Wua Lai Identities

Wua Lai Identity

The unique identity of northern silverware is the two-sided carving method. Silverware from Wua Lai is embossed from the inside to create a structural relief on the outside surface before hammering the surface to further a detailed pattern. The northern silverware’s characteristics and forms have their own unique styles.  Some people can recall Chiang Mai-styled silverware from several alms bowl-shaped small water containers embossed in a very low relief pattern. These are Burmese-styled bowls or small water containers. In contrast, the traditional Chiang Mai-styled bowls are large at the top with a diameter slightly wider than at the bottom, thus forming a straight shape, almost similar to a cylinder. This style is also different from that in the central region which is wide at the top and narrow at the bottom which is called the ‘top-cut lemon’ shape. In addition, patterns created by Wual Lai community are also unique. Burmese-styled bowls are embossed with depth. Chiang Mai’s patterns of ‘Jataka’ and twelve zodiac animals are not as deep as those of Burmese, but still deeper than those of the central region. In the past, bowls with smooth surface were used, but, later, patterns of ‘Jataka’, twelve zodiac animals, acacia, sunflower, pineapple, peacock, and betel nuts (some call ‘whip’, and others call ‘corncob’). In the past century, Chiang Mai’s twelve zodiac animals were different from what they are today. A bowl usually contained mixed patterns; a zodiac animal pattern was embossed within a tapered frame decorated with connecting leeches, for example. Such a frame is called ‘one khong’. A large bowl contained all twelve zodiacs designed within twelve individual frames, thus being called ‘twelve khongs’. The style of framing a pattern on a surface is similar to that of the central region which divides patterns into four frames designed with ‘Lai Kanok’ or cotton rose on a surface. The central region’s bowls, however, have no more than four frames. Apart from various forms of frames, the twelve zodiac animals are surrounded by a pattern of acacia, sunflower, or pineapple flower.

The particular characteristic of the acacia pattern is that its flower is similar to a circle-shaped protruded sieve, with tapered leaves pointing upward on both sides like an animal’s horns, which do not, at all, resemble an actual acacia flower. The sunflower and the pineapple flower patterns are adapted from the acacia pattern. The sunflower pattern is similar to that of acacia, but is different in that, besides the two tapered leaves pointing upward, there are tiny petals surrounding pollen. Typically, sunflower’s petals embossed on Chiang Mai-styled bowls are not perfectly leveled as there may be three to four petals longer than the others and pointing upward. The pineapple pattern is exactly the same as that of acacia, except that the pineapple flowers or the fruits are more tapering than acacia’s flowers. Also, the tapered pineapple leaves do not, at all, resemble an actual pineapple flower.

The outstanding identities of Wua Lai silverware are:

(a) it uses a double-sided crafting technique, starting with a marking pattern on the inside then crafting a detailed pattern on the outside, which results in a high-relief pattern that differs from the low-relief patterns found in central Thailand,

(b) the shape of the Wua Lai silver bowl – it is often cylindrical in shape, whereas a Burmese bowl looks like the alms bowl used by a monk, and the central Thai bowl is wider on top and narrower at the bottom,

(c) the twelve zodiac symbols pattern, which is influenced by Chinese culture; however, the twelfth symbol depicts an elephant instead of a pig, which is considered to be a unique facet of the Wua Lai bowl, and

(d) the Krathin flower pattern, which is also a unique element of Wua Lai silverware.

The patterns which are usually seen such as;

(1) Nature patterns; view, forest, Lanna people life style such as farmers’ working

(2) Hindu God

(3) Himmapan Creatures

(4) Literature; Ramayana and the characters in this literature such as the monkey “Hanuman”, Rama and the 12 Thai/Chinese Zodiac Symbols.


The Thai patterns on silver bowl such as;

(a) “Kanok Pattern” (Thai Pattern) which is created by the concept of vine woods, leaf and flowers. As in the past Thai people produced the necklace, bracelet and crown by vine woods, leaf and flowers. So the design became the delicate Thai pattern which was put in many silverware.

(b) “Bunch Pattern” such as flower bunch

(c) “Bouquet Pattern”

(d) “Coil Pattern” such as coiled shell pattern

(e) “Flame and Vine Pattern”

(f) “Edge Pattern”, the pattern which is used in the edge of silverware such as twisted pattern

(g) “Lotus Pattern”