The Benjarong is a traditional form of Thai porcelain. The style of multi-colored enamels on a white porcelain base came from Ming dynasty China.
The name “Benjarong” was derived from Bali and Sanskrit words Benja and Rong, meaning literally “Five Colors”. “Five Colors” really means “many colors” because the hand-painted pieces are usually decorated in three, five, eight colors, or even more.
Benjarong porcelain can be easily recognized by distinctive design features :
- The decoration is densely painted and very delicately detailed. Most patterns are symmetrical base on geometrical designs.
- Benjarong wares were enameled with relief glaze, emphasizing the background color, while the Chinese wares were thinly painted and never emphasize background color.
- Dazzling attractiveness be used of lavish gold.
- Patterns include traditional Thai motifs, such as flora, plant and flame designs, as well as cultural symbols, such as The Garuda (the half-man half-bird mount of the god Vishnu and a symbol of Thai royalty), the emblem of the Thai kings.
In the 13th – 18th century, Benjarong porcelain was exclusively made for the royal court. Later its use extended to aristocrats and wealthy merchants; today people of all nationalities use Benjarong for formal ware.
The designs on the earliest Benjarong used a limited number of colors mostly for religions subjects but eventually a new design style grew up known as “Lai Nam Thong” which used gold as its distinctive colors. In the reign of King Rama II (1809-1851) Lai Nam Thong wares with gorgeous gold accents were very popular. Today, the original Benjarong wares have display at the Thai National Museum in Bangkok.