Buddhists rub gold leaf squares on statues of Buddha or on holy sites, like Kyaiktiyo Pagoda. In Mandalay, Myanmar they make the squares, here is the process:
“Only 24 carat gold is used. First, about 200 gm is pulled into thin wires, and then pulled through a press to form a ribbon 90 cm long and 2 cm wide. This is cut into 200 squares. Each is placed between thin sheets of bamboo paper about 7 cm square and the whole stack wrapped in two pieces of deerskin to firmly hold it. The packet is placed on a stone and beaten for 15 minutes with a hammer weighing 7 kg, by young men who work in rows.
The stack of papers after the first beating is handed over to girls working in a separate, closed room. There, without a breath of wind to disturb the gold tissues the girls sitting on the well-polished floor around a low table, separate the gold from the paper and cut them into six pieces with mother of pearl or horn cutters. Then, each piece is placed between bamboo papers once again and given over to the boys for two and half hours long pounding.
After that, yet again the paper thin pieces are placed in 13 cm square bamboo paper and finally pounded for five hours. Some shops cut the gold foil again before the final pounding. Lastly, the girls cut the final fragile gold leaf into neat squares and carefully transfer them between squares of ordinary cardboard papers to be sold in packets of tens. The gold leaf is so thin and light that to smooth out wrinkles, the girls just blow gently on it. The gold leaf is a sacred thing and can be offered to religious buildings, and shrines, or for Royal use in the days of monarchy.”
–taken from Myanmar Tourism Website.
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