Scenes and episodes from the Jatakas, well-known folktales, fables, pagoda legends and nat (spirit) stories are depicted in panels.
Space is left on the ware for inscribing the artist’s name and the date or for any letter the buyer may wish to have inscribed.
The argument of the school rested on bringing together the two meanings of the word yun: one meant lacquerware, the other Laotians.
Taw Sein Ko, Superintendent of the Epigraphic Office of British Burma, and U Lu Pe Win, Director of the Archaeology Department of independent Myanmar, when Anawrahta conquered Thaton, the capital of the Mon kingdom in Lower Myanmar, in AD 1058, he brought back with him to Bagan not only Buddhist relics, scriptures and learned monks but also artists and craftsmen, including lacquer craftsmen, whom he settled at his capital.
In the understanding of this school, the lacquer tradition of the Mon kingdom which was transplanted to Bagan was not native to Thaton but was acquired through its overland trade with the neighbouring kingdom of Chiangmai. In a contribution to the Journal of the Burma Research Society, U Kyaw Dun has noted, “The Mons knew how to make a betel box lacquer work long ago, for they have its name in their own language.” The Mons were producing their own style of lacquerware before they started their trade with Chiangmai.
The artist has a free hand in expressing his concept and makes use of such motifs as lotus, orchid, natural and mythical animals, demons and devas.
Symbols representing the planets and zodiac signs are among the artist’s favourites.
The Bagan Museum also has on display a number of excavated lacquerware, including Buddha images, votive objects and household articles, which attest to the antiquity of the lacquer tradition in Myanmar.
There are differences of opinion among scholars as to when the lacquer tradition had its start in Myanmar.Relief moulded lacquerware (tha-yoe) owes its name tha-yoe, meaning “animal bone”, to the fine sticky plaster made out of the ash of animal bone, paddy husk and sawdust of teakwood, with cowdung powder sometimes added.This pliable plaster mixed with lacquer is rolled into long threads of the required thickness.The bamboo strips are fine, and they are woven or coiled into the desired shape.The design and decoration is sophisticated and exquisite.Daunglan, byat, kalap, kwet, ok, etc., which are plain lacquerware, have been used by the Burmans from time immemorial.