The country of Myanmar is perhaps one of the world's most deeply Buddhist countries. This strong bond with the Buddhist religion is reflected in Myanmar art. One can see the precise craftsmanship and devotion to Buddhism through Myanmar sculpture and architecture.
One of the most majestic examples of Myanmar sculpture and architecture can be found in the country's capital, Yangon. (see fig. 1) There, a huge stupa, almost a hundred meters in height, towers above its surroundings. The stupa is adorned with 8,688 solid gold slabs, each worth more four hundred U.S. dollars, as well as over five thousand diamonds and more than two thousand rubies, sapphires and topaz. Around the stupa are more than a hundred other buildings. This majestic complex, called the Shwe Dagon, is home to eight hairs of the Gautama Buddha, and therefore is incredibly sacred. The pagoda, which began its construction in the tenth century CE, is home to a variety of sculptures such as a thirty-foot high Buddha image, life-size statues of guards, as well as complex wood carvings. The Shwe Dagon is certainly an awesome architectural and artistic complex that stands as a testament to the Buddhist faith.
Another part of Myanmar is also famous for its Buddhist architecture. In the city of Pagan, erected in the middle of the eleventh century CE, about thirteen thousand pagodas and temples were built, little more than two thousand of which still remain. Many of the temples and pagodas were constructed of red brick, but the Ananda Temple towers above the others in white. (see fig. 2) The Ananda Temple is "in the shape of a perfect Greek cross," with four large niches. Each niche houses a Buddha, with Gautama Buddha facing west. The statue of him, covered in gold, towers above visitors as he expresses his "Be not afraid" hand gesture. Other temples and pagodas are home to other Buddhist sculptures, but the ones in the Ananda temple are indeed the most impressive.
The majesty of Myanmar architecture is clearly represented in the millions of pagodas and temples around the country. The most impressive of these religious buildings, Shwe Dagon and the Ananda Temple, with their awe-inspiring sculptures, testify to the devotion of past Myanmar kings to Buddhism.