Burmese racing boats
Photographer: Klier, Philip Adolphe (c.1845-1911)
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of Burmese racing boats, taken by Philip Adolphe Klier in the 1890s. This view shows two long racing canoes in the river in the foreground, with spectators watching from a grandstand on the bank. Rowing is a traditional Burmese sport, and races often took place as part of spectacular water festivals such as the one at Ava described by V.C. Scott O’Connor in 1907: “Another of the great spectacles of Ava was the Water Festival held upon the river at the turn of the year, when its waters began to fall. To this the King and Queen came in the royal barge, a magnificent object with a spire thirty feet high, and overlaid with gold. The princes and courtiers similarly came in golden boats, and upon the river for three days the
war-boats of the King, and the boats of nobles and courtiers, raced each other, to the lively songs of the rowers. The very oars of the royal boats were gilded, and as the boats circled the spray flew from their blades, and the sun blazed upon their
magnificence. On the evening of the third day the festival ended to the sound of cannon, as the royal barge moved in procession through the assembled boats.” The photograph is from an album devoted almost entirely to Lord Elgin's Burma tour
of November to December 1898. Victor Alexander Bruce (1849-1917), ninth Earl of Elgin and 13th Earl of Kincardine, served as Viceroy of India between 1894 and 1899.