Celadon Talking Jars

Celadon green was not always the shade of green we now consider celadon, but it was said to possess magical properties. China had an early monopoly on celadon ceramics, which were a popular export in part because celadon was thought to have secret, magical powers. Colors from natural dyes and pigments were often associated with magic. People in central Asia believed that celadon acted as an antidote to poison, and that these dishes would protect against poisoned food and drink.

The people of Southeast Asia believed that the Chinese celadon jars could contain a magical spirit in their clay. Jars were valued most highly if they could produce a clear ringing sound when struck. This was the jar’s ability to talk.

“…on the island of Luzon in the Phillipines, there were famous talking jars with their own names and characters. The most famous was called Magsawi and was believed to go off on long journeys on its own, particularly to see its girlfriend, a female talking jar on the island of Ilocos Norte. Legend had it that they had a baby together: a little talking jar, or perhaps at first a little screaming jar.” –Color: A Natural History of the Palette, p.258 

These large celadon jars were highly prized in South Asia, and the most famous ones like Magsawi became known outside of their tribes. The Philippine folk tale of Magsawi says:

“Though that was many years ago, the jar still lives, and its name is Magsawi. Even now it talks; but some years ago a crack appeared in its side, and since then its language has not been understood by the Tinguian.
Sometimes Magsawi goes on long journeys alone when he visits his wife, a jar in Ilocos Norte, or his child, a small jar in San Quintin; but he always returns to Domayco on the hillside near the cave.”

Read the whole folktale here.

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