Kuthodaw Pagoda is a Buddhist stupa, located at the foot of Mandalay Hill in Mandalay, Burma (Myanmar). It was built during the reign of King Mindon Min who had the pagoda built as part of the traditional foundations of the new royal city of Mandalay, which he was building in the 1850s. He was concerned that the teachings of Gautama Buddha would be lost, due to an ongoing British invasion and their lack of support for Burma’s traditional religion.
So King Mindon came up with a giant, amazing, and extremely unique way to preserve the entire text of the Tipitaka Pali Canon of Theravada Buddhism. He had it inscribed in huge stone slabs, 730 slabs in total. Each slab is a meter wide and a meter and a half tall (3.2 ft by 5 ft), and 13 centimeters thick (5 inches). Each stone has 80 to 100 lines of inscription on each side in round Burmese script, chiseled out and originally filled in with gold leaf. The slabs are big enough, but King Mindon wasn’t done yet. Each slab was housed in its own shrine, called kyauksa gu, with a precious gem on top. Again – that’s 730 shrines with 730 giant stelae. Finally, the shrines were arranged around a central golden pagoda. Maybe King Mindon figured that the British wouldn’t want to destroy such a large, expensive complex.
By the way, about the title of this post. Because they technically can be read, these 730 slabs of marble are figuratively called the “world’s largest book.”