The U Pho Thi Library is located in the Sadhammajotika Monastery, the largest centre for Buddhist studies in the city of Thaton, a southern Myanmar hub for holding monastic examinations. The Suyaṅgabhūmi Pariyatti Sāsanahita Trust, a lay group organization, oversees the organization of the exams, in addition to providing lodging and food for monastics who have traveled from afar.
The library includes about 775 palm-leaf manuscripts. The exact figure will be known once they have all been photographed, as some manuscripts are missing.
According to U Kyaw Hlaing, the president of the Trust, the U Pho Thi Library was founded in 1923 by a professor of Burmese literature, U Kyaw Tun, and the wealthy layman, U Pho Thi, to aid monastics in the region with their studies.
In February of 2013, Dr. Sunao Kasamatsu, Dr. Yutaka Kawasaki, and Dr. Aleix Ruiz Falqués joined Dr. William Pruitt in the process of physical preservation, digital documentation, and storage of the manuscripts. U Aung Moe Oo also provided his assistance with this work. Markus Wörgötter, a professional photographer, contributed valuable information about the best camera equipment and how to properly set up the camera, computer, and easel to efficiently and carefully take photos of the manuscripts.
The Trust is now in charge of preserving the physical manuscripts and digitally photographing them. U Nyunt Maung, a retired librarian, led the lay volunteers in traditional manuscript preservation and modern cataloging practices. U Ye Kyi from the University of Yangon’s Central Library assisted U Nyunt Maung with the digital photography and verification of each manuscript’s correct leaf order. U Ye Kyi also shared his expertise in properly wrapping the manuscripts after they were photographed. You can find a more detailed account of the digitizing effort as narrated by Dr. Pruitt here.
The Bagaya Monastery is a significant Buddhist heritage site in Myanmar located just south of Mandalay. While the monastery is no longer active, it has become a popular destination in the country among tourists seeking to admire the beautiful teak architecture and experience a monastic space from years past. In 2016, the monastery’s presiding abbot requested that the large collection of palm-leaf manuscripts stored within the monastery be transferred to the National Library in Nay Pyi Taw out of concern the manuscripts would be stolen or damaged.
After the transfer, an agreement was established between the National Library and the Pali Text Society, U.K, in 2018 to digitize the Pali texts from the collection making them more easily accessible to scholars domestically and abroad. The Pali and Pali–Burmese manuscripts that were copied before 1850 have been photographed and prepared as Portable Document Format (PDF) using a computer program arranged by Professor Emeritus Yumi Ousaka of Sendai National College of Technology, Sendai, Japan. Dr William Pruitt of the Pali Text Society and U Aung Moe Oo worked alongside Professor Ousaka with the rest of the team to carefully photograph the manuscripts and prepare the PDFs. Daw Mya Oo, the director of the National Library, managed the final documentation and archiving of the PDFs before they were sent to Toronto to be stored in this database.
Primary Digitizing Staff:
Shwe Nwe Soe (Ms), Assistant Librarian
Kay Thwe Thwe Win (Ms), Library Assistant
Wint Kay Khaing (Ms), Library Assistant
Pyae Phyo Aung (Mr), Library Assistant
Nyein Paing (Mr), Library Assistant
Kaung Het Thu (Mr), Library Assistant
Zaw Zaw Aung (Mr), Library Assistant
Win Min Soe (Mr), Library Assistant