Asian Antiques by Silk Road

Bronze Burmese Opium Weights

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Directory: Vintage Arts: Regional Art: Asian: Southeast Asian: Metalwork: Pre 1980: Item # 1345209

Please refer to our stock # 64-46 when inquiring.
Silk Road Gallery
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PO Box 2175
Branford, Connecticut 06405, USA
(203) 208-0771

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Eight bronze weights, commonly known as opium weights, are cast in the image of a mythical wild goose. The bird, referred to as "hintha" in Burmese or as "hamsa" in Sanskrit, is regarded as a sacred icon and also is the symbol of Burma's Mon People. Weights in the forms of mythical birds and animals were used in Burma from the 18th century into the 20th century to weigh small household items purchased in the marketplaces. Over the years, they became known as "opium" weights, but according to Sylvia Fraser-Lu, a leading authority on Burma's artifacts, there is no evidence that they were created or used for that purpose. Weights cast in anthropomorphic shapes could still be seen in limited use in marketplaces when we first traveled in Burma 24 years ago. This set dates to mid-20th century. The largest piece measures 3.5" tall and weighs 800 grams; the two smallest are 1.5" tall and each weighs 2 grams. It is unusual to see two small weights in a set--perhaps they were used together for a 4 gram measurement.