Japanese mother of pearl inlay in Thailand: The Art relationship from the port city “Nagasaki”


  • Kriangkrai Honghengseng


Mother of pearl inlay, Lacquer, Nagasaki


At the present time, almost all of the Japanese mother of pearl inlay, or “raden”, found in Thailand is from Nagasaki, a port city on Kyushu island, a center of economic and maritime trade routes. The maritime trade under royal patronage was a key factor in the art relationship between Thailand and Japan. The kings of Thailand who had a passion for East Asian art, especially Chinese and Japanese art, were King Rama III and King Rama IV, both of whom ordered Japanese mother of pearl inlay to decorated temples and royal articles of use, including 1) mother of pearl inlay on windows and doors of Ratchapradit Sathitmahasimaram Temple, Bangkok; 2) mother of pearl inlay on windows and doors of Nang Chi Worawihan Temple, Bangkok; 3) mother of pearl inlay on a Late Edo period chair in the Pramot Mahaisawan Throne Hall, Phra Nakhon Khiri National Museum, Phetchaburi Province; 4) mother of pearl inlay on a partition of the Wehart Chamrun residential hall of Bang Pa-In Royal Palace, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Province; 5) mother of pearl inlay on a cigarette cylinder box of Wat Niwet Thammaprewat Temple, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Province; 6) mother of pearl inlay on a pair of long covered plates used to protect palm leaf manuscripts in the National Library, Bangkok; 7) mother of pearl inlay on a round case in the National Museum, Bangkok; and 8) His Royal Majesty’s ship, Maeklong, which built at the Uraga shipyard, Yokosuka, Japan. There is a difference interms of materialsuse in Thai and Japanese mother of pearl inlay. For Japanese articles, the lacquer is Urushiol, similar to that used in Korea and China. However, for articles made in Thailand, the lacquer is Thitsiol, similar to that used in Myanmar. Moreover, Japanese articles always use pearl oyster and abalone that is more shimmering, but Thai articles often use pearl oyster, nile top shell and conch. In addition, the technical tools Japanese craftsman use for “makie”, or sprinkled gold and silver metal powder, is made of a bamboo tube, paintbrush, metal spoon and tool for knocking out the metal dusk. With respect to techniques, Nagasaki mother-of-pearl inlay typically uses a thin shell, although in some cases Japanese and Thai mother of pearl inlay are similar in the use of a thick shell inlay technique. Finally, Japanese mother-of-pearl inlay always uses natural motifs, such as flora, trees, birds, viewpoints and people’s way of life. On the other hand, Thai motifs are influenced by Thai literature, Buddhism and the royal institution.

Author Biography

Kriangkrai Honghengseng

Lecturer, Faculty of Liberal Arts, Mahidol University


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How to Cite

Honghengseng, K. (2023). Japanese mother of pearl inlay in Thailand: The Art relationship from the port city “Nagasaki”. Journal of Thai Studies, 18(1), 161–202. Retrieved from https://so04.tci-thaijo.org/index.php/TSDJ/article/view/264274



Research article