Shwe-nandaw Kyaung dates to the mid-nineteenth century. Believed to be originally part of the royal palace at Amarapura, it was moved to Mandalay and, with the name Mya Nan San Kyaw, became part of King King Mindon-Min’s apartments at Mandalay palace complex. In the 1880s, soon after the King’s death, his son King Thibaw moved the structure to its present location, refurbishing it as a monastery. Significantly, the moving saved the building from the bombing of Mandalay during World War II, which destroyed most of the buildings of King Mindon-Min’s palace. The relocated Shwe-nandaw Kyaung is the only surviving wooden structure of that complex, featuring a unique gilded interior with extensive and intricate woodcarvings, unrivaled in their intricacy. In fact, Shwe-nandaw Kyaung is considered one of the most beautiful monasteries in Myanmar, and it is also one of the highest visited tourist sites in the country.
Wooden monasteries were once ubiquitous features of Myanmar’s landscape and important aspects of the country’s cultural heritage. Each village had its own monastery with variations in appearance and ornamentation that reflected local vernacular styles. However, many of the teakwood monastic buildings in Myanmar are endangered due to lack of maintenance or unsympathetic restorations, an issue emphasized by the rareness and high cost of teak wood and the loss of craftsmanship.
Collaboration between US Embassy and local heritage authorities brings training and conservation opportunities
With support from the U.S. Embassy in Burma and the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation, World Monuments Fund is collaborating with Myanmar’s Department of Archaeology and National Museum and the local community to address the most pressing conservation needs of the site. In 2013, WMF conducted brief planning missions, and a ceremony was held in February 2014 to mark the start of the conservation project.
Work is ongoing and includes opportunities for training workshops on conservation practice and site management, including a very important training program on traditional carpentry crafts and traditional timber framing, and a special emphasis on water damage and protective measures against fire. A cadre of skilled craftsmen are being trained in the forgotten Konbaung Dynasty on timber framing and carpentry techniques, creating a workforce that could be employed in other conservation projects implemented in the numerous historic wooden buildings scattered throughout Myanmar.