Accepted Paper:

Seeking the origins of a Buddhist tradition of reverse glass painting in Myanmar and Thailand  


Catherine Raymond (Northern Illinois University)

Paper Short Abstract:

The research and archiving of a unique repository of several hundred 19th century Burmese reverse glass paintings at Wat Chong Klan in NW Thailand.

Paper long abstract:

The presence of intriguing reverse glass paintings ("RGPs") of Burmese provenance in several American and European collections, prompts me to further explore the origins of this tradition in Buddhist Mainland Southeast Asia.

As we know, this art form travelled from Europe to China where in the eighteenth century it was first adopted by Chinese artisans from European examples brought by Jesuits missionaries. Originally on mostly secular subjects, subsequent to its introduction to Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia by Chinese traders, local artisans there soon adapted this technique nearly entirely to religious content.

More extensive study of a remarkable installation of several hundred individually painted glass panes, each c. 30 x 30 cm and still in situ in a Shan Buddhist Temple near the Thai-Burmese border, should assist in contextualizing this art form, on which the existing scholarly research is very slender.

We will discuss our work at Wat Chong Klang in Thailand in conjunction with other examples from Myanmar proper, from Thailand and from Cambodia. This exploration should illuminate a range of Buddhist practices within Myanmar, and more generally on the Chinese diaspora painters who established workshops and studios throughout Southeast Asia.

Panel P06
Myanmar: its past and its regional and inter-regional interactions