution of these pots in Indonesia and the brisk trade of the V.O.C. with Canton, make it likely that the traded post in the seventeenth century by the Dutch were indeed of this type; the bulk of these pots must therefore be traced back to the 17th century. The people most devoted to these martavans are traditionally the Dayak on Borneo. A good martavan with the Dayak is worth a great deal, traditionally stays within the family for many centuries and is used to convey the mortal remains of the forefathers. The martavans, therefore, are a sign of great holiness and mostly possess strong magical characteristics, which are attributed to the pot even when it is broken. In 1881, F.S.Grabowsky ("Über die Djawets oder heiligen Töpfe der Oloh Ngadju (Dajaken) von Süd-Ost-Borneo"; Zeitschrift für Ethnologie VII, Berlin 1885) drew on Borneo a number of martavans, (...). Grabowsky notices, that the value of these pots (in order of numbering) decreases, and that the last four are not holy pots, but ordinary and cheap water storage vessels."
Given the above information, the author thinks it is likely that the Blahbatu Martavan is of Chinese origin, manufactured in South China (Guangzhou) and transported to Bali by the V.O.C. in the seventeenth century. However, since the exact measurements still have to be verified, further analysis and research is needed.
In view of below information on the role martavans play(ed) in Dayak Kalimantan, it is worth mentioning that the martavan at Blahbatu is endowed with magical powers, according to A.A.Ratu I Gusti Ngurah Jelantik. The martavan at Blahbatu is kept in a sacred place inside an altar shrine dedicated to Ratu Gede Mecaling within his palace grounds. Below descriptions of the use of martavans in Kalimantan mention how some martavans are covered in yellow cloth - as is the case in Blahbatu - , are used to store mortal remains of ancestors and are revered as they ward off sikness. In the context of Nusa Penida, it may seem obvious that the qualities ascibed to the heirloom found at Blahbatu fulfill all these criteria. The question ramains, whose mortal remains were stored in the martavan? According to legend, this may refer to the mortal remains of the last vanquished King of Nusa Penida, King Bungkut. Not unimportant in this context, is the role the martavan would play in warding off illness given the yearly occurrence of 'g(e)rubug' in mainland Bali.
Additional 'supporting evidence' may be inferred from the bowl, presently in Leiden, purchased in Klungkung by historian and translator Rosemary Robson. She was informed at Klungkung market that this artefact is from Nusa Penida, and possibly of (South) Chinese origin. It is likely that this bowl, too, was transported to Nusa Penida by the V.O.C in the seventeenth century.
Images above: Nusa Penida bowl (Rosemary Robson, Leiden, Netherlands 2009)
Martavanen uit de Hindujavaanse tijd (Miedema, 1964,4)
Een gesloten groep vormen de potten van voor de Europese tijd, welke, op een uitzondering na, die te Cairo is verworven, alle op Java zijn gevonden. De potten zijn gekenmerkt door een recht standvlak zonder voetprofilering en door hun materiaal, vooral het galzuur, dat het standvlak en de onderste zône van de wand vrijlaat.
Op de schouder zijn, vaak gericht door een horizontale ingriffing, kleine, liggend C-vormige oortjes gezet, waarschijnlijk om er een leren of perkamenten afsluiting aan vast te binden. Het glazuur is helder, door ijzer geel-bruin tot groen-grijs gekleurd en loopt op de grotere exemplaren in onregelmatige druppels over het oppervlak. Voor herkomstbepaling en datering zijn weinig gegevens beschikbaar. Over het algemeen is er een tendens om de waar te vergelijken met het groen geglazuurde product van Ch'ang-sha (N.O.Honan) of met dat van Yüeh-chou (Chêkiang); dit gebeurt echter meer ter vergelijking dan als toeschrijving. De glazuursoort, de rechte bodem en de kleine, liggende oortjes komen ook voor op een klein potje in het Princessehof, dat uit de late Han-tijd stamt en gedateerd is 200 n.C.; dergelijke gedateerde stukken van Annamese herkomst treft men aan in de verzameling Huet in de Koninklijke Musea voor Kunst en Geschiedenis in de Cinquantenaire te Brussel. Het is dan ook niet onwaarschijnlijk dat onze Javaanse potten van Annamese origine zijn, een vermoeden dat ook Ottema reeds heeft uitgesproken.
Ook over de datering is weinig zekerheid. Het ongeglazuurd laten van het onderste wandgedeelte is een kenmerk van de T'ang-dynastie (616-906 n.C.); de potten zijn vaak aan de late T'ang-periode toegeschreven maar worden ook wel voorzichtigheidshalve "T'ang-type" genoemd. Niettemin mogen ze, zoals uit de beschrijving van de drie typen zal blijken, aan de Hindujavaanse periode worden toegeschreven. Dat er al heel vroeg grote voorraadpotten op Java in gebruik waren, blijkt uit reliëfs in de tempels Borobudur en Prambanan; de vorm maakt het waarschijnlijk dat de daar afgebeelde potten inderdaad van aardewerk zijn.
Hindujavaanse tijd, type C (p.7)
Grote potten met recht standvlak; de wand eivormig met hoge, brede schouder, of slank-convex met zwelling in het midden. Korte, rechte, staande liprand als in type A. Op de schouder zes liggende C-vormige oortjes, geplaatst op een horizontale ingriffing. Deze potten zijn in Midden-Java gevonden in de streek tussen de tempel Borubudur en de bergen Marbabu en Merapi (Volgens De Flines, blz.10 vlg., worden op geheel Java, Zuid-Sumatra, Zuid-Celebes en Bali gevonden.); exemplaren zijn eveneens gevonden in het binnenland van Noord-Borneo, waar ze door de Dajaks het hoogst van alle potten worden geschat (Sarawak Museum Journal VI-5 (juli 1955), titelplaat, en VI-6 (dec. 1955), pl.V en blz.551). Ze kunnen uit de 10e-12e eeuw stammen, een datering die bevestigd wordt doordat ze soms Hindujavaanse woorwerpjes bevatten.
M14 pot, h.66cm (NO1378) (p.7)
Image M14: Recht standvlak, breed eivormige wand, rechte, staande liprand. Zes liggende oortjes op een ingriffing. Licht bruin gebrand, grijs steengoed; groengrijs, onregelmatig over het oppervlak gelopen glazuur. Verworven te Cairo. Afb.: Handboek, afb. 147.
Martavanen en de handel door Europeanen (p.9)
Al in de veertiende eeuw troffen Arabische reizigers in de havenstad Martaban, in Burma, een groot soort potten aan die gebruikt werden om geconfijte vruchten in te bewaren. Toen na het ontdekken van van de zeeweg om Kaap de Goede Hoop (Vasco da Gama, 1498) de Portugezen als eerste Europeanen de Aziatische kunsten ontdekten, troffen ook zij deze potten van Martaban aan: het waren zeer grote, sterke en fraaie voorraadpotten met een zwart glazuur, vooral geliefd bij de 'Moren' (de Arabieren); sommige van de potten konden een tot twee pijpen water, d.i. een halve tot een hele m3 bevatten (The book of Duarte Barbosa, translated... by Mansel Longworth Dames (the Hakluyt Society Series II, vol. XLIX). vol II. London, 1921, blz.158 vlg.).
Omstreeks 1600 werden de Portugezen voor het grootste deel uit Azië verdrongen door de Nederlanders, die vanaf die tijd de handel overnamen; en ook zij ontmoetten het in Azië zo geliefde product van Martaban. De grote potten waren in Europa niet te verkopen, omdat het Rijnland uitstekende inlegpotten van steengoed leverde. De kooplieden verhandelden daarom de 'martavanen', zoals trouwens langzamerhand alle grote potten, ook de in Zuid-China gekochte, waren gaan heten, in Indonesië en de Philippijnen, gebieden waar ze van oudsher gretig aftrek vonden, en laadden daar de voor Europa bestemde koopwaar in. In de dagboeken van de V.O.C. treffen we dan ook heel vaak martavanen onder de koopwaar aan, maar in Europa zag men ze zelden.
De martavanen (om de verzamelnaam te gebruiken) in het Princessehof zijn van sterk uiteenlopende soort; op enige in het Nabije Oosten verworven exemplaren na komen ze alle uit Indonesië, waar ze, behalve 'martavaan' en 'tempajan', vele andere, regionale namen hebben en waar ze tot op de huidige dag in gebruik zijn als voorraadpotten en regenwatervaten.
Potten van Kuang-Tung/Canton (p.9)
De potten die in Indonesië en de Philippijnen het meest voorkomen zijn, hoewel ze bij uitstek met de algemene naam 'martavanen' worden aangeduid, niet afkomstig uit de streek rondom Martaban. De potten hebben vrijwel geen voetprofilering en vertonen zonder uitzondering een typerend hol, ongeglazuurd maar veelal bruin gekleurd standvlak. Het materiaal is lichtgrijs steengoed, de wand is bedekt met een krachtig gekleurd, glanzend glazuur, meestal bruin, vaak ook groen, soms bont. Uit deze eigenschappen valt af te leiden dat de onderhavige, grote groep 'martavanen' vervaardigd is in de Zuidchinese kustprovincie Kuang-Tung. De grote verspreiding van deze potten in Indonesië en de levendige handel die de V.O.C. op Canton dreef, doen vermoeden dat de door de Nederlanders in de zeventiende eeuw verhandelde potten van deze soort waren; het grootste gedeelte zal dus in de 17e eeuw te dateren zijn. De volkeren die het meeste belang hechten aan de martavanen zijn van oudsher de Dajaks op Borneo. Een goede martavaan is bij de Dajaks grote schatten waard, blijft door overerving lange eeuwen in de familie en is bestemd om de stoffelijke resten der voorvaderen te bevatten. De martavanen staan dan ook in en reuk van grote heiligheid en bezitten meestal sterke magische eigenschappen, die zelfs, wanneer de pot is gebroken, aan de scherven blijven hangen. In 1881 tekende F.S.Grabowsky ("Über die Djawets oder heiligen Töpfe der Oloh Ngadju (Dajaken) von Süd-Ost-Borneo"; Zeitschrift für Ethnologie VII, Berlin 1885) op Borneo een aantal martavanen, een tekening die gereproduceerd is in een hiernaast afgebeelde litho en waarop verschillende typen te herkennen zijn. Grabowsky merkt op, dat de waarde van de afgebeelde potten in volgorde van nummering afloopt, terwijl de laatste vier geen eigenlijke heilige potten maar gewone, goedkope waterpotten zijn.
The pots, which are most frequently found in Indonesia and the Philippines, don't originate from the area around Martaban, although they have been given the exclusive name of 'martavans'. The pots have virtually no foot profiling and typically show, without exception, a hollow, unglazed but mostly brown base ('standvlak'). The material is light grey stoneware, the wall is covered with a strongly coloured, gleaming glaze, often brown, but also green, and sometimes a play of colours. From these characteristics it may be inferred that the present, large group of 'martavans' was manufactured in the South-Chinese coastal province of Kuang-Tung. The large distribution of these pots in Indonesia and the brisk trade of the V.O.C. with Canton, make it likely that the traded post in the seventeenth century by the Dutch were indeed of this type; the bulk of these pots must therefore be traced back to the 17th century. The people most devoted to these martavans are traditionally the Dayak on Borneo. A good martavan with the Dayak is worth a great deal, traditionally stays within the family for many centuries and is used to convey the mortal remains of the forefathers. The martavans, therefore, are a sign of great holiness and mostly possess strong magical characteristics, which are attributed to the pot even when it is broken. In 1881, F.S.Grabowsky ("Über die Djawets oder heiligen Töpfe der Oloh Ngadju (Dajaken) von Süd-Ost-Borneo"; Zeitschrift für Ethnologie VII, Berlin 1885) drew on Borneo a number of martavans, (...). Grabowsky notices, that the value of these pots (in order of numbering) decreases, and that the last four are not holy pots, but ordinary and cheap water storage vessels.
Zwarte reuzemartavanen (p.17)
Een groep donkerbruine tot zwart geglazuurde potten, soms van zeer grote afmetingen. Het is verleidelijk om deze potten in verband te brengen met de zestiende-eeuwse Portugese beschrijving van de zwarte potten van Martaban, die een inhoud van 1m3 konden bereiken. Aan deze beschrijving voldoet M50, een waar wonder van technisch kunnen, met een prachtige gespannen vorm en fraai glazuur. Eenzelfde pot, opgegraven te Londen, bevindt zich aldaar in het Guild Hall Museum - datering in de zestiende eeuw is zeer wel mogelijk, maar toeschrijving aan Martaban zou met deze weinige gegevens te voorbarig zijn. Het type bleef zeer lang in gebruik als watervat: zo is M51 waarschijnlijk niet ouder dan omstr. 1900.
M50 pot, h. 98cm (NO1351): Recht standvlak, breed eivormige wand, naar buiten omgeslagen liprand. Vier liggende bandoortjes. Paarsbruin brandend steengoed met onregelmatig gelopen, lichtgroenbruin tot donderbruin glazuur. Standvlak en onderste zone van de wand ongeglazuurd. 16e eeuw (?). Verworven in Midden-Java. Afbeelding: Maandblad voor Beeldende Kunsten, jan.194, blz.23 vlg. Handboek, afb. 150.
M52 potm h. 52cm (NO1263)
Image M52: Recht standvlak, eivormige wand, naar buiten afgerond verdikte lip. Twee liggende bandoortjes. Paarsbruin brandend steengoed met onregelmatig gelopen, donkerbruin glazuur. Standvlak en onderste zone van de wand ongeglazuurd. 19e eeuw (?). Verworven in Midden-Java.
Introduction [Adyatman, 1977:26]: Martavans in Borneo
Martavan is the name used to refer to a group of big stoneware or highly fired earthenware storage jars. The name can be traced to the entrepot port of Martaban in Burma. Martaban was an active base from whence the Chinese wares were shipped to the Near East, India and Africa during the Sung and Ming dynasties and it was at Martaban that these big jars were first observed by Westerners. Early Western writers on the porcelain trade route called a wide number of ceramic products "Martavans" after the port. Thus in the Near East and Turkey the term "Martabani wares" was loosely used to refer to both celadons and these large brown glazed storage jars. Volker noted that Chinese traders got their wares to Martaban by carrying them on pack animals overland to the town of Bahmo in Northern Burma and then from Bahmo which is well known as the Western start of the famous Burma Road, they were transported down river to Martaban, However, at the beginning of the seventeenth century the importance of certain ports concerned in the porcelain trade changed, Japan, once an important importer became an active exporter in the second half of the seventeenth century. Martaban grew less important and the name Martabani jars or martavans survives only in reference to these storage jars, just as characteristic group of Ming export ceramics is known internationally as Swatow ware after the name of the port from where they were exported. These jars are also sometimes called Pegu jars, Pegu being the town just North of Martaban.
The popular Indonesian name for martavans is tempayan, a name which originates from "tempat tapè" the containers in which the local fermenting rice or cassava is made. This name which derives from a use of the jar should be allowed to fall into obsolescence, as besides being used as a container for local fermenting wines it serves a host of other purposes as a storage vessel for oil, rice, pickles, saltfish, holy water from the Ganges and even as repositories for human remains.
The name "guci" as an attractive word still in use in reference to these storage jars in Kalimantan. However it must be noted that guci also refers to jars smaller than 25 cm which have been excluded in this catalogue. We have thus chosen to use the term martavan here.
There have been scattered records of the shipping of martavans filled with such merchandise as oil, rice, butter, pickles, water and even holy water and mud from the Ganges. Yet, strangely enough these records are rare and martavans were commonly shipped empty despite the fact that when filled they were less likely to suffer breakage. This was pointed out by Volker in 'Porcelain and the Dutch East Indies Company".
The number of martavans in Indonesia and the Philippines is enormous today despite the fact that between the years 1602 and 1683 Volker could only account for no more than 1300 being imported into Batavia and being present in the Malay Archipelago and 1140 jars being imported into other Asian markets. He noted that there were records of large orders of martavans such as the one placed by Batavia for 600 jars to be bought at Pegu on the 11th July 1665, which were evidently never fulfilled. Martavans seemed rather scarce at that time. The troubles in China and the uncertain overland route to Burma could account for these small numbers.
It must be kept in mind that statistics must be extremely difficult to collect during that time. Even today, the collection of accurate statistical figures covering such large land areas are an almost impossible task. That the numbers of jars imported were probably larger than accounted for by Volker or that the main bulk of martavans were imported by other shipping organisations or outside of the period covered by Volker is evidenced by Tom Harrison. Harrison stated in his article "Ceramics penetrating Central Borneo" that he saw several thousand big jars in longhouses in the Northern interior of Borneo which could only have got there by tortuous and slippery foot-tracks across extremely high mountains and numerous river crossings. Personally, on a visit to a number of longhouses in the Rejang and Gaat river valleys, I saw a minimum of 50 martavans in each longhouse we visited though in many, modern jars from local kilns have replaced old ones.
The primary function of a martavan is for storage. For this purpose it has to be strong and sealable. Today ceramic covers to these jars are rather rare and it is possible that pig's bladder or some other sealing material was used to cover the mouths of martavans. The loophandles are a means of securing the cover and for fastening the jar to a post or pole. As mentioned earlier, a wide variety of commodities are stored in martavans.
In parts of South East Asian the social function of these jars is very apparent as is revealed in their use in the festivities, ceremonies and everyday customs such as the overcoming of sickness in a community.
Drinking is an essential part of many of the ceremonies and festivities in Asia. In parts of Borneo for example, at relatively minor events like hair cutting and ear piercing through to important functions like circumcisions, harvest and death ceremonies, group drinking takes place almost as a form of cleansing of the participants. In all of these tribal ceremonies the martavan still plays a central role as the container for tuak, the local rice wine. Jar burials have been reported to be a practice among tribal natives in Borneo and the Philippines. Amongst the Dusuns of North Borneo, if the cost of a big jar for the primary burial is too high, the corpse is buried in a wooden coffin and a small jar is placed atop the grave to satisfy custom. This is also a common practice in South Borneo. It has also been reported that amongst the Dusuns and the Murat Dayaks, if the opening is too small to fit the dead, then the jar is carefully broken into two, the body put in and the two halves of the jar joined together again. The mouth of the jar is covered with a bronze gong. The body is kept in the  house for seven days during which time continuous celebrations take place. Then the burial takes place. It is sometimes the custom to break the jar to release the soul from the body.
That ceramics have been broken during burial festivities has also been noted by Scharer in mock fights among the Ngadja-Dayak tribes in South Borneo and also by Tom Harrison in Potok Murut death feasts in the interior highlands of Kalimantan.
Barbara Harrison further notes that besides jar burial in Niah's Lobang Tulang, ceramics sherds could have been used as grave furniture instead of undamaged whole pieces in burials, especially where the piece is of an extremely fine quality. Evidence of jar burials in the Philippines have been cited by Cole and it appears to be the custom there to place the body in one jar and to cover this with another jar of similar size.
Martabani jars have now made their way into the modern home as a decorative item. The value attached to these jars has soared as the factor of antiquity has come into play. Above this factor, especially among the tribal races in the interior of Borneo and the Philippine Archipelago, some jars accredited with magical powers are priceless.
Volker notes that as early as 1673 martavans were of extremely high value. In a negotiation for a loan of 20,000 Rijdksdaelders (one Rijksdaelder is equivalent to 2,35 to 2.5 florins) at interest from the Sultan, the English at Bantam offered as security 200 bandoliers and 2 martavans. Cole also noted that these old jars were greatly sought after and that they were at one stage the principal indicators of a man's wealth. Today, many of the Kalimantan Dayak tribes still take the number of martavans owned by a family as an index of their status.
A curiosity is that during the 17th century the Japanese too were in the market for these jars and a report states that on Luzon, dark brown old jars were highly prized by the Japanese for effectively preserving tea. Tea was then considered a great delicacy and of high medicinal value by the King and Lords of Japan.
Myths and beliefs accompanying some of these jars have on the one hand made them priceless but on the other hand caused them to be viewed with awe and fear and a desire to steer clear of them by others. Though the myths and legends connected with martavans are viewed with sceptism in Jakarta and other modern cities, they still reign strongly amongst the Dayaks of Kalimantan and other natives of the more primitive parts of Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. A scarcity in martavans arose when trade with China ceased. Many of these jars fetched enormous prices and were often priceless to their owners who endowed them with the ability to talk and to bestow good fortune by their mere presence. Jars so accredited with life are also given a sex. The martavan can be of either sex. The sex of a jar is determined by its shape; in a female jar, the shoulders are wide and high whilst those of a male jar more sloping and the body more rounded. Then again, the decorations on the jar are important in that they "speak" of some value, wish, dream or past of the owner. Jar no. IV E1 is said to be a fortune-telling jar and van be consulted to this end. Jar no.V Il indicated by the closeness the hind bodies of the dragons curve upwards against each other that there is a virgin in the house. Jar no.II B1 is believed in Indonesia to be reserved as a human repository.
Whilst in a modern kiln in Sibu, Sarawak we wanted to purchase a very attractive black glazed jar with a seemingly turned-over bowl as a cover. The proprietor of the kiln, Mr. Wong, would under no circumstances sell it to us, insisting that we were courting danger and evil as this type of jar was used by the Dayaks solely as funerary urns.
It is common belief that everything on earth has a god. The Dayaks of Kalimantan also hold this to be true. The Ngadju-Dayak tribe from North Borneo call their martavan god Lalang Rangkang Halamaung Ampit Punting Jambangan Nyabu. This god is one of their more important gods as martavans are held in very high esteem and regarded as humans by them. Thus the martavan god lives in the second highest sky, the sixth, there being seven skies; each a dwelling place of specific gods. Lalang Rangkang Halamaung Ampit Punting Jambangan Nyabu has to be consulted before a jar is traded or intentionally broken. A sacrifice must be offered to this god if a jar is accidentally broken. This serves to pacify the spirits and magic powers dwelling in the jar and thus prevent them from harming you.
Stories of jars are many. Here follows a few taken from Cole's excellent field study and also stories told of Borneo jars.
Cole tells of a jar among the Tinguian of Abra named Magsawi. This jar could talk and went on long journeys by itself. It was married to a female jar owned by the Tinguian of Ilocos Norte and these jars had a child jar at San Ouintin Abra. This child jar inherited the ability to talk from its parents. The owner at Magsawi, Cabildo of Domayco, tells how Magsawi used to speak softly but now that it is broken it speaks in tones so low that it could not be understood. Cabildo tells that Magsawi was not made by the Chinese but belongs to the spirits and that it was in the possession of his parents. One day his ancestors were out hunting when their dog brought a deer to bay and they hurried to assist it. They saw the jar and tried to catch it but it evaded them by vanishing and reappearing again and again. Having failed, they returned to the wooden hill on their way home when a voice spoke to them, instructing them to use the blood of a sow without young to bait the jar. This they did and the dog brought the jar to bay. They then saw the jar go through an opening into a cave, where it was cornered and thus it came into the family possession. This famous jar Magsawi is much like jar no.V C1 and V C2 from the Adam Malik collection and the Museum Pusat respectively.
Another tale relates the counteraction between two supernatural beings, Daluagan and Aponibolinayen, in the filling of a spirit house nine times completely with jars as a marriage price. "But as soon as the balaua (spirit house) was filled nine times, Daluagan raised her eyes brows, and immediately half of the jars vanished and Aponibolinayen used her magic powers and the balaua was filled again so that it was truly filled. When they danced all the guests took some jars before they  went home. (From the Kanag tale)".
It is told that the Sultan of Brunei had a jar, which howled sorrowfully the night before his second wife died.
White tells his tales of two Dusuns jars named Gantong and Tigaman. In essence, Gantong was the older of the two jars and belonged to Longanan, one of four brothers. The other brothers were Marumud, Masugud and Longawai, the youngest and the only bachelor. The brothers went in search from Nunukarangan, the reputed origin point of the Dusun people, for fresher and greener pastures. As they moved away from home each brother settled a little further from the other. First Marumud at Ranau, then Longanan, whose wife was pregnant and with him Gantong. Masugud's wife too was pregnant so he settled down yet a little further from home. Finally Longawai stopped, married and settled for a while but after a time, went on to a place called Kudat where he died. As time went by Marumud became impatient waiting for his brothers to return or for them to send word of a better place to settle as was agreed upon before they parted. Thus, he decided to follow their trail. To his sorrow he had found that his brothers, Longanan and Masugud had died in floods but all their belongings including Gantong were safe. He went further in search for Longawai but missed a turning and found himself back at Ranau. This he took as an indication from the Almighty that Ranau was the place for him. "Si Gantong stands today near Napong - the property of no one person since the original settlers, the Budhas, left them stretched out between Ranau and Kudat - all having the same kinship. Si Gantong stands as an emblem of kinship of all people. In days long ago Si Gantong was the receptacle of spirits, liquid as well as ethereal; homage had to be paid to him. Now, he is cracked, the spirits are gone, he is in retirement. Even animals previously afraid to approach now wander carelessly by".
Tigaman is the other black magic jar and is thus, like Gantong, kept out of doors. Tigaman belonged to Wariu who was moving home one day. He came to a cave entrance and was lured into the cave by the curious presence of a tiger remains at the mouth of the cave. In the dark cave he suddenly heard a bird sing above his head, he put his hands up and the earth fell and a hole was formed. He got himself out of the cave but was lost in the new surroundings. He settled down as best as he could with Tigaman and his other belongings. One day while walking in the jungle he spotted the village Ranau and straightaway he made for Ranau, forgetting to take Tigaman with him. So Tigaman remained in Paring. Now it was the custom of those days to have big drinking parties when one village visited another. Thus is was that the people from of Napong were invited to a drinking feast at Paring where Tigaman was spotted and given away. So it came to pass that Tigaman moved to Napong. Today Tigaman and Gantong stand on the roadside near Kampong Napong, 12 miles North of Ranau.
Just as homage was paid to Gantong it is a custom among some jar collectors to feed and care for a jar, much as one would for a pet, to avoid any bad influences.
Two years ago an American staying in Jakarta woke one night at around 2 a.m. and saw this jar, a twin of no. IV E1, moving. He vouches for this fact. The antique dealer in Kalimantan who had sold him the jar was contacted. The owner was advised to sacrifice a white chicken, yellow rice and flowers to the jar to appease the restless spirits dwelling within it. This stopped it from moving. From then on, every Thursday night the "feeding ritual" of this jar took place. This jar now resides in America.
Stories of magic origin are common among jar stories. "Mahatara, the supreme god, piled upon Java seven mountains from the loam which was left after the creation of the sun, moon and earth. Ratu Tjampu, of divine origin, used the clay of these mountains to make a great number of djawet (sacred jars), which he kept and carefully guarded in a cave. One day when his watch was interrupted, the jars transformed themselves into animals and escaped. When a fortunate hunter kills such game, it changes again into a jar, which becomes the trophy of the hunter favoured by the gods". (From A.R.Hein: Die Bildenden Kunste bei den Dayaks auf Borneo, Wien 1894).
Tuton Kaboy and Eine Moore relate a number of these stories from the Malanaus. Malanaus are the Dayaks living along the coastal areas of Sarawak from the north tip to the delta area of the Rejang river. One tells of an 80 years old man named Kelupu. Kelupu inherited a jar called Gusi Babui (Gusi - jar, Babui - pig) from his grandfather Siga. One day Siga was hunting in the forest with his dog when the dog started barking at a wild pig. Siga speared the pig but left it near the pool where the wild pigs came to bathe whilst he went to look for tree bark with which to carry it home. On his return however, the pig was gone and he found in its place, a jar. He took the jar home and carelessly put it down. Next day the jar was gone. In a dream the following night an old man appeared to Siga saying that he was the jar and that he had run away as he was not placed in a proper place in the home. The following morning Siga went back to the place where he had killed the pig and there again found the jar. Once again he took the jar home and put it in a proper place and tied it to a post. Thus Kelupu inherited the jar. One day a shaman visited Kelupu and asked to see the jar. That night an old man appeared to the shaman in a dream saying that he was the jar and that he was ashamed to be seen naked and without any clothes. This dream was related to Kelumpu and a piece of yellow cloth was given to him to wrap around the jar. Today the jar is wrapped in a shirt and kept in a basket specially made to hold it.
Another tale tells of a jar whose origin was a snake. An old man was paddling in his boat one day when he was caught in a heavy rainstorm. He stopped at the mouth of a river and saw a python swimming across the river. He shot and killed the snake. That night an old man appeared to him in a dream and said that he was the snake and had turned into a jar when shot and  asked to be brought back to the house. This was done and today the jar has a special function in connection with childbirth.
Tales of jars with magic origin always followed a similar pattern. The origin is not limited to the animal world. There are stories where the jar starts off as a fruit. Nevertheless the pattern is fairly standard. The animal or fruit is caught or found and is killed or broken. This causes it to change into a jar. An old man or young lady then appears in a dream and instructs on the keeping and use of the jar. Jars with magic origins are often credited with the ability to cure sickness. This can be through the use of oil or water kept in them and a particular jar may be effective for all sicknesses or only for a particular sickness. Chips can be taken from a jar, ground into fine powder and taken to give divination. The presence of certain jars in a house is sufficient to ward off sickness and ill-health.
The origins of the Iban burial of Ngerapoh is told by Benedict Sandin in "Two origins of Iban Burial customs". This is a ritual where the belongings of the deceased are buried in a jar to provide for the spirit in the other world and thus prevent any need for the soul to wander in search of substitute items.
A collection of jars can be extremely attractive but their size makes collecting them impractical for many people. Some collectors refrain from collecting these jars for fear of the living myths and legends connected with them. It must be remembered that these jars play an integral part in tribal culture and are not just collections of the beautiful and the curious to the Dayaks and other tribes. With conversion to Christianity or Islam, many of these traditions have been lost and some of the old uses of the jars made obsolete. Thus a couple of years ago, the Jakarta market was flooded with jars from Kalimantan and recently on a trip to Kalimantan and Sarawak I noticed that new jars stood side by side to old ones in many of the longhouses we visited.
One way to overcome any fear for your jar is to "tell" it how fortunate it is and how happy you are to have it as a decorative piece which you are very proud of. I can hardly believe it will act adversely then.
IV K1 (16th to 18th century)
Of conical shape; the everted lip has an upturned mouth rim and features a band of buttons. At the base of the short neck is a moulded band. With applied ochre relief decorations and covered by a black shiny Temmoku-like glaze. On the shoulder are four vertical handles with long narrow ends on a band of buttons. From each handle vertical bands with buttons hang to halfway down the body and end on a moulded band. The unglazed lower body and flat base are coated with a brown slip and the inside of the mouth is glazed. Ht 71 cm, D 65 cm. Museum Pusat No.431 / Berbentuk kerucuk; bibir membalik keluar dengan tepi mulut melengkung pada mana terdapat sederet tombol-tombol. Pada dasar leher yang pendek ada ban cetak. Dengan hiasan rilief tempel berwarna oker dan tertutup glasir hitam mengkilat seperti Temmoku. Pada pundak ada empat telinga tinggi berujung panjang sempit di atas sebuah ban tombol-tombol. Dari setiap telinga bergantungan ban-ban vertikal dengan tombol-tombol sampai pertengahan badan dan berakhir pada ban cetak. Badan bawah tanpa glasir dan dasar rata dilapisi olesan coklat, bagian dalam mulut berglasir. Tinggi 71 cm, Diam 65 cm. Museum Pusat No. 431
Chinese invloeden (Meulenbeld, 1987)
(...)  Een bekend Chinees exportartikel was de martavaan, een stevige hoge aardewerken pot met brede schouder  en smalle voet, die werd gebruikt als container voor onder andere water, groenten, olie en rijst. De naam is ontleend aan Martaban in Birma, een overslaghaven van Chinese produkten sedert de Song-dynastie (960-1279). Op de balustrade met het Ramayana-epos van de Lara-Jonggrang tempel (ca. 900 na Chr.) te Prambanan, Midden-Java, zijn martavanen afgebeeld. De martavanen kenden een herhaald en intensief gebruik, bijvoorbeeld om voorraden in te bewaren en zelfs om heilig water en modder van de Ganges in te vervoeren. Op een gegeven moment was de oorspronkelijke 'verpakking' zo populair in Zuidoost-Azië dat zij ook leeg, als produkt op zichzelf, werd verscheept en daarna voor allerlei doeleinden gebruikt: om wijn te bereiden en te bewaren, knekels van doden of zelfs geheel samengevouwen overledenen in bij te zetten. De Dayak verzamelden duizenden martavanen, die niet alleen genoemde doelen dienden maar ook als statussymbool fungeerden. De welvaart van een Dayak viel af te lezen aan de hoeveelheid en de kwaliteit martavanen die hij bezat; zij konden een hoge geldswaarde vertegenwoordigen. Toen de export van martavanen uit China stagneerde, ging men ze zelf vervaardigen.
Tegenwoordig worden martavanen op Borneo (maar ook elders, zoals Thailand en Vietnam) in lokale pottenbakkerswerkplaatsen gemaakt; doorgaans door Chinezen. De nieuwe exemplaren nemen een plaats in naast de antieke in de langhuizen van de Dayak. Het meest toegepaste decoratiemotief is de Chinese draak die, onder meer als beschermsymbool, een logische functie heeft op de pot, namelijk de aan bederf onderhevige inhoud te preserveren of de stoffelijke resten te beschermen.
Image above: Vijf martavanen, eigendom van het Dayak-districtshoofd te Pangkoh, Kahajan rivier, Zuidoost-Kalimantan [Meulenbeld, 1987:58]
Hebben enerzijds de Chinezen nooit de behoefte gevoeld hun cultuur uit te dragen of een religieuze boodschap te verkondigen (al wat niet-Chinees was, achtte men minderwaardig; en godsdienst was een handeling in besloten kring van familieoudsten en van de keizer waar het China betrof), anderzijds waren de Chinezen die zich in den vreemde vestigden meer geïnteresseerd in de materiële aspecten van het leven. Zij hadden doorgaans niet behoord tot de categorie van de goedopgeleide en hooggeplaatsten met kennis van literatuur, wetenschap en godsdienst. De Chinese invloed in Indonesië was en is dan ook primair een maatschappelijke. In handel, nijverheid en dienstensector waren zijn het sterkst vertegenwoordigd. Zij bouwden hun eigen tempels maar die beïnvloedden de lokale stijl niet. Gebruiksvoorwerpen, zeker die welke werden vervaardigd door Chinese ambachtslieden, tonen nog de meeste Chinese elementen. Een aantal motieven (phoenix, draak, banji) verwierf zich een vaste maar niet prominente plaats.
Images above: modern martavans at Pelilit, Nusa Penida, used for water storage (photographs by G.Dijkman, 2009)
- Adhyatman, Sumarah & Lammers, Cheng - Tempayan di Indonesia / Martavans in Indonesia, Himpunan Keramik Indonesia / The Ceramic Society of Indonesia, 1977, 123 pp.
- Meulenbeld, B.C. - Chinese invloeden in Indonesië, in "Budaya-Indonesia. Kunst en cultuur in Indonesië / Arts and crafts in Indonesia, Topenmuseum - Royal Tropical Institute, 'This catalogue is published as part of the exhibition Budaya Indonesia', Arts and crafts in Indonesia, In the Tropenmuseum Amsterdam, from the 16th December 1987 until the 21st of August 1988. This exhibition is derived from the Tropenmuseum's collection, 1987, p.58-59
- Miedema, H. - Martavanen, Catalogus Martavanen, Gemeentelijk Museum Het Princessehof Leeuwarden, 1964, 23pp.