Offering bowls, miniature Hsun Ok. 19th century

Two offering bowls, miniature Hsun Ok, Burma 19th century, height 9 cm.

Used in Theravada Buddhism, a larger Hsun Ok is an offering bowl with a circular bowl on a pedestal that extends into a circular foot ring, with a stupa-like pointed finial at the top. Traditionally, many Burmese households use large barrels to regularly bring food to the local monasteries and temples to feed the monks.

They are usually made of bamboo or other thin wood and covered with several layers of red lacquer made from cinnabar mixed with natural tree sap. Buddhists in Burma/Myanmar believe that offering to support monks is an important duty and that making offerings helps accumulate merit to ensure better karma in their next life. Smaller ones were also used in the home for decorative purposes.

Miniature vintage Hsun-Oks are relatively rare and are traditionally used as home decorations or at Burmese domestic shrines to hold very small objects that are offered to the statue of the Buddha located there, along with flowers and fruits. Household shrines are usually built into the side walls of homes and are the focus of daily devotions.