Kyaitteyo Pagoda, miraculously balanced by a hair of Buddha, on Kelasa hills, Burma
Photographer: Underwood and Underwood
Medium: Photographic print
Stereoscopic pair of photographs taken by Underwood & Underwood in c.1900 of the Kyaiktiyo Pagoda near Kyaikto in Mon State, Burma (Myanmar). The prints 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. 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 is a general view of the “Golden Rock” pagoda, a stupa built on top of a massive boulder resting precariously on a hillside 20 km (12 miles) from Kyaikto. It is said to enshrine a hair of the Buddha. The siting of this pagoda in the Kelasa hills near Thaton appears to be a confusion with print 34 from the same collection, which shows a similar structure. 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. The stereoscope 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.