Most Pillars of Mandalay’s Golden Palace Monastery to Be Replaced

By Zarni Mann 18 September 2014

MANDALAY — International experts of the World Monument Fund who are involved in restoring Mandalay’s Golden Palace Monastery said most of the pillars of the century-old, teak wood building have to be replaced as the wood has rotted away or was eaten by termites.

“The pillars under the terrace are in a bad condition. We found some pillars are decaying, some have huge amount of fungus inside. Some pillars are hollow at the center because of termites,” said Brian Ridout of Ridout Associates, a consultant hired by the World Monument Fund for the project.

“The wood getting wet is not the problem, but if wood gets wet and stays wet, the fungus and termites will start to attack. In the case of these pillars, the water is getting in and just sitting there,” said Ridout, who specializes in timber decay in historic buildings.

He said that 70 to 80 percent of the numerous pillars were damaged, adding that, “We need to replace the seriously damaged timbers. We need to apply a treatment to the timber that we can retain.

“We need to make sure the caps fit on the top of the pillars so that the water cannot get down to the site. We need to repair the concrete underneath so the water isn’t sopping in.”

Jeff Allen, program director of World Monument Fund for the conservation project, said the team was also carrying out three-dimensional scans of the building that would help it plan the restoration work.

“The laser-scanning team will be back in Mandalay soon with the 3-D images,” he said. “Studying from those images will let us understand the structure and environs of Shwe Kyaung. From that we will be able to know the best way forward for the restoration works.”

Naing Win, an officer from Department of Archaeology of the Culture Ministry, said, “We are currently doing the research and conservation works together. In January next year, we will do the major repairs. Currently, we are still investigating.”

The Ministry of Culture is working with the World Monument Fund to implement the two-year, US $500,000 restoration project, which started in February and is being funded by the US Embassy.

The Golden Palace Monastery, also known as Shwe Nan Daw Kyaung Monastery, was originally covered with gold leaf, inside and out, glass mosaics inside and decorated from roof to floor with wood carvings that show Buddhist myths.

It was originally a royal chamber of King Mindon and was located inside Mandalay Palace compound. After King Mindon passed away, his son, Khing Thibaw moved it out of the palace compound and turned it into a monastery.

During World War II, aerial bombards destroyed the central palace compound and most of the historical buildings in Mandalay. However, the Golden Palace Monastery survived and remains as the only original structure of 19th century palace’s buildings.