On This Day

When Myanmar Made One of the Largest Bells in the World

By Wei Yan Aung 29 April 2020

YANGON—On this day in 1808, the casting of the Great Mingun Bell, now the second-largest functioning bell in the world, began along the Irrawaddy River in central Myanmar.

The bell was one of the “four great noble deeds” by King Bodawpaya, the sixth king of the Konbaung Dynasty, and was dedicated to the Mingun Pahtodawgyi, a stupa monument which was left incomplete after the king’s death.

King Bodawpaya was said to have personally supervised the casting of the bell in Mingun, Sagaing Region, from an alloy of five metals—gold, silver, bronze, iron and lead. It took two years to cast the bell and it cost 658,726 kyats at the time (approximately US$650,000 today).

Weighing 55,555 viss (nearly 90 tons), the Great Mingun Bell was the heaviest bell in the world during various periods until 2000, when the 116-ton Bell of Good Luck was cast in Pingdingshan, China, also the site of the world’s tallest Buddha statue.

The rim of the bell is almost 5 m across and is 6.3 m tall from the rim to the top. The outer circumference of the rim is 15.5 m and the bell is 15–30 cm thick.

The bell hangs to the north of the Mingun Pahtodawgyi on a low circular terrace from a three-piece wooden beam covered with a metal plate. The beam rests on two brick pillars which are reinforced with two teak posts inside.

In an earthquake in 1838, approximately 18 pounds of metal broke off from the bottom of the bell and its supports were destroyed. According to the memorial tablet at the bell, it rested on the ground until 1896 when it was raised, slung on an iron beam and placed where it hangs today.

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