Santa Fe, NM.
Thailand - manuscript.
Phra Malai, Thai Buddhist visions of Heaven + Hell.
Ca. 1885 - originally associated c a Buddhist painting
depicting the monk Phra Malai travelling between
heaven + hell.
Folding manuscript like a fan. (1 leaf - 5 5/8 wide x 26 3/4" long), thick
off-white khoi paper, written in Thai language in
fine Old Cambodian script in black ink on 6 widely
spaced scored lines c marginal decoration also in
black ink. Scene Text Scene
During the 1st millennium AD, varieties of the South Indian
script related to the early Grantha alphabet began to spread
eastwards among the countries of South-east Asia. One variety
adopted by the Khmer people developed into the modern scripts
of Cambodia + Thailand. Many Cambodian manuscripts are
written in the Pali language but in Cambodian characters. The
same script has been used to transcribe other languages such as
Thai. Thai is written in horizontal lines from left to right
like all scripts of Indian origin. For Buddhist texts
a thin lettered form of Cambodian script was used extensively
in the 19th C. Spaces are not left between words, but
rather between long phrases. Thai manuscripts are of 2
types, palm leaf + folding paper books. The folding book
was used for both Buddhist + secular texts. Local paper
was prepared from the inner bark of a bush known in
Thai as khoi (streblus asper). The khoi paper was off-
white in color + was either inscribed c black ink or sometimes
blackened first c a coat of lamp black + then inscribed in
yellow ink or white chalk.
From the early 19th C the didactic account of the monk
Phra Malai who journeyed to heaven + hell was the
most prevalent subject of illustrated Thai manuscripts.
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