The culture of Burma (or Myanmar) has been heavily influenced by Buddhism and the Mon people. Its neighbours, particularly China and Thailand have made major contributions to Burmese culture. In more recent times, British colonial rule and westernisation have influenced aspects of Burmese culture, including language and education.
Historically, Burmese art was based on Buddhist or Hindu cosmology and myths. There are several regional styles of Buddha images, each with certain distinctive characteristics. For example, the Mandalay style, which developed in the late 1800s, consists of an oval-shaped Buddha with realistic features, including naturally curved eyebrows, smaller but still prominent ears, and a draping robe. There are 10 traditional arts, called pan sè myo, listed as follows:
In addition to the traditional arts are silk weaving, pottery, tapestry making, gemstone engraving, and gold leaf making. Temple architecture is typically of brick and stucco, and pagodas are often covered with layers of gold leaf while monasteries tend to be built of wood (although monasteries in cities are more likely to be built of modern materials). A very common roofing style in Burmese architecture is called pyatthat , which is a multi-tiered and spired roof.
Burmese literature has been greatly influenced by Buddhism, notably the Jataka Tales. Since orthodox Buddhism prohibited fiction, many historical works are nonfiction. However, British colonisation introduced many genres of fiction which have become extremely popular today. Poetry is a prominent feature and there are several forms unique to Burmese literature.
Dance in Burma can be divided into dramatic, folk and village, and nat dances, each having distinct characteristics. Although Burmese dance has been influenced by the dance traditions of its neighbors, in particular Thailand (yodaya aka), it retains unique qualities that distinguish it from other regional styles, including angular, fast-paced and energetic movements and emphasis on pose, not movement.
Various types of Burmese music use an array of traditional musical instruments, assembled in an orchestra known as hsaing waingwhich the Burmese saing saya Kyaw Kyaw Naing has made more widely known in the West. Traditional folk music is atypical in Southeast Asian music, as it is characterized by sudden shifts in rhythm and melody as well as change in texture and timbre. An instrument unique to Burma is the saung-gauk, an arched harp that can be traced to pre-Hittite times. Classical traditions of Burmese music are found in the Mahagita, an extensive collection of classical songs and are typically divided into indoor and outdoor ensembles.
The traditional garment of the Burmese is called longyi , a sarong worn by both men and women. In formal occasions, Bamar men wear a collarless jacket over a mandarin collared shirt (sometimes donning a turban called gaung baung), while Bamar women wear a blouse buttoned at the front, called yinzi or to the side, called yinbon , and a shawl. In urban areas, skirts and pants are becoming more common, particularly among the young.