Tayok Pye Temple (also sometimes written as Tayok-pyi) is one of the larger temples in the eastern part of the Bagan Archaeological Zone. It’s notable for intricate stucco ornamentation on the outside (much of it renovated) and its painted murals inside.
Precisely when it was built isn’t clear, but it is believed to have been before the mid-13th century. You’ll see a marker inside indicating a date of 1248, but that’s not definitive. At around that time, it would have been constructed during the peak of a building boom in this eastern part of the Bagan plain that began a century earlier.1
Based on ruins around it, it was believed to have been part of a monastery, which would have added to the temple’s significance.
The layout of the temple is a large central core from which statues of the Buddha face outward in each of the cardinal directions.
Inside are several well-preserved frescoes. They feature figures heavily, with some of the best depicting the 28 Buddhas. Others depict specific miracles and Buddhist stories.
As impressive as it is, this temple is also a good example of one of the reasons UNESCO is conflicted about adding Bagan to its list of World Heritage Sites. The stucco on the outside is certainly impressive, but not all of it is original. Something like 60 percent is original, but you’ll also see a lot of new sections. And the main tower was completely rebuilt in the 1990s and is considered to be conjectural restoration, which means it’s really just a guess as to what the original looked like. So the line between restoration and rebuilding has been blurred here, as at a number of other sites. (Another impediment is that construction of new temples continued until halted until 2010, including some explicitly dedicated to the ruling generals.)
Photos of Tayok Pye
Tayok Pye is in the eastern part of the plain, over toward Nyaung-U, the airport, and the train station. If you’re looking to get there from Old Bagan or New Bagan, the best bet is by car (preferably with guide and driver). The electric scooters you can rent might make it there, but they might not have enough juice to make it back, so exercise caution.
This is one of the temples you can climb for the sunrise or sunset. If you get there when the sun is low, you might also catch the green and yellow glazed insets embedded in the outer walls to glisten in the sun.
- Donald M. Stadtner, Ancient Pagan: Buddhist Plain of Merit (Bangkok: River Books, 2013) ↩
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Traveling to Bagan?
Very few of the temples, pagodas, or stupas in the Bagan Archeological Zone have any information about them on site. And with literally thousands of sites to choose from, it's handy to go armed with information on what to see and where to start--especially for independent travelers without a guide.
If you're looking for something that goes beyond the patchy information in the standard guide books, I've found these to be good:
David Raezer and Jennifer Raezer, Myanmar (Burma): Temples of Bagan
Approach Guides, 2017
With maps, diagrams, and pictures, it's pitched as a "travel guidebook for the ultra curious." It offers detailed profiles of 21 of the major sites. It's an especially good option if you traveling with a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone and don't want to take up any space in your luggage or deal with the extra weight of a hard copy.
David M. Stadtner, Ancient Pagan: Buddhist Plain of Merit
Bangkok: River Books, 2013
Written by a former professor of Art History who has authored many books on Indian and Burmese art, this book offers authoritative and detailed information on not just the architecture and art of the temples of Bagan but also the history of the region. It focuses on 33 of the major sites. Its photos by Michael Freeman are a standout feature. It's only available in paperback.
Ma Thanegi, Bagan Mystique
Yangon: Tanintaye Sarpay, 2011
Ma Thanegi is a Burmese writer and journalist. The book doesn't offer the level of detail of the other two and is harder to find in the West, but it still offers useful summaries of a number of the major sites. It's available in paperback only (when you can find it).
Director of Archaeological Survey (Burma), A Pictorial Guide to Pagan
Rangoon: Ministry of Union Culture, 2nd rev. ed. 1963
This is a guide compiled under the auspices of the Burmese government in the mid-1950s and early-1960s. Despite being quite outdated, it has its own value with background on a number of pagodas and temples as well as fascinating historical photos of how the monuments looked in the middle of 20th century--sometimes quite different to how they appear today after being renovated. It's long out of print and hard to find, but I've scanned it and posted it here.
Maps: When you get to Bagan, there are good local maps available for free at the hotels that show many of the major sites.