The sharper edge to traveling in Asia

WoWasis book review: ‘Lacquerware Journeys’ Burmese Lacquerware by Than Htun (Dedaye)

Written By: herbrunbridge - Jun• 05•13



LacquerwareJourneysBookThere has been a resurgence of interest in Burmese lacquer ware concomitant to the large numbers of travelers now visiting the country of Myanmar. Sylvia Fraser-Lu’s landmark book Burmese Lacquerware is in its second edition, but ordering it internationally is financially problematic, going for more than $100 USD on the internet, while available for $45 USD if purchased in Bangkok. As good as Lu’s book is, it’s not nearly as graphically interesting, nor as informative as Than Htun (Dedaye)’s Lacquerware Journeys: The Untold Story of Burmese Lacquer (2013, ISBN 978-616-7339-23-8). This extraordinarily handsome 277 page book is comprehensively illustrated with loads of photos, many of which contain extreme close-ups of lacquerware art in color.

Than Htun’s passion for the art form is driven by a natural curiosity that has sent him to many parts of Burma looking for examples and collectors. He’s a good writer, too, and although the text is voluminous, it goes at a good clip. We here at WoWasis are lacquerware collectors ourselves, and this book sent us back to looking at our own collection with a finer eye to detail. We now see both flaws and beauty where we hadn’t appreciated them before, and the book will allow us to make more informed future purchases. Part of the beauty for the reader is that Burmese lacquerware is still affordable in both Thailand and Burma.

The book is comprehensive, covering the history of lacquerware as well as the intricacies of lacquer production, well-illustrated with photographs. He meticulously describes how objects are colored and incised. He then describes pieces themselves, including hsun-ok and betel boxes, among the most ubiquitous manifestations of the art form, dividing them into fourteen geographical areas, categorized into Lower Myanmar, Upper Myanmar, the Shan States, and Rakhine. There’s also a glossary, bibliography, and index. It’s a world-class book.

We would have liked to have seen more information on large gilded lacquerware puppets, but it’s hard to find fault with the book. In truth, virtually every type of lacquerware, be it hsun-ok, betel box, nat, or puppet, is deserving of a book in itself. Without a doubt, this book, though, is the place to start, and should be considered an integral part of the library of anyone interested in the art and culture of Burma. Buy it here at the WoWasis eStore.

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