AGE: 18th – 19th Century
CONSTRUCTION: – Dry lacquer technique
DESCRIPTION: – Antique Burmese Shan Hollow Lacquer Buddha Statue
HEIGHT: – 48.5cm
WIDTH: – 37.5cm
DEPTH: – 24.5cm
WEIGHT: – 1.55kg.
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Antique Burmese Shan Hollow Lacquer Buddha Statue with hand gesture in “wheel of dharma” (Sanskrit: Dharmachakra Mudra), or gesture of explaining the dharma, is often referred to as the ‘teaching gesture’. The dharmachakra mudra is derived from Shakyamuni Buddha’s first discourse upon the Four Noble Truths, which he taught at the deer park in Sarnath, near Varanasi.
This historical event is known as the Buddha’s ‘first turning of the wheel of dharma’; where he set in motion the ‘perfect wheel’ of his teachings. His two great subsequent discourses, the second and third turnings of the wheel of dharma, were given at Rajagriha and Shravasti respectively.
The curators of Sarnath Museum now show, with the aid of a loosely knotted handkerchief, how this hand configuration may be used to untie the ‘knot of appearances’ with a simple rotation of the hands. The dharmachakra mudra may also be referred to as the dharmachakra-pravatana-mudra, the gesture of ‘turning the wheel of the dharma’. This has a direct association with the ‘wheel turning’ universal monarch or chakravartin.
Dry lacquer Buddha images known as hnee phaya or man phaya are built on lacquered wickerwork images of Buddha. Clay is kneaded and shaped into a rough form over the bamboo, after this a plaster of straw ash and water is smeared over the clay image. A piece of cloth, usually taken from a monk’s robe or scarf or turban of an elder of the family is soaked in lacquer and wound around the smeared clay image. Tha-yoe plaster is then applied to a thickness of half an inch or more. The details of the image are carved out with an iron implement called thanlet.
When the image has dried and is hardened the clay is removed by washing and the mold is then cut open to remove the clay from the less accessible areas. The openings are sealed with lacquer and the image is coated with more lacquer and a plaster of straw ash. When this has hardened the finishing touches are applied. It is then rewashed, smoothed, polished and varnished. At this point the desired ornamentation such as glass mosaic, thayo lacquer or gilding is applied. These images are very light and portable and still giving the resemblance of a wooden Buddha statue.