The Human Statues of Myanmar - OZY | A Modern Media Company

The Human Statues of Myanmar

The Human Statues of Myanmar

By Fraser Morton and Eszter Papp


Because Buddha statues don’t carve themselves.

By Fraser Morton and Eszter Papp

In a city that throbs with artisans who are experts in gold-leafing, woodwork and textiles, one little lane in Mandalay, the former royal capital of Myanmar, is filled with Burmese men, women and children who are renowned for their skill in sculpting.

The carvers of Kyauk Sit Tan have been here since the 18th century, with generation after generation learning to carve, sand and polish marble and stone into the familiar figure of Buddha.

The Buddha statues made here are shipped across Asia, Europe, the United States and beyond for religious and decorative purposes.

Yin Yin Htwe says she has never thought of doing anything else. “Stone carving is a business handed down to me by my ancestors,” she says. “I have been doing this job now for 40 years. I hope to pass on my business to my children too.”

“I gain merit as a Buddhist, but this is also my business. Having this business makes me feel delighted, and I want to say ‘Well done’ to my customers for showing their faith and respect for religion. When my ancestors started this business, they used traditional tools. But now the technology has advanced. So today we do this business with the help of machines. That’s why the business has been able to grow. It makes me happy that tourists come to see the work we do here.”

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