Bagan builders ‘destroying Bhuddists’ medieval pagodas

by Richard Lloyd Parry, The Times, June 28, 2016

Bagan, Myanmar -- Experts report that more than 600 pagodas at the 10,300ha Bagan complex have been damaged by unqualified builders.

It is one of the great historic sites, a medieval city in the jungles of Myanmar, an archeological treasure to rank with Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, but the Buddhist site of Bagan is being deliberately destroyed in inept efforts at restoration.

Experts report that more than 600 pagodas at the site, a city that flourished between the 9th and 13th centuries, have been damaged by unqualified builders hired by the government. In some case,s monuments due to be renovated have been completely rebuilt, leaving none of their original structure intact.

“They use a shovel when they should be using a paintbrush,” said Sun Oo, an architect who is surveying Bagan’s sites. “These (rebuilt) buildings have nothing of architectural value or ancient art left. Why should tourists come to see them?”

Since Myanmar’s military junta left power five years ago, more foreign travellers have come to the country — and Bagan, formerly called Pagan, has been one of the biggest attractions. At the height of the Kingdom of Bagan, it had 10,000 temples, pagodas and shrines.

In a sign of how poorly it is administered, it is unclear how many of these survive in the Bagan archeological zone, which covers 10,300ha. In 1975, the number was put at 3312, but it is now said to be 2230.

The task of maintaining the huge site lies with Myanmar’s National Museum, but according to Mr Sun Oo, a member of the heritage management committee, the system of appointing contractors to carry out the restoration work is disastrously bad.

“It’s time to change the system of putting conservation work out to tender,” he told the Myanmar Times newspaper.

“The masons hired by the tender-winning companies do not have the required skills. There are not enough masons qualified to do preservation work on ancient architecture. This requires funding, capacity building and proper materials.”

Last year, at least two temples collapsed because of incompetent restoration compounded by rain. Kyaw Oo Lwin, head of the department of archeology and national museum, said the 10m building known as Temple 1752 was restored in 2003 with the wrong type of brick.

“Some Bagan temples are more than 1000 years old,” Mr Kyaw Oo Lwin said at the time. “They are fragile and, like elderly people, need caring for at all times. Partial collapses are common, but this is the first time the entire structure has fallen.”

Visitors to Bagan pay a fee of 5000 kyat ($5.60) and last year takings were in excess of $5 million. But there was uproar when it emerged that only 2 per cent of this was spent on preservation, with 90 per cent going to the government and the rest to the management firm that collects fees.
We Need Your Help to Train the
Buddhist AI Chat Bot
(Neural Omniscient Robotic-Being for Buddhist Understanding)

For Malaysians who wants to donate in MYR, please use the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB
Note: Please indicate your name in the payment slip. Thank you.

Dear Friends in the Dharma,

We seek your generous support to help us train NORBU, the word's first Buddhist AI Chat Bot.

Here are some ways you can contribute to this noble cause:

One-time Donation or Loan: A single contribution, regardless of its size, will go a long way in helping us reach our goal and make the Buddhist LLM a beacon of wisdom for all.

How will your donation / loan be used? Download the NORBU White Paper for details.

For Malaysians who wants to donate in MYR, please use the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB
Note: Please indicate your purpose of payment (loan or donation) in the payment slip. Thank you.

Once payment is banked in, please send the payment slip via email to: Your donation/loan will be published and publicly acknowledged on the Buddhist Channel.

Spread the Word: Share this initiative with your friends, family and fellow Dharma enthusiasts. Join "Friends of Norbu" at: Together, we can build a stronger community and create a positive impact on a global scale.

Volunteer: If you possess expertise in AI, natural language processing, Dharma knowledge in terms of Buddhist sutras in various languages or related fields, and wish to lend your skills, please contact us. Your knowledge and passion could be invaluable to our project's success.

Your support is part of a collective effort to preserve and disseminate the profound teachings of Buddhism. By contributing to the NORBU, you become a "virtual Bodhisattva" to make Buddhist wisdom more accessible to seekers worldwide.

Thank you for helping to make NORBU a wise and compassionate Buddhist Chatbot!

May you be blessed with inner peace and wisdom,

With deepest gratitude,

Kooi F. Lim
On behalf of The Buddhist Channel Team

Note: To date, we have received the following contributions for NORBU:
US$ 75 from Gary Gach (Loan)
US$ 50 from Chong Sim Keong
MYR 300 from Wilson Tee
MYR 500 from Lim Yan Pok
MYR 50 from Oon Yeoh
MYR 200 from Ooi Poh Tin
MYR 300 from Lai Swee Pin
MYR 100 from Ong Hooi Sian
MYR 1,000 from Fam Sin Nin
MYR 500 from Oh teik Bin
MYR 300 from Yeoh Ai Guat
MYR 300 from Yong Lily
MYR 50 from Bandar Utama Buddhist Society
MYR 1,000 from Chiam Swee Ann
MYR 1,000 from Lye Veei Chiew
MYR 1,000 from Por Yong Tong
MYR 80 from Lee Wai Yee
MYR 500 from Pek Chee Hen
MYR 300 from Hor Tuck Loon
MYR 1,000 from Wise Payments Malaysia Sdn Bhd
MYR 200 from Teo Yen Hua
MYR 500 from Ng Wee Keat
MYR 10,000 from Chang Quai Hung, Jackie (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from K. C. Lim & Agnes (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from Juin & Jooky Tan (Loan)
MYR 100 from Poh Boon Fong (on behalf of SXI Buddhist Students Society)
MYR 10,000 from Fam Shan-Shan (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from John Fam (Loan)
MYR 500 from Phang Cheng Kar
MYR 100 from Lee Suat Yee
MYR 500 from Teo Chwee Hoon (on behalf of Lai Siow Kee)
MYR 200 from Mak Yuen Chau

We express our deep gratitude for the support and generosity.

If you have any enquiries, please write to: