Chaukhtetkyee reclining Buddha image’s unique eyes draw Chinese pilgrims

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A panoramic view of the Chaukhtetkyee Pagoda from the front perspective.

According to Sayadaw U Vannita, one of the resident Sanghas at Chaukhtetkyee Pagoda in Bahan Township, Yangon Region, the reclining Buddha image, particularly its eye painting, has been attracting Chinese pilgrims annually.
The Sayadaw explained, “Each eye of the Buddha image measures five feet and seven inches wide and one foot and nine inches high. Myanmar and Chinese artisans collaborated on crafting them back in the early 20th century.”
The process faced numerous challenges due to technological limitations at the time. However, a team from the Nagar Glass Factory, led by renowned glassblower U Mya Kyaw, successfully heated imported glass slabs to mould them into concave glass eyes.
Once formed, the artisans encountered difficulty finding someone skilled enough to paint the eyes. With the assistance of residents from Latha Township, they approached a bottle-painting artist visiting from Guangzhou. This artist graciously painted the eyes free of charge.
Sayadaw U Vannita concluded, “So, Chinese visitors come and observe the eyes of the reclining Buddha since they are the works of their national artist.”
The reclining Buddha, formally known as Shwethalyaung Pagoda, was commissioned by rice merchant Sir Bo Tha and his wife Daw Sein Yin in 1907. The pagoda housing the Buddha image was constructed on a six-tier hill, hence the name “Chauk”, which means “six” in Myanmar.
Initially, the Buddha image stood at 235 feet in length and 101 feet in height. However, in 1957, a team of artisans reduced the size of the Buddha image to accommodate a 65-foot-tall iron pavilion. Following the reconstruction of the Buddha image on 25 November 1977, the original statue was reduced to 216 feet in length and 58 feet in height. — ASH/NT

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