The Spirit of Siam

These exquisite, hand-painted artifacts with a wide-range of uses are the components of an alms bowl set with tray and cup (jok loi), which are decorated with “Singha”, a mythical creature believed to reside in the enchanted Himmapan forest of Thai folklore.

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The embodiment of elegance, bravery, and ultimate strength, the Singha is the magnificent protector and king of all creatures in the forest. Since the Ayutthaya period, the Singha has adorned objects associated with the Thai monarch, including the throne, and was later incorporated into the royal seal. At the outset of the Rattanakosin era, the creature became the symbol of the Ministry of Interior, one of three divisions that comprised the “Three Seals Law”, also known as the Three Seals Code, founded by King Rama I. The Singha continues to represent the Ministry today, a symbol of the purported virtuousness of the Thai civil servants in its employ, who pay homage to their inimitable sovereign through their service.

An apparatus of multiple functions, this collector’s set would have been a signifier of the status of its owner – a member of the genteel classes, or a monk who had been granted special rank by the King – and presented to the Buddhist clergy at important religious ceremonies. In addition to the delicate designs that wreathe the alms bowl, another special feature of this set is the accompanying Singha-decorated tray and a cup, which together were traditionally referred to as khan nam phan rong krob jok (‘a set of Singha-adorned alms bowl, tray, and a cup that covers the lid’), and commonly used as a pitcher for cool, drinking water. As for the name of the cup, jok loi describes the way the vessel floats on the surface of a larger basin of water used for bathing.


Lot 121: A rare and fine Benjarong covered bowl with stem tray and small cup painted with the design of Theppanom and Singha alternating with Kranok on a black ground (1 set(3 pcs.)) Style: Thai, Rattanakosin Dimensions: W 21 cm. H 28 cm. Circa: 19th Century Estimated Price: 2,000,000 – 2,500,000 THB Starting Price: 280,000 THB

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