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Manuscript with fortune-telling lore and illustrations of the stories of Rama, Sang Thong, and Manora
Place of Origin: Thailand
Date: approx. 1800-1850
Materials: Paint, gold, and ink on paper
Dimensions: H. 14 1/2 in x W. 4 3/4 in x Th. 2 1/8 in, H. 36.8 cm x W. 12.1 cm x Th. 5.4 cm
Credit Line: Gift of George McWilliams
Department: Southeast Asian Art
Collection: Books And Manuscripts
Object Number: 2008.89
On Display: No

Description

Label:

In Siam astrologers were consulted regarding milestones of life, such as a child's birth, the shaving of the topknot, and the wedding.
Siamese divination included aspects of Indian and Chinese systems. While it embraced the Chinese twelve-year animal cycle, it also took up the Indian signs of the zodiac and identification of the days of the week with planets. Astrologers calculated numbers from the time, date, and year of birth, then consulted manuscripts to make their predictions.

A fortune-telling manuscript is usually divided into three parts: divination diagrams, predictions, and illustrated stories. The fortuneteller would choose characters appropriate for the client from among the stories in the manuscript.

The stories in the part of this manuscript shown in "Emerald Cities" come from the Thai version of the epic of Rama. Episodes are depicted in two-page sections. On the first pages at the left we see the golden deer that the demon king Ravana sends to lure Rama away from his wife, Sita. Below, Sita begs Rama to get the deer for her. Above, she is being carried off by Ravana.

In the fifth pair of pages from the left Sita is again shown being abducted by Ravana. A heroic bird attacks Ravana to rescue Sita, but is unsuccessful.

Because fortune-telling manuscripts were heavily used they wore out quickly. In this manuscript some pages are missing, and others have been sewn together in the wrong order.


More Information

Exhibition History: "Emerald Cities: Arts of Siam and Burma," Asian Art Museum, October 23, 2009–January 10, 2010

"The Rama Epic: Hero, Heroine, Ally, Foe," Asian Art Museum, October 21, 2015–January 15, 2017

Additional Label:

The heroic vulture Jatayus attacks Ravana in an attempt to rescue Sita on the middle pages of this manuscript from Buddhist Thailand. To the right the mortally wounded vulture king tells Rama that Sita has been abducted. On the two pages to the left the monkeys Sugriva and Hanuman speak with Rama, and then Hanuman is seen setting fire to Ravana’s city.

The order of these scenes does not make sense, but the purpose of this manuscript was not narration but fortune-telling. It illustrates important episodes from Thai legends, using them, together with astrology, to allow a specialist to read the fortunes of clients.

A complicated process leads to a particular page and fortune. The text on the middle pages here, for example, warns that trouble is coming. Sickness will be serious; a yellow-eyed woman will cause a quarrel; and so on.

A manuscript of this sort takes for granted that ordinary Thai people would know their Rama-epic stories well.

(Exhibition Label from The Rama Epic: Hero, Heroine, Ally, Foe)


Label:

In Siam astrologers were consulted regarding milestones of life, such as a child's birth, the shaving of the topknot, and the wedding.
Siamese divination included aspects of Indian and Chinese systems. While it embraced the Chinese twelve-year animal cycle, it also took up the Indian signs of the zodiac and identification of the days of the week with planets. Astrologers calculated numbers from the time, date, and year of birth, then consulted manuscripts to make their predictions.

A fortune-telling manuscript is usually divided into three parts: divination diagrams, predictions, and illustrated stories. The fortuneteller would choose characters appropriate for the client from among the stories in the manuscript.

The stories in the part of this manuscript shown in "Emerald Cities" come from the Thai version of the epic of Rama. Episodes are depicted in two-page sections. On the first pages at the left we see the golden deer that the demon king Ravana sends to lure Rama away from his wife, Sita. Below, Sita begs Rama to get the deer for her. Above, she is being carried off by Ravana.

In the fifth pair of pages from the left Sita is again shown being abducted by Ravana. A heroic bird attacks Ravana to rescue Sita, but is unsuccessful.

Because fortune-telling manuscripts were heavily used they wore out quickly. In this manuscript some pages are missing, and others have been sewn together in the wrong order.


Exhibition History: "Emerald Cities: Arts of Siam and Burma," Asian Art Museum, October 23, 2009–January 10, 2010

"The Rama Epic: Hero, Heroine, Ally, Foe," Asian Art Museum, October 21, 2015–January 15, 2017

Expanded Label:

The heroic vulture Jatayus attacks Ravana in an attempt to rescue Sita on the middle pages of this manuscript from Buddhist Thailand. To the right the mortally wounded vulture king tells Rama that Sita has been abducted. On the two pages to the left the monkeys Sugriva and Hanuman speak with Rama, and then Hanuman is seen setting fire to Ravana’s city.

The order of these scenes does not make sense, but the purpose of this manuscript was not narration but fortune-telling. It illustrates important episodes from Thai legends, using them, together with astrology, to allow a specialist to read the fortunes of clients.

A complicated process leads to a particular page and fortune. The text on the middle pages here, for example, warns that trouble is coming. Sickness will be serious; a yellow-eyed woman will cause a quarrel; and so on.

A manuscript of this sort takes for granted that ordinary Thai people would know their Rama-epic stories well.

(Exhibition Label from The Rama Epic: Hero, Heroine, Ally, Foe)