Ywathaung Village is situated south of Sagaing. It is home to and renowned for a large number of very skilled silversmiths who work here the precious metal according to the ways of old traditions passed down to them by their ancestors. They are hammering out of the silver the most beautiful products using age-old techniques and tools.
Occasionally I read that Burmese silverwork dates back to the 13th century what is not true because the art of silverwork was not developed by the Burmans or Bamar but adopted by them from others. According to historical records and archaeological finds the so-called Burmese silver work was independently developed by the Pyu and Mon. It has a long tradition dating back to the times of the Mon who came to what is nowadays called Myanmar as early as 5.000 B.C. and established settlements in what was later south Burma, in the Ayeyawaddy Delta, down the southernmost part of the western cost (the Bay of Bengal), farther down the Gulf of Martaban and between the Andaman Sea in the west and the Dawna ranges in the east as well as farther south the Kyaikthalon Ranges.
In 3.000 BC they founded their first Mon Kingdom and established the Golden Land of Suvarnabhumi. In this time the art of Silverwork was already highly developed there.
The art of working silver also developed in the Pyu kingdoms along the western cost (Arakan) of today’s Myanmar and, finally, Pagan starting from 957 A.D. Extraordinarily fine silver works created by the Pyu were found in old shrines of Sri Ksetra.
During the reign of King Anawrahta (1044-1077) of the Pagan kingdom, Pagan’s Silverwork (that of the Burmans or Bamar, that is) has been at a comparatively low development stage. This (and many other things in Pagan) did rapidly take a turn for the better at the arrival of highly skilled Mon craftsmen and artists after their capital Thaton had been sacked by Anawrahta’s forces in 1057.
The Mon silversmiths elevated the art of creating silverware in Pagan (Bagan) to an entirely new level. Today, the artistic creation of silverware is one of the ten traditional crafts and arts (pan se myou) and comes under the genre Art of creating items in gold and silver (ba dein). However, Burmese silversmiths are rather excellent craftsman than artists because they are creating exact copies of ancient objects and motifs. In other words, their work does not include or require any design skills.
The high-quality silver articles of various sizes created by Ywathaung’s silversmiths comprise Buddha images, silver bowls for votive offerings both with and without stands and lids, bowls for water, flowers and fruits, trays, goblets, tableware, women hand bags, even sling bags (made of thin woven silver threats) as well as spoons, forks, knives, bracelets, rings, earrings and the hilts and sheaths of swords and daggers; all as art and beautifully decorated with traditional ornamental and figurative motifs depicting, for example, stories of the Ramayana (recounting the life of prince Rama and his wife Sita), scenes of battles, Burmese people’s lives and so on. All of these works are pure handiwork created with often quite simple tools and without any kind of modern machinery. The main methods applied to produce silverware are hammering, embossing, casing, casting, inlaying, gilding and wiredrawing.
Burmese Silverware has international recognition, a top place in the world and is now as ever the pride of Burma. In case you are interested in Burmese silverware Ywathaung Village is the place to buy it because most of it – and the best of it at that – comes from here..
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