Linda Hendrickson
Tablet Weaving and Ply-Splitting Books, Tools & Kits

Historic Tablet-Woven Manuscript Binding Ribbon from Burma (Myanmar), with commentary by Ralph Isaacs
Sazigyo collected by Linda Hendrickson, 2004

A very beautiful example of historic tablet weaving is the sazigyo. In Textiles from Burma, Ralph Isaacs explains, "Burmese Buddhists earned merit by commissioning palm leaf manuscripts for monasteries. Each sacred manuscript bundle had its own binding tape."

The long, narrow sazigyo was wound many times around the manuscript, and tied by a loop and cord. The weaving often included the text of a prayer, and a number of images, many with religious significance. In addition to holding the manuscript securely, the sazigyo also recorded the deed of merit.

These images are from a sazigyo which I purchased in San Francisco in February 2004. Click on any image for a larger view. Ralph Isaacs, who was Director of the British Council in Burma from 1989 to 1994, and author of Sazigyo: Woven Miniatures of Buddhist Art, Burmese Manuscript Binding tapes (2014), has generously provided comments on the images and their meanings.

"The weaving of these sazigyo was gainful employment, and Scherman (1913) tells how the women would breezily chat to each other as they worked! But there are also cases of devout ladies (including royalty) weaving their own sazigyo -- like the medieval pictures of the Virgin at her loom." -- Ralph Isaacs

This sazigyo is woven with fine cotton, and consists primarily of text, with several pictorial and geometric images. Excluding the loop and tie, it is 3/4" wide and 207-1/2" long. The text and images are woven in the double-faced structure consisting of 3-span warp floats in alternate alignment. There are warp twined stripes at each end. The starting loop, and a 16" long tube extending from the tapered end are also woven in warp twining.

"In broadcasting the deed of merit, the order of play is first, round bell three times; then flat bell three times; (these two alert humans and spirits of the air); the finally the staff thumping on the ground three times (for underground forces)." -- Ralph Isaacs

For more information about sazigyos, see the following:

  • Peter Collingwood, "Burmese Inscription Bands", in Strands 2004, Issue 11, Journal of The Braid Society, p. 6-12.
  • Ralph Isaacs, Chapter 5.2 "Burmese Textile Texts: Sazigyo", in Textiles from Burma, pages 102-113, Philip Wilson Publishers, 2003.
  • Ralph Isaacs, Sazigyo: Woven Miniatures of Buddhist Art, Burmese Manuscript Binding Tapes. Silkworm Books, 2014. ISBN 978-616-215-073-9.
  • Linda Hendrickson, "Sazigyo: Sacred Images and Long Lines of Fine, Shapely Lettering", in Braids, Bands, & Beyond: Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Braiding, p. 108-114, The Braid Society, 2016.
  • Kathleen Johnson, "Little Masterpieces: The Art of Sazigyo from the Collection of Herbert Haar", Sawaddi: Asian Arts & Culture by the American Women's Club of Thailand, p. 34-40.
  • Noel Singer, "Kammavaca Texts: Their Covers and Binding Ribbons", in Arts of Asia, May/June 1993.
    Photos and graphs for weaving similar images are in Otfried Staudigel's books Tablet Weaving Magic and Woven Images, Unravelled Motifs.

    Graphs for weaving letters based on six historic scripts and fonts are in Please Weave a Message.

    Tablet Weaving Gallery

    This page updated on June 26, 2017.