Marble Carvers in Mandalay

Mandalay is known throughout Asia for their artisans.  The area’s stonemasons have earned a reputation for their exquisite work with marble.

Our guide took us to a street in Mandalay that is a centre for marble carving.  The street is packed with workshops with carvers mostly working on Buddha statues of all sizes.

The statues are lined up, in various states of completion, at the front of most of the shops.

Masks are not part of the uniforms and the fine dust created by the power chisels and grinders they use hangs heavy around most workshops.

Marble is mined in quarries near Mandalay in the Sagyin hills.  The best of this stone is alabaster, very fine quality marble which most of these carvers were working with along the road.

When a statue is ready to be moved for painting or to be delivered nearby, a cart like the one below is often used.

For shipments to more distant clients, the statues are framed in wood and then wait to be loaded on flatbed trucks.

At one end of this road, a low slung building housed woodworkers, which provided the single exception to the marble work packed on this dusty street running for several city blocks in the middle of this sprawling city.

Here too Buddha remained the focus of most of the carvings, but there were a few different statues lined up on one wall outside.

One more incredible location in Myanmar that I am already looking forward to getting back to again.

4 responses

  1. Val Erde

    Curious, I’ve never really thought about the birth of a marble buddha. Is there a feeling of serenity where these marble carvers work? Does being surrounded by statues deliver a sense of that?

    My mother was a sculptor and tried stone and marble carving and the dust from just a few pieces badly affected her lungs, so I can imagine how it must be there.

    I love the second, black and white photo, particularly.

    August 30, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    • Hi Val,

      The carvers approach their work with a level of reverence. The serenity is there for the viewer but the carving is heavy toil and for the participant it is work requiring focus, intent and skill. The dust flies, particularly with the use of the grinders, and masks are worn by a sliver of the many artists. Their lungs are like those of a miner according to Win Kyaw Zan, my guide there.

      Very beautiful work and in high demand throughout Myanmar and neighbouring countries. I appreciate all of opportunities that I have had to see great artists at work. This street in Mandalay stands tall among these.

      August 30, 2010 at 7:59 pm

  2. Very nice, Chris. I was in Myanmar, Laos and Thailand just over a year ago. It is a new favorite place to photograph for me.

    April 11, 2010 at 5:09 am

    • Hi Dave,

      Thanks for the comments. I lived in Taiwan for six years until 2003 when I moved back to Canada. I travelled around Asia but never got to Myanmar so this was a real treat. I haven’t been to Laos yet but have heard great things as well – so many places, what a wonderful world we live in!

      April 12, 2010 at 1:18 pm

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