What is this mythical creature?

Object of the Month: 01/2017

What is it?:

Chinthe statue

Chinthe statue
Chinthe statueCourtesy SMM


Origin:

Mandalay, Myanmar


Age: 1890 - 1900
Dimensions:

10 inches tall


What is it made of?:

Teak


Accession #: A63:24:138

Is it a lion? A dragon? A human? This chinthe is all that and more. The chinthe is a ancient mythical creature that stood guard at pagoda entrances of southeast Asia. According to myth, the chinthe was the offspring of a princess and a lion. After being abandoned, it went on a rampage. The princess’s son slayed the chinthe, not knowing it was actually his father. To atone for his mistake, the son made statues of the chinthe to serve as guardians at important places.

Guardians: Two chinthes stand guard at the entrance of the  Shwedagon pagoda in Myanmar.
Guardians: Two chinthes stand guard at the entrance of the Shwedagon pagoda in Myanmar.Courtesy Rockrangoon
This chinthe was collected by Gen. Charles McCormick Reeve, who served in the Spanish-American War in the Philippines.

Little brass weights cast in the same shape of chinthes were used as some of the first forms of currency in some regions of Asia.

Click here to learn more about chinthes.

The Science Museum will be presenting and exhibit – Mythic Creatures – that explores humans' fascination with fictional creatures starting Friday, Feb. 3. Click here to learn more about that exhibit.