Traditional blacksmithing gradually fades away in Monywa

A blacksmith prepares for making a knife. Photo: Pho Chan (Monywa)
A blacksmith prepares for making a knife. Photo: Pho Chan (Monywa)

TRADITIONAL blacksmithing is gradually fading away in Monywa, Sagaing Region because of technological advances, one blacksmith says.
The decline of forest-based firms in the regions located around the upper part of the Chindwin River is one of main reasons for blacksmiths turning to other commercial business, U Zaw Min, a local blacksmith said.
“Currently, only two blacksmith businesses from 15 remain in the region and they produce around 2,000 knives for the whole year. Merchants from Minkin, Kalaywa and Mawleik, Homalin townships are the main clients for them.”
In the past, those blacksmiths largely manufactured their iron products to distribute to people who operate traditional forest-based businesses in the regions along the river. A typical blacksmith firm could produce between 4,000 and 5,000 knives per year.
U Zaw Min said, “The new generation shows very little interest in pursuing the traditional blacksmithing techniques as it is not easy for learners to reach a professional level during a short period of time.”
Myanmar’s traditional blacksmith craft (Pan Bei) is one of 10 Myanmar traditional arts.
Panbe is the tempering of iron in the furnace to make items. The artisans make ox cart axle, ox cart iron, tyre, scissors, hammer, adze, pickaxe, knife, hatchet, axe, digging hoe and mattock.
The traditional blacksmith craft emerged in the early Bagan period (11th century A.D) and improved in the mid Bagan Inwa and Yadanapon period.

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