chicken ladder


[man-dl-ey, man-dl-ey]

Mandalay is the second largest city and the last royal capital of Burma (Myanmar), and is the economic and cultural hub of Upper Burma. The city, located north of Yangon on the right bank of Irrawaddy river, has a population of nearly 1 million (2.5 million metropolitan area), and is also the capital of Mandalay Division.


Founded in 1857 by King Mindon, Mandalay was the last capital (1860–1885) of the last independent Burmese Kingdom before annexation by the British after the Third Anglo-Burmese War in 1885.

Unlike other Burmese towns, Mandalay did not grow from a smaller settlement, although a small village Hti Baunga did exist nearby. Mandalay was set up in an empty area at the foot of 775 ft high (236 m) Mandalay Hill according to a prophecy made by the Buddha that in that exact place a great city, a metropolis of Buddhism, would come into existence on the occasion of the 2,400th jubilee of Buddhism.

King Mindon decided to fulfill the prophecy and during his reign in the Kingdom of Amarapura he issued a royal order on January 13, 1857 to establish a new kingdom. The Ceremony of Ascending the Throne was celebrated in July 1858 and the former royal city of Amarapura was dismantled and moved by elephants to the new location at the foot of Mandalay Hill. With the ground-breaking ceremony, King Mindon laid the foundation of Mandalay on the 6th waning day of Kason, Burmese Era 1219 (1857). The King simultaneously laid the foundations of seven edifices: the royal city with the battlemented walls, the moat surrounding it, the Maha Lawka Marazein Stupa (Kuthodaw Pagoda), the higher ordination hall named the Pahtan-haw Shwe Thein, the Atumashi (Incomparable) monastery, the Thudhama Zayats or public houses for preaching the Doctrine, and the library for the Buddhist scriptures.

The whole royal city was called Lei Kyun Aung Myei (Victorious Land over the Four Islands) and the royal palace, Mya Nan San Kyaw (The Famed Royal Emerald Palace). The new royal capital was called Yadanabon Naypyidaw, the Burmese version of its Pali name Ratanapura which means "The City of Gems". It then became Mandalay after the hill; the name is a derivative of the Pali word "Mandala", which means "a plains land" - Mandalay is said to be as flat as the face of a drum - and also of the Pali word "Mandare", which means "an auspicious land."

Mandalay was captured by the British during the Third Anglo-Burmese War (1885). Reigning King Thibaw and his queen, Supayalat, were forced to evacuate the palace and eventually exiled to India. Renamed Fort Dufferin, the palace was used to quarter British and Indian troops and many of its fabulous treasures were looted. Some of the best pieces were sent back to Great Britain and can still be seen in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Mandalay suffered heavy damage during World War II. The Japanese captured Mandalay on 2 May 1942, and turned the fort that contained the palace, into a supply depot. The fort was heavily bombed by the British prior to their liberation of the city in March 1945. The palace was burnt down to the ground and only the masonry plinth of the palace complex with a couple of masonry structures such as the royal mint and the hour drum tower remained. A faithful replica of the palace was rebuilt in the 1990s.

After Burma's independence from Britain in 1948, the city became the capital of Mandalay Division.


Mandalay is bounded by the Ayeyarwady River to the west and is located at .


  • Mandalay Hill: The hill has for long been a holy mount and legend has it that the Buddha on his visit had prophesied that a great city would be founded at its foot. Mandalay Hill, 230 metres in elevation, commands a magnificent view of the city and surrounding countryside. The construction of a motor-car road to reach the hill-top easily has already been finished. Entrance Fee - US$ 4
  • Mandalay Palace: The whole magnificent palace complex was destroyed by a fire during World War II. However, the finely built palace walls, the city gates with their crowning wooden pavilions and the surrounding moat still present an impressive scene of the Mandalay Palace "Mya-nan-san-kyaw Shwenandaw" which has been rebuilt using forced labour. A model of the Mandalay Palace, Nanmyint-saung and Cultural Museum are located inside the Palace grounds. Entrance Fee - US$ 5 (Palace), Entrance Fee - US$ 3 (Museum)
  • Shwenandaw Monastery: Famous for its intricate wood-carvings, this monastery is a fragile reminder of the old Mandalay Palace. Actually, it was built inside Mandalay Palace but it was moved to this place by King Thibaw in 1880. Entrance Fee - US$ 3
  • Maha Muni Pagoda: The Image is said to have been cast in the life-time of the Gautama Buddha and that the Buddha embraced It 7 times thereby bringing It to life. Consequently, devout Buddhists hold It to be alive and refer to It as the Maha Muni Sacred Living Image. Revered as the holiest pagoda in Mandalay, It was built by King Bodawpaya in 1784. The Image in a sitting posture is 12 feet and 7 inches (3.8 m) high. As the Image was brought from Rakhine State it was also called the Great Rakhine Buddha. The early morning ritual of washing the Face of Buddha Image draws a large crowd of devotees everyday. The Great Image is also considered as the greatest, next to the Shwedagon Pagoda, in Burma. A visit to Mandalay is incomplete without a visit to Maha Muni Pagoda. Entrance Fee - US$ 4
  • Kuthodaw Pagoda (The World's Biggest Book): Built by King Mindon in 1857, this pagoda modeled on the Shwe Zigon at NyaungU, is surrounded by 729 upright stone slabs on which are inscribed the entire Buddhist Scriptures as edited and approved by the 5th Buddhist Synod. It is popularly known as "the World's Biggest Book" for its stone scriptures. Entrance Fee - US$ 2
  • Kyauktawgyi Pagoda: Near the southern approach to Mandalay Hill stands the Kyauktawgyi Buddha Image that was built by King Mindon in 1853-78. The Image was carved out of a huge single block of marble. Statues of 80 Arahats (the Great Disciples of the Buddha) are assembled around the Image, 20 on each side. The carving of the Image was completed in 1865.
  • Buddha's Replica Tooth Relic Pagoda: One of the Buddha's Sacred Replica Tooth Relic was enshrined in the Mandalay Swedaw Pagoda on Maha Dhammayanthi Hill in Amarapura Township. The pagoda was built with cash donations contributed by the peoples of Burma and Buddhist donors from around the world under the supervision of the Burmese military government. The authorities and donors hoisted Buddha's Replica Tooth Relic Pagoda Mandalay's Shwe Htidaw (sacred golden umbrella), Hngetmyatnadaw (sacred bird perch vane) and Seinphudaw (sacred diamond bud) on 13th, December, 1996.
  • Atumashi Kyaung: The " Atumashi Kyaung " (which literally means the inimitable monastery) is also one of the worth seeing place. Actually, it was ruined by fire in 1890 and partly survived. It was indeed an inimitable one in its heyday. The reconstruction project started by the government on 2nd May, 1995 and completed in June, 1996.


The Mandalay District which includes the city and its vicinity comprises the following townships:


Mandalay is the terminus of the main rail line from Yangon and the starting point of branch lines to Pyin U Lwin (Maymyo), Lashio and Myitkyina farther north. The Ayeyarwaddy of the "Road to Mandalay" fame remains an important arterial route for goods such as farm produce including rice and cooking oil, pottery, bamboo and teak.

Mandalay boasts the largest and most modern airport in Burma, Mandalay International Airport. Built at a cost of $150 million in 2000, the airport is highly underutilized; it serves mostly domestic flights with the exception of flights to Kunming.


Mandalay is Burma's cultural and religious center of Buddhism, having numerous monasteries and more than 700 pagodas. At the foot of Mandalay Hill sits the world's official "Buddhist Bible", also known as the world’s largest book, in Kuthodaw Pagoda. There are 729 slabs of stone that together are inscribed with the entire Buddhist canon, each housed in its own white stupa.

The buildings inside the old Mandalay city walls, surrounded by a moat repaired in recent times using prison labour, comprise the Mandalay Palace, mostly destroyed during World War II and now replaced by a replica, Mandalay Prison and a military garrison, the headquarters of the Central Military Command.

Mandalay in popular culture


Mandalay is the major trading and communications center for northern and central Burma and beyond. Much of Burmese external trade to China and India goes through Mandalay.

Among the leading traditional industries are silk weaving, tapestry, jade cutting and polishing, stone and wood carving, making marble and bronze Buddha images, temple ornaments and paraphernalia, the working of gold leaves and of silver, the manufacture of matches, brewing and distilling. (Mandalay beer, brewed in Mandalay by the Ministry of Industry (1), is among the best known beers in Burma.)

Ethnic Chinese have increasingly dominated Mandalay's economy since the imposition of sanctions by the United States and the European Union in the 1990s.


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