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Khrueng Khern (Yun-de)

“Khrueng Khern” or “Khrueng Khin” is a prevalent form of handicraft in Southeast Asia. Throughout history, it held a versatile status, serving as household essentials, ritual implements, and artistic masterpieces. Khrueng Khern predominantly features a wooden framework, but bamboo is also a common choice, imparting a lightweight quality to the items. The fundamental technique behind Khrueng Khern involves applying a coating of black sap, known as “Yang Rug” (G. usitata resins lacquer) onto the wicker structure. When coating containers with “Yang Rug” and decorating the surface beautifully with various methods. When finished, it is called “Khrueng Khern”.

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Khrueng Khern designs frequently draw inspiration from nature and cater to user preferences. These shapes often mimic elements found in the natural world, including plants and animals, as well as encompassing various geometric forms such as cylinders, spheres, ovals, triangles, squares, hexagons, and octagons. Additionally, craftsmen often craft unique patterns like the Kanok pattern, Phum Khao Bin pattern, Lotus pattern, Rak Roi pattern, Prajam Yam pattern, Kan Khot pattern, Nature pattern, and motifs inspired by Jataka tales and the twelve zodiac signs.

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In Thailand, Khrueng Khern is predominantly found in the Lanna region, located in the northern part of the country. It is believed that Khrueng Khern was not introduced to Lanna society during the Chiang Mai Restoration period, a time marked by the arrival of the Thai Khin people from the Khin River Basin. Rather, it was an established item of craftsmanship in Lanna prior to the Burmese conquest of the region. Historical evidence is supported by Burmese chronicles that mention the forced relocation of Chiang Mai people and artisans to Burma during the Burmese occupation of Chiang Mai. These craftsmen, or the people from Chiang Mai, produced items using “Yang Rug”, which were referred to as ” Yun-de,” signifying “Yuan wares” or “creations by the Yuan or Lanna people”. Even today, Bagan in Myanmar still showcases Yun-de items, which are adorned with intricate scratched patterns and filled with an array of colorful lines.

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Containers crafted from wood or basketry, and subsequently coated with Yang Rug, are referred to as Khrueng Khern due to their close connection with the shapes, patterns, and manufacturing techniques influenced by a rich heritage. This includes their functional aspects and the artisans who have carried forward the Thai Khin tradition.

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An author assistant Nonthawat Ningjaiyen


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