In 1795, about 220 years ago, the British officer Symes recorded the scene of the streets of Nyaung-U, which were lined of lacquerware stores.
“This street was full of shops, containing no other articles than lackered ware: boxes, trays, cups, &c. varnished in a very neat manner, were displayed in the front of the shops; they were of various colours, some had figures painted on them, others wreaths of flowers.”
In central Myanmar, there are several lacquerware producing towns, such as Kyaukka, near Monuya, and Inwa. Bagan is very famous for traditional lacquerware production. These products have been widely traded since long ago.
Almost all lacquerware were of daily necessities, as mentioned by Symes. Though some lacquerware were used as bowls for offerings and court regalia. Today, there are a large variety of shapes and designs due to changes in lifestyle.
Myanmar lacquerware is made of bamboo and lacquer. The body is made with thin strips of bamboo, which are painted with lacquer and let to dry. Each piece is intricately designed by carving a fine pattern with a small khife and filling the patterns with colored lacquer. In Japan, this technique is called "kimma", which is originated from northern Thailand.
After the fall of the Bagan dynasty, around the 14th century to the 18th century, lacquerware techniques were introduced to Myanmar from the northeast hilly areas. A combination of bamboo from Ayeyarwadi valley and lacquer from Shan hills. It can be said that traditional crafts were unique to Bagan, the center of Myanmar’s culture.
Bagan is an old historical region situated in the middle of Myanmar, and New Bagan is a new satellite town of Bagan. During our activity, we came across many young emerging lacquerware designers and craftman in New Bagan. We also discovered the extent of the number of workshops existing.
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