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rom (ร่ม)

Thai for ‘parasol’ or ‘umbrella’. In the Orient, umbrellas are believed to have originated in ancient China, probably as long ago as 2,500 years, and were initially designed to be mounted on carts and chariots (fig.). In Chinese, umbrellas and parasols are both known as san (伞), though the parasol can be specified by referring to it as yangsan (阳伞), which could be translated as ‘sun umbrella’, i.e. a ‘parasol’. In Thai, the word rom also means ‘shade’, i.e. a sunshade or parasol, but umbrellas and parasols for royalty and priests are called klot (fig.), whereas multi-layered umbrellas held over honorary figures are called chattra (fig.). In northern Thailand rom thong, i.e. ‘golden parasols’, are very popular, used both as decorative items (fig.) and as symbols in Lan Na-style festivals (fig.). Though also cotton is becoming increasingly popular, in Thailand and Myanmar parasols are traditionally produced from sah-paper and silk on a skeleton made of bamboo and wood. They are usually painted, frequently with elaborate designs (fig.), especially when made in Bo Sang, a village in San Kamphaeng, near Chiang Mai. The parasol is one of the Ashtamangala (fig.), eight auspicious symbols, as well as one of the eight borikaan, i.e. the permitted possessions of Buddhist monks. In Thailand, the Burmese monk Shin Thiwali (fig.) is referred to as Phra Siwalih and is typically depicted carrying a closed klot (fig.) over his shoulder, whilst U Shwe Yo, a Burmese comical character (fig.), is usually depicted holding a small hand-painted parasol called Pathein (fig.). Besides this, certain Buddhist offerings in Myanmar and northern Thailand use miniature paper parasols called hti (fig.), and in both Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism, the ferocious goddess Ushnisha Sitatapatra has a white umbrella, known in Sanskrit as Sitatapatra, as her attribute (fig.). See also POSTAGE STAMPS (1) and (2).