Magic Monastery
By Yin Wyn
Photo: Sonny Nyein

 stack of old parabeik folding books with the Buddhist text written in the Gon Shan language
 monk writing out texts  in a parabeik folding bok in Gon Shan language

There are so many hidden treasures in Myanmar that even in this modern age you come across monuments that few people apart from the surrounding villagers have seen it. New roads that connect the bigger towns pass not far from places that before one might have to trek for days to see. One of them is charming, magical monastery hidden half an hourís walk away from the road between Kyaing Tong and Maing Lar. About two thirds of the way out of Kyaing Tong, which would be about 37 miles, a trek leads off into the wild bush to the village of Wa Nyut. The Lwe La race lives there in long houses, of the Wa-Palaung sub-group, which includes Wa, Lawa, Lwe La and Sanhton races.
 

  he monastery of Wa Nyut Village, looking like a pavilion out of a fairy tale Wall paintings inside the small brick pavilion The vast hall pillared with red and gold

The pride of the village is a wooden monastery over a hundred years old, carved in places and with a double super-imposed roof. The elaborately decorated ceiling is lifted by huge red-lacquered poles. In the hall is a Shan-style Buddha image of excellent workmanship, cared for by three monks of Gon Shan race. A little brick pavilion at the back that is very likely the Ordination Hall has colourful paintings on the doors and on the interior walls, showing the scenes from the Jataka stories. The style is vastly different from the central Myanmar religious art.
The villagers gladly use their earnings to maintain their beautiful monastery while they live in longhouses, one to each family. Their costume is black and even the turbans are of this colour. The men wear tattoos from their waist to the thighs in designs that are wider-spaced then those found on other races. They are farmers and their diet is mostly grain and vegetables, with meat reserved for special occasions. Their grain is stored in individually owned thatch and bamboo graneries kept outside of the village. These silos are not locked and they are surprised that in towns people lock up their possessions. Here, nobody steals even if the silos are kept away from the village. If there is a fire in the village, they say, this way their food is safe.
What they use they make for themselves such as the cloth woven on strapped looms called Jut Khote. This most primitive form of weaving found all over the world is part of their traditions, one of the many that they keep alive.

 he Abbot of the monastery Decoration above the main entrance The pride of the village is a wooden monastery over a hundred years old, carved in places and with a double super-imposed roof