Entrance to Shwé Dagon Pagoda [Rangoon]
Photographer: Klier, Philip Adolphe (c.1845-1911)
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of the south entrance to the Shwe Dagon Pagoda at Rangoon (Yangon), in Burma (Myanmar), taken by Philip Adolphe Klier in the 1890s. The south entrance is the main entrance to the Shwe Dagon, Burma’s most revered Buddhist shrine. The pagoda is believed to have ancient origins, legend states that it was founded to enshrine eight hairs from the Buddha's head which he presented to two wandering Burmese merchant brothers who encountered him. Since the 14th century its recorded history reveals that rulers through the centuries have added to its height and gilded it, until today its glittering spire dominates the skyline of Rangoon. This view looking towards the entrance gateway shows a flight of steps flanked by two giant chinthes or mythical lions, the guardian figures of Burmese temples. At the top of the steps a wide masonry archway is crowned by three spires or pyat-thats, architectural elements which demarcate sacred space. The arch is decorated with lions and foliate carving and surrounded by a carved heavenly landscape populated by figures from the Burmese pantheon of territorial spirits known as nats. Beyond the archway a covered staircase leads up to the pagoda platform on Singuttara Hill. 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.