Myanmar (Burma)

The largest book in the world.

I love to read. And I love books. Paperback, hardback, kindle, audio — I’m not fussy although if I had to choose I’d plump for the kindle, for its convenience, its accessibility.

But there’s another form I didn’t imagine I’d come across. It’s not particularly convenient: you have to go to Kuthodaw Paya in Mandalay, Myanmar, to read it, and you’ll need to be able to read Burmese script. On the up side, it’s a book more permanent than most.

It’s made of  marble. 730 slabs, actually. 729  are inscribed with the teachings of Buddha, the 730th slab tells the story of the construction of the book.


One page from the largest book in the world, Mandalay

Each slab is housed in a small stupa.


Pages from the largest book in the world, Mandalay

Construction of the book was ordered by King Mindon, who founded Mandalay in 1857. According to the Lonely Planet it took an editorial committee eight years to complete the project.

If you’re wondering how long it takes to read this book from beginning to end, I have the answer for that. Because it’s been done.

Worried about the future of Buddhism in his country  King Mindon called a synod during which the book was read aloud from beginning to end. It took 2400 monks, six months of non-stop reading! What a marathon.

The slabs at Kuthodaw Paya together with another set at nearby Sandamuni Paya, these were completed in 1913 by a Buddhist hermit, are known as the largest book in the world.It’s easy to see why.  The size of it meant that walking through it, it was a bit like being within the pages of the book.


Row upon row upon row of stupa housing pages from the book, at Sanamuni Paya, Mandalay


Happy to pose, that’s the famous Mandalay hill in the background

These two temples are very sacred and it is essential to remove your footwear, no matter how hot the marble is on your bare feet.We quickly learned to avoid the black marble, and to seek refuge in the shade.

As we approached the shrine in Kuthodaw Paya young women, hawking their wares, clamoured for our attention. Not that you can tell from my photos. It all looks peaceful and devout here.


The entrance to Kuthodaw Paya, Mandalay


Making Merit, Kuthodaw Paya, Mandalay

Once we were inside the complex proper, there  were stalls displaying a range of wares but the stall holders left us alone.


A stall but no stall holders at Kuthodaw Paya, Mandalay

Perhaps it was the heat and like us they wanted to stay in the shade.



The shade of this ancient star fruit tree was very welcome, Kuthodaw Paya, Mandalay.


A cool spot to keep up with the news, at Kuthodaw Paya, Mandalay.


Savouring the moment at Sandamuni Paya, Mandalay

If you’re in Mandalay these two temples are well worth a visit. They weren’t at all crowded when we visited. Just hot. (Oh, I mentioned that already … belabouring the point, maybe, but it was scorching that day!)

Travel theme: Sensory


37 replies »

  1. Great post and great views…and how wonderful I would be to be able to sit down with that book right now. The 3rd photo of yours is spectacular and I hope one day to make it to Mandalay (did not go there on my trip to Myanmar…). Cheers to a great spring.


  2. Truly impressive! I am always impressed by how different cultures have displayed their written wisdom in such unique ways. This is incredibly elaborate and decorative. Can you imagine the Gutenberg bible’s pages, each in its own little shrine?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Now that’s an interesting idea, Annette. I have no trouble imagining early versiosn of the Christian Bible on papyrus but I’ve never thought of it carved in to stone—apart from the ten commandments, of course.


    • Hmmm … I’m not sure but I suspect that only approved monks would be able to read this particular verison of the Buddha’s teachings. If I did ever get the chance to read it, I’d be there for a very long time, given I can’t read Burmese script at all!


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