New Inventory Reveals Nearly 4,000 Ancient Monuments in Bagan

By Tin Htet Paing 5 September 2017

YANGON — The Association of Myanmar Architects (AMA) logged 3,822 monuments in the ancient capital of Bagan in the first inventory of its kind for more than 20 years, it revealed on Tuesday.

Data collection for the Bagan Architecture Inventory was done from mid October to late December last year, with the help of some 300 volunteer architects and students, according to the association.

From the inventory’s 3,822 monuments, AMA identified 3,699 within Bagan’s archaeological zone. The remaining 123 structures were recorded by the Department of Archaeology outside of the zone before the inventory process.

The inventory used the previous two records of religious monuments in Bagan–one Unesco-supported effort by French architect Pierre Pichard in the 1980s and another by the Myanmar Archaeological Department in 1996.

Pichard’s Inventory of Monuments at Pagan” stated that the ancient capital had 2,834 ancient monuments and the archaeology department in its inventory stated Bagan had 3,122.

Aug. 24 marked one year since the powerful 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck central Myanmar, centered about 15 miles west of Chauk town in Magwe Region. According to the religion and culture ministry’s archaeology department, out of more than 3,000 temples and pagodas across Bagan—located north of the epicenter—389 were affected by tremors and needed renovation.

The inventory was planned before the quake, but with the damage sustained by temples, work on the inventory was quickened to record the ancient architecture before it underwent repairs.

“The inventory is [important] not only for the architects’ association but also for all Myanmar people who value Bagan,” AMA’s vice-chair U Maw Lin told media on Tuesday in Yangon.

“It is of concern to all Myanmar people and they deserve to know [the findings] as well,” he added.

The ancient capital has yet to be granted Unesco World Heritage Site status, allegedly on account of sub-standard, inauthentic restoration efforts under previous governments.

AMA chair U Sun Oo said one Unesco worker recognized Bagan as having the most mural paintings in Southeast Asia. According to the association’s inventory, 392 structures—14 percent of Bagan’s ancient monuments—still have mural paintings.

The association aimed at completing the inventory before Myanmar’s bid in September this year for Bagan to make the Unesco World Heritage Site list.

The inventory would also serve as a reference for future restoration works, U Sun Oo added.

“If these monuments have to be renovated, we are concerned the work will not be carried out systemically without such an inventory,” said U Sun Oo. “Even if the renovation works are done recklessly we will at least have a record of how these structures appeared in the past.”

According to AMA’s findings, 1,179 monuments—32 percent of Bagan’s ancient structures identified by the association—are totally deserted, 1,633 are ignored and only 848 are structures that have frequent public access. Only 327 monuments—9 percent—are preserved and restored, AMA’s inventory claimed.