Arts & Crafts

Myanmar is a country full of ancient traditions and culture. The Burmese traditionally recognize ten arts and crafts known as "Pan Se Myo - The Ten Flowers" because the Burmese name for each art begins with the word "pan" meaning "flower". There’s a saying “Phaya ma tin…nat ma win…lu twin se pwint pan” meaning these ten flowers are never to be offered neither to Buddha nor to Deva (Nat), only belong to the world of human beings. There are not many countries in the world which have their own arts. Hence, one can recognize that Myanmar is rich and prosperous in art.

Theses arts have been passed on from one century to another until today. The 10 arts are as follow:
1. Panbe (the art of blacksmith)
2. Panbu (the art of sculpture)
3. Pantain (the art of gold and silver smith)
4. Pantin (the art of bronze casting)
5. Pantaut (the art of making floral designs using masonry)
6. Panyan (the art of bricklaying and masonry)
7. Pantamault (the art of sculpting with stone)
8. Panpoot (the art of turning designs on the lathe)
9. Panchi (the art of painting)
10. Panyun (the art of making lacquer ware)

1. Panbe (the art of blacksmith)

1. Panbe - the art of hammering, hitting, beating, molding into different shapes and tempering of iron in the furnace to make necessary items mostly agricultural tools. The Myanmar's traditional blacksmith craft emerged in the early of Bagan period (11th century A.D) and it had improved in the mid Bagan Ava and Yadanapon period. Myanmar's traditional blacksmith craft, from Inlay region were famous in the Yadanapon period. Blacksmiths craft object of practical utility and artistic decoration tools, such as military armour, weapons, ox cart axle, ox cart iron, tyre, scissors, hammer, adze, file, pickaxe, digging hoe, mattock, hoe sword, etc. The Myanmar's traditional blacksmith craft is very famous in the South East Asia and constitute one of the artistic wonders of the world. The Panbe art plays an essential role because it is based on agriculture which is part of economy of Myanmar.

2. Panbu (the art of sculpture)

2. Panbu - the art of sculpture in producing images of Buddha, figures of Nats and human beings and floral designs made of wood, ivory, animal bone, stone, sticky soil, oyster shell and tortoise shell. Myanmar's traditional sculpture emerged before the Bagan period and improved in the middle of Bagan Era. Myanmar's sculpture base the religion of Buddhism which arrived from Southern India in the 11th century A.D. Most of the wood sculptures of Bagan and Ava periods have been lost under various circumstances and only a few are left today. One outstanding wood sculpture belonging to the Bagan period is the one at the old portal of Shwe Si Gon pagoda at Nyaung-U. Those who want to see wood sculptures of Yadanapon ( Mandalay ) or later Yadanapon period should visit following places such as Shwe-inpin Monastery, Mandalay. Bagaya Monastery, Ava. Myanmar's traditional sculpture contains wood sculpture, stone sculpture and plaster sculpture but more wood sculpture will be seen in many arts and crafts shops, in many cities of Myanmar. The wood sculptures are liked by many people in the world today.

3. Pantain (the art of gold and silver smith)

3. Pantain - the art of making ornaments with gold and silver. Silversmith is the art of making drinking bowl, receptacle bowl, prize-cup, shield and belt. Creating silverware had been with Myanmar for the past 1200 years, and judging from the workmanship of the silverware that belong to those early years, it is indeed something for the Myanmar's to crow about. According to the crystal palace chronicles, during the region of King Anawrahta the relics of Buddha and the three repositories of Buddhist scriptures were bought to Bagan from Suvunna Boumi, the Mon Capital, along with them came Mon artisans and works of Mon arts and crafts, gold and silverware etc. Going further backing into the past, we find Pyu silver works of art discovered from the mounts of old shrines of Sri Ksetra. In ancient Pyu period, Pantain is important for making gold and silver ornaments rings, bracelet, necklace and earrings for Kings, Queens and the Royal families. Myanmar people like wearing jewels such as Ruby, Jade, Sapphire, Diamond, Pearl in gold and silver ornaments. This Pantain art needs to have patience and creative skills making beautiful designs and can be found everywhere in our country.

4. Pantin (the art of bronze casting)

4. Pantin – the art of bronze or copper casting. Myanmar's traditional coppersmith's craft emerged before Bagan period and it improved during Bagan and Ava period. In every pagoda in Myanmar, one can bear the sweet and pleasant sound of striking bells which were struck to tell the people of good deeds done. They are triangular bells which twirl when struck and ring with a sweet rising and falling tone, which gradually fades away. Moreover there are symbols, gongs, slung from carved ivory or wood elephant trunks, which are prized as dinner gongs. Different sizes and shapes of bells, all unmistakably Burmese in design, are popular as souvenirs. So are other castings such as weights and cow bells. The other products of copper smith are timing bells, castanets, kitchen utensils, Buddha images and Nats statues, lion statues. Mingun Bell is the third largest in the world which is in the great historical record of this Pantin art.

5. Pantaut (the art of making floral designs using masonry)

5. Pantaut – the art of making floral designs using masonry. Myanmar traditional stucco carving emerged before the Bagan period and it improved in the Bagan, Ava, Amarapura and Yadanapon period. According to the historical records, Stucco works were very famous in Bagan period. Stucco works of Bagan period have detailed decorations. After Bagan we had Stucco carvings of mid-Konbaung or Amarapura period, which are very Burmese in style and very fine. The curled leaves and buds, though few, look very beautiful. The artisans make the figures of lions, dragons and floral designs with stucco. Me Nu's brick monastery at Ava stands magnificently today with wooden pyathad turrets above it. The buds and flowers in bunch in the center of the portal at U Kin-Danke are unique. The great building itself is a work of art to command our admiration. Bagan, Nyaung-U Pagodas are the best example of ancient Myanmar plaster carving.

6. Panyan (the art of bricklaying and masonry)

6. Panyan – the art of bricklaying and masonry. Myanmar's traditional masonry works enjoys worldwide renown for the ancient Pagodas and other religious buildings around the Bagan region. The Myanmar's traditional masonry of Bagan period is the highest developed of all the historical periods. Their works are remarkable for their strength, grandeur beauty of form, immensity of volume, detailed and appropriate decorations and the power to hold the spectators in awe. The masonry of mid Amarapura period is beautiful and lively but to be placed only in the second order, behind Bagan. The Myanmar's traditional masonry has derived from the Mon's culture of Suvanna Bhumi and in the Southern Indian's culture from the 11th century A.D. In fact masonry in Myanmar has emerged since the Pyu period in the 1th century A.D. Since our country belongs many pagoda you can think of how this art can support to propagate Buddhism. We, Myanmar possessing many pagodas show that Myanmar people are religious, generous and kind-hearted. The art Pan Yan is so artistic that we can give you the sculpture of "Mahabandoola", the war lord showing his bravery by holding Myanmar Sword.

7. Pantamault (the art of sculpting with stone)

7. Pantamault - the art of sculpting with stone which is a significant feature of Myanmar fine arts as to this day been the pride and honor of Myanmar people. There are sculpture studios or workshops in Yangon, Mandalay and other towns in the country, but the majority of studios are located in Mandalay. Very fine works of art in stone are to be seen at plaques depicting the life of the Buddha at Ananda, Bagan. Flower designs in the interior of the portal at Kyawkku-U Min, Naung-U Nanhpaya, Myinkapa plaques portraying the 550 Buddhist birth-stories at Mingun Pahtodawgyi, Amarapura and the great image at Kyauktawkyi, at the foot of Mandalay Hill.

Marble craftsmanship is an interesting topic. Before carving any marble images, an auspicious day and time to the minute must be chosen by an astrologer and the stones blessed with a sprinkling of holy water and homage offering. The master marks out the outline, and makes the first cut after the solemn rituals have been performed and prayers offered. The first cut must be in the exact instant of predicted auspiciousness. Then the experienced apprentices make the rough cuts. In the final carving stages the master takes over and under his tools the marble peels away as if it were soft wax.

8. Panpoot (the art of turning designs on the lathe)

8. Panpoot – the art of turning designs on the lathe which is making wooden utensils turning on turners lathe. Such as making shaft of umbrella, table legs, and legs of bed and turnery posts of Pavilions and railings. Myanmar's traditional crafts of a turner emerged in the Bagan period in the 8th century A.D. The craft of a turner is an art which is made by rubbing the woods on the turner's lathe. Craft of a turner artist is based on the traditional style of Bagan, Ava and Yadanapon period. Besides that, Myanmar's craft of turner artists is very interesting. Diversity in the shape of the craft of a turner, food containers, boxes, bowls, tables, chairs etc. all makes them attractive. The Myanmar's traditional arts and crafts owed a great deal of influence of Mon, the people of Suvanna Bhumi artists and artisans of the Southern India's culture in the early Bagan period.

9. Panchi (the art of painting)

9. Panchi – the art of painting and drawing. Myanmar traditional painting developed with the religion of Buddhism in the Bagan Region. Thus, Bagan become a repository of ancient Myanmar traditional paintings and sculptures in the 11th century A.D. Myanmar Pan Chi is based on four artistic elements use in the composition of Myanmar painting. They are Kanot, Nari, Kapi and Gaja which are Pali words. Kanot describes the rounded form or carved line especially Lotus Flower. Nari describes the form of human body such as Buddha, Gods, Nats. Kapi describe the animal as well as mythical creatures. Gaja describes the elephant, Myanmar painting art is with colour balance and symmetry white sense of beauty and visual pleasure. The painters use orpiment for yellow colour, red ocher for red colour, indigo for blue colour, shells for violet colour and ashes for black colour. Because of Myanmar artist's achievements, we have more paintings of Konbaung period than those of Ava, they are more colorful and lively. During Yadanapon period of Mandalay period painting were done in folding books called parabaik and on canvas than on the wall. The wall paintings at Mahamuni Pagoda in Mandalay were executed in later Yadanapon period. Most of these paintings have been copied and collected by the Archaeological Department, Myanmar. Myanmar Pan Chi art is very famous in the world.

10. Panyun (the art of making lacquer ware)

10. Panyun – the art of making lacquer ware in producing materials made of bamboo, wood and thick black varnish (sis-se). Lacquer ware artisans produce alms food bowl, bowl for monk, and bowl of pickle tea, lacquer vessel, drinking cup, betel box and cheroot box. Myanmar traditional lacquer ware emerged in the early part of Bagan period. Myanmar traditional lacquer ware drawing styles derived from many stories of Buddha's life. Burmese lacquer ware is one of such product, whose art goes back to the 11th century. On a framework of woven, finely cut strips of bamboo, mixtures of thit-see resin with clay and ash are carefully built-up and finally polished with the ash of fossil wood. The designs are then etched or painted by hand. The most traditional Burmese lacquer ware is of a unique terracotta color, with scenes from the Jatakas, the Buddha's former existence, etched and then filled in with green pigment. More modern designs are in deep, velvet black, with simpler figures laid on in genuine gold leaf. Many types of Burmese lacquer ware articles are available, such as boxes, vases, trays, and bowls and even coffee table. Bagan, site of the architectural wonders of the East, is the home of this craft.