Asia Pacific Cultural Centre for UNESCO (ACCU)
Asia-Pacific Database on Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH)

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Performing Arts

Bon-Gyi Aka

Folk dance with Bon-Gyi drum


Performing Bon-gyi dance in the National Theatre from the Fine Arts Department.

In addition to pure Bon-gyi dance steps and styles, dramas and plays based upon Jataka, history and fables are enacted in Bon-gyi dance. Bon-gyi songs praise Bon-gyi music and dance and their history, describe Shwebo district, paddy land, paddy product and rain.

Reasons for selection

Myanmar is an agricultural country. Bon-gyi dance originated in the agricultural life of Myanmar people. It is one of their indigenous performing arts.

Area where performed

Bon-Gyi dance is prevalent around Shwebo district in the middle of Myanmar.

Essential elements of the performing art

Music, Dance

Detailed explanation

Suppleness, softness and grace are the characteristics of Bon-gyi dance and music. Slow steps of legs and supple and circular movements of hands feature Bon-gyi dance. Sometimes marionette dance styles are mimed. Players of Bon-gyi drum, and dancer wear long tailed headgear, elongated nether garment and long traditional jacket, women dancers wear traditional skirt with acheik (wave pattern)design and a long scarf. In Bon-gyi band there are two players of hne (oboe), a male Bon-gyi dancer and a female Bon-gyi dancer. In olden days, Bon-gyi dance was performed at religious festivals, on auspicious occasions such as giving charity, or at agricultural activities and ceremonies like paddy land allocation, paddy planting, transplanting, harvesting etc. in Shwebo district.

Scholars opine that historically Bon-gyi music and dance appeared about the year M.E 1120 (1758 A.D.).

The design of Bon-gyi drum
Bon-gyi drum is big in circumference and length. It is placed on a two legged stand and played. Both faces of bon-gyi drum are decorated with pieces of cloth cut in the motif of lotus flower petal. The sound of bon-gyi is vibrating. Bon-gyi measures three cubits in length, one cubit and one thumb to forefinger length ( htwar )in circumference, 14 inches in diameter of one face and 13 inches in diameter of the other face.

Publication and textual documentation

Pantayar Myint Aung
1969 Myanmar Aka Thamaing History of Myanmar Dance .
Myanmar. In Myanmar.

Min Naing
1959 Pyi Daung Su Aka Padaytha National Variety of Dances .
Myanmar. In Myanmar.

Audio documentation

Myanmar Radio Department
1965 Burmese Folk Songs.
Ministry of Union Culture.

Visual documentation


Institution/organisation involved in preservation and promotion

Fine Arts Department
131 Kaba Aye Pagoda Road, Bahan Township, Yangon, Myanmar
Tel : (95-1)543 153, Fax : (95-1)544 944

Data provider

U Zaw Than
Fine Arts Department
Address: 131 Kaba Aye Pagoda Road, Bahan Township, Yangon, Myanmar

(Revised in July 2004)
Ms. Khin Hla Htay
Yangon University of Culture
Address: Aung Zeya Road, 26th block, South Dagon Myothit Township, Yangon, Myanmar