Grinding Out Buddhas


In the marble carving district of Mandalay, this young man and dozens like him spend their days covered in marble dust.  Most of the Buddhas carved here are destined for wealthy monasteries in China.  The workers, on the other hand, will likely never leave Mandalay.

Gold Pounders Making Music In Mandalay

Millions of Buddhists across Southeast Asia display their devotion by adding small bits of gold leaf to statues of the Buddha, some of which are venerated beyond recognition, with several inches of gold coating them. Much of this gold leaf is manufactured by hand in Mandalay. A small ingot is first rolled through a press, then pounded paper thin by young men with wooden mallets. Then it is cut into squares by women in the next room, layered between paper, and pounded again. The process is repeated, I believe three times, to produce the very thin leaf which can be bought and applied to the Buddha of one’s choice. I was particularly taken by the melodic rhythm produced by the mallets.



Two Shrines In Hsipaw

Shrines have always attracted me, being not just focal points for worship or remembrance, but also works of art.  Each has its own character, elements, offerings, and purpose.  There is usually a sense of balance, even if the shrine is chaotic.  Buddhist shrines tend to be simpler than Catholic shrines, but all vary from region to region.  These two are from Hsipaw, in the Shan state of Myanmar.



The lower image is hanging in the gallery now.  The upper will be added in January.