Year published :2002

Pages :102 pp.

Size :12.5x17.5 cm.

ISBN: 9789747551921

Ancient Bird-shaped Weight System from Lan Na and Burma, An

by Donald and Joan Gear

10 color, 18 b&w illustrations

This monograph explores in detail the little-known system of ancient bird-shaped weights from Northern Thailand and Burma. The weights are carefully described and analyzed as to their origin and use, their mass scale and its relation to other mass scales, their composition and production techniques, and their shapes and symbolism.

These bird-shaped weights have been seen in Mae Hong Son in Thailand, and in Sagaing, Pagan, Mandalay, Pegu, and Rangoon in Burma. Although historical records fail to mention much about the ancient weights in Southeast Asia, fortunately, records of European traders and of Arab, Persian, and Chinese travelers from previous centuries do exist, and these provide an opportunity for comparison. Donald and Joan Gear broaden their study to consider the historical context of the Lan Na weights, comparing them with the weight systems found in surrounding areas. They conclude that from about the eleventh century until the mid-sixteenth century, the bird-shaped weights were most likely used by traders along the route through Raheng and Martaban to Pegu. 

Of interest to historians, collectors, antiquarians, and scholars of Southeast Asia, this unique volume discloses the curious and intricate world of ancient bird-shaped weights.