From the Vault: Ceremonial Shoes

Take a peek into our 14,000+ collection with our blog series, From the Vault! Every other week, we're sharing interesting stories about one of our artefacts.

What is the provenance of this pair? When did they enter the BSM collection?

This pair of ceremonial shoes was purchased for the museum by Sonja Bata in Yangon, Myanmar in the late 1990s.

Are there any features that distinguish this artefact from others of the same period and geographical location?

There are many versions of this type of shoe. It is typically worn by boys for the Theravada Buddhist ceremony called shinpyu. Each year, boys who are under 20 years old temporarily enter monasteries for instruction as Buddhist novices. In emulation of the historic Buddha who was a prince before seeking enlightenment, the children are adorned in princely garb, including royal hintha bird shoes, for their journey to the monasteries. Once they arrive at the temple, their clothing and footwear is discarded as a symbol of their readiness to pursue spiritual instruction and leave worldly desires aside.

Can you elaborate more on this artefact?

These shoes are designed to emulate the traditional footwear worn by Burmese royalty. Royal ceremonial footwear was shaped like the golden-feathered hintha bird and was typically adorned with elaborate shwe-chi-doe embroidery which incorporates gold thread, gold sequins, beads and cut glass into its lavish designs. Unlike royal footwear, however, these were designed to be discarded.

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