Sip Sam Hang: Designs From a Fabled Hub of Commerce

The "Sip Sam Hang" (trans. "Thirteen Factories") design, has adorned blue and white porcelain since the early Rattanakosin era. One of five patterns inspired by the cultural cornerstones and iconic geographical landmarks of 18th century Siam produced by the Bǎo zhū lì jì company– which include "Lai Khao Wang" (a scene of the summer palace of King Rama IV and V), "Lai Wat" (a composition based on Siamese temples), "Lai Ayutthaya" and "Lai Ramakien" (a design inspired by the Thai version of the Ramayana)– the "Sip Sam Hang" design is the rarest of the collection, as its production was limited.

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The appellation, "Sip Sam Hang", is derived from a commercial district in Guangzhou, China, with thirteen stores. As the first Chinese port city that was opened to Western trade, Guangzhou was a burgeoning marketplace for tea leaves, silk and porcelain in the early 18th century. Trading ships from all corners of the world docked alongside Guangzhou's wharf, disgorging commodities from exotic locales and weighing anchor with a belly full of new cargo, and during trading hours, a sea of flags fluttered in the wind above crowded storefronts to indicate that they are open for business.

As international commerce was sanctioned in Guangzhou, foreign traders could lease land and establish trading houses outside the city walls on the banks of the Zhujiang River. The rows of two-story shophouses that sprung up along the riverbank developed into a historic center of trade that flourished in the 18th and 19th centuries, and was known to foreign merchants as "Thirteen Hong" or "Thirteen Factories".

Guangzhou's "Thirteen Factories" district became the namesake of one of Bangkok's arenas of commercial activity when in the early 19th century, Chinese merchants observed a likeness between the shophouses arrayed along the khlong-front in the vicinity of Wat Bowonniwet and Guangzhou's "Thirteen Factories" district, and began referring to the area as "Sip Sam Hang". The street, to this day, is still known by this name.

The charming "Thirteen Factories" design on this rare and fine spittoon beautifully complements its elegant shape. Preserving a glimpse of the environment and architecture of a bygone era of Bangkok, the composition appears on porcelain vessels that were globally-distributed to clients in Europe and America, and also bore distinguishing marks that included the flag of the country of destination and the "Elephant Flag", the former Siamese national flag designed by a consummate craftsman, which establishes the Sip Sam Hang pattern's Siamese provenance.

Blue and white porcelain with the "Thirteen Factories" pattern are a rarity in the antiques market and as such, are highly sought after by collectors, for without them, the memory of the historic commercial districts that laid the foundation for the robust economic and cultural ties between Thailand and China today would surely have waned with time’s passage.

Lot 147

A rare and fine blue and white porcelain spittoon painted with Sip Sam Hang design on a background (1 pc.)
Style: Thai-Chinese
Dimensions: W 13 cm H 12 cm
Circa: 19th Century
Estimated Price: 40,000 - 50,000 THB
Starting Price: 8,000 THB