Vintage Asian is an art, design and culture blog. An online gallery of vintage Asian design, oriental antiques and art, and retro Asian culture - music, fashion, film. Curated by hand. Memories of memories - each item in the collection has a story. Browse to start the remembering process.

Geisha Bones

Geisha Bones

Since 1615. In 1997 a fairly wretched novel called Memoirs of a Geisha was published, recounting a stylized version of geisha life in Kyoto. The film adaptation screened in 2005, setting the world aflutter with geisha mania – a fascination with the geiko (Kyoto dialect for geisha), who dwell in...
Heavenly Union

Heavenly Union

Beautiful dualities. Over the centuries a struggle for supremacy has taken place on the spiritual battlefield. Hinduism, which today is usually perceived as a single religion, is in reality a gargantuan amalgamation of religious traditions, philosophies, rituals, deity cults, official theologies, folk traditions. The notion of these diverse – and...
Siam Sterling

Siam Sterling

Looks Can Be Deceiving. The inside of this bracelet is stamped SIAM STERLING. Two words that evoke an era when Thailand was thought of as the ‘exotic Orient’. I think we’ve moved beyond that, but perhaps I’m a bit biased having spent most of my adult life in these theoretically...
Hand-coloured Indian Photograph

Hand-coloured Indian Photograph

The shimmer of gold. Swathes of emerald, turquoise and the bright orange shade of kanakambaram blossoms radiate from the sarees. I love the way that so many hand-coloured Indian photograph focus on adorning the adornments. Jewellery shines. Jasmine flowers, ever-present in a South Indian woman’s hair, gleam bright white. Forehead...
Goddess of Lightning

Goddess of Lightning

Vintage Thai Plates. These graphics pop. And what an eye-blaring colour combination! No wonder the red and yellow political factions of today’s Thailand have trouble getting along. These colours were born for contrast. The flying woman is Mekkala, the Goddess of Lightning. She’s ancient but was an extremely popular motif...
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Racist Jell-O?

Racist Jell-O?

It’s a wobbly subject. This 1958 Jell-O commercial from America gives us a peek into vintage representations of Asia. Of course it’s not intentionally racist – it was just a product of its time. But racism doesn’t have to be intentional. Some of the most insidious racism can be unintended and arising from ingrained beliefs...
James Brown Hawks Miso Soup

James Brown Hawks Miso Soup

American celebrities have been flying over to Japanese shores for years to record commercials – for handsome wads of cash. To outsiders these ads can appear just… well… wacky. Though, to be fair, advertising often appears odd in another language. It seems as though we don’t realize how bizarre our own advertising is, but when...
Antique Thai Drinking Bowl

Antique Thai Drinking Bowl

Handmade hammered brass bowl from Thailand. Drinking bowls are a symbol of Thai hospitality. Until just a few decades ago it was still very common to find these in front of houses along the roads and paths of rural Thailand. The cups would sit atop an urn of water, welcome to all passersby and strangers...
Japanese Nescafe Commercial, 1960s

Japanese Nescafe Commercial, 1960s

Asia gave birth to tea.  Steaming cups here are more likely to hold a fragrant tea rather than black gold – as the tea cultures stretch back for centuries. Coffee culture is a relatively recent import. But the coffee cultures in Asia are still strong, and each with their own individuality. And even where ‘coffee...
Spires

Spires

Spires over Colombo. Sri Lanka fascinated me for years. Ceylon. Serendib. A pearl. A tear drop. The island has existed behind a virtual veil for much of the world. While it had seen a trickle of Germans and other travellers, it was overall a place less seen, ravaged for so long by war and internal...
Vintage Korean Commercial - Orange Soda Meets Plastic Jesus

Vintage Korean Commercial – Orange Soda Meets Plastic Jesus

We’ve all got our figurative junk in the trunk. This old junk food commercial is from 1970s Korea. Each country has its own favoured junk foods and fizzies. From the ubiquitous Thums Up cola of India to Japan’s quizzically named Calpis soda to Thailand’s cherished Fanta (the red Fanta soda is a favourite offering to...
Bette Davis Eyes

Bette Davis Eyes

Vintage Indian Baby Photo Look at the peepers on this little girl. Sure, she’s naturally beautiful, but the kohl around the eyes really helps them pop. Indian mothers have traditionally applied kohl to their babies’ eyes – for a variety of reasons. It’s said to be healthy for the eyes, protects them from sun, helps...
Siam's Buddhist Heritage - Rare 1910 Colour Film

Siam’s Buddhist Heritage – Rare 1910 Colour Film

Old colour films always make me a little excited. It’s like you’re looking at a world that you previously believed to be in black and white. The captions to this film on YouTube state that it’s the ordination of an abbot, though I think it’s in fact the ordination of a monk. (The abbot would...
Vintage Singapore Girl

Vintage Singapore Girl

Singapore Girl advert, 1973. She’s probably the longest standing icon in the airline industry. Since 1972, Singapore Airlines’ famous Singapore Girl has been a standard in the brand’s ad campaigns. She’s a symbol of grace, elegance and care. Walking with a gentle flow, body hugged by the tradition Singaporean sarong kebaya dress, she’s graced ads...
Madurai 1945

Madurai 1945

Film footage from the South Indian city of Madurai in 1945. I have fond memories of this city. Some places seep into you, leaving a part of themselves running through your veins and forever changing you. For me this is Madurai. Of course part of it has to do with my age. As a teenager...
Geisha Bones

Geisha Bones

Since 1615. In 1997 a fairly wretched novel called Memoirs of a Geisha was published, recounting a stylized version of geisha life in Kyoto. The film adaptation screened in 2005, setting the world aflutter with geisha mania – a fascination with the geiko (Kyoto dialect for geisha), who dwell in relative secrecy. While they exist...
Lanna Thai Buffalo Bell

Lanna Thai Buffalo Bell

Wind chimes sounding through the northern Thai hillsides. The buffalo is the backbone of Thailand. Tilling rice paddies. Bringing food to Thai tables for centuries. Just like a cow bell, the buffalo bell would be draped from the animal’s neck in order to help farmers locate their wandering livestock. The old “bell” shown here has...