Pali Manuscript of a Buddhist Text

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Historical period(s)
Kon-baung period, circa 1800
Gold, color, wood, and enamel on copper
H x W: 10.6 x 54.4 cm (4 3/16 x 21 7/16 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Smithsonian Unrestricted Trust Funds, Smithsonian Collections Acquisition Program, and Dr. Arthur M. Sackler
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view


Buddhism, Burma, Henri Vever collection, Kon-baung period (1752 - 1885), WWII-era provenance
Provenance information is currently unavailable

This manuscript consists of eighteen lacquered copper plates and two decorated wooden covers. Between the lines and in the margins of the plates, the text is embellished with floral and geometric decorative patterns, which are drawn in red on a gold background. The finely decorated copper leaves were bound together between the covers with a ribbon.

The manuscript was likely commissioned on the occasion of a boy's ordination into the monastic order. In Myanmar's Theravada Buddhism, it is customary for boys ages seven and older to be ordained as novices and remain in the monastery for a period of time (usually around three months) during which they become immersed in the Buddha's teachings. At the age of twenty, they may choose to be fully ordained as monks. As part of the ceremony that marks the ordination, the boy's parents often donate a kammavacha manuscript, which contains excerpts from the monastic code of discipline. Because it is written in dark, square letters resembling tamarind seeds, the style of script is called tamarind seed.

Published References
  • Paths to Perfection, Buddhist Art at the Freer/Sackler. Washington. pp. 194-195.
Collection Area(s)
Southeast Asian Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
F|S Southeast Asia
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