Sunday, August 26, 2012

World's Largest Book

I climbed all one thousand steps to the top of Mandalay Hill for this incredible view of  the Kuthodaw Pagoda and its surrounding walls of Buddhist text.  This complex is called "The World's Largest Book" because it comprises 730 stone tablets of canon.  As much as I love the statues of Buddha, this monument honors his teachings more than anything else I have seen.

Work began on the tablets in 1860 on the orders of King Mindon.  The British had already invaded Southern Burma and he was concerned about what would happen to all the temples.  It took eight years and a collaborative effort between monks, scribes and stone masons to put the entire text on stone.  Each marble tablet is five feet tall and inscribed on both the front and the back with gold ink.  Each stone was then placed inside an "inscription cave" and arranged in rows.

As the king predicted, British troops moved north and looting and disfigurement of the temples occurred.  Fortunately, Queen Victoria put a stop to this behavior and restoration began anew in 1892.  The inscriptions have been re-inked several times.

I wandered through the rows in complete awe of the craftsmanship that went into this monument.  I could not read the script, of course, but the intricate, curving calligraphy is beautiful-a masterpiece of literature and art.

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