Betel Box and Stand thumbnail 1
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
South-East Asia, Room 47a

Betel Box and Stand

3rd quarter 19th century (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This gold and jewelled container once formed part of the regalia of King Thibaw, the last Burmese king (r.1878-1885). The karaweik, a mythical bird, is a symbol of longevity. The container was used at the royal palace at Mandalay as part of a betel paraphernalia set. The offering of betel--a mildly narcotic chewing quid--was an essential element of traditional Burmese society. Every household, including the royal family's, had a set of utensils for its preparation. Betel leaves, used to wrap the blend of areca-nut shavings, lime and spices, were stored in the karaweik container.

This object was given to the Museum by the Government and people of Burma in generous recognition of the Victoria and Albert Museum's safekeeping of the Burmese royal regalia from 1886 to 1964.
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object details
Categories
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 2 parts.

  • Container
  • Cover
Materials and Techniques
Filigree work in gold on a gold ground, outlined with bands of rubies and imitation emeralds, with some embossing; eyes of rubies (one now missing)
Brief Description
Burmese royal kun-it (betel box) on a stand in the shape of a sacred goose or hintha (hin-tha kun-ok), Konbaung Dynasty (1752-1885), ca. 1850-1875
Physical Description
A vessel and cover on a stand, in the shape of a karaweik (a mythical Burmese bird). Chicken-like in appearance with its feet, pointed beak, wealth of overlapping body feathers, curled wings and upturned tail. The waisted stand is decorated with panels of floral ornament and at each end a leaf-shaped extension with foliage motifs, curves upwards to support the body of the stand.
Dimensions
  • Height: 41.5cm
  • Length: 35.5cm
  • Width: 18cm
Style
Production typeUnique
Gallery Label
  • 3. Betel-Nut Container 1780-1885, Konbaung period This container formed part of the regalia of King Thibaw, the last monarch of Burma (now Myanmar). In 1885, British forces overthrew the king and seized the royal collection. It was displayed at this museum until it was returned to Burma in 1964. However, as a gesture of thanks for the museum's custodianship of the regalia, which might otherwise have been sold or melted down, the Burmese government gave the container back to the V&A. Gold set with rubies and imitation emeralds Burma Presented by the Government of Burma in generous recognition of the Victoria and Albert Museum's safekeeping of the Mandalay Regalia (1886-1964) Museum no. IS.246&A-1964 (17/05/2021)
  • Betel-Nut Container 1780–1885 Konbaung period This container, in the form of the sacred goose (hamsa), was part of the regalia of King Thibaw, the last Burmese monarch. At the end of the Third Burmese War, in 1885, the British government requisitioned the regalia as indemnity and transferred it to the V&A. When the regalia was returned in 1964, the Burmese government gave the container to Britain as a token of friendship Gold set with rubies and imitation emeralds Burma Presented by the Government of Burma in generous recognition of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s safekeeping of the Mandalay Regalia (1886–1964) Museum no. IS.246&A-1964(14/06/2011)
Credit line
Presented by the Government of Burma in generous recognition of the Victoria and Albert Museum's safekeeping of the Mandalay Regalia (1886 to 1964).



Object history
The container formed part of the Burmese royal regalia which belonged to King Thi-baw, who was the last representative of the Burmese monarchy. The regalia was part of the material requisitioned as indemnity at the end of the third Burmese war in 1885. It was later placed under the custodianship of the Museum (IS.144 to 294-1890). It was returned to the Government of Burma in 1964 except for the Karaweik (IS.159-1890). This was given to the British Government by Ne Win at the time to be kept by the V&A as a token of friendship and goodwill.
Historical context
Yule, Capt (later Col. Sir) Henry.Narrative of the Mission to The Court of Ava in 1855 London: Smith, Elder, and Co., frontispiece (illustration of similar karaweik as seen in the royal regalia of King Mindon).
Subjects depicted
Summary
This gold and jewelled container once formed part of the regalia of King Thibaw, the last Burmese king (r.1878-1885). The karaweik, a mythical bird, is a symbol of longevity. The container was used at the royal palace at Mandalay as part of a betel paraphernalia set. The offering of betel--a mildly narcotic chewing quid--was an essential element of traditional Burmese society. Every household, including the royal family's, had a set of utensils for its preparation. Betel leaves, used to wrap the blend of areca-nut shavings, lime and spices, were stored in the karaweik container.



This object was given to the Museum by the Government and people of Burma in generous recognition of the Victoria and Albert Museum's safekeeping of the Burmese royal regalia from 1886 to 1964.
Bibliographic References
  • Burmese art / John Lowry. London: H. M. Stationery Office, 1974 Number: 0112901794 :cat. no. 29
  • Canberra: National Museum of Australia; Gold and Civilisation, exhibition 2001; catalogue; p. 182, ill. 183
  • Ayers, J. Oriental Art in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London 1983, ISBN 0-85667-120-7p. 92
Other Number
IS.159-1890 - Previous number
Collection
Accession Number
IS.246&A-1964

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record createdMarch 25, 1999
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