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Large Burmese Lacquered Betel Box (Kun-it)

Pagan (Bagan), Burma (Myanmar)
early 20th century

height: 22.9cm, diameter: 25cm



private collection, UK

This large lacquered betel box (kun it) is finely decorated and in excellent condition. It has a base colour of orange-red and additional colours of yellow, green and black.

The exterior of this fine betel box is decorated with finely etched and coloured motifs such as small animals to represent the days of the Burmese week and so on, amid fine lattice-work (known as the kunan kanbyat pattern) rendered in dark lacquer.

The upper section of the cover and the side-rim of the base both have two small panels decorated with Burmese script in yellow. Probably, these indicate the name of maker and the location.

The box comprises the base, the cover and two internal trays. The interiors of the box, cover and trays are in red-orange lacquer.

It was designed to hold leaves for the betel quid as well as receptacles that held the various other ingredients of the betel quid. The box is constructed from thin slithers of woven bamboo that have been lacquered and incised.

A very similar box described as ‘aristocratic’ and with ‘exceptionally elegant’ decoration is illustrated in Fraser-Lu (2000, p. 199). Another is illustrated in Isaacs & Blurton (2000, p. 76)

The box here is in excellent condition.

This item was obtained in the UK and almost certainly came to the UK during the colonial era.



Fraser-Lu, S., Burmese Lacquerware, White Orchid Books, 2000.

Isaacs, R., & T.R. Blurton, Burma and the Art of Lacquer, River Books, 2000.

Than Htun (Dedaye), Lacquerware Journeys: The Untold Story of Burmese Lacquer, River Books, 2013.

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