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Published on December 22, 2019

As the new royal capital Mandalay took shape in the 1850s, the great King Mindon decided his city needed a visible symbol of the Buddha’s teachings. Thus he ordered the construction of a temple modeled after Bagan’s Shwezigon Pagoda. A key difference is that the text of the Theravada Pali Canon surrounds this new stupa.

The Canon was written on 730 stone slabs, which in turn stand in individual shrines surrounding the golden central stupa. These slabs are collectively called “the world’s largest book”: each slab “page” stands a meter and a half tall and a meter wide, with some 100 lines of black Pali text covering each side. (The letters used to be in gold until the British plundered the Pagoda in the 1880s.).

Kuthodaw Pagoda is open from 8 am to 8 pm; tourists will be charged US$5 to enter the temple complex. Visitors are obliged to wear modest clothing when visiting.