4. Shwedagon Pagoda, Rangoon, Burma
"Then, a golden mystery upheaved itself on the horizon, a beautiful winking wonder that blazed in the sun, of a shape that was neither Muslim dome nor Hindu temple-spire" - - Rudyard Kipling, 1889
Legend has it that the Shwedagon Pagoda is 2,500 years old, but archaeologists estimate it was first built by the Mon sometime between the 6th and 10th centuries (i.e. during the Bagan period). The pagoda emerges from legend into history in 1485, which is the date of an incription near the top of the eastern stairway that tells the story of Shwedagon in three languages (Pali, Mon, and Burmese).
It was around this time that the tradition of gilding the stupa began. Queen Shinsawbu provided her own weight in gold (fortunately she was a lightweight at 40kg), which was made into gold leaf and used to cover the surface of the stupa.
The queen's son-in-law, Dhammazedi, offered four times his own weight plus that of his wife's in gold and provided the abovementioned 1485 inscription. It has been rebuilt many times since then due to earthquakes (including eight in the 17th century alone); the current structure dates from the rebuild under King Hsinbyushin in 1769.
After the First Anglo-Burmese War in 1824, British troops occupied the Schwedagon Pagoda complex, which stands high over the city like a castle. In 1852, during the second war, the British occupied the pagoda for 77 years and pillaged its treasures. In 1871, King Mindon Min from Mandalay provided a new hti (the decorative top), flustering the occupying British.
As a symbol of national identity, the Schwedagon Pagoda was the scene of much political activity during the Myanmar independence movement in the 20th century. Amazingly, the huge earthquake of 1930 (which destroyed the Schwemawdaw in Bagan) caused only minor damage to the Yangon stupa. But the following year, it suffered from a disastrous fire. After a minor earthquake in 1970, the main stupa was fully refurbished.