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Contents

Preface Introduction How do lacquerware and it’s colors come into being ? The resin of htanaung tree (Acacia leucophloea) or the the major ingredient of multi-colored and incised lacquerware The resin of tamar tree (Azadirachta indica) the major ingredient of Shwezawa lacquerware

First published and distributed in 2012 by River Books 396 Maharaj Road, Tatien, Bangkok 10200 Tel: (66 2) 224-6686, 225-0139, 225-4963 Fax: (66 2) 225-3861 E-mail: order@riverbooksbk.com www.riverbooksbk.com A River Books Production. Copyright text and collective work © River Books 2012. Copyright photographs © River Books 2012. Except where indicated otherwise. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording or any other information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher.

ISBN 978 616 7339 23 8 Editor Narisa Chakrabongse Photography Paisarn Piammattawat Design Narisa Chakrabongse and Suparat Sudcharoen

Printed and bound in Thailand by

5-11 12-16 17- 21

22-33

Lower Myanmar Lacquerware (1) Karen Lacquerware (2) Bago(Pegu)& Nyaunglaypin (3) Pyay ( Prome) lacquerware

34-37 38-49 50-57

Upper Myanmar Lacquerware (1) Bagan lacquerware (2) Gadu-Ganan lacquerware (3) Kyaukka lacquerware (4) Inwa lacquerware (5) Mandalay Lacquerware (6) Nwaku Lacquerware

58-99 100-115 116-126 127-143 144-161 162-167

Lacquerware of Shan states (7) Laikha lacquerware (8) Mongnai Lacquerware 197 (9)Lacquerware of Inle lake area (10) Keng Tung lacquerware

168-190 191198-212 213-240

Lacquerware of Rakhine state (11) Lacquerware of Mrauk-Oo and other areas (12) Instruments for making lacquerware (13) Bibliography (14) Glossary (15) Collection Index

241-257 258-260 261-262 263-266 267


1-_CH0_001_023-e1 6/12/55 BE 9:31 AM Page 4

Contents

Preface Introduction How do lacquerware and it’s colors come into being ? The resin of htanaung tree (Acacia leucophloea) or the the major ingredient of multi-colored and incised lacquerware The resin of tamar tree (Azadirachta indica) the major ingredient of Shwezawa lacquerware

First published and distributed in 2012 by River Books 396 Maharaj Road, Tatien, Bangkok 10200 Tel: (66 2) 224-6686, 225-0139, 225-4963 Fax: (66 2) 225-3861 E-mail: order@riverbooksbk.com www.riverbooksbk.com A River Books Production. Copyright text and collective work © River Books 2012. Copyright photographs © River Books 2012. Except where indicated otherwise. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording or any other information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher.

ISBN 978 616 7339 23 8 Editor Narisa Chakrabongse Photography Paisarn Piammattawat Design Narisa Chakrabongse and Suparat Sudcharoen

Printed and bound in Thailand by

5-11 12-16 17- 21

22-33

Lower Myanmar Lacquerware (1) Karen Lacquerware (2) Bago(Pegu)& Nyaunglaypin (3) Pyay ( Prome) lacquerware

34-37 38-49 50-57

Upper Myanmar Lacquerware (1) Bagan lacquerware (2) Gadu-Ganan lacquerware (3) Kyaukka lacquerware (4) Inwa lacquerware (5) Mandalay Lacquerware (6) Nwaku Lacquerware

58-99 100-115 116-126 127-143 144-161 162-167

Lacquerware of Shan states (7) Laikha lacquerware (8) Mongnai Lacquerware 197 (9)Lacquerware of Inle lake area (10) Keng Tung lacquerware

168-190 191198-212 213-240

Lacquerware of Rakhine state (11) Lacquerware of Mrauk-Oo and other areas (12) Instruments for making lacquerware (13) Bibliography (14) Glossary (15) Collection Index

241-257 258-260 261-262 263-266 267


1-_CH0_001_023-e1 6/13/55 BE 2:19 PM Page 2

Lacquerware Journeys The Untold Story of Burmese Lacquer

Than Htun (Dedaye)


1-_CH0_001_023-e1 6/13/55 BE 2:19 PM Page 2

Lacquerware Journeys The Untold Story of Burmese Lacquer

Than Htun (Dedaye)


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1-_CH0_001_023-e1 6/13/55 BE 2:20 PM Page 4


1-_CH0_001_023-e1 6/13/55 BE 2:20 PM Page 6

Preface

It was more than three years since I finished writing my first book on “ Auspicious symbols and ancient coins of Myanmar”. Although I was quite eager to write the second book on early and unusual lacquerwares of Myanmar, I was worried about the difficulties that lay ahead. Even the good quality lacquerwares that I have collected, could not motivate me enough to start writing. In fact, books on Myanmar lacquerware written in English were already published and studied by many enthusiasts from different countries. All I can do is to fill the gap of information on tribal lacquerware which was not yet provided by earlier scholars. Neither local and foreign researchers have treated this subject due to official travel restrictions within Myanmar. And it will not excite the interest of the readers unless I can give them new information and interesting controversial theories on the origins of tribal lacquerwares. On the other hand, to know tribal lacquerwares requires one to go to its roots which are found in mostly inaccessible and incommunicable areas. The biggest problem is that their lacquerware industries became obsolete half a century ago or earlier and it is very difficult to trace the locations of lacquerware workshops and their masters. Although I made many trips myself, I have to rely on other people who can stay and enquire more further. Once I obtained an interesting information, I have to send a saavy friend to confirm the facts. When I knew that it was a fruitful information, I went there myself to dig more. In fact, I am more interested in finding the cultural connection between the tribes of Myanmar than the technique of how the artifacts were crafted. By looking at the designs and shapes of lacquerware art pieces, we can surmise the evolutionary trends and cross- cultural relations among the tribes of Myanmar including Burmese. Most of the records from Mandalay palace were destroyed during the British occupation and researchers find it very difficult to study commercial activities of Myanmar tribes even though it endured for 150 to 200 years, or the entire length of Konbaung dynasty. The most informative five volume book written by Sir George Scott “ Gazetteer of Upper Burma and Shan state” and some books written by various local and foreign authors can serve as guides to the inside story of Myanmar commercial activities during the British occupation period. But some of the lacquerwares from tribal areas were crafted for two hundred years and were sold to public or presented to important people and officials of neighboring areas and in old capitals such as Inwa, Amarapura and Mandalay. That is why we are finding a few of exotic Gadu Ganan ( Banmauk- Monyin-Wuntho) style lacquerware art objects in the Inwa area today. ((Though the designs on those lacquerwares are quite different from designs of conventional Bagan lacquerware from 1920 until after the second world war, they are more or less similar to pre-1920 lacquerware art objects)). We can at least surmise that in regards to the lacquerware, there was a cross- cultural connection between Shan or Gadu Ganan areas (BMW) and Bagan since 1800 A.D or earlier. After 1900s the lacquerware industry of Gadu Ganan areas disappeared for unknown reasons, leaving the Shan lacquerware industry ( Laikha and Mongnai ), Rakhine and Karen lacquerware of Kyaukkyi as the only tribal lacquerware industries outside of Bagan. Sadly, Laikha and Mongnai lacquer workshops managed to survive barely due to a decrease in demand of lacquerwares when metal and plastic utilities intruded the market after the second world war. Bagan lacquerware workshops suffered the same fate and only after 1988, were they back on track because of the open market economy and booming tourist industry. The information that I have collected on lacquerwares of Gadu Ganan is still in the infancy as travelling in this area is extremely difficult . You need to be physically strong to hang on to jumping motorcycles carrying you from one place to another. There is no other means of transport and four and five hours on a motor cycle on rough dirt roads is not an easy task . After holding your hands to the cold steel frame for hours, you do not feel a thing anymore.

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Preface

It was more than three years since I finished writing my first book on “ Auspicious symbols and ancient coins of Myanmar”. Although I was quite eager to write the second book on early and unusual lacquerwares of Myanmar, I was worried about the difficulties that lay ahead. Even the good quality lacquerwares that I have collected, could not motivate me enough to start writing. In fact, books on Myanmar lacquerware written in English were already published and studied by many enthusiasts from different countries. All I can do is to fill the gap of information on tribal lacquerware which was not yet provided by earlier scholars. Neither local and foreign researchers have treated this subject due to official travel restrictions within Myanmar. And it will not excite the interest of the readers unless I can give them new information and interesting controversial theories on the origins of tribal lacquerwares. On the other hand, to know tribal lacquerwares requires one to go to its roots which are found in mostly inaccessible and incommunicable areas. The biggest problem is that their lacquerware industries became obsolete half a century ago or earlier and it is very difficult to trace the locations of lacquerware workshops and their masters. Although I made many trips myself, I have to rely on other people who can stay and enquire more further. Once I obtained an interesting information, I have to send a saavy friend to confirm the facts. When I knew that it was a fruitful information, I went there myself to dig more. In fact, I am more interested in finding the cultural connection between the tribes of Myanmar than the technique of how the artifacts were crafted. By looking at the designs and shapes of lacquerware art pieces, we can surmise the evolutionary trends and cross- cultural relations among the tribes of Myanmar including Burmese. Most of the records from Mandalay palace were destroyed during the British occupation and researchers find it very difficult to study commercial activities of Myanmar tribes even though it endured for 150 to 200 years, or the entire length of Konbaung dynasty. The most informative five volume book written by Sir George Scott “ Gazetteer of Upper Burma and Shan state” and some books written by various local and foreign authors can serve as guides to the inside story of Myanmar commercial activities during the British occupation period. But some of the lacquerwares from tribal areas were crafted for two hundred years and were sold to public or presented to important people and officials of neighboring areas and in old capitals such as Inwa, Amarapura and Mandalay. That is why we are finding a few of exotic Gadu Ganan ( Banmauk- Monyin-Wuntho) style lacquerware art objects in the Inwa area today. ((Though the designs on those lacquerwares are quite different from designs of conventional Bagan lacquerware from 1920 until after the second world war, they are more or less similar to pre-1920 lacquerware art objects)). We can at least surmise that in regards to the lacquerware, there was a cross- cultural connection between Shan or Gadu Ganan areas (BMW) and Bagan since 1800 A.D or earlier. After 1900s the lacquerware industry of Gadu Ganan areas disappeared for unknown reasons, leaving the Shan lacquerware industry ( Laikha and Mongnai ), Rakhine and Karen lacquerware of Kyaukkyi as the only tribal lacquerware industries outside of Bagan. Sadly, Laikha and Mongnai lacquer workshops managed to survive barely due to a decrease in demand of lacquerwares when metal and plastic utilities intruded the market after the second world war. Bagan lacquerware workshops suffered the same fate and only after 1988, were they back on track because of the open market economy and booming tourist industry. The information that I have collected on lacquerwares of Gadu Ganan is still in the infancy as travelling in this area is extremely difficult . You need to be physically strong to hang on to jumping motorcycles carrying you from one place to another. There is no other means of transport and four and five hours on a motor cycle on rough dirt roads is not an easy task . After holding your hands to the cold steel frame for hours, you do not feel a thing anymore.

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Again accomodation is quite poor in these areas although monasteries can offer some comfort.The most difficult part is not knowing the exact area to start . There are no ancient city sites except Monyin which is not a large city by any means. It is something like finding a needle in haystack. Sometimes I wonder whether this Gadu Ganan lacquerware industry really existed in this region. But logical thinking points only this region where most of Phinlone Gaunglone ( domed top and domed bottom) betel boxes are found. The incised paintings on the betel boxes are so outstanding and sophisicated that it is very difficult to think of them as mere folk art. A healthy and extremely long tradition of lacquerware industry was needed to make it happen. If they were Inwa lacquerwares , how could Mr Burney miss such wonderful artwork when he was appointed there for six to seven years as an English envoy ? Why are we not seeing them around the environs of this great city nowadays ? The remote and heavily wooded region of Banmauk- Monyin- Wuntho where most of these angelic masterpieces were found , is more than 200 miles from Inwa. It is even now very isolated and difficult to reach from any direction . It will be very interesting to find out what kind of people lived there from 1600 to 1900 A.D and who they were ? On the other hand, the history of Inwa is the most turbulent in Myanmar history ; did these lacquer artists run away from Inwa and resettle there ? Were they Tailyan Shan ( Big Shans ) who moved from Shan States ? Why were they extremely good at crafting lacquerware betel boxes ? If they were not Inwa lacquerwares , could these lacquerwares be different products of Laikha masters of the 1800s ? Was there a trade route from Laikha to Gadu Ganan area across the mountains in 1800A.D ? According to living Laikha lacquerware masters , at every pagoda festival season, lacquer masters sent out cartloads of lacquerware to sell in different parts of the Shan States during colonial days. So it could be a tradition which was begun since the times of Shan lords and chiefs before English arrived. Can Monyin be one of these destinations though it is not part of the Shan states now ? These questions will not be easy to answer. Only systematic and painstaking research will provide some clues to help draw a cloudy conclusion about the ancient commercial activities of the Shan state, Gadu Ganan people and the mysterious city of Inwa. Whenever I ask these questions myself, I feel very uneasy given the very short time that we had for research. Only elderly people from the concerning areas can answer these questions. To expect the well kept local records should be the last thing we can do and elderly people are also going to the other side day after day. According to a local young man of Laikha ( Sai Tun Lwin), King Alaungpaya together with some Shan chiefs attacked northern part of Thailand or Southern part of Laos

in the 17th century and took back twenty Yun tribal people who were experts in lacquer crafts. When I asked this source of the information, he said that it was carried by word of mouth. But there are many different groups of tribal people in Shan States whose tribal name start with the lettet Y. Even the name of Thailand in Burmese language starts with the letter Y ( Yodaya) and the nearest province of China to Myanmar is also called Yunnan. Although lacquerwares were called as Yun in Burmese language, it does not mean that lacquerware art has something to do with Yun tribe who took part in building pagoda of 28 images near Laikha which still exists . Sai Htun Lwin said that they might also introduce the art of crafting incised lacquerwares in Shan state. But there is a serious drawback in this statement. First, Yun could be the general term to call tribes of the indigenous people who live in Southern Shan State where many tribal names start with the letter Y. At one point in history, officials of a Myanmar king might have given the name “Yun” to incised and designed lacquerware as they were products of north eastern region where many tribes were named Yun Shan, Yin baung, Yin Gyar, Yin padone, Yin, Yin Net(etc). According to Razawuntha Zalini ( new Bagan history) written by U Bae, retired official of archaeological department, Mon Khmer people who are living in Cambodia and Laos are called Yun. Another possibility is that Myanmar king or his officials might give this name to honor the earlier existence of incised and designed lacquerware of Yunnan or China. When I was young, all the beverages of Myanmar were called Bilat Yay, as they recognized the earlier existence of beverages in England. The name Bilat represents England in colonial times and Yay is water for all times. In Myanmar ,people used to add two preexisting meanings to invent a new one. That is how incised lacquerware and the name “Yun-hte” became synonymous.

Caption

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Caption

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Again accomodation is quite poor in these areas although monasteries can offer some comfort.The most difficult part is not knowing the exact area to start . There are no ancient city sites except Monyin which is not a large city by any means. It is something like finding a needle in haystack. Sometimes I wonder whether this Gadu Ganan lacquerware industry really existed in this region. But logical thinking points only this region where most of Phinlone Gaunglone ( domed top and domed bottom) betel boxes are found. The incised paintings on the betel boxes are so outstanding and sophisicated that it is very difficult to think of them as mere folk art. A healthy and extremely long tradition of lacquerware industry was needed to make it happen. If they were Inwa lacquerwares , how could Mr Burney miss such wonderful artwork when he was appointed there for six to seven years as an English envoy ? Why are we not seeing them around the environs of this great city nowadays ? The remote and heavily wooded region of Banmauk- Monyin- Wuntho where most of these angelic masterpieces were found , is more than 200 miles from Inwa. It is even now very isolated and difficult to reach from any direction . It will be very interesting to find out what kind of people lived there from 1600 to 1900 A.D and who they were ? On the other hand, the history of Inwa is the most turbulent in Myanmar history ; did these lacquer artists run away from Inwa and resettle there ? Were they Tailyan Shan ( Big Shans ) who moved from Shan States ? Why were they extremely good at crafting lacquerware betel boxes ? If they were not Inwa lacquerwares , could these lacquerwares be different products of Laikha masters of the 1800s ? Was there a trade route from Laikha to Gadu Ganan area across the mountains in 1800A.D ? According to living Laikha lacquerware masters , at every pagoda festival season, lacquer masters sent out cartloads of lacquerware to sell in different parts of the Shan States during colonial days. So it could be a tradition which was begun since the times of Shan lords and chiefs before English arrived. Can Monyin be one of these destinations though it is not part of the Shan states now ? These questions will not be easy to answer. Only systematic and painstaking research will provide some clues to help draw a cloudy conclusion about the ancient commercial activities of the Shan state, Gadu Ganan people and the mysterious city of Inwa. Whenever I ask these questions myself, I feel very uneasy given the very short time that we had for research. Only elderly people from the concerning areas can answer these questions. To expect the well kept local records should be the last thing we can do and elderly people are also going to the other side day after day. According to a local young man of Laikha ( Sai Tun Lwin), King Alaungpaya together with some Shan chiefs attacked northern part of Thailand or Southern part of Laos

in the 17th century and took back twenty Yun tribal people who were experts in lacquer crafts. When I asked this source of the information, he said that it was carried by word of mouth. But there are many different groups of tribal people in Shan States whose tribal name start with the lettet Y. Even the name of Thailand in Burmese language starts with the letter Y ( Yodaya) and the nearest province of China to Myanmar is also called Yunnan. Although lacquerwares were called as Yun in Burmese language, it does not mean that lacquerware art has something to do with Yun tribe who took part in building pagoda of 28 images near Laikha which still exists . Sai Htun Lwin said that they might also introduce the art of crafting incised lacquerwares in Shan state. But there is a serious drawback in this statement. First, Yun could be the general term to call tribes of the indigenous people who live in Southern Shan State where many tribal names start with the letter Y. At one point in history, officials of a Myanmar king might have given the name “Yun” to incised and designed lacquerware as they were products of north eastern region where many tribes were named Yun Shan, Yin baung, Yin Gyar, Yin padone, Yin, Yin Net(etc). According to Razawuntha Zalini ( new Bagan history) written by U Bae, retired official of archaeological department, Mon Khmer people who are living in Cambodia and Laos are called Yun. Another possibility is that Myanmar king or his officials might give this name to honor the earlier existence of incised and designed lacquerware of Yunnan or China. When I was young, all the beverages of Myanmar were called Bilat Yay, as they recognized the earlier existence of beverages in England. The name Bilat represents England in colonial times and Yay is water for all times. In Myanmar ,people used to add two preexisting meanings to invent a new one. That is how incised lacquerware and the name “Yun-hte” became synonymous.

Caption

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3. A water cup from Chiangmai showing the inside woven pattern of bamboo. (H9x W15cm) 19th century THC

4. A small amulet or cosmetic box from Chiangmai. Most of the colors and designs are very similar indicating that there were not many workshops in this area. (19th century) (H 4x W 7cm) THC

8

Again accomodation is quite poor in these areas although monasteries can offer some comfort.The most difficult part is not knowing the exact area to start . There are no ancient city sites except Monyin which is not a large city by any means. It is something like finding a needle in haystack. Sometimes I wonder whether this Gadu Ganan lacquerware industry really existed in this region. But logical thinking points only this region where most of Phinlone Gaunglone ( domed top and domed bottom) betel boxes are found. The incised paintings on the betel boxes are so outstanding and sophisicated that it is very difficult to think of them as mere folk art. A healthy and extremely long tradition of lacquerware industry was needed to make it happen. If they were Inwa lacquerwares , how could Mr Burney miss such wonderful artwork when he was appointed there for six to seven years as an English envoy ? Why are we not seeing them around the environs of this great city nowadays ? The remote and heavily wooded region of Banmauk- Monyin- Wuntho where most of these angelic masterpieces were found , is more than 200 miles from Inwa. It is even now very isolated and difficult to reach from any direction . It will be very interesting to find out what kind of people lived there from 1600 to 1900 A.D and who they were ? On the other hand, the history of Inwa is the most turbulent in Myanmar history ; did these lacquer artists run away from Inwa and resettle there ? Were they Tailyan Shan ( Big Shans ) who moved from Shan States ? Why were they extremely good at crafting lacquerware betel boxes ? If they were not Inwa lacquerwares , could these lacquerwares be different products of Laikha masters of the 1800s ? Was there a trade route from Laikha to Gadu Ganan area across the mountains in 1800A.D ? According to living Laikha lacquerware masters , at every pagoda festival season, lacquer masters sent out cartloads of lacquerware to sell in different parts of the Shan States during colonial days. So it could be a tradition which was begun since the times of Shan lords and chiefs before English arrived. Can Monyin be one of these destinations though it is not part of the Shan states now ? These questions will not be easy to answer. Only systematic and painstaking research will provide some clues to help draw a cloudy conclusion about the ancient commercial activities of the Shan state, Gadu Ganan people and the mysterious city of Inwa. Whenever I ask these questions myself, I feel very uneasy given the very short time that we had for research. Only elderly people from the concerning areas can answer these questions. To expect the well kept local records should be the last thing we can do and elderly people are also going to the other side day after day. According to a local young man of Laikha ( Sai Tun Lwin), King Alaungpaya together with some Shan chiefs attacked northern part of Thailand or Southern part of Laos in the 17th century and took back twenty Yun tribal people who were experts in lacquer crafts. When I asked this source of the information, he said that it was carried by word of mouth. But there are many different groups of tribal people in Shan States whose tribal name start with the lettet Y. Even the name of Thailand in Burmese language starts with the letter Y ( Yodaya) and the nearest province of China to Myanmar is also called Yunnan. Although lacquerwares were called as Yun in Burmese language, it does not mean that lacquerware art has something to do with Yun tribe who took part in building pagoda of 28 images near Laikha which still exists . Sai Htun Lwin said that they might also introduce the art of crafting incised lacquerwares in Shan state. But there is a serious drawback in this statement. First, Yun could be the general term to call tribes of the indigenous people who live in Southern Shan State where many tribal names start with the letter Y. At one point in history, officials of a Myanmar king might have given the name “Yun” to incised and designed lacquerware as they were products of north eastern region where many tribes were named Yun Shan, Yin baung, Yin Gyar, Yin padone, Yin, Yin Net(etc). According to Razawuntha Zalini ( new Bagan history) written by U Bae, retired official of archaeological department, Mon Khmer people who are living in Cambodia and Laos are called Yun. Another possibility is that Myanmar king or his officials might give this name to honor the earlier existence of incised and designed lacquerware of Yunnan or China. When I was young, all the beverages of Myanmar were called Bilat Yay, as they recognized the earlier existence of beverages in England. The

name Bilat represents England in colonial times and Yay is water for all times. In Myanmar ,people used to add two preexisting meanings to invent a new one. That is how incised lacquerware and the name “Yun-hte” became synonymous. Secondly, why are we not seeing any lacquerware of this kind from the 17th to 18 th century in Laos or Thailand today? The king of Myanmar could have had taken different kinds of artisans back to Myanmar as a war booty, but not thousands of betel boxes which were already dispersed in different parts of this country. The value of lacquerware in those days was nothing and there was no point to collect them and take them back to Myanmar , even if the country the Burmese conquered was the origin of lacquerwares. Out of these thousands of betel boxes, hundreds should have survived there to the present time as happened in Myanmar. As a matter of fact, Thailand has incised and colored lacquerware since the 19th century but not earlier and with totally different designs. Logical thinking and historical records of foreign visitors lead us to conclude that we already have our own incised and colored lacquerware since the 17th to 18th centuries in Southern Shan States and Gadu-Ganan region. More different style of lacquerware came out after blending with the techniques of artists from abroad. If some scholars surmised that Shwezawa technique could have been originated in Chengmai in Northern Thailand and some Shwezawa artisans were brought back to Myanmar by the conquering kings like Bureng Naung or Alaungpaya, it will not be controversial anymore. Again official books on the cultural heritage of Thailand never described lacquerware as a main product like other important artistic items of ancient Siam. Dealers in lacquerware of Thailand and Myanmar always point out the Chiang Mai lacquerware as only lacquerware of Thailand ,but not any other pieces from different areas. When we look at Chinese lacquerwares of 17th to19th century, incised and carved designs are so different that there is little or no chance to say that China is the place of origin of Myanmar incised lacquerwares. On ther other hand, lacquerware with inlaid mother of pearl and carved lacquerware is more popular in China than incised lacquerware since Bagan period or Yuan dynasty. But transmissions of artistic ideas and techniques from different and grander civilizations cannot be ruled out. On the other hand , the reminder of Saya U Khin Maung Nyunt ( Historical Commission) about cultural transmissions as two way traffic is truely remarkable. Professor U Khin Maung Nyunt pointed out a fine example on this subject as follows. Prehistoric wall- paintings in Padalin caves in Southern Shan States of Myanmar have pictures of wild animals and motifs and symbols of sun , moon and open human palms which are quite similar to those of prehistoric caves in Spain. It will be illogical to say that prehistoric painting originated in Spain and Myanmar copied it or vice versa. In history there are cases of independent cultural development, just as there are cases of cultural impact and interaction through contact. In fact , lacquerwares of plain black and red color or combined colors could have existed in Myanmar since the Pyu period as it is not difficult to craft like bronze, gold and silverwares. Bamboo artists can exist in many countries where bamboo grows abundantly and the accidental discovery of the utilitarian quality of lacquer sap is quite plausible as all rich and poor familes of the of Southeast Asia depended on firewood for cooking from the bronze age up to 20th century. When somebody cut the branch of a lacquer tree the black resin will come out to tickle the curiosity of humans. Within a couple of years one intellegent person will find out how good is this resin for coating and protecting bamboo and wood wares against insects and termites. For red color the lacquer artists might buy Hinthapada ( mercuric sulphide) and other red colourants from Chinese merchants or different traders as we had a prosperous trade with Indians and Arabs as well since 2nd to 7th century A.D. Chinese traders who risked their lives coming to Myanmar will bring all profitable stuff with mule caravans including Hinthapada. They might even teach the local people how it can be utilised. To introduce a new product needs advertising which includes lectures. Those things can happen easily without waiting for chances or miracles and we can safely conjecture that we had our own plain black and red lacquerware home industry since Pyu period. Because of the perishable nature of

5. Lacquer container found from China 200 B.C (note the well known combination of black and red).

6. A Bagan lacquer Be-it cosmetic or hat container from the 1920s or earlier. ( note the famous Khonan-Khanpyat or Kyaungchit design)( H 38 x W 34cm). DNC

7. Lacquer vessel found as broken pieces from the Layhmetna pagoda relic chamber ( 11century). In Myanmar, relic chambers of ancient pagodas were disturbed or deposited with more objects during the process of restoration ; few relics can be dated with any certainty. ( 5cm pieces approx)

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3. A water cup from Chiangmai showing the inside woven pattern of bamboo. (H9x W15cm) 19th century THC

4. A small amulet or cosmetic box from Chiangmai. Most of the colors and designs are very similar indicating that there were not many workshops in this area. (19th century) (H 4x W 7cm) THC

8

Again accomodation is quite poor in these areas although monasteries can offer some comfort.The most difficult part is not knowing the exact area to start . There are no ancient city sites except Monyin which is not a large city by any means. It is something like finding a needle in haystack. Sometimes I wonder whether this Gadu Ganan lacquerware industry really existed in this region. But logical thinking points only this region where most of Phinlone Gaunglone ( domed top and domed bottom) betel boxes are found. The incised paintings on the betel boxes are so outstanding and sophisicated that it is very difficult to think of them as mere folk art. A healthy and extremely long tradition of lacquerware industry was needed to make it happen. If they were Inwa lacquerwares , how could Mr Burney miss such wonderful artwork when he was appointed there for six to seven years as an English envoy ? Why are we not seeing them around the environs of this great city nowadays ? The remote and heavily wooded region of Banmauk- Monyin- Wuntho where most of these angelic masterpieces were found , is more than 200 miles from Inwa. It is even now very isolated and difficult to reach from any direction . It will be very interesting to find out what kind of people lived there from 1600 to 1900 A.D and who they were ? On the other hand, the history of Inwa is the most turbulent in Myanmar history ; did these lacquer artists run away from Inwa and resettle there ? Were they Tailyan Shan ( Big Shans ) who moved from Shan States ? Why were they extremely good at crafting lacquerware betel boxes ? If they were not Inwa lacquerwares , could these lacquerwares be different products of Laikha masters of the 1800s ? Was there a trade route from Laikha to Gadu Ganan area across the mountains in 1800A.D ? According to living Laikha lacquerware masters , at every pagoda festival season, lacquer masters sent out cartloads of lacquerware to sell in different parts of the Shan States during colonial days. So it could be a tradition which was begun since the times of Shan lords and chiefs before English arrived. Can Monyin be one of these destinations though it is not part of the Shan states now ? These questions will not be easy to answer. Only systematic and painstaking research will provide some clues to help draw a cloudy conclusion about the ancient commercial activities of the Shan state, Gadu Ganan people and the mysterious city of Inwa. Whenever I ask these questions myself, I feel very uneasy given the very short time that we had for research. Only elderly people from the concerning areas can answer these questions. To expect the well kept local records should be the last thing we can do and elderly people are also going to the other side day after day. According to a local young man of Laikha ( Sai Tun Lwin), King Alaungpaya together with some Shan chiefs attacked northern part of Thailand or Southern part of Laos in the 17th century and took back twenty Yun tribal people who were experts in lacquer crafts. When I asked this source of the information, he said that it was carried by word of mouth. But there are many different groups of tribal people in Shan States whose tribal name start with the lettet Y. Even the name of Thailand in Burmese language starts with the letter Y ( Yodaya) and the nearest province of China to Myanmar is also called Yunnan. Although lacquerwares were called as Yun in Burmese language, it does not mean that lacquerware art has something to do with Yun tribe who took part in building pagoda of 28 images near Laikha which still exists . Sai Htun Lwin said that they might also introduce the art of crafting incised lacquerwares in Shan state. But there is a serious drawback in this statement. First, Yun could be the general term to call tribes of the indigenous people who live in Southern Shan State where many tribal names start with the letter Y. At one point in history, officials of a Myanmar king might have given the name “Yun” to incised and designed lacquerware as they were products of north eastern region where many tribes were named Yun Shan, Yin baung, Yin Gyar, Yin padone, Yin, Yin Net(etc). According to Razawuntha Zalini ( new Bagan history) written by U Bae, retired official of archaeological department, Mon Khmer people who are living in Cambodia and Laos are called Yun. Another possibility is that Myanmar king or his officials might give this name to honor the earlier existence of incised and designed lacquerware of Yunnan or China. When I was young, all the beverages of Myanmar were called Bilat Yay, as they recognized the earlier existence of beverages in England. The

name Bilat represents England in colonial times and Yay is water for all times. In Myanmar ,people used to add two preexisting meanings to invent a new one. That is how incised lacquerware and the name “Yun-hte” became synonymous. Secondly, why are we not seeing any lacquerware of this kind from the 17th to 18 th century in Laos or Thailand today? The king of Myanmar could have had taken different kinds of artisans back to Myanmar as a war booty, but not thousands of betel boxes which were already dispersed in different parts of this country. The value of lacquerware in those days was nothing and there was no point to collect them and take them back to Myanmar , even if the country the Burmese conquered was the origin of lacquerwares. Out of these thousands of betel boxes, hundreds should have survived there to the present time as happened in Myanmar. As a matter of fact, Thailand has incised and colored lacquerware since the 19th century but not earlier and with totally different designs. Logical thinking and historical records of foreign visitors lead us to conclude that we already have our own incised and colored lacquerware since the 17th to 18th centuries in Southern Shan States and Gadu-Ganan region. More different style of lacquerware came out after blending with the techniques of artists from abroad. If some scholars surmised that Shwezawa technique could have been originated in Chengmai in Northern Thailand and some Shwezawa artisans were brought back to Myanmar by the conquering kings like Bureng Naung or Alaungpaya, it will not be controversial anymore. Again official books on the cultural heritage of Thailand never described lacquerware as a main product like other important artistic items of ancient Siam. Dealers in lacquerware of Thailand and Myanmar always point out the Chiang Mai lacquerware as only lacquerware of Thailand ,but not any other pieces from different areas. When we look at Chinese lacquerwares of 17th to19th century, incised and carved designs are so different that there is little or no chance to say that China is the place of origin of Myanmar incised lacquerwares. On ther other hand, lacquerware with inlaid mother of pearl and carved lacquerware is more popular in China than incised lacquerware since Bagan period or Yuan dynasty. But transmissions of artistic ideas and techniques from different and grander civilizations cannot be ruled out. On the other hand , the reminder of Saya U Khin Maung Nyunt ( Historical Commission) about cultural transmissions as two way traffic is truely remarkable. Professor U Khin Maung Nyunt pointed out a fine example on this subject as follows. Prehistoric wall- paintings in Padalin caves in Southern Shan States of Myanmar have pictures of wild animals and motifs and symbols of sun , moon and open human palms which are quite similar to those of prehistoric caves in Spain. It will be illogical to say that prehistoric painting originated in Spain and Myanmar copied it or vice versa. In history there are cases of independent cultural development, just as there are cases of cultural impact and interaction through contact. In fact , lacquerwares of plain black and red color or combined colors could have existed in Myanmar since the Pyu period as it is not difficult to craft like bronze, gold and silverwares. Bamboo artists can exist in many countries where bamboo grows abundantly and the accidental discovery of the utilitarian quality of lacquer sap is quite plausible as all rich and poor familes of the of Southeast Asia depended on firewood for cooking from the bronze age up to 20th century. When somebody cut the branch of a lacquer tree the black resin will come out to tickle the curiosity of humans. Within a couple of years one intellegent person will find out how good is this resin for coating and protecting bamboo and wood wares against insects and termites. For red color the lacquer artists might buy Hinthapada ( mercuric sulphide) and other red colourants from Chinese merchants or different traders as we had a prosperous trade with Indians and Arabs as well since 2nd to 7th century A.D. Chinese traders who risked their lives coming to Myanmar will bring all profitable stuff with mule caravans including Hinthapada. They might even teach the local people how it can be utilised. To introduce a new product needs advertising which includes lectures. Those things can happen easily without waiting for chances or miracles and we can safely conjecture that we had our own plain black and red lacquerware home industry since Pyu period. Because of the perishable nature of

5. Lacquer container found from China 200 B.C (note the well known combination of black and red).

6. A Bagan lacquer Be-it cosmetic or hat container from the 1920s or earlier. ( note the famous Khonan-Khanpyat or Kyaungchit design)( H 38 x W 34cm). DNC

7. Lacquer vessel found as broken pieces from the Layhmetna pagoda relic chamber ( 11century). In Myanmar, relic chambers of ancient pagodas were disturbed or deposited with more objects during the process of restoration ; few relics can be dated with any certainty. ( 5cm pieces approx)

9


1-_CH0_001_023-e1 6/12/55 BE 9:32 AM Page 14

15. A silver betel box from the Shan states, probably made in Inle ( H 14x W 12cm). Unlike lacquer boxes , silverware master crafted only one tray inside, early 20th century .

Export& Im portCom panies ofm etalbeteland lim e boxes N am e

product

D ate

PK Pukeer Hussain

lime boxes

unknown

Brothers & Co

16. A typical Burmese betel nut cutter with silver and brass inlaid features, late 19th century.

16. A typical Burmese betel nut cutter with silver and brass inlaid features, late 19th century.

14

This practice has supposedly been in existence since the Pyu period together with other cultural transmissions from India which spread across Myanmar. Nowadays more people are involved in chewing betel quids packed in small plastic bags which are sold at almost every busy crossroads by peddlers or small betel shops. The plastic bags have replaced the bulky betel lacquerware boxes. Other chemical products of unknown side effects are also added to the betel quid to increase addiction. People do not entertain guests with betel boxes including ingredients to make a betel quid anymore. Ready-made ones are easier or tastier.That is one of the main reasons why crafting lacquerware betel boxes has become obsolete, making Bagan the only possible area to produce betel lacquerware boxes for the tourist trade . Although no one in my family chewed betel, we provided our guests with metal or lacquerware betel boxes containing the ingredients to prepare betel quids since my childhood days. Metal betel boxes were for daily use while the beautiful lacquerware boxes were kept for special days. Whenever there is an important ceremony, my brother and I had to go and get more betel boxes from the neighbors and monasteries for the incoming guests and had to return them the next day. During the 1950s to 1960s there were not as many die hard betel chewers as there are now. Until I passed matriculation class, there was nobody in our class who practiced this unhealthy and unappealing habit. There were not many betel chewers in the streets also as the practice almost died out. But somehow this pactice has been elevated on a national scale when I reached sixty years of age. Even young girls from the villages and small towns do not feel shy anymore to chew the betel with a bit of chemicals. In my opinion all traditions are not heaven sent for the people and some of them should be discarded while some should be embraced and encouraged . This simple food from the past had become complicated and unsafe because of the advent of cheap and dangerous chemicals. In fact, smoking and betel chewing are in the same category which disasterously affects health and peoples’ personalities.

R em arks middle colonial period ( Made in Japan) two rifles logo

A. Rahman & Sattar

lime boxes

unknown

middle colonial period ( Made in Japan)

V.S Aliar & Co

lime Boxes

unknown

middle colonial period ( Made in Japan) lion brand

Dadabhoy & Sons

betel boxes

unknown

pocket watch logo( Made in Germany)

Lalubhai & Amichand

betel boxes

unknown

elephant foot betel boxes with the logo of an elephant riding a bicycle

Kelly Raeburn ( Rangoon)

cups

unknown

flying elephant logo( Made in Japan )

M.A Raeburn & Co

lime boxes

unknown

crescent moon and 3 stars logo Kobe ( Made in Japan )

E.E Ganchee Rangoon

betel boxes

unknown

middle colonial period (Made in Germany)

A person who chews betel has stained teeth which can prevent him from getting a decent job. On the other hand city municipal workers, have much difficulty in cleaning the stained walls and waste boxes in public places affecting others’ impression of the country. Although it has its downside, betel chewing culture had created many beautiful art objects in the course of time, leaving present generations with excellent collectibles of lacquerware and silver boxes , different shapes of silver inlaid metal cutters, and metal pestles and mortars adorned with small figures . Almost all countries in Southeast Asia had similar culture of betel chewing though Myanmar is the only country to inherit many beautiful lacquerware betel boxes from different ages. In fact the price of good quality old lacquerware shot up since 1990s when more and more people got involved in collecting old lacquerwares in good condition. Collecting artworks of a fragile nature is good for future investment and saves them from total destruction as well. When there is no value or if nobody is interested in certain kind of artworks, owners do not take care of them anymore. Before 1990, I saw many lacquareware pieces in private houses and monasteries in total neglect. I reckon more old lacquerwares had been damaged or lost from the 1940s to 1990s than collected pieces after 1990s. Around 1940s, a time that high quality glues were not available, we used to throw away broken toys, ancient or old broken figures and any damaged piece as they are considered as unlucky omens. Big banyan trees with the alter of Yokekasoe(Spirit Of trees)are the places that we discarded many beautiful art pieces. This could be a tradition that was practiced for hundreds of years .During the 2000s, almost all Myanmar people changed their habits concerning art objects whether they are old or new.They treated them with love and affection and the advent of high power glues saved many artefacts but not before many were destroyed. I have a friend in United States who used to collect a lot of beautiful and high quality Kiminos in Japan during 50s or 60s. He did not pay for many of them as they were placed outside of a house when somebody died. My friend said that in Japan the garments of the dead person had to be discarded in the 50s and 60s.Finally I want to convey a message to all weathy people in Myanmar that collecting choice Myanmar lacquerwares and other art objects from different parts of the country will give you a sensation of love and pride to be a fellow countryman and at the same time you can enjoy the artistic developments and cross cultural trasmissions among our own people who shared joys and sorrows of civilization for many centuries. A person who chews betel has stained teeth which can prevent him from getting a decent job. On

17. Three betel nut cutters from Inle area. Elephants are famous motifs in Shan states, late 19th century.

18. A betel nut cutter from India ( colonial period, found in Myanmar depicting a bird, snatching a snake)

15


1-_CH0_001_023-e1 6/12/55 BE 9:32 AM Page 14

15. A silver betel box from the Shan states, probably made in Inle ( H 14x W 12cm). Unlike lacquer boxes , silverware master crafted only one tray inside, early 20th century .

Export& Im portCom panies ofm etalbeteland lim e boxes N am e

product

D ate

PK Pukeer Hussain

lime boxes

unknown

Brothers & Co

16. A typical Burmese betel nut cutter with silver and brass inlaid features, late 19th century.

16. A typical Burmese betel nut cutter with silver and brass inlaid features, late 19th century.

14

This practice has supposedly been in existence since the Pyu period together with other cultural transmissions from India which spread across Myanmar. Nowadays more people are involved in chewing betel quids packed in small plastic bags which are sold at almost every busy crossroads by peddlers or small betel shops. The plastic bags have replaced the bulky betel lacquerware boxes. Other chemical products of unknown side effects are also added to the betel quid to increase addiction. People do not entertain guests with betel boxes including ingredients to make a betel quid anymore. Ready-made ones are easier or tastier.That is one of the main reasons why crafting lacquerware betel boxes has become obsolete, making Bagan the only possible area to produce betel lacquerware boxes for the tourist trade . Although no one in my family chewed betel, we provided our guests with metal or lacquerware betel boxes containing the ingredients to prepare betel quids since my childhood days. Metal betel boxes were for daily use while the beautiful lacquerware boxes were kept for special days. Whenever there is an important ceremony, my brother and I had to go and get more betel boxes from the neighbors and monasteries for the incoming guests and had to return them the next day. During the 1950s to 1960s there were not as many die hard betel chewers as there are now. Until I passed matriculation class, there was nobody in our class who practiced this unhealthy and unappealing habit. There were not many betel chewers in the streets also as the practice almost died out. But somehow this pactice has been elevated on a national scale when I reached sixty years of age. Even young girls from the villages and small towns do not feel shy anymore to chew the betel with a bit of chemicals. In my opinion all traditions are not heaven sent for the people and some of them should be discarded while some should be embraced and encouraged . This simple food from the past had become complicated and unsafe because of the advent of cheap and dangerous chemicals. In fact, smoking and betel chewing are in the same category which disasterously affects health and peoples’ personalities.

R em arks middle colonial period ( Made in Japan) two rifles logo

A. Rahman & Sattar

lime boxes

unknown

middle colonial period ( Made in Japan)

V.S Aliar & Co

lime Boxes

unknown

middle colonial period ( Made in Japan) lion brand

Dadabhoy & Sons

betel boxes

unknown

pocket watch logo( Made in Germany)

Lalubhai & Amichand

betel boxes

unknown

elephant foot betel boxes with the logo of an elephant riding a bicycle

Kelly Raeburn ( Rangoon)

cups

unknown

flying elephant logo( Made in Japan )

M.A Raeburn & Co

lime boxes

unknown

crescent moon and 3 stars logo Kobe ( Made in Japan )

E.E Ganchee Rangoon

betel boxes

unknown

middle colonial period (Made in Germany)

A person who chews betel has stained teeth which can prevent him from getting a decent job. On the other hand city municipal workers, have much difficulty in cleaning the stained walls and waste boxes in public places affecting others’ impression of the country. Although it has its downside, betel chewing culture had created many beautiful art objects in the course of time, leaving present generations with excellent collectibles of lacquerware and silver boxes , different shapes of silver inlaid metal cutters, and metal pestles and mortars adorned with small figures . Almost all countries in Southeast Asia had similar culture of betel chewing though Myanmar is the only country to inherit many beautiful lacquerware betel boxes from different ages. In fact the price of good quality old lacquerware shot up since 1990s when more and more people got involved in collecting old lacquerwares in good condition. Collecting artworks of a fragile nature is good for future investment and saves them from total destruction as well. When there is no value or if nobody is interested in certain kind of artworks, owners do not take care of them anymore. Before 1990, I saw many lacquareware pieces in private houses and monasteries in total neglect. I reckon more old lacquerwares had been damaged or lost from the 1940s to 1990s than collected pieces after 1990s. Around 1940s, a time that high quality glues were not available, we used to throw away broken toys, ancient or old broken figures and any damaged piece as they are considered as unlucky omens. Big banyan trees with the alter of Yokekasoe(Spirit Of trees)are the places that we discarded many beautiful art pieces. This could be a tradition that was practiced for hundreds of years .During the 2000s, almost all Myanmar people changed their habits concerning art objects whether they are old or new.They treated them with love and affection and the advent of high power glues saved many artefacts but not before many were destroyed. I have a friend in United States who used to collect a lot of beautiful and high quality Kiminos in Japan during 50s or 60s. He did not pay for many of them as they were placed outside of a house when somebody died. My friend said that in Japan the garments of the dead person had to be discarded in the 50s and 60s.Finally I want to convey a message to all weathy people in Myanmar that collecting choice Myanmar lacquerwares and other art objects from different parts of the country will give you a sensation of love and pride to be a fellow countryman and at the same time you can enjoy the artistic developments and cross cultural trasmissions among our own people who shared joys and sorrows of civilization for many centuries. A person who chews betel has stained teeth which can prevent him from getting a decent job. On

17. Three betel nut cutters from Inle area. Elephants are famous motifs in Shan states, late 19th century.

18. A betel nut cutter from India ( colonial period, found in Myanmar depicting a bird, snatching a snake)

15


1-_CH0_001_023-e1 6/12/55 BE 9:32 AM Page 18

Com parison betw een traditionaland m odern betel ingredients Silver betelbox and lim e box

H ow do lacquerw are and it’s colors com e into being? 32.33. A silver betel box with a solid silver dancer on the top which could have been made during the early colonial period with the weight of 80 silver coins.

31. A silver lime box made as nieloware, portraying famous Ramayana story. Inscibed “ 1867 box crafted with six silver coins in weight�. Probably made from peacock silver coins, minted by king Mindon.

33.

36.37. A street vendor offering boxes of chemicals with numbers for betel chewing.

39..Slaked lime, a basic ingredient for chewing betel called Htone in a paste form.

18

34. An ingredient for betel chewing called Nwecho (a sweet creeper. licorice).

37.

35. An ingredient for betel chewing called Sayywetgyi (tobacco). It has to be kept flat between two inner trays.

38.. Another ingredient of traditional betel chewing called Laynyin(clove)

40.41.Cut pieces of Areca nut, Kwanthi and the most basic leaves for betel chewing are called Kwanywet.

Almost every book on lacquerware has a small chapter on how lacquerware was made and most of lacquerware enthusiasts already know the stages of crafting. In fact it was a technique based on and developed from bamboo wares which were made since Pyu period ( 400 - 900A. D) or even earlier.In Myanmar, we can safely surmise that civilization began before the pre-Pyu period as many spears and swords from bronze age were excavated from ancient tombs of Chindwin and Samon river regions together with beautiful beads, stone rings and copper or bronze wires (Kyedoks). These grave goods needed special knowledge to produce when the production of bronze wares was for the influential families and bamboo baskets or baked clay pots and pans for the poor could be basic items of any household. It should have been more difficult to learn bronze casting than that multiple coatings of lacquer can make bamboowares stronger and have a glossy sheen.When a bamboo bucket with a handle was applied with coats of lacquer, it can be conveniently used to draw water from a deep surface well or any source of water. The most interesting part is its resistance to insects and termites which is a constant nuisance to every household. On the other hand, good quality lacquerware with incised or painted designs takes time and it could be more expensive than bronzewares occasionally since ancient times. The lacquer tree, Sitsepin (Gluta usitata ) is indigenous to Myanmar and found today in Shan, Rakhine and Karen states, Sagaing , Pegu and Mandalay divisions. The tree itself has a grey viscous sap when exposed to oxygen, the substance spontaneously polymerizes and results in a material of remarkable utility. Given that lacquer trees grow in the region, any human who is looking for firewood can accidently discover that the sap from the tree is water proof and highly resistant to wear and tear. In China, this sap was utilised since 400 B.C or earlier and it could not be too far from this period that Myanmar people used the sap to apply as coatings on any bamboo or wooden wares. But unlike in China, the beautifying of this lacquer coated bamboo or woodenware with etched pictures and coloring them, never seemed to happen in Myanmar until Bagan or Ava period. On the other hand we had no knowledge of other Asian countries except China where designed lacquerware from some ancient sites have been discovered from 400B.C or later. Until we find further proof, we can surmise that lacquerware with beautiful decorative designs came into being quite late in Myanmar or in other Southeast Asian countries. There are four to five basic materials from which lacquerware was made. Among the lacquerwares made from materials of bamboo, wood,metal, paper or cloth and animal hide, the lacquerwares made from first three are the most commonly found while the last two are rare. But we can observe many figures of Lord Buddha made from bamboo ash, cloth and lacquer more than other household pieces. Normally those figures permanently sit on the alter for decades without any wear and tear. According to some scholars, a few lacquer Buddhas from Bagan period are still surviving though we do not know the details. A local lacquerware busi-

42. A rare Gadu-Ganan betel box with lower tray and inside paintings (1800 to 1850). Some of the paintings are quite similar to Chinese painting styles( H15 x W 20cm). THC

43. 44.Cutting and transportation of bamboos from the forest to riverbank cities. Nowadays,the excessive cutting of the bamboos for building the huts with thatched roofs reduced many mountains into barren rocks after the soil was eroded away.

19


1-_CH0_001_023-e1 6/12/55 BE 9:32 AM Page 18

Com parison betw een traditionaland m odern betel ingredients Silver betelbox and lim e box

H ow do lacquerw are and it’s colors com e into being? 32.33. A silver betel box with a solid silver dancer on the top which could have been made during the early colonial period with the weight of 80 silver coins.

31. A silver lime box made as nieloware, portraying famous Ramayana story. Inscibed “ 1867 box crafted with six silver coins in weight�. Probably made from peacock silver coins, minted by king Mindon.

33.

36.37. A street vendor offering boxes of chemicals with numbers for betel chewing.

39..Slaked lime, a basic ingredient for chewing betel called Htone in a paste form.

18

34. An ingredient for betel chewing called Nwecho (a sweet creeper. licorice).

37.

35. An ingredient for betel chewing called Sayywetgyi (tobacco). It has to be kept flat between two inner trays.

38.. Another ingredient of traditional betel chewing called Laynyin(clove)

40.41.Cut pieces of Areca nut, Kwanthi and the most basic leaves for betel chewing are called Kwanywet.

Almost every book on lacquerware has a small chapter on how lacquerware was made and most of lacquerware enthusiasts already know the stages of crafting. In fact it was a technique based on and developed from bamboo wares which were made since Pyu period ( 400 - 900A. D) or even earlier.In Myanmar, we can safely surmise that civilization began before the pre-Pyu period as many spears and swords from bronze age were excavated from ancient tombs of Chindwin and Samon river regions together with beautiful beads, stone rings and copper or bronze wires (Kyedoks). These grave goods needed special knowledge to produce when the production of bronze wares was for the influential families and bamboo baskets or baked clay pots and pans for the poor could be basic items of any household. It should have been more difficult to learn bronze casting than that multiple coatings of lacquer can make bamboowares stronger and have a glossy sheen.When a bamboo bucket with a handle was applied with coats of lacquer, it can be conveniently used to draw water from a deep surface well or any source of water. The most interesting part is its resistance to insects and termites which is a constant nuisance to every household. On the other hand, good quality lacquerware with incised or painted designs takes time and it could be more expensive than bronzewares occasionally since ancient times. The lacquer tree, Sitsepin (Gluta usitata ) is indigenous to Myanmar and found today in Shan, Rakhine and Karen states, Sagaing , Pegu and Mandalay divisions. The tree itself has a grey viscous sap when exposed to oxygen, the substance spontaneously polymerizes and results in a material of remarkable utility. Given that lacquer trees grow in the region, any human who is looking for firewood can accidently discover that the sap from the tree is water proof and highly resistant to wear and tear. In China, this sap was utilised since 400 B.C or earlier and it could not be too far from this period that Myanmar people used the sap to apply as coatings on any bamboo or wooden wares. But unlike in China, the beautifying of this lacquer coated bamboo or woodenware with etched pictures and coloring them, never seemed to happen in Myanmar until Bagan or Ava period. On the other hand we had no knowledge of other Asian countries except China where designed lacquerware from some ancient sites have been discovered from 400B.C or later. Until we find further proof, we can surmise that lacquerware with beautiful decorative designs came into being quite late in Myanmar or in other Southeast Asian countries. There are four to five basic materials from which lacquerware was made. Among the lacquerwares made from materials of bamboo, wood,metal, paper or cloth and animal hide, the lacquerwares made from first three are the most commonly found while the last two are rare. But we can observe many figures of Lord Buddha made from bamboo ash, cloth and lacquer more than other household pieces. Normally those figures permanently sit on the alter for decades without any wear and tear. According to some scholars, a few lacquer Buddhas from Bagan period are still surviving though we do not know the details. A local lacquerware busi-

42. A rare Gadu-Ganan betel box with lower tray and inside paintings (1800 to 1850). Some of the paintings are quite similar to Chinese painting styles( H15 x W 20cm). THC

43. 44.Cutting and transportation of bamboos from the forest to riverbank cities. Nowadays,the excessive cutting of the bamboos for building the huts with thatched roofs reduced many mountains into barren rocks after the soil was eroded away.

19


Lacquerware Journeys