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Shan Style Burmese Buddha Statues
Classic Shan Style Burmese Buddha Statues

Shan Style Burmese Buddha Statues

Shan Style Burmese Buddha Statues are among the most diverse in dress and facial expressions which is not surprising, especially as the Shan state covers a large portion of Myanmar, and share a border with China to the north, Thailand to the south, and Laos to the east with many groups of people of different ethnicity.

Although the Shan style Buddha statues are diverse in their appearance, they are easily recognizable, with many statues referred to as Shan having some Shan characteristics, due to the influence and overlapping of earlier kingdoms and later kingdoms, as well as the influence of the two former kingdoms of Lanna and Lan Xang, which were both under Burmese patronage between 1550 and 1772, CE.

Shan Buddha statues are more frequently presented in padmasana posture (full lotus with the soles of both feet visible), and hand mudra in bhumisparsa with the right hand touching earth or dhyanamudra, with one hand resting over the other, palm facing upwards resting in the lap.

Some Shan people call themselves Tai, even their language is similar to Thai language although written Shan is similar to Burmese writing. Burmese Shan Style Buddha Statues are seen in a variety of styles, the Tai Yai style statue in particular have evolved through the influence of the Tai people of Burma, also referred to as Shan.

Shan Tai people also migrated to areas of China, they are referred to as Dai people, this also added another dimension to the Shan style Buddha images found in Burma. Burmese Shan style Buddha statues can be seen in many different forms from plain to those adorned in royal attire with crowns, side flanges and jewellery with an elongated torso and narrow waistline, often seated on a high throne.

Tai Yai images of the Buddha using the hollow lacquer technique as well as teak wood are highly decorated with Thayo Lacquer resembling fish scales and glass mosaics, these Buddha statues are mostly gilded with gold leaf. The Shan Jambhupati style (King Buddha) is frequently seen with side flanges, long pronged crowns, and seated on a high tiered thrones.

The Shan Tai Yai style Buddha statue is frequently shown with a long finial on top of a rounded or fancy carved usnisha, the eyebrows are frequently highly arched, with the ears often reaching or touching the shoulders.

The crowned Buddha image made its first appearance during the 10th to 13th century in Rakhine state, Bagan, Northern Thailand and Cambodia. It regained popularity in the 15th century during the early Konbaung period. In contrast to the Tai Yai style some Shan Buddha statues are extremely plain, wearing a simple monks robe with no other ornamentation but still with a large finial. The following is an excerpt from an excellent publication about the Shan peoples of Burma written by Leslie Milne regarding the origins of the Tai and timeline.

The Ancient Kingdoms

The Shan of Burma were ruled by Kings since BC 2000 up to 16th Century AD when the last Shan kingdom was overthrown by Burman King Anawrata. There were nine Shan kingdoms recorded in early history.

1. Tsu Kingdom (BC 2000 – BC 222)

2. Ai Lao Kingdom (AD 47 – AD 225)

3. Nan Chao Kingdom ) (AD 649 – AD 1252)

4. Muong Mao Lone Kingdom (AD 764 – AD 1252)

5. Yonok Kingdom (AD 773 – AD 1080)


6. SipSongPanNa (AD 1180 – AD 1292)

7. Waisali Kingdom (AD 1227 – AD 1838)

8. Sukhothai (AD 1238 – AD 1350)

9. Muong Mao Kingdom (AD 1311 – AD 1604) Muong Mao Kingdom was the last kingdom of Shan.

The Shan people are probably the most numerous and widely diffused Indo-Chinese race, they occupy the valleys and plateau of the broad belt of mountainous country that leave the Himalayas, and trends South easterly between Burma proper on the west, and China and Cambodia in the east and down to the Gulf of Siam.

Shan ethnic groups are found in several countries throughout southeast Asia including India. The Shan State occupies the largest area in Myanmar, with several minority groups. Buddhism and Buddhist art in the Shan State is concentrated more in the lowland areas. The hill tribes in the highland areas of the Shan State consist of several ethnic minority groups, many of whom are Christians.

Later the Shan established their capital at Pinya in upper Myanmar after which it was transferred to Ava around 1312. Works of art and Buddhist iconography produced by the Shan is evident in artifacts found in the Shan plateau valleys dating back to prehistoric times.

Shan Style Burmese Buddha Statues
Burmese Shan Tai Yai Hollow Lacquer Buddha Statue

Burmese Shan Tai Yai Hollow Lacquer Buddha Statue

Burmese Alabaster Crowned Shan Buddha Statue

Burmese Alabaster Crowned Shan Buddha Statue

Burmese Tai Yai Hollow Lacquer Buddha Statue

Burmese Tai Yai Hollow Lacquer Buddha Statue

Shan Style Burmese Buddha Statues
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