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This cylindrical box is known as “betel box” comprises a hatbox-style lid, high-sided container, and one tray. Betel boxes are called “kun-it” in Myanmar, were designed for storing and serving ingredients to assemble a quid, or chew, of betel, a mild stimulant that was also used to freshen breath.


Designs built around the eight animal symbols of the seven days have special meaning to the Burmese. One duty of a good Buddhist is to spread love and kindness to all human beings. After reciting devotional verses at the household shrine, a devout Burmese Buddhist might conclude with, "May those born on the seven days be well and happy." Symbols of the seven days are depicted on lacquer as an expression of benevolence to all human beings.

Burmese Lacquer Betel Box with the Eight Animals of the Days of the Burmese Week

  • Burma is famous for a unique style of incised lacquerware decoration called yun. The surface of the object is engraved with a fine iron stylus called a kauk. The incisions are then filled with colouring matter. This decorative technique probably took its inspiration from China where needle-etched lacquerware was made as early as the Waring States period (475-221 B.C.) and the Han dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 220).


    The decorative process begins with the etching of a freehand outline of the design into the smooth glossy red or black surface of an object. No stencils or patterns are used. The lines vary greatly in density and complexity depending on the design. On the best incised lacquerware designs are characterised by a rhythmic liveliness and freedom of movement. They resemble drawings more than etchings.

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