This represents what is called the Golden Kyoung
Photographer: Hooper, Willoughby Wallace (1837-1912)
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of the Queen’s Kyaung (Monastery) at Mandalay in Burma (Myanmar), taken in 1885 by Willoughby Wallace Hooper. The photograph is from a series documenting the Third Anglo-Burmese War (1885-86) made by Hooper while serving as Provost Marshal with the British army. The Burma Expeditionary Force entered Mandalay, the Burmese royal capital, on 28 November 1885, taking prisoner the last king of Burma, Thibaw (reigned 1878-1885), and beginning an occupation of the city. The war culminated in the annexation of Upper Burma by the British on 1 January 1886 and the exile of the king and his queen Supayalat to India. As a consequence of royal patronage there was a wealth of monastic architecture in Mandalay. Hooper describes the monastery in a caption accompanying the photograph: “It is a good specimen of the many Kyoungs in and around Mandalay, though it certainly excels all others in magnificence. It is situated in the outskirts of Mandalay, at the head of a road leading up from the river, designated by us the A road…It was built by Queen Soopy-a-lat for the Head Phoongyee (or Archbishop as we should say), at a cost of 5 lakhs of rupees (about £50,000). The structure is, like all others, of teak wood, and the carving is very fine, some of the figures being most quaint; the whole building, both inside and out, is overlaid with gold-leaf, and ornamented with curious designs formed with fragments of looking-glass; the whole effect, when the sun is shining upon it, being really splendid…” Hooper was a dedicated amateur photographer and his photographs of the war in Burma are considered “one of the most accomplished and comprehensive records of a nineteenth century military campaign”. They were published in 1887 as ‘Burmah: a series of one hundred photographs illustrating incidents connected with the British Expeditionary Force to that country, from the embarkation at Madras, 1st Nov, 1885, to the capture of King Theebaw, with many views of Mandalay and surrounding country, native life and industries’. There were two editions, one with albumen prints, one with autotypes, and a set of lantern slides was issued. The series is also notable for the political scandal which arose following allegations by a journalist that Hooper had acted sadistically in the process of photographing the execution by firing squad of Burmese rebels. The subsequent court of inquiry concluded that he had behaved in a “callous and indecorous” way and the affair raised issues of the ethical role of the photographer in documenting human suffering and the conduct of the British military during a colonial war.