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The Great Bell of Dhammazedi

According to legend, King Dhammazedi, the ruler of a nation in what is now Burma, built the largest bell in the world in 1484. The copper, gold, and silver bell weighed nearly 300 tons. It hung alongside the golden Shwedagon Pagoda, one of the most beautiful Buddhist temples in the world.

Then, in 1608, a Portuguese mercenary and bandit named Filipe de Brito stole the bell, planning to melt it down to forge cannons. He tried to float it across the Bago River on a raft. But the raft became unstable during the passage and the bell sank into the deep water, never to be seen again.

It's one of the greatest mysteries of Burmese history. Scholars and treasure hunters have spent years searching for it. That's especially difficult, as the course of the river has changed in the past 400 years. Worse still, the BBC explains, the Great Bell of Dhammazedi may have never existed at all:

Historian Chit San Win has spent most of his life researching and writing about the Dhammazedi Bell, and following the failed salvage efforts.

When I meet up with him at the Schwedagon Pagoda he lays his maps on the floor and tells me that both the Yangon and Bago Rivers have changed course in the last 400 years, making it almost certain that the search is in the wrong place.

More worryingly, having scoured Burmese literature for supporting evidence of the Great Bell he now has serious doubts as to whether it ever really existed.

"I really hope that the bell is real, it would make me so proud of our country," he says.

"But if we look at the three main Burmese history books written 200 years after the Bell sunk none of them mention it."

-via Amusing Planet


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