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Myanmar > Pictures and travelogues > Kalaga, puppets, and lacquerware in Myanmar

Handicrafts in Myanmar: pictures from kalaga (traditional embroidered tapestry), puppets, and lacquerware.

Kalaga (traditional embroidered tapestry) in Mandalay, Myanmar
Kalaga (traditional embroidered tapestry) in Mandalay, Myanmar. Representation of Keinari and Keinara,the eternal lovers.

Handicrafts from Mandalay (Upper Burma) include, among others, goldbeating (production of gold leaves), puppet manufacture, and kalaga tapestry. Kalaga is the traditional embroidered tapestries from Myanmar. Many people think wrongly that kalagas are made in Thailand. This art form comes actually from the Mandalay region. It dates back to the 18th century.

A kalaga is a colorful fabric, embroidered with metallic and plain threads and adorned with metal sequins, beads and glass stones. Kalagas usually depict stories from the Jataka (the previous lives of the Buddha) or the Ramayana (hindu epic journey of King Rama). There are only a dozen kalaga workshops in Mandalay.

Puppets from Mandalay, Myanmar
Puppets from Mandalay, Myanmar.

Puppetry (youq-the-pwe) is part of the Burmese culture. The puppets are large and can reach one meter in height. The advent of cinema in the 20th century brought puppet shows in the background. Currently, puppet shows in Myanmar, e.g. in the Karaweik in Yangon, are mainly intended for tourists. The Burmese puppets are made mostly in the workshops of Mandalay.

Lacquerware from Bagan, Myanmar
Lacquerware from Bagan (Mandalay region), Myanmar.

Manufacturing lacquerware ("Pan yun") is a process that takes a lot of time. The most beautiful of these items are genuine works of art. The art of lacquer is of Chinese origin. It dates from 3000 years. Burma has manufactured lacquerware since the 16th century.
The lacquer is the resin tapped from the tree Melanorrhoea usitata  (also known as Thitsi) that grows wild in the forests in the Northeast of Burma. It is beautiful bright and has strong adhesive qualities. When harvested, the resin is white but it quickly darkens as it dries.

Workshops specialized in Burmese lacquerware are mainly located in Bagan. The strong increase in the resin prices in recent decades as well as the use of plastic, porcelain or metal products instead of lacquerware, resulted in the closure of many workshops in Bagan. There are still three lacquer workshops in Bagan. They export worldwide. Competition in international markets comes mainly from Vietnam.


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Myanmar > Pictures and travelogues > Handicrafts in Myanmar

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Handicrafts in Myanmar: pictures from kalaga (traditional embroidered tapestry), puppets, and lacquerware. Comprehensive travel guide to Myanmar with 200 great pictures.