Fight between best of 50 couples (champion at left) - funeral festivity at Mandalay, Burma
Photographer: Underwood and Underwood
Medium: Photographic print
Stereoscopic pair of photographs taken by Underwood & Underwood in c.1900 of a boxing match held as part of the festivities of a Buddhist funeral at Mandalay in Burma (Myanmar). The prints show two boxers squaring off against each other, the muscular champion at left, with crowds on a grandstand and the referee in the background. Theravada Buddhism is the state religion of Burma. The caption of another funeral image in the collection comments that: “This funeral is not a melancholy festival, for the Buddhist looks on death as a possible release from the cycle of soul migrations.” The photographs are from a collection of 36 stereoscopic views of Burma, one of a series of “stereoscopic tours” of foreign countries published as part of the ‘Underwood Travel Library’. Stereoscopic views became enormously popular from the mid-19th century onward as they enabled observers to imagine that they were really “touring” around distant parts of the world. Each pair of views, made using a special camera with two lenses, is mounted on stout card for insertion in a stereoscope or binocular viewer. This device produces the illusion of a single three-dimensional image in the mind of the observer by using the binocular function of human sight to combine the two images, which are seen from fractionally different viewpoints. The prints in this set are generally of high quality and selected for their clarity and instructive value. A few of the mounts also have a detailed descriptive caption printed on the reverse, with instructions (presumably for the guidance of teachers) as to what general topic the photograph illustrates.