Shwenandaw Monastery – An Unparalleled Teak Masterpiece

13 Jun 2019 by Admin

The Shwenandaw Monastery (or Shwenandaw Kyaung in Burmese) is one of the most momentous historic buildings of Mandalay in particular and Myanmar in general. Neither luxurious nor gorgeous, Shwenandaw Monastery catches the attention of visitors because of its antique numinous exquisiteness and historical values. Among the buildings of the former wooden Royal Palace in Mandalay, the “Golden Palace Monastery” is the only building that exists until the present day.

The History of Shwenandaw Monastery

Shwenandaw Monastery was constructed entirely of teak wood in the 50s of the nineteenth century by King Mindon. This monastery is a valuable remnant demonstrating wooden architecture of Myanmar in feudal periods. Originally, it was a constituent of the royal palace at Amarapura. Only a short time before the fall of Burmese monarchy, by the order of King Mindon, Shwenandaw Monastery was moved to Mandalay Royal Palace and with the name Mya Nan San Kyaw, it became the northern segment of the Glass Palace and part of the residential chamber of the King.


Shwenandaw Monastery Used to be Part of the Royal Palace

King Mindon demised in this building in 1878. Afterward, his son and also successor, King Thibaw usually visit the former chamber of King Mindon and meditated there. However, King Thibaw was so superstitious and he soon convinced himself that this place was being haunted by the spirit of King Mindon (and until present days, there are many people still believe that the spirit of King Mindon still resides in the building). Hence, on October 1878, King Thibaw had the building dismantled and removed from Mandalay Royal City. Then, the former King chamber was reconstructed as a monastery on an area adjacent to the Atumashi Monastery not far from the northeast corner of the Royal City, and served as a construction of merit to the memory of King Mindon. In the latter stage of the Second World War, the Royal Palace was bomb barded and most of the buildings were destroyed. Thus, thank to the superstitious of King Thibaw, Shwenandaw Monastery, an important relic of the Palace, was well-preserved.

The Architecture of Shwenandaw Monastery


Decoration Pattern on The Roof

With the age of over 120 years, Shwenandaw Monastery is truly a masterpiece of Burmese teak architectural art. The monastery has a spacious and multi-tiered structural design with four roof levels narrowing toward the top. The roof lines are adorned with intricate and rich carvings, most prominent is the fire-like pattern running along the roof.


An Intricate Piece of Carving

Different from the humbleness of Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery, Shwenandaw Monastery bears the spirit of nobility. Looking from distance, the monastery seems to be timeworn and fragile. However, if you look at a close quarter, you will see the exquisiteness of the building emitted from the beautifully-embellished walls and balustrades and carvings made on wood or marble. The images and carving patterns for decoration include beautiful flowers, vines, dancers and legendary creatures like serpentine dragons (an imaginary mascot often encountered in temples in Asia).


Reliefs on The Walls of Shwenandaw Monastery 

Inside Shwenandaw Monastery, there are many gilded and mosaic wooden cabinets storing Buddhist scriptures inscribed on palm leaf and parchments. The images of King Mindon, King Thibaw and the Queen are represented on wooden panels. The most impressive feature of the monastery is the main hall with huge teak stilts, and a replica of the Lion Throne with rich carvings for worshipping the Buddha image. This monastery has the name “Golden Palace Monastery” because it once was covered with laminated gold and glass mosaics. Shwenandaw Monastery is like a history and architecture museum at the same time where you can learn about not only the architectural art but also the cultural life of the Burmese monarchy in the part.


The Buddha Image And The Lion Throne In The Main Hall

How to get to Shwenandaw Monastery

From the center of Mandalay, you can travel there by rickshaw which would charge you about 2 USD or by private taxi of about 4 USD. If you pay a visit to the Royal Palace, you can easily access Shwenandaw Monastery at the northeast of the Place grounds.

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