Burmese art and crafts


Burmese art

Originally, the Burmese arts were largely inspired by Buddhist or Hindu myths and sky. This is why the practice of art has long been confined to the construction of pagodas, Buddha statues and temples, as well as murals. There are 10 traditional arts, called Sè myo:

·         Wood carving

·         Woodturning (In the field of woodworking, the craftsman was free enough to express himself freely and become an artist. This art was used to build monasteries and palaces that were real masterpieces chiseled in. Unfortunately, most of these constructions have disappeared.

·         Gold smithery (the Burmese produce finely chiseled silver boxes).

·         Bronze (The bronze statuettes are made with the technique of lost wax; they represent mythical beings or animals imported from India).

·         Ironworks

·         Masonry

·         Stone carving

·         Stucco

·         Lacquer

·         Painting

Silk weaving, pottery, tapestry, jewelry and gold leaf making can also be found.


Burma is a country surrounded by many countries and many cultures; its music has undergone a mixture of Chinese, Indian, Thai, Cambodian and Indonesian influences. It was originally court music, inspired by Thai and Mon music.

Myanmar's traditional music is based mainly on percussion. Folk music differs from that of Southeast Asia in sudden changes in rhythm and melody, as well as texture and timbre. Originally court music, during royal receptions, this music evoked the Indian epic Rāmāyana or jataka, stories from the life of Buddha.

A traditional Burmese ensemble (called Hsaing-waing) consists of seven to ten musicians and includes: a set of gongs (sometimes up to 21), a 13-string harp in the shape of a ship (the saung-gauk), a bamboo flute, a kind of xylophone, an oboe, a crocodile skin lute and a bass drum. Generally, singers beat time with small cymbals and bamboo castanets. Instruments from the West, such as violins, guitars, accordions, and sometimes accompany traditional instruments.

There are also popular songs sung in the rice fields. Local Pop music tends to be closer to Western style.


Dancing and Shows

Dancing and shows are part of Burmese traditions. While the puppet shows tend to disappear, the dancing is still relevant whether it is folkloric or reserved for the cult of Nats.


Dancing: There are two styles of dance in Myanmar, each with its specificities, theatrical and folk dance, and nats dance. The Burmese dance has been influenced by Thai dance and has characteristic features such as the use of angular, energetic and fast movements and an emphasis on poses rather than movement.


The puppet show: Yok-thei pwe, Myanmar's traditional puppet show, culminated at the end of the 18th century at the Mandalay Court. This art requires the participation of a puppeteer, musicians and singers. The themes are inspired by the legends created around the Nats (spirits).

For each show, about thirty wooden puppets are generally used. Some are big and can reach 1 meter high! They are handled by a dozen sons, up to 60 for the most sophisticated, who control the limbs, but also the eyebrows and the fingers. These richly dressed dolls usually represent a king and his court, a couple of old men, a hermit, a farmer, two clowns and of course two Nats, one maleficent, the other beneficial.

The animal kingdom is also represented with animals from the Burmese fauna and Indian mythology. This art of puppets requires perfectionism. Today, this art tends to disappear.



Since the Golden Age of literature at the Court of Ava, Burmese literature has evolved under the influence of Western literature and has also been able to adapt to bypass the censorship organized by the military regime.

Burmese literature has been strongly influenced by Buddhism, especially the Jataka (narratives of Buddha's past lives). The Burmese literature was golden age in the Court of Ava (Upper Burma, mid-fifteenth century): the monks, then the princes and princesses wrote poetry epics and especially lyrical, specifically Burmese in their rules of composition and versification. The British colonization (1885-1948) brought a new wind to the literature by introducing the novel and the novel which, unknown until then, were a great success. Their themes are comparable to Western novels. There are many translations of Western novels.

Poetry also remains popular. As early as the 1920s, reform movements were led by writers of leftist and nationalist sensibility, who thought that literature should be engaged and the spoken language to replace literary Burmese.

One of the greatest writers of the postcolonial period is the journalist Kyaw Ma Ma Lay, whose novels La Mal-Aimée (1955) and Le Sang (1973) have been translated into French. Another important writer, Khin Myo Chit, is the author of the 13-carat Diamond (1955), also translated into many languages. Other prolific writers of the postcolonial period include Thein Pe Myint (whose Ocean Traveler and Queen of Pearls is considered a classic), Thawda Swe and Myat Htun.

From the beginning of the military regime (1962), writers prefer to write novels to newspapers, because when publication in newspapers, they suffer less censorship and are more popular. They often write about everyday life and carry political messages. The women writers, still present in Burmese literature, include Kyi Aye, Khin Huin Yu and San San Nweh.


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