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Kammawaza manuscript

20th century


Unknown Artist


The 'kammawaza' manuscripts are used to record sacred Buddhist texts. It was customary for a Burmese family to commission this type of manuscript on the occasion of their son entering the monkhood. Most boys become novice monks in monasteries for a short period of time around puberty. Families gained merit for their donations and for their sons' role within the religious establishment. While the earliest of these 'kammawaza' texts may date to the 1400s, most surviving examples are from the late 1800s and early 1900s. The use of gilded sheets of brass and copper appeared from about the mid 1800s, but the habit of using discarded monks' robes or other sacred cloth stiffened with lacquer developed much earlier. The gold leaf decoration on red lacquer is called 'shwezawa', and it embellishes the black text in vegetal and flower patterns. Images of deities also add to the beauty of the piece.

Asian Art Department, AGNSW, December 2011


Other Title

Manuscript (Kammavaca)

Place where the work was made



20th century

Media category


Materials used

cotton cloth, lacquer, gold leaf, wood


13.5 x 59.0 cm :

a - Part a; 13.5 x 59 cm

b - Part b; 13.5 x 59 cm

c - Part c; 13.5 x 59 cm

d - Part d; 13.5 x 59 cm

e - Part e; 13.5 x 59 cm

f - Part f; 13.5 x 59 cm

g - Part g; 13.5 x 59 cm

h - Part h; 13.5 x 59 cm

i - Part i; 13.5 x 59 cm

j - Part j; 13.5 x 59 cm

k - Part k; 13.5 x 59 cm

l - Part l; 13.5 x 59 cm

m - Part m; 13.5 x 59 cm

n - Part n; 13.5 x 59 cm

o - Part o; 13.5 x 59 cm

p - Part p; 13.5 x 59 cm

q - Part q; 13.5 x 59 cm

r - Part r; 13.5 x 59 cm


Gift of Andrew and Ursula Tompkins 2007


Not on display

Accession number



Where the work was made