Bronze Drums of Southeast Asia. A Talk by Jacques de Guerny



The Bronze Age produced revolutionary innovations like the drums, stronger and more sonorous than their wooden and skin predecessors. They created new rites and bestowed on their owners a prestige even in the afterlife. On their drumhead (tympanum) and their cylindrical base, the drums were engraved with decorations open to interpretation, including the iconic frogs deemed to control the rain. Southeast Asian communities bestowed a new mission on the drums, not only as a source of sound but also to evoke values deemed crucial for everyday life or for the afterlife, from the steppes to the tropics. From inception to the present, the evolution of bronze drums spans around 2,500 years. Rituals have been conducted in their presence, from modern south China and Vietnam to Indonesia, including Indochina and Thailand. Bronze, an alloy resistant to corrosion, elevated the status of these objects from simple pots to valuable masterpieces of creativity, at the crossroads of spiritual and commercial values. They belong to the treasures of humanity, housed within museums around the world and still used at solemn ceremonies, including the funeral rites in October 2017 of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej. In my talk, I will trace the evolution of bronze drums across centuries and Southeast Asian cultures, in Cambodia, China, Laos, Indonesia/Bali, Malaysia, Myanmar/Burma, Thailand and Vietnam.

Dr. Jacques de Guerny is a former executive director of a large French conglomerate and past lecturer at the H.E.C. (international business school part of Paris University). He is the author of several books on management and has more recently taught at some universities in Asia, including Thammasat University in Bangkok. Aj. Jacques is a member of the Asian Society (Institut de France, Paris). In Buddhapada, following the Buddha's footprints (Orchid Press, Bangkok, 2014), he traces the history of the Buddha’s footprints, from India to Japan. His latest book, Les tambours de bronze de l’Asie du sud-est (Maisonneuve, 2017), has entailed three years of research and travel and will soon be available in English as Bronze Drums of Southeast Asia.

Date: Thursday, 1 November 2018
Time: 7.00 p.m.
Place: The Siam Society, 131 Asoke Montri Rd, Sukhumvit 21

Non-members donation: B200. Siam Society members, members’ spouses and children, and all students showing valid student ID cards are admitted free of charge. For more information, please contact Khun Arunsri or

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The Siam Society is deeply grateful to the James H.W. Thompson Foundation for its generous support of the 2018-2019 Lecture Series.