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Carving on balustrade of [Salin] monastery, [Mandalay]

Carving on balustrade of [Salin] monastery, [Mandalay]

Photographer: Archaeological Survey of India

Medium: Photographic print

Date: 1904

Shelfmark: Photo 1004/1(167)

Item number: 10041167

Length: 20.5

Width: 15

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Photograph

Photograph of carved dragons on the balustrade of the Salin Kyaung (Monastery) in Mandalay, Burma (Myanmar), from the Archaeological Survey of India Collections: Burma Circle, 1903-07. The photograph was taken by an unknown photographer in 1904 under the direction of Taw Sein Ko, the Superintendent of the Archaeological Survey of Burma at the time. Mandalay, in Upper Burma, was the last capital of the Burmese kings, founded in 1857 by King Mindon (reigned 1853-78). The site of the city was chosen in fulfilment of a Buddhist prophecy that a religious centre would be built at the foot of Mandalay Hill. As a consequence of royal patronage there were many religious foundations in the city and a wealth of monastic architecture. In ‘Wood-Carving of Burma’ (Rangoon, 1903), Harry L. Tilly writes: “The Salin Monastery was built in 1876 AD by the Salin Princess and the carving with which it is adorned is probably the finest in Burma, and is a good example of work which has not been contaminated by European influence.” The monastery consisted of a series of pavilions raised on piles and surrounded by a veranda, from which flights of steps with curving balustrades descend. This is a close-up view of the posts supporting the veranda which are decorated with sinuous carved wooden dragons or serpents, auspicious mythical beasts in the Burmese pantheon. These motifs were commonly found on Burmese monasteries. In his account of a British diplomatic mission to the court of Ava in 1855, Henry Yule wrote of another royal monastery: “The brackets or corbels from the outer posts, which support the projecting eaves of the platform above, were griffins or dragons with the head downwards, the feet grasping the post, and the tail rising in alternate flexures, which seemed to almost writhe and undulate as we looked. No art could be better of its kind.”

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