Saturday, 8 August 2015

The "Buddha Museum" in Nyaungshwe

Although today called a “Buddha Museum” and managed by the Ministry of Culture, historically this was a Shan haw (In Shan language, this refers to the residence of a Saopha, and is often translated as “palace.”) Located in the northeastern part of town, it once belonged to the head of the entire Shan federation and the eventual first president of the Union of Burma, Sao Shwe Thaike, who would become a great supporter of Webu Sayadaw and Sayagyi U Ba Khin. 

Built in the 1920s, the architecture successfully combined Western and Burmese styles. Nowadays, one can only imagine the beautiful peacocks that once roamed the grounds and resided under its temple, and the lavish Buddhist festivals and town ceremonies which were once hosted here. In The Moon Princess, Sao Sanda—the daughter of the saopha-- speaks to this odd transformation: “Tour groups are now taken round the large rambling palace, with its numerous halls and rooms, in which I grew up and which I loved so much.” During World War II, while being occupied by the Japanese secret police, the compound was partly damaged by a British bomb that fell but did not detonate. Later, local residents credited the nats for preserving the significant site.

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