Etchings by Thai Artist Vorakorn Metmanorom

April 27th, 2021

Today we are featuring the work of renowned Thai artist, Vorakorn Metmanorom. Vorakorn is a Chiang Mai local and most days can be found working meditatively in his large open air studio alongside his lovely wife, who works with exotic handmade textiles.

Vorakorn graduated from the College of Fine Art in 1988 and the Faculty of Painting, Sculpture and Graphic Art, Silpakorn University, Bangkok in 1994. He has exhibited his work in Thailand, Japan, Norway, Taiwan, U.S.A, The Netherlands, Poland and Germany and has received numerous awards for his work locally and abroad. His etchings, which are influenced by Buddhism, Nature, and his Chinese ancestry, are especially popular in Japan.

Enlightenment | Vase | Double Fans
Chinese Costume | Sakura | Perfect 10
Framed Etchings by Vorakorn Metmanorom
 Thai artist, Vorakorn Metmanorom
Thai Artist Vorakorn Metmanorom

Asian Antiques from Vietnam

October 6th, 2019

We recently listed a collection of antiques and vintage textiles originating from various provinces throughout Vietnam. Most pieces belong to one of the 53 ethnic minorities living in the country, including the Hmong, Yao, Tai-Dum, and Katu peoples. A few pieces were created by Kinh majority people.

The richness of Vietnam’s various ethnic groups provides a diverse array of artifacts, each distinct in design, influenced by the spiritual belief system held by that culture, from Taoism to Animism.

Our small collection includes antique silver tribal jewellery and tribal textiles, as well as unique artifacts including a silver and bronze tobacco pipe, a 15th century shipwreck pot, a Taoist wood printing block, an ancient bronze spearhead, and an architectural element in the form of a dragon.

We hope that you find these pieces interesting. They represent both a fascinating part of the history of the region as well as wonderful expressions of the unique creativity of the peoples that produced them.

Antique Silver Tribal Jewellery
Antique Tribal Silver Hairpins – Tai_Dum Left & Hmong Right
Antique Tribal Hairpins
Antique Tribal Hairpins – Left Tai-Dum, Right Hmong
Antique Hill Tribe Silver Jewellery
Antique Tribal Earrings – Left Yao, Right Hmong
Antique Hmong Silver Jewellery
Antique Hmong Hill Tribe Silver Soul Lock Pendant & Earrings
Antiques from Vietnam
Antique Silver/Bronze Tobacco Pipe (Kinh) & Taoist Printing Woodblock (Yao)
Vietnamese Antique Dragon Wood Carving
Antique Architectural Element (Kinh)
Ancient Bronze Spearhead Vietnam
Ancient Bronze Spearhead 400BC – 100AD Mekong Delta
Vintage Hmong Baby Slippers
Vintage Embroidered Hmong Baby Slippers
Antique Hmong Textiles Baby Carriers
Vintage Hmong Baby Carriers

Asian Antiques from Burma (Myanmar)

December 29th, 2018

We recently returned from a trip to Burma and visited the markets and antique shops of Yangon. Predictably, we found that the availability of genuine antiques has diminished significantly since our last visit. Long gone are the days of seeing tables and shelves filled with exotic offerings from Burma’s past including opium weights, bronze bells, lacquerware, Nat spirit statues, architectural pieces, Buddhist art and various other fascinating objet d’art.

We did manage to bring back a small collection of artifacts including a particularly charming Nat spirit wooden statue, well known to the Burmese as Mei Wunna, the flower-eating ogress of Mount Popa, along with a few antique bronze bells, a beautifully decorated antique lacquerware kun-it, a rare antique tattoo pen and a small collection of the much sought after handmade Chin textiles, including a very rare antique heirloom piece.

Featured below is a collection of images from Yangon as well as the various artifacts from Burma that are currently available in the gallery. If you find any items that pique your interest please email us at

Asian antiques: bronze bells Burma
Antique Bronze Bells from Burma
Asian Antique: Burmese Lacquerware
Antique Burmese Lacquerware Kun-It
Asian Antiques: Antique Burmese Bronze Tattoo Pen
Antique Burmese Bronze Tattoo Pen
Asian antique Chin textile
Antique Chin Textile Burma
Handwoven Chin Textile
Handwoven Chin Textile
Chin Textiles Burma
Handwoven Chin Textile Burma
Chin Textile from Burma - Handwoven
Chin Textile from Burma – Handwoven
Tribal textiles from Burma
Handwoven Chin Textile from Burma
Travel Yangon Burma
Life in Yangon, Burma
Travel Yangon, Burma
Life in Yangon, Myanmar
Scenes from Yangon, Burma
Scenes from Yangon, Burma
Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon, Burma
Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon, Burma
Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon, Burma
Scenes from Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon, Burma
Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon, Burma
Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon, Burma
Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon, Myanmar
Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon, Myanmar
Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon, Burma
Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon, Burma
Gilded Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon, Burma
Gilded Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon, Burma

The Ancient Monuments of Mahabalipuram, India

February 20th, 2017

We recently returned from a trip to south India and in this blog are sharing a collection of photos, mostly taken in Mahabalipuram, as well as some photos of a few artifacts that we acquired in India.

Mahabalipuram was an ancient seaport of the Pallavas, who ruled from nearby Kancheepuram between 300 A.D – 800 A.D. Though ravaged by sea, wind and time, the sculptural treasures of Mahabalipuram are testament to the magnificence of ancient Dravidian art and temple architecture.  King Mahendravarman (580-630 AD) was a renowned patron of fine arts and devoted much of his time and wealth to nurturing these arts. Historians have written about the importance of Mahabalipuram as a leading port for trade and excavators have recovered coins in the area from ancient Rome, China, Persia and other nations.

Pancha Rathas or The Five Rathas (630-680AD), Mahabalipuram
Pancha Rathas or The Five Rathas (630-680AD), Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu, India. UNESCO World Heritage Site
Life on the beach in front of Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram, India
Life on the beach in front of Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram, India
Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu, India
Shore Temple built by Narasimha Varman II (690-715 AD). It is the only survivor of seven such temples built, the rest having fallen to the ravages of the sea.
Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram, India.
Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram, India.
People of Mahabalipuram, India
People of Mahabalipuram, India
Varaha Cave Temple, Mahabalipuram, India
Varaha Cave Temple, Mahabalipuram, India. Inside the cave temple are two sculptures representing two incarnations of Lord Vishnu.
Pilgrims from Kerala visiting the ancient temples of Mahabalipuram.
Pilgrims from Kerala visiting the ancient temples of Mahabalipuram.
Arjuna's Penance
Arjuna’s Penance, a brilliant bas-relief, hailed as one of major glories of Indian art and the largest of its kind in the world, carved into a huge rock canvass measuring 96 ft long and 43 ft high.
Beautifully carved sculptures of Lord Vishnu, Brahma, and Shiva at the Five Rathas, Mahabalipuram.
Beautifully carved sculptures of Lord Vishnu, Brahma, and Shiva at the Five Rathas, Mahabalipuram.
Original Mughal paintings of the emperor with consorts painted in watercolors on antique paper with 24K gilding.
Original Mughal paintings of the emperor with consorts painted in watercolors on antique paper with 24K gilding.
Mughal Paintings
A superb pair of original Mughal paintings depicting Shah Jahan, the great 17thC Mughal emperor, and his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, for whom the incredible Taj Mahal was constructed as a tomb following her premature death.
Indian antiques
Bidriware zinc and silver vase, Tibetan jade and silver bowl, and Tibetan singing bowl.
Rosewood jewelry box and teak spice box from from Chettinad, Tamil Nadu, India.
Rosewood jewelry box and teak spice box from from Chettinad, Tamil Nadu, India.

Buddhist Manuscripts: Translations from Ancient Pali in the Digital Era

October 21st, 2014

A rare antique kammavaca (Buddhist Pali manuscript) currently offered in our gallery was recently featured in the fall edition of the well known Canadian based quarterly magazine, Buddhadharma. The article titled, Milestones – Exploring Buddhist Translation Today, discusses the historical and ongoing work of translating the Pali canon, as well as the many subsequent Buddhist texts from the Mahayana Buddhist tradition so that they are preserved and made available for study today and for future generations of seekers.

Buddhadharma Quarterly Magazine

In the countries where Buddhism first spread, namely, Sri Lanka, China, and Tibet, the translator’s role was extremely important and highly honored.  An error in translation could lead to a missed clue of vital importance about the nature of consciousness. To do justice to the work was to perform an act of great merit, for if it facilitated the awakening of even one being, the existence of the text was priceless. “The Tibetan word for translator is lotsawa, meaning cosmic-eye.”

The article notes that, “Forty years ago, Buddhist books in English were hard to find, and today there are probably more translations than most of us can read in one lifetime.” Fellow of the Tsadra Foundation, Sarah Harding makes the comment, “Until about 2000, many translation efforts were random, and often began when a lama asked for a text in his lineage to be translated or when academics would find good PhD projects to undertake. Now a number of organizations are working in a more cohesive fashion. Because of the massive volume of some anthologies, a number of translations today are only published digitally.  Technology has changed translation tremendously, just in terms of time and the ability to look something up quickly (on the internet) without flipping through giant pages of text.”

Griffith Foulk, co-editor-in-chief of the Soto Zen Text Project expresses concern that, “we’re building digital canons; they’re so easy to access that they’ve become almost the only thing people look at. There is a danger that what isn’t input digitally will fall by the wayside and be ignored. Then, when everything exists on the cloud, civilization will pull the plug on the whole thing and it will go poof!”

Also calling into question the wisdom of relying too much on the fickle longevity of digitally preserved documents is Bhikkhu Bodhi, “There are older Pali texts preserved in the form of palm-leaf manuscripts…..across Sri Lanka, Burma, and Thailand. In these tropical countries, the manuscripts tend to decay…Now that they’re no longer being copied, what’s coming to pass is that the electronic edition  becomes the single authoritative version of the text; variant readings preserved in these palm-leaf manuscripts will likely be lost.”

Kammavaca from our gallery featured in Buddhadharma Magazine

Below is a collection of rare antique Buddhist manuscripts and manuscript pages offered in our gallery – click on the image for more information. Please contact us at to inquire about any of these artifacts.

Framed Buddhist Pali Leaf Manuscript Pages
Pages of Antique Kammavaca
Pages of Antique Kammavaca
Antique Pali Manuscript Pages
Antique Pali Manuscript Pages
Antique Buddhist Manuscript Box with Pali Manuscript
Complete Antique Buddhist Pali Manuscript
Complete Antique Buddhist Pali Manuscript
Antique Burmese Kammavaca available at sabai designs gallery
Antique Burmese Kammavaca available at sabai designs gallery

Buddhist Art: Tibetan Thangka Paintings

June 16th, 2014

Buddhism lies at the heart of all Tibetan art with thangkas (in Tibetan thang yig meaning ‘recorded message’) emerging as one of the most important Tibetan art forms. Tibetans have always revered thangkas as a treasure of great value and today the popularity of Tibetan thangkas has spread throughout the world.

Tibetan Thangka Paintings available at sabai designs gallery

The beginnings of Tibetan art can be traced to the time of King Songtsen Gampo of the 7th century who married Nepalese and Chinese princesses, both Buddhists, who each brought with them their Buddhist shrines. By the 8th century, Buddhism was established as the state religion and Tibetan Buddhist art began to flourish, embracing the iconographical art of India as well as notable influences from China and Persia.

Thangkas or scroll paintings first originated in India and served as a richly symbolic portrayal of the cyclic nature of the world of samsara or illusion and the means of transcending it as taught by the Buddha. This form of thangka is commonly referred to as the ‘Wheel of Life’. Buddhist pilgrims would travel with thangkas rolled up, unfurling the paintings in village squares to help convey the basic tenets of Buddhism including the binding nature of desire, ensuing suffering, and the source of karma which keeps one ‘lashed to the wheel’ of material existence with inevitable rebirth.

In Tibet, where a significant number of the population was nomadic, thangkas developed a wider use. They always accompanied the caravan of monks and abbots in what was essentially a mobile temple. It is recorded in the ‘Book of the Crystal Rosary’, that when the 7th Karmapa, Chotrag Gyamsto (1454-1506) traveled, over 500 donkeys were required to transport the tents, religious documents, portable shrines, decorated banners and other paraphernalia. To provide a sense of the magnitude of this traveling monastery, it’s thought that as many as 10,000 monks would participate in this style of itinerant Buddhist camp, or in Tibetan, gar.

Iconography of Tibetan Thangkas
Iconography of Tibetan Thangkas

The art form of creating thangkas was most often passed on from father to son as a family tradition with a long apprenticeship requiring commitment and discipline. Typically, a thangka would be commissioned by a monastery and the master artist would be surrounded by students including his sons while he worked. The apprentices would fill in colour and perform the less demanding aspects of painting the thangka. Master and apprentices would be well taken care of by the monastery while the work was being completed with weekly feasts held and gifts presented. Final payment for the thangka may have included livestock, butter, cheese, grain, clothes, and jewellery.

Most thangkas are painted on linen stretched over a wooden frame, though Chinese silk was sometimes used. The linen would be prepared with chalk mixed with a thick gummy substance such as animal based glue.  With the excess base scraped off and the cotton dry, a charcoal outline would be drawn. Natural pigments used to apply colour included blue from lapis lazuli, pink from flower petals, red from cinnabar, green from tailor’s greenstone, and yellow from sulphur. After the basic colouring of the various elements of the painting had been completed, the master would add shading and 24K gold which would be burnished with an agate stone. The eyes of the celestial spirits, and lastly the Buddha, signaled the completion of the painting of the thangka in the “opening of the eyes” celebration. Later, silk brocade would sometimes be added in blue, green, red and yellow, with a curtain falling over the front of the thangka regarded as a ‘door’ leading into the ‘world’ depicted in the painting. Wooden dowels act as support rods top and bottom. Thangkas were sometimes created using silk appliqué or embroidered silk. Mantras written in the ancient language, Sanskrit, may also be added in designated panels at the bottom of the painting.

Tibetan Thangka 'Life of the Buddha'

While the creation of thangkas was mostly undertaken anonymously by lay people whose family had a long lineage of passing on the tradition from one generation to the next, occasionally artistically disposed gurus or abbots painted thangkas to express their own deeps insights and thereby enrich the body of spiritual understanding for future students of Buddhism.

As well as being used as instructional aides to convey the teaching and life of the Buddha, thangkas serve as subjects of meditative inquiry, particularly when in the form of the mandala. As well as monasteries, thangkas are found in the homes of lay people, though sadly, most were confiscated or destroyed during the upheaval of the Cultural Revolution.

For information on the specific iconography found in the “Life of the Buddha” and “Wheel of Existence” form of thangkas, please visit the individual pages for the thangkas currently offered in the gallery in the Buddhist Art category. The three thangkas listed are from Ladakh, in the Indian Himalaya, where about half of the inhabitants are Tibetan Buddhists. The thangka coded ABA51 is a rare museum quality piece from the 19th century.

Images from Ladakh, India, where the thangkas offered in our gallery were created.
Images from Ladakh, India, where the thangkas offered in our gallery were created.

The Tradition of Silk Weaving in Laos

April 2nd, 2009

Several years ago on a brutally hot afternoon in the capital of Laos I watched, spellbound, as a master weaver magically worked the loom, bringing to life an intricate Naga motif on a Lao silk textile. It was at Khun Viengkham’s family run studio in Vientiane. The woman weaving was very experienced and despite the heat, she stayed cool and worked with meditative concentration. After travelling in Laos for several weeks I came to appreciate the remarkable tradition of silk weaving in Laos, its rich symbolism and the impressive talents of the weavers who create the silk textiles. Laos is an economically poor country with few exports and I would love to bring a little exposure to what is a beautiful and ancient tradition. View our collection of hand woven silk textiles from Laos.