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Yangon, Myanmar (Burma)

Chin Tsong Palace

This extravagant villa built by a Burmese merchant is part pagoda and part European mansion.  

The eclectic architecture of Yangon reflects the city’s history as a trading hub and colonial capital. One overgrown mansion in the city’s Bahan township is an amalgamation of styles from the area’s multicultural past.

Lim Chin Tsong was a merchant from Burma’s Hokkien Chinese community who turned his family’s rice business into a commodities fortune. Between 1917 and 1919, Tsong spent over two million rupees constructing an ornate villa blending Chinese and European architectural styles, with Burmese teak and Italian marble side by side.

But in 1921, Tsong’s business suffered a major setback when the government banned the export of rice. He died just a few years later in 1924, and his estate was declared insolvent.

The palace was home to the All Burma Broadcasting Station while the country was under Japanese control beteen 1941 and 1945, and after Burmese independence, it became the Kanbawza Yeiktha hotel in 1951. Myanmar’s Ministry of Culture took over the top floors in the 1950s and has maintained an art school there since, but maintenance has been neglected; the palace is just too big and frequent rain has abraded the old building.

The building features the grand staircases, foyers, and columns of a European mansion alongside dougongs (interlocking brackets common in Chinese temples) and murals of the Great Wall by English painters Dod and Ernest Procter. The pagoda-like octagonal five-story tower, rising incongruously above a nearby highway overpass, provides a 360-degree view of the city’s rapidly rising skyline. A local rumor holds that secret tunnels connect the mansion to the nearby lake.

The Ministry of Culture is currently renovating the building as a cultural center and it’s set to open in 2018.

 

Know Before You Go

Enter from University Avenue from the North, near the corner with Kabar Aye Pagoda Road.