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
Kammavaca [monk's ordination text]
Place where the work was made
lacquer on copper
9.6 x 58.0 cm
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Gift of Dr Leonard and Phyllis Warnock 1999
Not on display
Where the work was made
Referenced in 3 publications
Sylvia Fraser-Lu, Burmese lacquerware, 'Lacquareware objects for religious use', pg. 85-113, Bangkok, 1985, 100-101. Note that this reference is a general text on monk's ordination texts and is not a direct reference to this work.
John Guy and O.P. Agrawal, Palm-leaf and paper: illustrated manuscripts of India and Southeast Asia, Victoria, 1982, 61. Note that this reference is a general text on monk's ordination texts and is not a direct reference to this work.
Noel F. Singer, Arts of Asia, 'Kammavaca texts, their covers and binding ribbons', pg. 97-101, Hong Kong, May 1993, 97-101. Note that this reference is a general text on monk's ordination texts and is not a direct reference to this work.