Shwe-Maong, a man in Burma whose head and face are covered with hair. Aquatint by J.H. Clark after W.E. Reid.

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Shwe-Maong, a man in Burma whose head and face are covered with hair. Aquatint by J.H. Clark after W.E. Reid. Wellcome Collection. Public Domain Mark. Source: Wellcome Collection.

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"We had heard much of a person said to be covered all over with hair, and who, it was insisted upon, more resembled an ape than a human being ; a description, however, which, I am glad to say, was by no means realized by his appearance. Having expressed a curiosity to see this individual, the King politely sent him over to our dwelling some days ago, and Dr. Wallich and I took down on the spot the following account of himself and his history. His name was Shwe-Maong, and he stated himself to be thirty years of age. He was a native of the district of Maiyong-gyi, a country of Lao, situated on the Saluen, or Martaban river, and three months' journey from Ava. The Saubwa, or chief of the country, presented him to the King as a curiosity when a child of five years of age, and he had remained in Ava ever since. His height was five feet three inches and a half, which is about the ordinary stature of the Burmese. His form was slender, if compared with the usually robust make of the Hindoo-Chinese races, and his constitution as rather delicate. In his complexion there was nothing remarkable, although upon the whole he was perhaps rather fairer than the ordinary run of Burmese. The colour of his eyes was a dark brown, not so intense as that of the ordinary Burman. The same thing may be said of the hair of the head, which was also a little finer in texture, and less copious. The whole forehead, the cheeks, the eyelids, the nose, including a portion of the inside, the chin—in short, the whole face, with the exception of the red portion of the lips, were covered with a fine hair. On the forehead and cheeks this was about eight inches long ; and on the nose and chin, about four inches. In colour, it was of a silvery grey ; its texture was silky, lank, and straight. … Our draftsman made very faithful sketches of the father and youngest child, to which I refer. After making the party presents, they took their leave of us, extremely grateful for our attention. Shwe-maong, we found, had been occasionally employed by the Court as a buffoon, having been taught to imitate the antics of a monkey. For these feats, however, the poor fellow does not seem to have been very liberally rewarded ; for, to subsist himself and family, he was obliged to betake himself to the trade of a basket-maker, in which he was now employed. He would have turned his monstrosity to better account in London."--Crawfurd, op. cit., pp. 318-323


London : H. Colburn, [1834]

Physical description

1 print : aquatint ; image 15.1 x 10 cm


Profile of a man covered with hair. Drawn by W.E. Reid.


Collected with preparatory material for the English translation of J.C. Lavater, Essays on physiognomy, trans. H. Hunter, London 1789-1798


Wellcome Collection 31814i



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