Vessel hsun ok

Each month, the curators of the Asia and Pacific Museum carefully select one object to represent the second part of the permanent exhibition Journeys to the east, which will cover the areas of Central and Eastern Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, East Asia and Oceania.

In July, the object of the month is a sacrificial vessel hsun ok, similar in shape to a tall, monumental cup with a pointed lid, containing a tray for offerings inside. The whole thing is made in a manner typical of Myanmar (Burma), from thin bamboo strips bent into horizontal circles that are joined together to form the shape of the future vessel, and then completely covered with lacquer so that the bamboo structure is completely invisible.

In this representative vessel, the outer surfaces are covered with thayo lacquer paste, which is thick and plastic – it can be carved and decorative patterns can be pressed from the mold, as is the case here. All external surfaces are decorated with plant motifs, as well as animal ones and trails of geometric figures. The lacquer mass is gilt and inlaid with semi-precious stones and cut glass. The inside of the vessel is smoothly covered with red lacquer.

The richly decorated vessel was used to carry offerings to the temple in a Buddhist monastery. The Burmese name of the vessel roughly translates to “sacrificial offering with a cover.” Two such vessels are used in pairs as a set: they are placed, with the offerings inside, on either side of the Buddha statue in the temple.

Hsun ok consists of a hemispherical bowl on a round foot, with a cover in the form of a flattened hemisphere with a pointed finial. The foot is narrowed in the upper part and profiled along the entire height: decorated with two plates and three rings with sharpened edges. The foot is open and empty at the bottom. Inside the bowl is the flat tray mentioned above; it fits to the edge of the bowl and is pressed into it. The tray is covered with smooth red lacquer, without additional decorations. The lid of the vessel is also pressed into place on the bowl and has a high finial in the shape of a profiled baluster: halfway up the baluster is decorated with a spherical lump, and in addition to it there are 12 rings and – crowning the whole – a sharpened pinnacle.

The item forms a set with the identical MAP 10581 vessel. Thanks to covering the entire surface with dense, bas-relief ornaments, and using gilding and glass / precious stones, the vessels become very decorative objects. This type of vessels could even come from the royal court, to which there are analogies in the international literature on the subject (e.g.: Ralph Isaacs, T. Richard Blurton, Visions from the Golden Land. Burma and the art of lacquer, London: British Museum Press 2000, Cat. pos. 1.).


Photo by Łukasz Brodowicz / the Asia and Pacific Museum



Hsun ok [pronounced s-hoon ou] vessel for offerings to a Buddhist monastery
Myanmar (Burma), 2nd half of the 19th century
bamboo, lacquer, thayo lacquer, semi-precious stones, glass
height 87 cm, max. diameter 33 cm
MAP 19580