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About Opium Weights

The history of the Burmesese opium weights dates back to aproximately 100 - 500 A.D. From the 15th century A.D. the animal-shaped Opium Weights of the Burmese empires were appearing in different shapes of three (possibly four) different kinds. The first is a somewhat feline-like beast or lion shaped opium weight. Another is the elephant shaped opium weight and used only in north Siam. A third is a bird, usually clearly duck / hintha shaped opium weight. Opium weights were distributed amont several countries in south east asia.
They all stand on plinths or bases of different shapes. In many cases the base-sides bear an impressed small sign of a geometric or animal shape, called the marks or signs of the opium weights.
The manufacturing material of the weights is a cupriferous alloy, mostly bronze. The weight system / weight units ranges in mass from about 2 to 4000 grams, rarely more, on an essantial decimal scale.

Originally, opium weights were used to weigh relatively high-valued products such as the silver ingots which were used as currencies. The apperance of dome-shaped marble weights were used for commoner products. The weights were intended not only for trading purposes but also for religious and political purposes as part of their message the powers of the devind spirit in heaven and the earthly god-king. They were also intented to imply the Buddhist disapprobation of stealing throuth the use of incorrect opium weights.

The standardisation of opium weights was a very precizely job. During the centuries, different weight systems were found.

The name opium weights was only firstly used in the late 19th or early 20th century, while the history of opium weights is much older.

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