Myanmar (erstwhile Burma) has an ancient history of handicrafts and their people are skilled in ivory carving, silver work, lacquareware, marble work and embroidery (also known as Shwegyido).
Embroidery is an old industry believed to have started during the reign of Alaungpaya, founder of the Konebaung dynasty. Shwe-ge-doe embroidery is elaborately designed and creatively embellished with ornaments for grandeur. The technique of Shwe-go-doe is as follows : Tapestry is made by using the base cloth, usually black and adorning it with metallic sequins, coloured glass beads, and figures that are stuffed to give a distinctive three-dimensional effect. Each tapestry depicts a character or a narrative from Jatakas or the Ramayana epic. These appliqué tapestries can be sized from 25cm by 25cm to 6m by 1.5m. Jackets, pasoes, longyis are also beautifully embroidered for special functions. Mandalay is the center of this industry.
About Myanmar : Despite modern changes and globalized cultural blending, Myanmar people have been able to preserve their own lifestyles and activities that have existed since time immemorial. The people of Myanmar communicate in their own language, wear their own style of clothing including the longyi, relish their own style of food, pray in their own way, play their own games, celebrate their own festivals, receive treatment with their own traditional medicines, and perform their own rituals remaining as Myanmar as possible in every aspect. Many of the life styles and activities are unique to Myanmar people. For example, the Shin Pyu or novitiation ceremony, which allows a young boy to experience temporary monastic life, is a religious practice virtually nonexistent in other parts of the world. Although some of Myanmar’s beliefs, superstitions, customs and lifestyles have gradually disappeared, many still remain and are cherished and highly valued by the majority of the people.
Museum of Korean Buddhist Art is a Buddhism museum established in July 1993 in Wonseo-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea. This museum is holding a special exhibition of Myanmarese embroidery. It is the second Southeast Asian Buddhist art exhibition since the museum hosted the Laotian Buddhist Sculpture Exhibit last year.
The exhibition presents 30 pieces of Myanmar embroidery, which are exotic and flamboyant, a rarity in Buddhist art, which mostly include paintings and sculptures. Myanmar is called the nation of Buddha pagodas and Buddhist monks, which demonstrates how the religion dominates the country. As Buddhism is deeply rooted in the lives of the Myanmar people, most of the embroidered works involve Buddhist symbolism.
The traditional embroidery of Myanmar uses elaborate materials such as gold and silver thread, marbles, gem stones, pearls and metals.
The exhibition is designed to introduce the uniqueness of Buddhist culture in South East Asian countries though showing off a variety of historic relics.
On the first and the second floors, a variety of embroidered fabrics depicting the life and good deeds of Sakyamuni are on display. Beside the embroidered fabrics, 6 other Buddhist artworks including sculptures and paintings from Myanmar are presented to provide a window into their lives, culture and beliefs.
South East Asian countries are known for textile artworks from the ancient times, which shows the ancestors’ beliefs, religion, customs and culture.
Also, the fabric artworks were often regarded as incarnated ancestors with spirits in South East Asian countries. So the textiles were hung on the wall when people held a festival or a ritual thanksgiving ceremony to their ancestors.
The museum explains why some artworks feature Buddha as a king, servant, or peasant; or as an animal such as an elephant, lion, deer, rabbit, monkey, peacock or fish.
Among others, the embroidered paintings depict the previous lives of Buddha that are divided into 547 stories, expressing Buddha as various entities such as man, elephant, deer and lion.
The museum was established in July 1993 as a private museum located near Changdeok Palace in central Seoul. Traditional Korean Buddhist works, which display the joys and sorrows of life and express a longing for the wishes of all living beings, have historically been regarded as not only the spiritual foundation, but the precious cultural heritage of the Korean people.
The museum has collected over 6,000 Korean Buddhist works including paintings, sculptures, crafts, ritual items, folk items and ceramics.
The exhibition will continue till Sept 28 2008. Admission is 3,000 won (Currency of Korea – 1100 won equals one dollar) for students and 5,000 won for adults.