Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Miniature Brass Cannons / Lantaka

These fine miniature bronze lantaka or cannons are in fine condition with obvious age and excellent patina.

Lantaka were a type of bronze swivel gun mounted on merchant vessels travelling the waterways of Malay Archipelago. Its use was greatest in precolonial South East Asia especially in Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia.

The earliest cannons of this form came from foundries in the Netherlands and Portugal. Initially, the Dutch and Portuguese traded cannons not only for spices and porcelain, but also for safe passage through otherwise potentially hostile waters. They came to be copied and localized by foundries in the Dutch East Indies and most particularly on Borneo, in what is now the Malaysian state of Sarawak and the sultanate of Brunei. These brass and bronze cannons were usually cast with stylized crocodile, lotus and bamboo shoot motifs.

Cannons were used to transmit messages. They were fired to mark births and weddings, to warn villages of impending attack or to mark the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

All worked copper, brass and bronze had value and were used as trade items in early Borneo. Cannon were frequently part of the bride price demanded by the family of an exceptionally desirable bride or the dowry paid to the groom.

Many of the small cannon, often called personal cannon or hand cannon, had been received as honors and were kept and passed down in families, but in hard times they also served as a form of currency that could keep the family fed. As a recognized form of currency, cannon could be traded for rice, drums, canoes, tools, weapons, livestock, debts of honor, and even settlement of penalties for crimes ranging from the accidental death of a fellow villager to headhunting against another tribe.

Possession of such canons also became a store and show of wealth. They were used to decorate boats to demonstrate the importance of the boat owner. Also, they were given positions of prominent in long houses, again as a display of importance and wealth.

Many of the finest cannon were given out by the Sultans of Brunei as part of ceremonies (such as birthdays or weddings) of the many princes and princesses of the extended Royal family. Cannons were frequently presented to guests along with awards and titles, and were meant to guarantee the recipients allegiance to the Sultan.

Today, these guns can be found on virtually all of the islands of the Pacific Rim, but they are most commonly found in the Muslim areas of Indonesia and Malaysia. The largest collection is in Brunei, where it is now illegal to export them. Even in other countries, a museum export permit is usually required.

These cannon are now highly sought after by collectors, with some of the realized prices exceeding USD50,000 for a single gun. The more common guns can be bought for under $1,000.


Cannon 1 Length : 39cm

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Cannon 2 Length : 32cm

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Cannon 3 Length : 25cm

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Cannon 4 Length : 22.5cm

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Cannon 5 Length : 30cm

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Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Peranakan Silver Gilt Curtain Hooks

The curtain hooks are used to draw the front drapes of the Peranakan wedding bed. The phoenix represents good luck and abundance while flowers symbolize fertility, fortune and peace. Both are auspicious and recurrent motifs found on objects commissioned for a Peranakan Chinese wedding.

Length : 31cm each

Do check on my previous post of another pair of silver gilt curtain hooks.


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Saturday, July 15, 2017

Malay Wooden Sirih Box

Pictures below showing a Malay wooden sirih box, decorated with a solid silver plaques engraved and punched with Islamic-inspired scrolling floral and vegetal motifs - a motif that is highly characteristic of Malay silver work.

The sides are also decorated with scrolling floral and vine motifs and include the Malay-type stylized clove head motif that is often seen on Malay silver work.

The box contains four silver cembul and an iron kacip (nut cutter / nutcracker) in the form of a stylized bird. The handles are sheathed in silver.

Do check out my other blogs about the betel nut paraphernalia.


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Clove heads.
The engraving work on the box includes motifs based on cloves.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Peranakan Beaded Palm Leaf Tobacco / Cigarette Case

The Peranakan palm leaf tobacco or cigarette case consists of two separate, flattened U-shaped pouches, each of which is open at one end. One of these U-shaped pouches is somewhat shorter in length but broader in width than the other. The shorter pouch is intended to serve as a cover, and it is just wide enough to enable the slimmer and longer pouch to fit snugly into its open end. This slimmer pouch was meant to hold thin, rolled strips of dry palm leaves, which served as tobacco wrappers for making hand-rolled cigarettes. The tobacco was usually carried in a separate silver container known as chelpa.

The custom of smoking palm leaf tobacco or cigarette is known to Singapore or Malaysia Malays, was probably more prevalent among traditional Indonesian Peranakans than their Straits Chinese counterparts in Singapore, Malacca and Penang. The traditional Straits Chinese of Malacca preferred chewing betel leaves to smoking, whether the Western imported type of Virginia cigarettes or tobacco.

In any case, when the palm leaf tobacco or cigarettes was lighted, both the leaf wrappers and the local variety of tobacco gave off a most acrid and unpleasant smell, so much so that the Nyonyas had to discourage their husbands from smoking tobacco at home. Tobacco was rarely used by Singaporean Straits Chinese. The Nyonyas, of course, did not smoke, because it was traditionally considered as bad etiquette for women to smoke.

But while the acrid smell was offensive, those beaded palm leaf tobacco or cigarette cases were often beautifully crafted. they are usually fabricated out of maroon, purple or green velvet, stiffened with cotton and paper, and then ornamented with small, coloured Rocaille beads of about 1mm in diameter, closely stitched together to form colourful designs of floral and foliated motifs, either with or without insects (butterflies and crickets), birds (quails, mandarin ducks, storks and cranes), and mythical beasts (qilins, dragons and phoenixes) - auspicious symbols all derived from ancient Chinese art motifs.

Sometimes, small faceted metallic beads, only about 0.5mm in diameter, are employed in combination with Rocaille glass beads for depicting these decorative motifs, which give these cases a jewel-like touch of luxury when they glimmer in the light.

The traditional Nyonyas of Indonesian who fabricated these cases even took the trouble to decorate the tops and bottoms of these U-shaped cases with beaded ornaments, painstakingly stitched into position. Such cases are rarely seen in the old family heirlooms of Straits Chinese homes. In many cases, most antique collectors mistakenly described these cases as a 'spectacle case', which to the fact that in Indonesian Peranakan communities, such articles were regularly used as cigarette cases.

Pictures below showing the example of the elegant beaded palm leaf tobacco or cigarette case made specially for the groom. The custom of smoking home-made cigarettes wrapped with dried palm leaves was adapted from the Javanese. In the hands of the artistic Indonesian Nyonyas, the humble cigarette case was turned into a thing of beauty.

Size : 15.5cm x 9cm


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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Bowls And Plates From Vietnam

My trip with family to Hanoi, Vietnam was awesome. Nevertheless, we managed to make a short trip to Mai Châu and I've managed to buy some bowls and plates to add in to my collection.

Mai Châu is a rural district of Hòa Bình Province in the Northwest region of Vietnam. The district is located at about 160 km from Hanoi.


Bowl 1 Diameter : 16cm, Height : 6cm

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Bowl 2 Diameter : 15.5cm, Height : 5cm

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Bowl 3 Diameter : 15.5cm, Height : 4cm

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Bowl 4 Diameter : 15cm, Height : 4cm

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Bowl 5 Diameter : 13.5cm, Height : 5.5cm

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Bowl 6 Diameter : 14cm, Height : 5.5cm

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Plate 1 Diameter : 17.5cm

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Plate 2 Diameter : 15cm

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Plate 3 Diameter : 14cm

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Plate 4 Diameter : 12cm

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