To local people in Yangon, the Myanmar capital, Sein Yaung Chi Pagoda is known by the nickname of ‘Diamond Reflections.’ But when I first saw it jutting above the city’s rooftops, I thought of it as ‘the Silver Temple’.
However you regard it, as silvery or diamond-like, there’s no disputing that the pagoda is a striking piece of architecture. When the sun’s out and the mirrored scales that cover it are shining brightly, it’s a beautiful thing indeed.
Slightly too tall and thin to be described as a pyramid, slightly too short and stout to be called a needle, Sein Yaung Chi Pagoda occupies an oddly quiet enclosure off the side of a busy road running north to the much larger Shwedagon Pagoda, about which I blogged a fortnight ago. Once you get accustomed to the near-hallucinogenic gleam from its external walls, you start to take in the details around it – especially the tiled or mirrored alcoves that run along its side and rear and are home to an array of deities. Some of these figures are serene and monk-like, others are fierce and warrior-esque, and others again are elegant and feminine. All share their abodes with vases of fresh flowers and scatterings of spent tapers.
You also notice what looks like a banyan tree, with a tendrilous trunk that’s been painted gold, rising from a hexagonal dais at the back of the pagoda. Huddling around its trunk, under its branches, are an assortment of different-sized Buddhas plus a clutter of bric-a-brac such as flowers, tapers, bowls, animal figures and food-and-drink offerings.
Outside the entrance gates, a statue depicts an elephant and monkey – the latter, appropriately, monkeying about on the latter’s trunk. I believe there’s a Thai Buddhist story about Buddha living in solitude in a forest for a while. During his sojourn there, an elephant would shove a huge, sun-heated boulder into a nearby pool every day, to supply him with warm bathwater; and a monkey came to him once and offered him a honeycomb as food. (Buddha politely declined this second gift, pointing out that squeezing the honey from the comb would kill the bees still inside it.) I wonder if the statue is a reference to that.