DAY 1 (6/9): GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA, Yangon, Myanmar, 2017.12.23
At 4pm, we left Downtown Yangon and headed for Shwedagon Pagoda, probably the most iconic sight of the city if not the entire Myanmar. Our taxi stuck in busy traffic and it took us half an hour to arrived at the east gate of Shwedagon Pagoda from Downtown Yangon. We specifically chose to visit the pagoda in the latter half of the afternoon, as we planned to stay at the pagoda compound till dusk when the golden stupa would glow in the flickering candle lights and flooded lights. At the east gate, we took off our shoes and left them on a shelf, and squeezed in a lift with the locals to head up the Singuttara Hill where the central pagoda and the main terrace were located. From the lift tower, we crossed a link bridge over to the main terrace. The first glance of the golden spires of Buddhist shrines was quite overwhelming. Beyond the the various ornate shrines, prayer halls, and planetary posts, the majestic 99m central stupa known as the Shwedagon Pagoda stood proudly at the heart of everything. Fully gilded with gold, this central stupa dwarfed all other stupas, shrines, altars, statues, and prayer halls on Singuttara Hill.
Probably erected by the Mon people between 6th and 10th century AD, the Shwedagon Pagoda has been the centre of Myanmar’s Buddhist universe for centuries. Legend has it that the original stupa at Singuttara Hill was dated to 2600 years ago, when Taphussa and Bhallika met Gautama Buddha during his lifetime and brought back 8 of his hair as sacred relics. A stupa at Singuttara Hill was built to house the hair. The stupa evolved throughout the centuries, as shrines and prayer halls added by different kings and donors, and the height of the stupa increased several times during history until the present 99m. The pagoda wasn’t always covered in gold in the past. In the 15th century, Queen Shin Sawbu donated gold plates equaled to her own weight to be riveted onto the stupa surface. Since then, cladding the stupa in gold had became a tradition for rulers.
We took our time wandering around the 114-acre pagoda site. After an hour or two meandering through all kinds of Buddhist structures and visiting the interesting photo gallery, we sat down at the open space at the northwest corner near the Friday planetary post to chill out, waiting for the sun to set and candles to lit up.
Our taxi dropped us off at the east gate of Singuttara Hill. We followed the locals to take an elevator up to the main terrace level.
Once we reached the main terrace, we were immediately overwhelmed by the fine details and golden ornaments of the surrounding shrines and prayer halls.
In the midst of everything stood the majestic 99m Shwedagon Pagoda.
We circled the pagoda and stopped by some of the interesting shrines. Chinthe, the legendary half-lion, half dragon creatures are commonly found as guardians in Buddhist temples of Southeast Asia.
It was hard to imagine just how many gold plates were being applied onto the surface of the Shwedagon Pagoda over the centuries.
The 25 ton Singu Min Bell (Maha Gandha Bell) was a donation in 1779 by King Singu.
The big Buddha at the northwest corner of the compound is a fine example of Buddha images found at Shwedagon Pagoda.
Displayed behind glass, the jade Buddha reminds all visitors that Myanmar has the biggest gemstones and jade mining in the world.
Three out of the four main staircases known as zaungdan stairs at the four cardinal directions are filled with vendors of religious merchandise.
The four monumental covered staircases are all splendidly decorated.
Everything on the main terrace of Shwedagon Pagoda seemed to be golden in colour.
Away from the main circulation space around the central pagoda, we walked by a number of prayer halls and shrines. These structures were built in different periods in history, but many were rebuilt after the 1931 fire that caused damages to the wooden structures in the compound.
The 150-year-old Bodhi Tree at the southeast corner of the compound is said to be descended from the original Bodhi Tree in Northern India where the Buddha meditated underneath.
Viewing the Shwedagon Pagoda from the north gate was one of our favorite.
At 6:30pm, the sun began to set. More visitors arrived from the staircases at the four cardinal directions.
Only staff and monks are allowed to climb onto the terraces of the Shwedagon Pagoda.
In the Photo Gallery northwest of the central pagoda, we were able to see photographs of the treasures on the pagoda spire, including about 5000 diamonds, 2300 rubies, sapphires, and other gems.
One of the most famous treasures of Shwedagon Pagoda is undoubted the 72 carat diamond at the top of the spire.
After visiting the Photo Gallery, we sat down at the open space in front of the gallery as the sun began to set.
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Blog posts on Myanmar 2017:
Day 1: Yangon, Myanmar
DAY 1: INTRODUCTION OF A SHORT BURMESE CHRISTMAS VACATION
DAY 1: WALK TO 999 SHAN NOODLE HOUSE
DAY 1: SULE PAGODA
DAY 1: COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
DAY 1: BUSTLING STREET LIFE
DAY 1: GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A PLACE FOR PEOPLE, Shwedagon Pagoda
DAY 1: EVENING MAGIC OF THE GOLDEN SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A FESTIVE NIGHT
Day 2: Bagan
DAY 2: SHWEZIGON PAGODA, Nyaung-U
DAY 2: HTILOMINLO AND UPALI THEIN
DAY 2: ANANDA PAHTO
DAY 2: SUNSET AT OLD BAGAN
DAY 2: SILENT NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U
Day 3: Bagan
DAY 3: MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan
DAY 3: NYAUNG-U MARKET, Nyaung-U
DAY 3: SULAMANI TEMPLE
DAY 3: DHAMMAYANGYI TEMPLE
DAY 3: THATBYINNYU TEMPLE
DAY 3: NAPAYA, MANUHA AND GUBYAUKGYI, Myinkaba
DAY 3: SUNSET No. 2, Old Bagan
DAY 3: FINAL NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U
Day 4: Farewell Myanmar
DAY 4: FAREWELL BAGAN FAREWELL MYANMAR
DAY 3 – SHAANXI HISTORY MUSEUM (陝西歷史博物館), Xian, China
Back from the Han Yang Ling Mausoleum, we continued our historical journey at the provincial history museum of Shaanxi. There was a long queue at the gate for people to collect the free admission tickets (4000 daily). We skipped the wait by buying a ticket to the special exhibition of “Treasures of Great Tang Dynasty”, which we wouldn’t want to miss anyway. We entered the museum building which was designed to mimic the traditional architecture of the Tang Dynasty.
We started our visit with the special exhibition of Tang treasures unearthed from Hejia Village (何家村) of Xian. Known as the Hejia Village Hoard (何家村唐代窖藏), the 1000+ treasures ranged from gold and silver wares, coins, jade items, agate wares, crystals, etc. These treasures were carefully stored in clay pots roughly 65cm tall, hidden underground sometime after AD 732 during the An–Shi Rebellion (安史之亂) when Tang China was engulfed in a nasty civil war. As the east terminus of the Silk Road, the treasures of Changan (now Xian) revealed the degree of cultural exchanges in the Chinese capital during Tang, when goldsmiths and silversmiths from Central Asia such as the Sassanian Empire (now Iraq and Iran) came to Changan and brought with them the world’s most advanced metal crafting skills. The treasures from the hoard were mainly made domestically with a mixture of techniques and styles from both within China and other places along the Silk Road. It was an impressive collection and indeed, a very fortunate case for Chinese archaeology that these items could survive the Cultural Revolution when the collection was first unearthed.
We then moved on to the museum’s permanent collections. We quickly walked through the prehistoric exhibits, and focused on the bronze items from the Shang Dynasty 商朝 (1600-1046 BC) and Zhou Dynasty 周朝 (1046-256 BC), Terracotta Warriors of the Qin Dynasty 秦朝 (221-206 BC), treasures of the Han Dynasty 漢朝 (206 BC- AD 290), and more artefacts from the Tang Dynasty 唐朝 (AD 618-907). In this post we have included selected photos of the magnificent artefacts from the Shaanxi History Museum.
The Main exhibition hall of Shaanxi History Museum was inspired by Tang architecture.
Small gold dragons (赤金走龍), Hejia Village Hoard.
Gilt Silver Plate with Double Foxes in Shape of Double Peaches (鎏金雙狐紋雙桃形銀盤), Hejia Village Hoard, is inspired by Persian influences in style and technique, combined local references of good fortune: peaches and foxes (foxes and a few other animals were also considered a reference to good fortune in Tang China).
Gilt Silver Plate with Phoneix (鎏金鳳鳥紋六曲銀盤), Hejia Village Hoard
Silver Vessel in Form of Nomadic Leather Flask Depicting a Dancing Horse (舞馬銜杯仿皮囊式銀壺), Hejia Village Hoard. Another piece of silver ware reflected the influences from the nomadic tribes of Central Asia.
Gold Bowl with Design of Lotus and Mandarin Ducks (鴛鴦蓮瓣紋金碗), Hejia Village Hoard. A golden bowl for wine.
Agate Cup with Beast Head (獸首瑪瑙杯), Hejia Village Hoard. A rare piece of Tang treasure with influences from Persia.
Bronze blades and masks for rituals, Late Shang Dynasty (13th-11th Century BC)
Bronze Bianzhong (編鐘) of Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 BC), an ancient music instrument.
Terracotta Warriors of First Qin Emperor, Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC).
The Kneeling Archer, Terracotta Warriors of the First Qin Emperor, Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC).
Gilded Incense Burner, Han Dynasty (206 BC- AD 290), depicting a fantasy mountain supported by dragons. The incense smoke would leak from the gaps like mountain mist.
Oil Lamp depicting a goose with a fish in its mouth, Han Dyansty (206 BC- AD 290). The smoke from burning the oil would go through the goose’s neck to its body, which was filled with water.
Gilded Bronze Dragon with iron core, Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907).
Tri-coloured Watermelon, Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907).
Terracotta figure of Lady, Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907). A selection of these terracotta figures revealed the impressive hair, makeup and fashion styles of the Tang Dynasty, which changed every few years.
Terracotta figure of Lady, Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907).
Terracotta figures of the Chinese Zodiac, Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907).
Funeral Procession of the Prince Qinjian from the Ming Dynasty (AD 1368–1644).
Our posts on 2016 Xian and Jiuzhaigou:
DAY 1 – NIGHT ARRIVAL, Xian, China
DAY 2 – QIN EMPEROR’S TERRACOTTA ARMY, near Xian, China
DAY 2 – BIG WILD GOOSE PAGODA (大雁塔), Xian, China
DAY 3 – HAN YANG LING MAUSOLEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – SHAANXI HISTORY MUSEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – GREAT MOSQUE (西安大清真寺) AND MUSLIM QUARTER, Xian, China
DAY 3 – MING CITY WALL, Xian, China
DAY 4 -FIRST GLIMPSE OF JIUZHAIGOU (九寨溝), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 5 – ARROW BAMBOO LAKE (箭竹海), PANDA LAKE (熊貓海) & FIVE FLOWER LAKE (五花海), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – PEARL SHOAL FALLS (珍珠灘瀑布), MIRROR LAKE (鏡海) & NUORILANG FALLS (諾日朗瀑布), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – LONG LAKE (長海) & FIVE COLOURS LAKE (五彩池), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – RHINOCEROS LAKE (犀牛海), TIGER LAKE (老虎海) & SHUZHENG VILLAGE (樹正寨), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 6 – ASCEND TO FIVE COLOUR POND (五彩池), Huanglong (黃龍), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 7 – FAREWELL JIUZHAIGOU & XIAN, China