11 results in English
Letter of Damar Wulan
The Serat Damar Wulan (MSS.Jav.89) is one of the loveliest Indonesian manuscripts in the British Library, with a treasury of illustrations depicting Javanese society in the late 18th century. The pictures are rich in humor and the artist had a marvellous eye for facial expressions and bodily postures (for example, a woman sleeping with her arm across her eyes, a sandal just balanced on a foot). Everyday things are depicted in fascinating detail, from birdcages to garden pots and textiles, with wonderful scenes of music and dance of ...
Contributed by The British Library
Depictions of King Mindon’s Donations at Various Places from 1853 to 1857
This Burmese manuscript (Or 13681) from the British Library shows seven scenes of King Mindon’s donations at various places during the first four years of his reign (1853-57). The artist not only depicted the seven different historical merit-making ceremonies of King Mindon, but he also described the cost of the royal donations in detail. The mid-19th century parabaik (folding book) has red-tooled leather covers, the front cover bearing in gold letters the title “Depictions of King Mindon’s donations at various places beginning in the year 1215, first [volume ...
Contributed by The British Library
Massage Treatise
Traditional Thai medicine is a holistic discipline involving extensive use of indigenous herbal and massage-pressure treatments combined with aspects of spirituality and mental wellbeing. Having been influenced by Indian and Chinese concepts of healing, traditional Thai medicine understands disease not as a physical matter alone, but also as an imbalance of the patient with his or her social and spiritual world. Thai medical manuscripts written during the 19th century give a broad overview of different methods of treatment and prevention, of the understanding and knowledge of the human body, of ...
Contributed by The British Library
Ramayana
The oral tradition of the Burmese Ramayana story can be traced as far back as the reign of King Anawrahta (active 1044−77), the founder of the first Burmese empire. The story was transmitted orally from generation to generation before being written down in prose and verse and as a drama. The earliest known written Burmese version of the Ramayana is Rama Thagyin (Songs from the Ramayana), compiled by U Aung Phyo in 1775. A three-volume copy of the Rama story called Rama vatthu was written on palm leaf in ...
Contributed by The British Library
Malay Annals
Sometime around the year 1400, a prince from Sumatra named Parameswara founded a settlement at the mouth of the Melaka River on the west coast of the Malay Peninsula. One of his successors embraced Islam, and Melaka soon grew to become the greatest Islamic kingdom in Southeast Asia. A center of the spice trade that was known as the “Venice of the East,” it attracted merchants from as far away as Arabia, India, China, and Japan. The wealth of Melaka proved irresistible to the Portuguese, who were the first Europeans ...
Contributed by The British Library
The Tale of Kiều
Truyện Kiều (The tale of Kiều), written by Nguyễn Du (1765−1820) is regarded as the most significant poem in Vietnamese literature. It was composed in Lục-bát (6-8) stanzas and its original title in Vietnamese is Ðoạn Trường Tân Thanh (A new cry from a broken heart). However, it is better known as Truyện Kiều or Kim Văn Kiều. The story is based on a 17th century Ming Chinese novel, which Nguyễn Du discovered while he was on an ambassadorial mission to China in 1813. The plot portrays the chaotic ...
Contributed by The British Library
Qu'ran
This exquisite illuminated Qur’an (Or 15227) dating from the 19th century originates from the east coast of the Malay Peninsula. On the basis of various codicological features, the manuscript can be attributed to the cultural zone encompassing Kelantan, on the northeast coast of Malaysia, and Patani, in southern Thailand. In many ways, the Qur’an is typical of manuscript production in Patani, with black endpapers of Thai manufacture, a cloth cover with elaborate stitched headbands, and illuminated frames with typical Patani features, such as the interlocking-wave motif. And yet ...
Contributed by The British Library
Buddhist Texts, Including the Legend of Phra Malai, with Illustrations of The Ten Birth Tales
The legend of Phra Malai, a Buddhist monk of the Theravada tradition said to have attained supernatural powers through his accumulated merit and meditation, is the main text in this 19th-century Thai samut khoi (folding book) held in the Thai, Lao, and Cambodian Collections of the British Library. Phra Malai figures prominently in Thai art, religious treatises, and rituals associated with the afterlife, and the story is one of the most popular subjects of 19th-century illustrated Thai manuscripts. The earliest surviving examples of Phra Malai manuscripts date back to the ...
Contributed by The British Library
Letter from Engku Temenggung Seri Maharaja (Daing Ibrahim), Ruler of Johor, to Napoleon III, Emperor of France
This beautiful royal Malay letter from the ruler of Johor, Temenggung Daing Ibrahim, to the Emperor of France, written in Singapore in 1857, is a triumph of style over substance. Its 13 golden lines pay effusive compliments to Napoleon III but convey little else. It is hard to know what either side hoped to gain from the despatch of such a magnificent missive, for in the mid-19th century French interests in Southeast Asia were primarily focused on Indochina, while Johor’s allegiance was firmly with the British. In the letter ...
Contributed by The British Library
Treatise on Cats
This manuscript containing fine paintings of cats is in the format of a samut khoi (Thai folding book) with 12 folios, which open from top to bottom. It was produced in the 19th century in central Thailand. Folding books were usually made from the bark of mulberry trees; minerals, plant liquids, and occasionally materials imported from China and Europe were used as paints. Sometimes the paper was blackened with lampblack or lacquer to make the paper stronger and more resistant to damage by insects or humidity. Such books were mainly ...
Contributed by The British Library
Khmer Alphabet
On April 27, 1858, Alexandre Henri Mouhot, aged 31, sailed from London to Bangkok with the aim of exploring the remote interior regions of mainland Southeast Asia. He was particularly interested in ornithology and conchology, but he also had a passion for philology, photography, and foreign languages. Born in 1826 in Montbeliard, France, Mouhot became a Greek scholar, and at the age of 18 went to teach Greek and French at the Military Academy in Saint Petersburg, where he quickly picked up Russian and Polish. At the same time he ...
Contributed by The British Library