Gold leaf making and marble carving in Mandalay

May 1, 2016

PS Brick

These were two things that we visited in the south of Mandalay city as part of a bigger day trip, but they deserve their own post because we were pretty taken with both of them. Basically they kind of amazed us.

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Gold leaf making kind of felt like we’d gone back in time. Everything is done traditionally and consequently the process takes an exceptionally long time. The finished product, a square inch of unbelievably thin gold, is sold for around 35p to Buddhists who apply it to statues of the Buddha or other significant holy objects to show their dedication and devotion.
This is the long winded process it takes to create these little squares…

Beat the gold pieces between pieces of bamboo paper.

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Roll it thinner.

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divide up into squares.

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Unsurprisingly, Soph was more interested in the bamboo paper, also made in the factory solely for the gold leaf making process. It takes 8 years to make. 8 years!!!

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Bamboo really is one of the most versatile things we’ve ever come across; we’ve seen it used for so many thing this year!

On the other end of the spectrum marble carving was not the traditional process that we had been expecting at all.

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As often happens in Asia, there is a marble carving ‘district’, with two or three streets packed with businesses all doing the same thing. No idea how you’d choose who to use!

Instead of the chisel wielding, slow process Soph had been envisaging, every person had an electrical circle saw or buffer. The visual effect was pretty incredible; where traditionally a small amount of dust would have been created per chisel tap, every movement of the saws emitted a huge cloud of white dust, which coats everything.

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People, trees, roads, buildings, all white, it felt as though we you were looking at a Christmas scene.

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Each man or woman chewed betel, producing a mouthful of red liquid and red lips.

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The effect was clown like and we were pretty mesmerised, it would have been amazing to just sit and watch for the afternoon if we didn’t feel so intrusive.
Perhaps due to their wish to chew betel no one seemed to be wearing face masks, which seemed pretty crazy in a profession that involves being covered in so much dust. It can’t be good for their health. Hopefully that might change…

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Further towards the end of the street, there was a man painting them.

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We are always fascinated by the style of Buddhas in Myanmar; the polished marble with hits of colour. Imagine how long it took to make this one!

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