AGE: – 19th – Early 20th Century
CONSTRUCTION: – Paper derived from mulberry tree bark
DESCRIPTION: – Burmese Shan Parabaik Buddhist Manuscript – Age related wear
LENGTH: – 42cm
WIDTH: – 19cm
THICKNESS: – 4.5cm
WEIGHT: – 1.55kg.
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A sixty-five page Burmese Shan concertina type manuscript referred to as a “Parabaik.” The paper traditional used to make this style of Parabaik comes from the bark of the mulberry tree. The text is in Shan language, written in a Burmese style script on both front and back of the paper, making it . The front and back cover is gilded and decorated with a floral molded relief pattern with Thayo lacquer, and inlaid with glass mosaics. Throughout this manuscript most pages have eight lines of black coloured script with a few pages showing small simple diagrams.
There are two types of Parabaiks, one is black and the other is white. The black Parabaiks were mostly used by the average person to keep records of their family or individuals, financial transactions, agricultural records, recipes used in traditional medicine, alchemy, astronomy or diary of daily events written with a piece of soap stone or steatite. The white Parabaiks were usually written with ink made from soot, crude oil or vegetable oil, these are usually related to Buddhist texts.
This manuscript shows that it has been well used, it is intact with no tears to the pages. The edges of the manuscript show age related wear due to turning of the pages over its one hundred years or more of its existence.
The Shan people have been creating manuscripts in their own unique style for hundreds of years. Some manuscript were strictly related to astrology, the art of tattooing, some are related to politics and social matters of the day and some are purely Buddhist prayer books.
The following information is Referenced from https://soas.ac.uk
Another interesting aspect of the Shan manuscripts is that most Shan manuscript literature’s, both Buddhist and non-Buddhist, are written in the narrative styles of epic poetry, with variety of genres and rhyming styles. They were composed in such entertaining style so because they were especially prepared for reading out loud to the audience at ritual events. Leslie Milne, an anthropologist, who made extensive research on social traditions and customs in the British colonial Shan states, beautifully described the Shan customs in connection with manuscript literature, as she wrote in her famous book, Shans at Home, “many Shans read their scriptures with manifest sincerity and delight. In their homes, in rest-houses, in monasteries, or gathered around an open fire, Shans may be seen listening with reverence to the rising and falling cadence, as their reader chants a birth story of their Lord Gautama, or of the beauty and bliss of Nirvana” (Milne 1910, p. 214).
This is an excellent YouTube video showing how mulberry paper is made.