Mandalay

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We asked our driver to take us to see gold leaf being made and he took us to the Gold Rose factory.  Here they use a method of production that has not changed a great deal in centuries.  The gold comes from Northern Burma in 24 gram nuggets which have been rolled into thin ribbons.  Small squares are cut and stacked between specially prepared sheets of bamboo paper.  This wad of gold and paper is wrapped in deer skin and lashed to a stone anvil.

Here the package , resting on the anvil is being struck repeatedly with a wooden mallet.  After half an hour it is ready for the next step.

Newly beaten gold sandwiched between the bamboo paper

The cutting room, a secure area where teams of women sitting  in cramped conditions cut the rounds of gold into sixths and repack between sheets of paper.  They work without fans or air conditioning as this would make the incredibly thin sheets of gold impossible to work with.

The process is repeated twice before the final bundles are returned to the anvils and pounded repeatedly for five hours.  Two or three beaters work in unison, their teak mallets pounding out a rhythm.

This is what it is all about.  

Devout males and only males, apply gold leaf to the 15cm thickness already adorning the  original bronze Mahamuni Buddha.  This image is venerated around the world as being only one of five images of Gautama Buddha cast during his lifetime.

Looted in 1784 by King Bodawapaya (executor of bell casters) it was housed in it's custom built pagoda where every morning at 4.00am a team of monks washes the images face.  As photography of the image is now permitted that is a photo op for another visit.

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