CIIISi1-18:  Siamese Elephant Weights-Grouping

In 1558 AD, the Burmese took Chiengmai, the capital of Lan Na (North Siam), and destroyed its standard weights and measures, replacing them with the Burmese standards.

Soon thereafter the King of Ayudhya in South Siam required merchants to ensure that their weights corresponded with the royal weights. In both Hindu and Buddhist literature, the lion is depicted as the inveterate enemy of the elephant who, though huge and mighty, is always vanquished by the lion. The introduction of the elephant sign on the Chiengmai tok silver ingots suggests that the symbolic elephant weight may also have been introduced at that time. Characteristics: Only those elephant weights with octagonal bases bear signs. These are in the form of 4, 5, 6, 7, or 8 narrow or petal shaped rays, sometimes enclosed within a circle.

As in Burma, the smaller weights were used primarily for weighing silver bullion.

They were also used as a form of money, copper being a valuable commodity in this region. Although they lost official status with the eviction of the Burmese in the mid-19th century, they continued to be used in Chiengmai as late as 1884 and were "very frequent" in northern Laos as late as 1910. Elephant weights have been found in supposedly seven member sets, weighing from 1/3 baht to 20 bahts (5 grams to 200 grams). Gear. Earth to Heaven, Plate 61, Table 24.

Apparently, since the establishment of opium plantations in the early 1900s, the animal weights have been used to weigh opium as well as other commodities. From this usage comes the commonly used modern name, "opium weights." Identification and text contributed by Ruth Willard. Reference: Gear. Earth to Heaven.