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The earliest Buddhist inscribed steles in Southeast Asia were found on the Malay Peninsula, in the river valleys of Kedah that served as trading and transshipment centers. These steles are commemorative, erected as thanksgiving for safe passage; one identifies its patron as a ship captain named Buddhagupta. They witness the role of Buddhist merchants in the spread and support of the faith. Central to this section of the exhibition are precious objects recovered from the oldest undisturbed Buddhist relic chamber in Southeast Asia, known as the Khin Ba stupa mound, discovered in the ancient walled Pyu city of Sri Ksetra, in central Myanmar, datable to the late fifth to sixth century. On view are a silver Buddha, warrior plaques, and miniature silver stupas. The spectacular sandstone slab that was the chamber cover provides an example of the earliest known stupas to mark the landscape of Myanmar's first Buddhist cities. Beyond are a series of Buddha images—from Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, and Vietnam—showing the universality of the Buddha's message expressed in distinctive regional styles. The Khmer Buddha at the center of the room bears the oldest Pali inscription known in Southeast Asia. The Sri Ksetra meditating Buddha in the stupa room contains the longest Sanskrit inscription known from ancient Myanmar.

Selected Artworks

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