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Dawei Buddhist culture: a hybrid borderland

Abstract

Dawei is both hybrid and borderland, its Buddhist culture a stylistic and territorial puzzle. Far from the ‘heartland’ yet passed from one major polity to another over the centuries, its pagodas and monasteries provided a physical and aesthetic means to asserted distance and accommodate ‘other’. Some objects and ideas were imported; others grafted the new onto local forms to produce hybrid styles, while others are uniquely local. Is Dawei culture similarity or a new unification of the cultural diversity of Pyu, Bagan, Sri Lanka, Sukhothai and Ayutthaya? This report argues the contrary, that Dawei resilience in the face of continual threats sustained a local cultural personality that has survived until the present. The question is addressed by first classifying the sites of Dawei into four cultural zones and then discussing the extraordinary range of artefacts from these zones by material. This is preceded by a chronological summary to illustrate the often turbulent history and local chronicles

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