The Kuthodaw Pagoda Project was established for the purpose of photographing, documenting and studying the Kuthodaw Pagoda site and its Pali language inscriptions. The project objectives were to pilot the digitization of the entire canon by on-boarding a select number of texts. Existing digital Roman-script transliteration of the 6th Council edition were edited to reflect the readings of the Kuthodaw Pagoda stelae by a team of Burmese monks under project supervision.
Project funding was from the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre at the University of Sydney.
The “World’s biggest book” resides at the Kuthodaw Pagoda in Mandalay in upper Myanmar. Consisting of 729 marble stelae spread over 5.2 hectares, this large and historically unique inscriptional site preserves an authorised mid-nineteenth century Myanmar recension of the Pali Buddhist canon known as the 5th Council edition. Although of great cultural and historical significance, the text recension on these stelae has not been documented or made available to the international scholarly community.
The research proposition was to ‘establish the digital platform necessary to a) create a complete Roman-script transliteration of the Burmese-script Kuthodaw Pagoda inscriptions and b) to compare this recension of the Pali canon with the wider textual tradition of Myanmar.`
The project resulted in the configuration of the READ system ontology, import parser and alignment methods to support on-boarding of large-scale corpora. Given the massive scale of the canon, the conventional substrate generation processes supported by READ and Workbench were enhanced to support pattern-based text alignment to synchronize the beginning of each line of the transliteration with the beginning of each line on the image. The second phase of the project involved the development of analysis strata; the detailed annotation of the Kuthodaw Pagoda transliteration with grammatical tagging and glossing and sequencing of textual divisions.