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Chinese Teakwood Sign

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Chinese Teakwood Sign

"This large sign was placed over the entrance to a family mansion in Rangoon, Burma. During the colonial period (1824-1948) The British encouraged the immigration of Chinese workers, many of whom prospered and became business owners and providers of managerial talent to the empire. Some became extremely wealthy and built large houses in the Chinese style. These houses were made up of multiple wood-and-brick buildings with overhanging eves (to protect from the sun) and arranged around tree-shaded courtyards. Signs like this one were placed above the entrance to the courtyard. Signs could be added for a variety of reasons; to mark the day the house was constructed, to mark an important anniversary or birthday of the owner, to ask for good luck or protection, to impart a moral message.
This sign is of the last type. It literally reads (from right to left) “Benevolence and kindness broadly giving". In English we would probably say “With benevolence and kindness for all”, meaning that the house is intended to be a welcoming and friendly place for family and visitors alike. Most likely it was erected soon after the building was constructed. The sign is constructed from a single thick plank of Teakwood and covered in red lacquer and gold paint. The dark background is black lacquer mixed with fragments of mother-of-pearl. Compared to other Southeast Asian (and specifically Burmese-Chinese) signs, this one is quite ornate and poetic, suggesting that the owner was well-educated.
Signs like this are now rare since most of the old Chinese houses of Burma are gone. Since they were made in a foreign style (neither Burmese nor British), they are difficult to sell to a modern buyer and take up a great deal of land. Most have been demolished to make way for modern multi-story cement structures. "
Origin | Rangoon, Burma
Year Made | 20th Century
Material | Teak Wood
Dimensions | 58"W x 3"D x 24"H
ID | 01T02062
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