Traditional Myanmar Arts

The Burmese traditionally recognize ten arts of crafts known as "The ten flowers" because the Burmese name for each art begins with the word "pan" meaning "flower".

Panpe - black smith's craft
Pandain - gold smith's craft
Pantin - coppersmith's craft
Pantaw - stucco carving
Pantamaw - stone sculpture
Panyan - masonry
Panpu - wood carving
Panput - the turner's craft
Panchi - drawing and painting
Panyun - lacquer craft

In fact, this kind of enumeration is far from complete. There are more than ten arts and crafts in Myanmar.

To name a few, we have the art of applique, acheip weaving, earthenware, glazed earthenware, tapitary, cabinet making, minting coins, bamboo and rattan work, silversmith, making toys, and others.

Among the ancient works of art in Myanmar, one will find styles that closely resemble those of the "West" (meaning India, Sir Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan) and those that are skin to the "East" (meaning China, Cambodia, Thailand).

Bagan, Mandalay and other cities in upper Myanmar have become repositories of ancient Myanmar traditional arts and crafts. In fact, the ten arts and crafts of Myanmar have become the chief tourists-attaction, and enjoys world-wide renown.

Myanmar's traditional blacksmith craft (Panpe)

PanpeThe Myanmar's traditional blacksmith craft emerged in the early of Bagan period (11th century A.D) and it had improved in the mid Bagan Ava and Yadanapon period.

Myanmar's traditional blacksmith craft, from Inle region were famous in the Yadanapon period.

Many types of blacksmith craft articles are available, such as military armour, weapons, file, pickaxe, mattock, hoe sword, etc.

The Myanmar's traditional blacksmith craft is very famous in the South East Asia and constitute one of the artistic wonders of the world.

Myanmar's traditional old smith and silver smith crafts (Pandain)

PandainMyanmar's traditional arts and crafts artistic creation of gold and silver wares come under the genre (ba-dain) art of making items in gold or silver. Creating silverware had been with Myanmar for the past one thousand two hundred years, and judging from the workmanship of the silverware that belong to those early years, it is indeed something for the Myanmar's to crow about.

According to the crystal palace chronicles, during the reign of King Anawrahta the relics of Buddha and he three repositories of Buddhist scriptures were brought to Bagan from Suvunna Boumi, the mon capital, along with them came mon artisans and works of mon arts and crafts, gold and silverware etc.

Going further back into the past, we find Pyu silver works of art discovered from the mounts of old shrines of Sri Ksetra.

PantinMyanmar's traditional coppersmith's craft (Pantin)

Myanmar's traditional coppersmith's craft emerged before Bagan period and it improved during Bagan and Ava period.

Every pagoda in Myanmar has bells, which were struck to tell the people of good deeds done. They are triangular bells which twirl when struck and ring with a sweet rising and falling tone, which gradually fades away. Moreover there are gongs, slung from carved ivory or wood elephant trunks, which are prized as dinner gongs.

Different sizes and shapes of bells, all unmistakably Myanmar in design, are popular as souvenirs. So are other castings such as weights and cow bells.

Myanmar traditional stucco carving (Pantaw)

PantawMyanmar traditional stucco carving emerged before the Bagan period and it improved in the Bagan, Ava, Amarapura and Yadanapon period. According to the historical records, Stucco works were very famous in Bagan period.

Stucco works of Bagan period have detailed decorations. After Bagan we had Stucco carvings of mid-Kongaung or Amarapura period, which are very Burmese in style and very fine. The curled leaves and buds, though few, look very beautiful. The buds and flowers in bunches in the centre of the portal at U Kin-danke are unique.

Menu's brick monastery at Ava stands magnificently today with wooden pyathad durrets above it. The great building itself is a work of art to command our admiration.

PantamawMyanmar's traditional stone sculpture (Pantamaw)

Sculpture in stone is a significant feature of Myanmar fine arts, has to this day been the pride and honour of Myanmar people. There are sculpture studios or workshops in Yangon, Mandalay and other towns in the country, but the majority of studios are concentrated in Mandalay.

Very fine works of art in stone are to be seen at plaques depicting the life of the Buddha at Ananda, Bagan. Flower designs in the interior of the portal at Kyawkku-U min, Nyaung-U Nanhpaya, Myinkapa plaques portraying the 550 Buddhist birth-stores at Puhtotawkyi, Amarapura and the great image at Kyauktawkyi, at the foot of Mandalay Hill.

Myanmar's traditional masonry (Panyan)

PanyanMyanmar's traditional masonry works enjoys world wide renown for the ancient Pagodas and other religious buildings around the Bagan region.

The Myanmar's traditional masonry of Bagan period is the highest developed of all the historical periods. Their works are remarkable for their strength, grandeur beauty of form, immensity of volume, detailed and appropriate decorations and the power to hold the spectators in awe.

The masonry of mid Amarapura period is beautiful a lively but to be placed only in the second order, behind Bagan.

The Myanmar's traditional masonry have derived from the mon's culture of Suvanna Bhumi and in the Southern Indian's culture flun the 11th century A.D. In fact- Masonry in Myanmar emerged since the Pyu period in the 1st century A.D.

Myanmar's traditional sculpture (Panpu)

PanpuMyanmar's traditional sculpture emerged before the Bagan period and it improved in the middle of Bagan Era. Myanmar's sculpture base the religion of Buddhism which arrived from Southern India in the 11 century A.D.

Most of the wood sculptures of Bagan and Ava periods have been lost under various circumstances and only a few are left today. One outstanding wood sculpture belonging to the Bagan period is the one at the old portal of Shwesigone pagoda at Nyaung-U.

Those who want to see wood sculptures of Yatanapon (Mandalay) or latter Yadanapon periods should visit following places:

  • Shwe-inpin Monastery, Mandalay.
  • Bakaya Monastery, Ava

Myanmar's traditional sculpture contains wood sculpture stone sculpture and plaster sculpture but more wood sculptures will be seen in many arts and crafts shops, in many cities of Myanmar. The wood sculptures are liked by many people in the world today.

Myanmar's traditional craft of a turner (Panput)

PanputMyanmar's traditional crafts of a turner emerged in the Bagan period in the 8th century A.D. The craft of a turner is an art which is made by rubbing the woods on the turner's lathe.

Craft of a turner artists based on the traditional styles of Bagan, Ava and Yatanapon period.

Besides that, Myanmar's craft of a turner artists is very interesting. Diversity in the shape of the craft of a turner, food containers, boxes, bowls, taunglon tables, chairs etc. all makes them attractive.

The Myanmar's traditional arts and crafts owed a great deal of influence of Mon, the people of suvanna Bhumi-artists and artisans the Southern India's culture in the early Bagan period.

Myanmar's traditional painting (Panchi)

PanchiMyanmar traditional painting developed with the religion of Buddhism in the Bagan Region.

Thus, Bagan become a repository of ancient MYanmar traditional paintings and sculptures in the 11th century A.D.

Because of Myanmar artist's achievements, we have more paintings of Konbaung period than those of Ava, they are more colorful and lively.

During Yadanapon of Mandalay period more painting was done in folding books called purapaik and on canvas than on the wall. The wall paintings at Mahamuni Pagoda in Mandalay were executed in later Yadanapon period. Most of these paintings have been copied and collected by the Archaeological Department, Myanmar.

Myanmar's traditional lacquer ware (Panyun)

PanyunMyanmar traditional lacquer ware emerged in the early part of Bagan period. Myanmar traditional lacquer ware drawing styles derived from many stories of Buddha's life.

Burmese lacquer ware is one such product, whose art goes back to the 11th century. On a framework of woven, finely cut strips of bamboo, mixtures of thit-see resin with clay and ash are carefully built-up and finally polished with the ash of fossil wood. The designs are then etched or painted by hand.

The most traditional Myanmar lacquer ware is of a unique terracotta color, with scenes from the attacks, the Buddha's former existence, etched and then filled in with green pigment. More modern designs are in deep, velvet black, with simpler figures laid on in gennine gold leaf.

Many types of Myanmar lacquer ware articles are available, such as boxes, vases, trays, bowls and even coffee tables. Bagan, site of the architectural wonders of the East, is the home of this craft.