Collection online


  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Offering vessel, 'hsun ok', made of bamboo, lacquer, coloured glass, gold leaf; also gilded metal sheet and wood. One of a pair (see BM 1994.1116.1).
    The decoration is a 'tour de force' of the 'hmanzi shwe cha' style, where relief modelling is built up on the lacquered surface of the coiled basketry. Although the majority of the decoration is of floral and abstract design, prancing animals (probably mythical lions) made of 'thayo' lacquer putty can be seen chasing through the scrollwork in the bands that run around the belly of the vessel on both sides of the opening. The spired lid of the vessel, so reminiscent of the soaring outline of the Burmese pagoda, bears a 'hintha' bird set into it. Internally, the basketry, including the single surviving tray, is decorated with brilliant-red lacquer.


  • Date

    • 19thC (mid)
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 119 centimetres
    • Diameter: 56 centimetres
  • Curator's comments

    Isaacs & Blurton 2000:
    The making of offerings to the monkhood is one of the important injunctions on the laity in a Buddhist society. Further, through giving, lay Buddhists accumulate merit and in this way ensure better prospects in their next lives. Giving, therefore, benefits both parties; indeed the argument can be made that the benefit to the giver is greater than to the receiver. Given this background, it is not surprising that the ritual of giving in Burma has substantial accoutrements, one of the most obvious being the 'hsun ok', lidded vessels with an internal tray for carrying offerings to the monastery or for displaying the offerings there on either side of a Buddha image. These two examples are of a size and quality that sets them aside from other examples, and this, coupled with their history, suggests they may have come from a royal monastic establishment in Mandalay, in the years immediately after the Third Anglo-Burmese War (1885). The use of all-over gilding may also indicate a royal origin for these vessels: 'In the days of the Kon-baung kings, sumptuary laws decreed that objects with gilded decoration were reserved for religious and royal use.' (Fraser-Lu 1985: 88). The intimate connection between royalty and the 'hintha' bird, variously described as a swan or a 'brahminy' goose (Burney even described it as a peacock), has been commented on by Yule in 1858 (see Yule 1858: 85).

    They are known to have been acquired in Burma, probably in Mandalay, by 1895, only ten years after the end of hostilities. The purchaser was an Englishman, Herbert Allcroft, whose round-the-world trip took him to Burma in the winter months of 1894/5. From Rangoon he went up to Mandalay, of which he wrote in his diary extensively where he recorded that in the bazaar 'there is not a single Burmese article that cannot be bought there. We spent some time there and went through it from end to end and then Mr Dale took us to Mr Beaton's curio store. He has a most interesting collection and his house is crammed'. Many items were purchased by Allcroft to be shipped back to the family seat at Stokesay Court in Shropshire, where they remained until 1994 when the contents of the house were sold at auction.

    The intricacy and depth of the design reveals a sure hand practised in this technique. Mandalay has been the centre for this type of work certainly from the second half of the nineteenth century and continues to the present. This, along with the fact that Allcroft is known to have visited Mandalay, corroborates the suggestion that these two vessels were made there.


  • Bibliography

    • Isaacs & Blurton 2000 cat 1, pp. 70-71. bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display

  • Exhibition history

    2000 Apr-Aug, BM, 'Visions from the Golden Land: Burma and the Art of Lacquer.'

  • Subjects

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Acquisition notes

    Bought via Spink and Son from the Sotheby's at Stokesay Court, Shropshire at their sale of 29th September, 1994.

  • Department


  • Registration number


Hsun-ok - two-part vessel with a pointed lid surmounted by a hamsa, used for carrying offerings to the pagoda.  One of a pair - see 1994. 11-16. 1.  Made of coiled bamboo, lacquered and gilded and inlaid with coloured glass.

Group of Objects

Hsun-ok - two-part vessel with a pointed lid surmounted by a hamsa, used for carrying offerings to the pagoda. One of a pair - see 1994. 11-16. 1. Made of coiled bamboo, lacquered and gilded and inlaid with coloured glass.

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Object reference number: RRI34228

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