Shin Makan (Buddhamakan): A Guide to the Coastal Shrine of the Multi-Religious Community of Myeik

Independent Researcher, Myanmar

Located in the coastal region of southern Myanmar, Myeik is rich in ritual practices and iconography linked to the sea, rivers, boats, trees, mountains and even the town itself. Among these many spirits, one of the most important is Shin Makan (Makan Nat), or Buddhamacan, whose shrine is located on Pataw Island, across the harbor from Myeik. This shrine includes Muslim, Hindu, Bamar [Buddhist and animist] and Chinese [Daoist] imagery which has evolved into unique forms that are quite different from those found in both Upper and Lower Myanmar. The shrine is built on a huge stone rock gilded with gold leaf, and contains iconography from all these religions. At the center is Shin Makan: a statue in white, wearing a turban with a staff in his left hand. His right hand holds symbols of a moon and star, and he is guided by a tiger and snake. Regardless of other differences, Myeik’s diverse ethnicities believe that the spirit and his shrine offer guidance at sea. The roots of this practice reach deep into the long history of Myeik and Tanintharyi. The region obviously has strong influences from Burma and Thailand, but was also shaped by international cultures that used the maritime trade route. Nowadays, people of Myeik such as the Telugus, Chinese, Bamars and Muslims all worship together at the shrine, though often with varying perspectives drawn from their own traditions of Nat worship – the people of Myanmar regarding this place as a Nat shrine for Spirits of the Sea. This study will explore the historical Myiek that resulted in the evolution of this multi-religious practice. It will also highlight other shrines along Taninthayi seashore, as well as the ritual practices involved in the worship of the spirit Shin Makan.