Up 400 steps to prayer - hilltop pagoda guarded by lions, Sagaing, Burma
Photographer: Underwood and Underwood
Medium: Photographic print
Stereoscopic pair of photographs taken by Underwood & Underwood in c.1900 of the entrance to a pagoda at Sagaing in Burma (Myanmar). The prints show a view up the long, steep flight of steps ascending the hill towards the Buddhist temple. Imposing statues of chinthes (mythical lions which are Burmese temple guardian figures) flank the stairway and children sit on the steps in the foreground.
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. The stereoscope produces the illusion of a single three-dimensional image 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.