Video

Gold Pounders Making Music In Mandalay

Millions of Buddhists across Southeast Asia display their devotion by adding small bits of gold leaf to statues of the Buddha, some of which are venerated beyond recognition, with several inches of gold coating them. Much of this gold leaf is manufactured by hand in Mandalay. A small ingot is first rolled through a press, then pounded paper thin by young men with wooden mallets. Then it is cut into squares by women in the next room, layered between paper, and pounded again. The process is repeated, I believe three times, to produce the very thin leaf which can be bought and applied to the Buddha of one’s choice. I was particularly taken by the melodic rhythm produced by the mallets.

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