Shwedagon Paya


The incredible profusion of constructions within this temple complex includes many chinthes like the one in the photo center. They guard the great golden zedi (next page, nearly invisible here in the upper left corner), which contains hair relics of the Buddha and is the holiest shrine in Burma. To the photo right of the chinthe is one of many subsidiary shrines that are positioned along the platform's mighty circumference.

The site has been occupied at least since the Pagan period, and probably earlier. Its long and complex history, with many buildings and rebuildings, means that today's visitor encounters a confusing palimpsest of dates and styles. On the surface, what one sees is mostly 19th-20th century, but beneath the surface are traces and echoes of structures that may be hundreds of years older. Indeed, the same continuous activity which has preserved the site, now prevents a proper investigation of its full historical, architectural, and archaeological context.