Porcelain Elephants from Vietnam

My house is cluttered with mementos from Asia, especially from Vietnam. Prominent among them are four porcelain elephants.

The two largest are matched, about two feet high. They bear howdahs (elephant saddles) on their backs, and head coverings and body drapes make them ornate. Their trappings are in a wide variety of colors, green and orange predominating. Their faces look happy.

The third elephant is slightly smaller. It is all blue and white, with howdah and body drapes. It is more graceful than its two larger brothers, and its lighter coloring makes it look less ponderous.

The fourth elephant is only about nine inches high and sits on a table rather than on the floor. It is the most delicately colored of the four—mostly blue—and is the only one to appear gentle and even lyrical.

During my thirteen years in and out of Vietnam, ceramic elephants were very popular trophies among westerners. My wife, on my two accompanied tours, acquired a good many objets d’art, including the elephants, a Chinese porcelain temple dog, and garden seats. She went out of her way to point them out to guests at our house back in the states.

I never saw a live elephant during my years in Vietnam. I was told that there had once been a large population, but hunters, primarily westerners and Montagnards, had reduced the numbers to the vanishing point. I have no idea if any survive today.

My home today is littered with memorabilia from my years abroad. Most prominent, because of their size and rarity, the elephants attract most attention from visitors. And they’re my favorites.

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