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Malay Inscribed Brass Grain Measure (Gantang)

Malay People, Brunei
dated 1299 AH (1881/82 AD)

height: 18cm, diameter: 18.5cm, width: 23cm, weight: 2,306g



UK art market

This brass rice measure is of wide, squat, cylindrical form, and with a handle to one side. It has been cast with a prominent cartouche filled with Jawi script (Arabic adapted for Malay) and a date which approximates to 1850 in the Western calendar.

Similar examples are illustrated in Singh (1985, p. 36) and Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia (2005, p. 205).

The measure was known as a gantang and was used in Brunei in the 19th and early 20th centuries to measure padi rice. One gantang amounted to just over 4.5 litres of dry capacity.

The calligraphic panel, in cast high-relief, says:

[hadha] ada [gantang] perintah dalam negeri Brunei malik al-‘adil sanat 1299


[this is] a gantang [officially ordered] in the state of Brunei [by the just ruler] the year 1299 (1881/2)

Additionally, the side is impressed with what appears to be some type of control mark.

This example has obvious age. The base has (very) old solder repairs which have themselves good patina, suggesting that the measure was used, repaired and used again. The repairs to the base mean that the vessel no longer sits completely flat.

Muzium Negara, Malaysia’s National Museum, has a related gantang on display. It can be seen in the last photograph.


Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, The Message and the Monsoon: Islamic Art of Southeast Asia, IAMM Publications, 2005.

Singh, B., Malay Brassware, National Museum of Singapore, 1985.

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