Burmese Lacquerware
By Silvia Fraser-Lu


For the past 200 - 300 years the art of lacquer has been one of the show industries of Burma. Early travellers to that country have commented most favourably on it and it would be a rare Burmese household or monastery which did not have at least a few prized pieces of lacquer.

The initial impetus for the development of the craft in all probability came from neighbouring China and Thailand, but Burmese creative genius channelled it in new and unique directions. Burma's polychrome incised wares are unsurpassed for their boldness and liveliness of design while its gilt moulded lacquer inlaid with glass mosaic 'outshines' European ormolu work in its sheer sumptuous effect. The best of Burma's gold-leaf design work is equal to that of Thailand, the leading exponent of the craft in South-East Asia. Painted wares too are emblematic of a robust folkcraft tradition.

Over the years the Burmese lacquer worker has been most adept at adapting to changing circumstances brought about by the colonial experience and post-war Independence. To meet the needs of a diverse clientele, artisans have added different colours, new forms and experimental techniques to the repertoire. Despite modern innovations, the lacquer artisan continues to draw strength from the past. Ancient temple murals continue to provide much inspiration and subject matter.

This book explains the various techniqies practised by lacquer artisans, and describes the various forms, and the use of a wide range of wares. It also introduces the reader to some of the leading exponents of the art in different parts of Burma. Lacquerware collections both within that country and abroad have also been described.

Close Window

1999 Myriam Grest Thein