Glittering year for Myanmar’s golden Shwedagon Pagoda

Glittering year for Myanmar’s golden Shwedagon Pagoda
< Orange Army Review (Bagan travel): Out of this world! 10+|10 >

April 27, 2015

Authorities managing the monument are now cladding the structure with a fresh layer of gold — a five-yearly exercise to replace the older, weather-worn coating.

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I
 helped in the unique group drying up the wet floor after showers duty in Shwedagon.

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The ancient city of Bagan, the Land of A Thousand Buddhist Temples. Bagan is out of this world!

As he smooths a gold plaque on the glistening flank of Myanmar’s most prestigious Buddhist pagoda, a merchant pays his ancestors the highest honour — and contributes to a bumper year of donations to re-gild the sacred site.

The Shwedagon Pagoda, which rises in a stately conical tower above downtown Yangon, has been at the heart of Buddhism in Myanmar for hundreds of years, as well as providing a luminous arena for political resistance in the former junta-run nation’s more recent turbulent history.

Authorities managing the monument are now cladding the structure with a fresh layer of gold — a five-yearly exercise to replace the older, weather-worn coating.

“This round of donations have come at the right time for me. So I am donating to make merit,” Phone Myint Thwin, 40, told AFP, delighted to finally be able to honour his late grandparents with a gold plaque.

Officials had expected to match their 2010 donations of 9,000 gold plates to clad the stupa, but a surge of enthusiasm from Buddhist faithful means they now have 16,000 plates — a gold glut that will enable more of the structure to be gilded.

“People are delighted to witness their own donations on the body of the pagoda. Then they want to donate again because they can make the offering themselves,” said Tun Aung Wai, deputy officer of Shwedagon Authority Office.

Making merit

At 600,000 kyat ($600) each, the plates are a big expense in a country where World Bank figures put the per capita gross domestic product at $1,105.

Financial prosperity is still a dream for many in the impoverished country.

But Myanmar’s small-yet-growing middle classes are gradually getting richer, as the economy opens up after years of atrophy under military rule.

The Asian Development Bank has predicted Myanmar’s economy will grow 8.3 percent in the 2015 fiscal year, from 7.7 percent in the 12 months to March.

But inflation is also on the march — predicted at 8.4 percent in 2015 — partially due to expected wage rises.

In a report last year, research group Euromonitor said consumer product sales boomed in Myanmar over the five-year period to 2013, with middle class consumers helping to boost demand for non-essential luxuries like home and beauty care products.

For devout Buddhists it is also essential to donate to pagodas — as well as monasteries and charitable causes — to make “merit”, a sort of credit for pious living.

This practice helped the Buddhist-majority nation to be named the joint most generous nation, with the United States, by Charities Aid Foundation in its 2014 World Giving Index.

‘Winking wonder’

Shwedagon, which according to legend is over 2,000 years old, is particularly sacred because it is believed to house several strands of hair from the Gautama, whose teachings form the basis of Buddhism, and relics from three previous Buddhas.

The Shwedagon is arguably Myanmar’s most recognisable building, its peak soaring above swirling eddies of barefoot devotees who crowd the pagoda’s terrace from dawn to dusk, alongside the burgeoning ranks of tourists.

It has long captured the imaginations of visitors from author Rudyard Kipling — who called it a “beautiful winking wonder” after a visit in the late 19th century — to US President Barack Obama in 2012.

It was the site of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s first major political speech as student-led protests against the then military regime swept the country in 1988 — and also at the centre of the 2007 monk demonstrations that ended in bloodshed.

Going for Gold

Gold itself has long had a crucial role in Myanmar.

During the colonial era Burmese women wore almost all of their wealth in the form of jewellery made of gems and gold.

After independence, gold became even more integral as the junta’s socialist policies eviscerated the economy, leaving the population suspicious of government banks.

Even the word for gold in the Myanmar language, “Shwe”, is a hugely popular girls’ name.

In the jumbled workshops of the central city of Mandalay, craftsmen hammer gold into slivers for devotees to paper Buddha statues at temples.

They are considered some of the finest gold artisans in the country — their craft a testament to the country’s deep connection with the precious metal — but competition for machine-produced gold leaf has raised concerns for their future.

Hla Hla, who has worked in the trade for more than six decades, shrugged off those worries.

“If some like machine-made, they will buy it. But those wanting handmade will buy from us,” she told AFP.

#ShwedagonPagoda  #MyanmarRobertChaen   #AungSanSuuKyi   #GoldLeafMyanmar   #OrangeArmyReview

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Robert Chaen

Global CEO-Founder of ChangeU and Movsha Movers & Shakers, Hero-CEO Whisperer, Writer, The #1 Alpha Change Expert, Father of Asian FireWalking Robert Chaen is an International Keynote Speaker, writer, researcher, and corp games designer. He is famously known to be the “Hero-CEO Whisperer”, 1-on1 coaching with many CEOs and Celebrities for corporate strategies, staff & office political issues, personal branding, and even public figure OSHA safety drilling called Drager Defense. He has transformed CEOs and managers in Coca-Cola China, TVB Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Airport Services, VADS, TM, Public Bank, Auditor General's Office Maldives, etc. He is the prolific creator and online Author of innovative management tools such as DragonCEO, Diamond Leader, Papillon Personal Effectiveness, OSHA Drager Defense, KPI Bank, etc. He is also the Founder of Movsha, an international networking with monthly mingles with MOVers & SHAkers, Angels, Entrepreneurs, CEOs, Celebrities, HR-PR-CSR, HODs, and the Most Influential IDEA people. ​Chaen is widely considered as one of the top International Platform Keynote Speakers for Resorts World Genting Senior Management Conference (Manila), 7-Eleven HK, Samsung, Coca-Cola China Mini-MBA @Tsing Hua University, Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Jockey Club, The Story Conference where he interviewed Datuk Kamarudin (Chairman of AirAsia) and Siti Nurhaliza. He has been widely featured in TVB, AWSJ, CNBC, SCMP, The Star, and Sin Chew. As “The Father of Asian FireWalking”, he coached TVB celebrities (Ekin Cheng Yee-Kin) to walk on 650°C fire; and raised HK$68M in the world’s 1st and only live TV Charity FireWalk (TVB Tung Wah Charity Show), before Tony Robbins even came to Asia. If Robert can get you to walk on 650⁰C fire, he can inspire you to be THE BEST. He champions CN-HK-EU-US Tycoons to be philanthropic, and to be angel investors to support the next generation of Jack Mas, Steve Jobs, Richard Bransons, Steven Spielbergs, or Barrack Obamas. With some slick motivational speakers with fake doctorates out there, graduates often describe Robert to be "the most credible, empowering, truthful Coach" who believe in his graduates to believe in themselves. ​However, clients have described Robert as "The #1 Cool Badass Alpha Change Expert". He has the coolest first class stature, rapport and trust from clients. He will not hesitate to tell the badass truth ever so gently because clients are paying him big bucks to reveal the truth, find solutions, persuade the hostile HODs, and align cross-teams within the organization. Originally based in Hong Kong for 20+ years, he had worked with top Branding/Ad agencies at J Walter Thompson and Leo Burnett, and was a certified FranklinCovey (7 Habits) in USA, and NLP MasterCoach (USA). His warmth is known to soften the most hardened, resistant sceptics. He will inspire your team to Go for Top 1, or to be a Dragon CEO. With boundless energies, Robert owns 15+ successful business Joint-Ventures, and created unique products under his global VC network called Chaen's Angels VC. He is deeply passionate about ChangeUTH Youth CSR, Science-Based Medicine (vs. quackery), short films and Reality TV. Touched by a personal tragedy through the loss of his HK-born Portuguese wife, co-coach and business partner, Brenda José of 18 years, Robert explores the many ways in which the spirit world is communicating with the living with real scientific studies and evidence. He gives inspiring conferences on The Secret Afterlife.

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