Pathein is the fourth largest city in Myanmar and the major city of the Ayeyarwady Delta region, the rice bowl of Myanmar. Pathein is thought to date from at least the 12th Century. The first Englishman to set foot in Myanmar, merchant trader Ralph Fitch, landed here in 1583 when it was the Mon town of Kaw Thamain. The town grew prosperous during the British Colonial period with ships calling from India and South East Asia. The city’s current name is thought to be a corruption of ‘Pathi’, the Burmese word for Muslim – many Arab and Indian Muslim traders passed through here. Today Pathein is best known for the production of fine sun parasols, known as ‘Pathein Hti’ and the Middle Western inspired sweet, Halawa.
The south shrine here contains a legendary Buddha image. In ancient times a sculptor made four Buddha images from pieces of the original Bodhi tree. He cast the images adrift on rafts from Sri Lanka; all four coming to rest on the shores of Myanmar. This image came ashore at the delta village of Phondawpyi and was named ‘Thiho-shin Phondaw-pyi’.