Wooden Buddha, Luang Prabang Period, Laos, 18th century

Standing wooden Luang Prabang Buddha, “Calling for the Rain” Mudra, samabhanga with his hands held down to either side of his diaphanous sanghati with hem and center pleat secured with a belt, the defined face with a serene visage and downcast eyes, the small conical curls of his coiffure rising to a domed ushnisha and flaming cintamani, with gilt and colored lacquer, supported on a modern pedestal.  18th century

10.5 inches on base

26.7 cm


Bronze Drum, Heger IV Type, Southern China, Laos, or Vietnam, 16th Century


Although bronze drums, commonly called rain drums or frog drums, have been produced in SE Asia for at least 2700 years, they are fiercely disputed as to their cultural origin. Most Vietnamese scholars believe they were first produced during the Dong Son culture along the Red River in Northern Vietnam (700 BC – 300 AD), while Chinese scholars argue they were first produced in Southern China in what is now Yunnan Province. Whichever is correct, none dispute they represent the highest archaeological findings in SE Asian metalwork.

As their use spread throughout other areas of SE Asia, stylistic changes developed which were categorized in 1902 by Austrian archaeologist Franz Heger, who identified 4 major groups which are now referred to as Heger I, Heger II, Heger III, and Heger IV.

Cast in three pieces, this Heger IV type bronze drum, from the Doris Duke Collection, is probably from Southern China and is very similar to a drum dated to the late 16th century, however the actual age is very difficult to determine.

The tympanum is decorated in the center with a 12-ray sun motif, separated with peacock symbols and surrounded by bands of waves and birds. Four writhing dragons and a pair of Chinese “Shou” (longevity) characters along with calligraphy declaring “10,000 generations with treasures, everlasting family wealth” highlight the next band. Numerous bands representing crops and wind complete the imagery of the top.  The  four dragons in the next band resemble the style and  head of a dragon at the base of the stone Buddha in the Ma So temple in Hai Duong which is dated to 1573.  The same stylistic convention is visible on a stone plate in Yen Dong temple in Quang Ninh, dated to 1590, which strongly suggest this drum was made in the late 16th century

On the sides, two sets of lug handles rest on the widest part of the shoulder and numerous bands of stylized symbols circle the body of the drum, which shows two seams where the body has been joined. There is a small repair on the edge of the tympanum, which, according to some studies, indicates a small piece of the drum was broken off to either be buried with an important leader or used within the casting of another drum, but is otherwise in excellent condition and is mounted on a wooden base.

19 x 10.5 inches, excluding the base

 48.26 x 26.67 cm


Large Bronze “Calling for the Rain” Buddha, Luang Phrabang, Laos

In SE Asia, different cultures shared similar, yet different religious beliefs. They included the Khmer Empire in what is now Cambodia; Dai Viet in what is now Vietnam; Sukhothai, Ayutthaya and Lanna Kingdoms in what is now Thailand; the Taungoo Empire in Burma (now Myanmar); Yunnan Tribes from China, and Laos. All of them practiced Buddhism and all of them at one time or another, occupied and politically controlled much larger areas than their current borders.

Laos is no exception. From the middle of the 14th century until the beginning of the 18th century, the unified kingdom of Lan Xang (1354-1707), was one of the largest kingdoms in SE Asia and occupied areas of all of its current neighbors, however, its strategic landlocked location along the Mekong River, invited numerous invasions throughout history.

As the kingdom was losing its political influence in the early 18th century, it was divided into three regional kingdoms, Vientiane, Champasak, and the largest, Luang Prabang. All of their capitals were located along the Mekong River and all were agrarian societies that needed two monsoon seasons per year to sustain their populations. And each of them developed unique architectural elements and religious ideology. Among the most unusual were “The Calling for the Rain” standing Buddha images of Luang Prabang, in which both arms of Buddha are held along the side of the body with the hands facing inward.

This extremely large bronze figure of the “Calling for the Rain” Buddha, Luang Phrabang period, late 17/18th century, features a tall slender body standing in the “Calling for the Rain” position (samabhanga) with his hands held down to either side of his diaphanous cloak (samghati) with a scroll-edged flaring hem and center pleat secured with a belt, the crisply defined face with a serene visage and penetrating downcast eyes inlaid with black semi-precious stones and mother-of-pearl, the small conical curls of his coiffure rising to a domed ushnisha and separately cast flaming cintamani (precious gem), with traces of gilt and colored lacquer, now supported on a modern pedestal.

67 inches tall, excluding base

170.2 cm tall

Price upon request

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