Marvelous elaboration of a Buddhist shrine built be a rich citizen of Rangoon, Burma
Photographer: Underwood and Underwood
Medium: Photographic print
Stereoscopic pair of photographs taken by Underwood & Underwood in c.1900 of a shrine at the Shwe Dagon Pagoda in Rangoon (Yangon) in Burma (Myanmar). The Shwe Dagon is a gilded Buddhist stupa of legendary origins built on a hill in Rangoon and is the city’s most famous and revered monument. These prints show the façade of a shrine on the temple platform which appears to be encrusted, so richly is it decorated with mirrored glass mosaic and woodcarving. 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’. 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 creates 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 photographs 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.