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Chinthe in front of Yangon City Hall, seen from Maha Bandoola Park
Chinthe (right facing).svg

The Chinthe (Burmese: ခြင်္သေ့; MLCTS: hkrang se., IPA: [tɕʰɪ̀ɴðḛ]; Mon: ဇါဒိသိုၚ်, [cɛ̀atìʔsaŋ]; Shan: သၢင်ႇသီႈ, [sàːŋ si]) is a leogryph (lion-like creature) that is often seen at the entrances of pagodas and temples in Burma and other South and Southeast Asian countries. The chinthe is featured prominently on the kyat (the currency of Burma) and the Sri Lankan rupee. The chinthe is almost always depicted in pairs, and serve to protect the pagoda. They typically appear as animals, but are sometimes found with human faces.[1]

Pagoda guardians[edit]

Two chinthes arrayed at gates of Shwedagon Pagoda

The story of why chinthes guard the entrances of pagodas and temples are given as such:

A princess had a son through her marriage to a lion, but later abandoned the lion who then became enraged and set out on a road of terror throughout the lands. The son then went out to slay this terrorizing lion. The son came back home to his mother stating he slew the lion, and then found out that he killed his own father. The son later constructed a statue of the lion as a guardian of a temple to atone for his sin.[2]

The chinthe is revered and loved by the Burmese people and is used symbolically on the royal thrones of Burma. Predating the use of coins for money, brass weights cast in the shape of mythical beasts like the chinthe were commonly used to measure standard quantities of staple items.[3]



The manussiha (Burmese: မနုဿီဟ manothiha, Shan: မၼုၵ်ႉသီႇႁႃႉ manuk siha), a combination of Pali manussa (man) and siha (lion) is a half-lion half-man mythical creature that is symbolic of a guardian, usually found guarding the four corners of a pagoda. It has a human head and torso and lion hindquarters.[4] It is comparable to the sphinx.

Relation to Second World War Chindits[edit]

During the Second World War, the British Brigadier Orde Wingate was given command of forces charged with Long-range penetration operations behind Japanese lines in Burma. At the suggestion of Captain Aung Thin of the Burma Rifles, Wingate decided to call this force "The Chinthes" - a name which became corrupted to "The Chindits" and is as such remembered in the annals of WWII.

See also[edit]