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Arched harp (saùng-gauk) 19 Apr 1897

Wood, gilt, paint | 63.0 x 43.0 x 16.0 cm (including base/stand) | RCIN 83879

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  • A Burmese arched harp (saùng-gauk) and stand. The harp has a boat-shaped resonator decorated with gilt, red and black, and a long arching arm protruding from one end.  Strings are fitted between the sounding board and the bottom third of the arm. The top of the arm is leaf-shaped and encrusted with mirrors.  With matching gilt, red and black cradle stand, on which the resonator rests.

    The saùng-gauk is the national musical instrument of Burma and evidence exists of it being continuously played since the 8th century, predominantly in the chamber music of the Royal Court. Its distinctive curved neck is traditionally made from the roots of the sha tree, which grow in a natural arc. The leaf-shaped tip of the neck is probably a representation of the leaf of the Bodhi tree, under which Buddha was said to have achieved Enlightenment. The instrument is held in the lap and played with both hands.

    Presented to Queen Victoria as part of a group of 'six musical instruments and stands in the form of boats &c.' by the residents of 'Margai' (probably Mergui, now Myeik), Burma, on her Golden Jubilee, 1887 (RCINs 83879-83883).  Displayed at the Exhibition of Jubilee Presents at Bethnal Green in 1888 (no.718).

  • Medium and techniques

    Wood, gilt, paint


    63.0 x 43.0 x 16.0 cm (including base/stand)

  • Place of Production


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