Five Class 10 students have found centuries-old Chinese ceramic tiles in Pokkanarendal and Pallapacheri of Ramanathapuram district, in what could be termed as further evidence of the business connection between Tamil Nadu and the Chinese.
Manoj, Ramkumar, Fidel Castro, Aswinraj and Balaji — five students in the Heritage Club of Thirupullani Suresh Sudha Alaghan Memorial Government High School — found the tiles in the field near the Panchayat Union Primary School in Pokkanarendal and in the field east of Sethupathi Palace in Pallapacheri near Thirupullani. They handed them over to the council secretary and archaeologist, V Rajaguru.
The School’s Archaeological Conservation Council has been functioning since 2010, where students learn to identify artefacts, read and transcribe inscriptions.
After examining them, Rajaguru said there are two types of Chinese pottery — porcelain and celadon.
“A closer look at the porcelain tiles reveals a web-like structure on its interior and exterior. Made of white clay, the top had painted designs and shapes and then polished with salt to make porcelain-type ceramics. Found here are broken tiles of bowl, jar and plate,” he said.
The white porcelain surface was painted with red, black, brown, blue, yellow stripes, flowers, curves and leaf patterns. These date back to the medieval period of 12th-13th century AD.
The Chinese ceramic tiles found by the students have been handed over to Sivakumar, the curator of the Government Museum at Ramanathapuram.
FOUND IN COASTAL AREAS
Porcelain was an important Chinese commodity from 10th-13th century AD. They bought pearls and clothes from the Pandyan kingdom. There are reports that China and Tamil Nadu had good trade links. Porcelain vessels from China were unloaded at the Periyapattinam port near Ramanathapuram and then sold across the kingdom.
Moreover, foreign travellers Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta had referred Periyapattinam in their travelogues. The recent excavations carried out by the Tanjore Tamil University led to discovery of a large number of Chinese ceramic tiles.
Fragments of Chinese porcelain have also been found in all coastal areas of Tamil Nadu that have been excavated so far.
Chinese ceramics have been found in most of the coastal areas from SP Pattinam to Keezhakkarai and inland in Ramanathapuram, which covers a quarter of the total coast of Tamil Nadu. While students have already found these on the school premises in Thirupullani, the tiles have also been found in the villages around Thirupullani, indicating that Chinese porcelain vessels were in use by the people of the area long ago.