Category Archives: Myanmar

Defacing Bagan

CaptureFrontier magazine
27 Aug 2016
The archaeological treasures on the plain of Bagan have suffered many kinds of damage over the centuries, including being defaced by visitors behaving like vandals.


KO THAN Htike, a sand-painting artist in Bagan, once found inspiration for his work in a mural in one of the archaeological zone’s thousands of Buddhist temples and pagodas.

The mural depicted a woman playing a harp on top of an elephant while 10 women danced around the animal. The mural, possibly from the golden age of Bagan, between the 9th and 13th centuries, or perhaps added later, was a popular source of inspiration for many of the artists in the area who work with coloured sand.

“When I went to look at it again, I found it had been destroyed,” said Than Htike, who sells his creations outside Bagan’s 11th century Abeyadana Temple. “Someone had scratched it with a piece of metal; it was heart-breaking.”

Teza Hlaing / Frontier

Teza Hlaing / Frontier







The temples at Bagan have suffered various kinds of damage and destruction in the past 1,000 years, including an earthquake in 1975 and renovation projects during junta rule that were criticised for not respecting the architectural integrity of the ancient sites.

Disrespectful, unscrupulous or ignorant visitors have also damaged temples, such as by stealing bricks, and the condition of the buildings has also deteriorated over the centuries because of the harsh climate of the central dry zone.

Archaeologists from the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture say Bagan has 3,122 temples and pagodas, of which about 400 have murals. Continue reading

Buddhist Temples in Myanmar damaged by Earthquake

An Aerial view of Sulamani Temple after an earthquake last week. (Photo: JPaing / The Irrawaddy)

An Aerial view of Sulamani Temple after an earthquake last week. (Photo: JPaing / The Irrawaddy)

The 6.8-magnitude earthquake that struck central Myanmar on August 24 has caused extensive damage to the area’s Buddhist sites. Read articles at The IrawaddyMyanmar Times, and Radio Free Asia.

Myanmar earthquake: One dead and temples damaged

_90915201_699e1976-ffb5-4ec4-a005-be159fda7a9eBBC News
24 August 2016

A general view shows the damage at the Sulamani temple in Bagan, southwest of Mandalay, Myanmar, 25 August 2016.Image copyrightEPA

The Sulamani temple was damaged by the quake

A 6.8 magnitude earthquake has hit central Myanmar, damaging pagodas in the ancient city of Bagan and killing at least one person.

The quake struck 25km (15.5 miles) west of Chauk, at a depth of 84km, the US Geological Survey said.

Tremors were felt as far away as Thailand, Bangladesh and India, sending fearful residents into the streets.

At least 66 stupas in Bagan have been damaged, a spokesman from the department of archaeology told the BBC.

A 22-year-old man was killed in the town of Pakokku due to a building collapse.

Videos posted on social media from Bagan show clouds of dust and the tops of some pagodas crumbling as the quake struck.

The ancient capital is a major tourist site, home to thousands of Buddhist monuments.

Earthquakes occur regularly in central Myanmar and the temples have been damaged and reconstructed before, the BBC’s Myanmar correspondent Jonah Fisher says.

Workers rushed out of their offices in Kolkata, India, after feeling the quake

Bagan’s temples were built between the 10th and 14th centuries

There are numerous reports of buildings being damaged elsewhere in the country, including the parliament building in Naypyidaw.

Tall buildings shook in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, the Thai capital Bangkok and Kolkata in India, where underground railway services were temporarily suspended.

At least 20 people were injured in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, as they fled a building, local media report.


Finding Dhamma in Yangon


The Free Press Journal
— By RUBY LILAOWALA | Jul 05, 2015 07:40 am

RUBY LILAOWALA learns more about Buddhist art and culture from her visit to Yangon.

Although Myanmar has opened itself up to tourism since a decade or so, the old capital city of Yangon and its suburbs can still boast largely unexplored Buddhist art and culture.

Under a scorching Sun and with our bare feet burning from tiled walkways we, a group of Indians with some Thais, entered several pagodas and temples in Yangon and the suburban town of Thanlyin. However, we felt this trip was worth all the effort and expense because we learnt so much about Buddhist art and culture from one Khatha Chinbunchon who is not only a famous fortune-teller but also a PhD student in Buddhism.

We visited the famed Shwedagon Pagoda, Parami Monastery, Botahtaung Pagoda and the temples of Chauk Kyauk Gyi (the huge marble Buddha) in Yangon and the Kyauk Hmaw Wan Yele Pagoda in Thanlyin.

The town of Thanlyin, formally called Syriam, is about 45 km east of Yangon across the Bago River. It is now a major port town. In the late 1500s’, it was the base of Portuguese adventurer Philip De Britto, who first served the King of Arakan, the ruler of Syriam from 1599 1613. More Portuguese settled in Syriam and built forts for defence. He finally declared independence from Arakan but was defeated by the Burmese and executed for demolishing temples, pagodas and Buddhist images in Toungoo. In 1756, Thanlyn was destroyed by King Alaungpaya, who unified and ruled Myanmar from 1752 to 1760.2nd lead 2

Along the way back to Yangon, Katha Chinbunchon talked about Buddhist legends relating to the two pagodas and the Reclining Buddha. Both the pagodas contain Lord Buddha’s hair relics. Two Bamar merchants, Taphussa and Ballika were the first two people to give alms to Lord Buddha after his Enlightenment. Both obtained eight strands of the Buddha’s as a blessing.

On their way back, the King of the Nagas took two of their hair relics. When they finally arrived in Dagon (the present day Yangon), the two merchants were ceremonially welcomed by King Okkapala and his military officers. The King built the Botahtaung Pagoda for enshrining two of the Buddha’s hair relics and later the Shwedagon Pagoda on a hill for keeping the rest.

Throughout the trip, our group noticed the people’s strong faith in Buddhism through their modest ways of life, praying and meditation, while a few Thai tourists who were there sought blessings from Buddha statutes and sacred sculptures. We saw them make a wish before the statues of the Botahtuang Pagoda’s guardian spirits, Poe Poe Gyi and Ahmagyi Mya Nan New.

We learnt that about 90% of the 53 million people in Mayanmar are Theravada Buddhists. Their next door neighbour, Thailand has a similar culture and many common festivals, including water splashing during Songkran and religious ceremonies for Buddhist Lent. On the last day in Yangon, we visited the sacred White Elephant Centre, enjoyed shopping at the Aung San Market, tasted local food and watched a cultural performance at a boat shaped Hall on Kandawgyi Lake. Our hearts were filled with dhamma.

This wonderful trip was sometimes spoiled when the local people tried to cheat us by refusing to return the change against things and souvenirs bought. We also noticed that local women wait inside restrooms at a few tourist attractions to hand over tissue paper and then expect a big tip. Cheating is unacceptable and is especially unbearable at temples where people came to make merit and do good. But except for some such incidents, I had many good experiences, especially at the two main pagodas where I could feel the genuine warmth of the people.


New Book: Buddhist Art of Myanmar

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Buddhist Art of Myanmar
Sylvia Fraser-Lu, Donald M. Stadtner, U Tun Aung Chain, Jacques Leider, Patrick Pranke, Robert Brown, Heidi Tan, Adriana Proser

Asia Society
Publication date: 03 Mar 2015
ISBN: 9780300209457
Dimensions: 272 pages: 267 x 229 x 23mm
Illustrations: 150 color illus.

The practice of Buddhism in Myanmar (Burma) has resulted in the production of dazzling objects since the 5th century. This landmark publication presents the first overview of these magnificent works of art from major museums in Myanmar and collections in the United States, including sculptures, paintings, textiles, and religious implements created for temples and monasteries, or for personal devotion. Many of these pieces have never before been seen outside of Myanmar. Accompanied by brilliant color photography, essays by Sylvia Fraser-Lu, Donald M. Stadtner, and scholars from around the world synthesize the history of Myanmar from the ancient through colonial periods and discuss the critical links between religion, geography, governance, historiography, and artistic production. The authors examine the multiplicity of styles and techniques throughout the country, the ways Buddhist narratives have been conveyed through works of art, and the context in which the diverse objects were used. Certain to be the essential resource on the subject, Buddhist Art of Myanmar illuminates two millennia of rarely seen masterpieces.

Myanmar-China Buddhist art exhibition launched in Yangon

Xinhua News Agency on Apr 8, 2015 @ 3:15 AM

YANGON, April 8 (Xinhua) — A Myanmar-China Buddha Heritage Photo and Painting Exhibition was launched at Myanmar’s Shewdagon Pagoda in Yangon Wednesday.

Jointly organized by Myanmar-China Friendship Association, China-Myanmar Friendship Association and Myanmar Photographic Society, the three day-exhibition features ancient Buddha statues from Beijing Lingguang Temple, ancient paintings which portrait Buddha heritage from Fahai Temple and cave temples of Dunhuang.

The exhibition was made on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Myanmar.

U Soe Win, Vice Chairman of Myanmar-China Friendship Association said the exchange and cooperation on religious affairs between the two countries will help Myanmar people understand the friendly communication between the Buddhist circles .

He also said he believed that the move will reinforce the friendship between the two peoples.

Meanwhile, the painting, which portraits the statue of the Nirvana Buddha at the Mogao Grottoes, was presented to Shwedagon Pagoda last Sunday for public homage.

The painting is about 6 meters long and created by Gao Feng, head of the Dunhuang Buddhist Painting and Calligraphy Academy.

Mogao Grottoes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in China’s northwest Gansu Province, are famous for a huge collection of Buddhist artwork, boasting more than 2,000 colored sculptures and 45,000 square meters of murals in 735 caves carved along a cliff.


Myanmar Buddhism in all its glory

Win Khant Maung
Myanmar Eleven March 23, 2015 1:00 am

When it comes to the Asian art scene in the West, Myanmar seems to play second fiddle to its neighbouring countries. Exhibitions on traditional Myanmar art are few and far between in places like New York City, USA, despite an array of exhibitions staged each month by more than 80 museums there.

Well, the good news is the trend is changing. Some museums are scrambling to grow its Myanmar art collections, with some ancient Myanmar artefacts recently added to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Hindu-Buddhist collection. In terms of grandness, nothing beats “Buddhist Art of Myanmar”, a new monumental exhibition being organised by Asia Society until May 10 at its headquarters in New York.

The exhibition is unique in that it’s not an exhibition of works by a particular artist. Instead it features rare collections related to Buddhism in Myanmar. On display are over 70 artefacts, most of which have never left Myanmar before and are on loan from the National Museum of Myanmar in Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw, Bagan Archeological Museum, Sri Ksetra Archaeological Museum in Hmawza, and the Kaba Aye Buddhist Museum in Yangon. Other sculptures are from public and private collections in the United States.

The exhibition is spread across three floors of the Asia Society Museum, which is located at the corner of Park Avenue and 70th Street in New York. A curator is on hand to guide the visitors through the exhibition daily at 2pm. What I immediately like on my arrival at the museum is its serene environment and the simplicity of the exhibition layout. Visitors are greeted on arrival by a row of Buddha images, eyes downcast. Continue reading