An 19th-century funeral or commemoration book.

About the manuscript

This Thai folding book (samut khoi) made from mulberry paper contains eighteen short extracts from the Tipitaka with twenty paired illustrations. The main section of text contains passages from the seven books of the Abhidhamma Pitaka. The text is in Pāli language, written in Khmer script in black ink with red tone marks for use in recitation at Buddhist ceremonies. The manuscript dates back to the 19th century.

What was the manuscript used for?

The manuscript is a typical funeral or commemoration book, which were traditionally commissioned by family members when someone was terminally ill or had passed away. The texts contained in such books are thought suitable for transferring merit to a deceased person, warding off misfortune and enabling a fortunate future rebirth or attainment of nirvana of the deceased.

What do the illustrations show?

The illustrations in this manuscript depict funeral scenes with four Buddhist monks, deities (deva) and monks while teaching, meditating, chanting and transferring merit to deceased people. The transfer of merit to loved ones who have passed away is a common practice in mainland Southeast Asia. It is believed that transferring merit can help a deceased person to be reborn in a fortunate future existence which may subsequently lead to the attainment of nirvana.

The main painting on folio 81 (digitised image 17) shows four Buddhist monks seated on a pedestal, who are preparing to chant Pāli texts from the Tipitaka while holding their fans. In front of the monks one can see small offering tables with candle holders and offering vessels. The image in the centre of the folio depicts an elderly lady massaging the legs of another lady, who is on the richly decorated floor with her hands folded in prayer. She may be terminally ill or dying.

Browse through the entire manuscript on our Digitised Manuscripts website.