The origins of Shwedagon are lost in antiquity, its age unknown.
Long before the pagoda was built, its location on Singuttara hill was already an ancient sacred site because of the buried relics of the three previous Buddhas.
According to one legend, nearly 5000 years had passed since the last Buddha walked the Earth, and Singuttara hill would soon lose its blessedness unless it was reconsecrated with relics of a new Buddha.
In order that such new relics might be obtained, King Okkalapa of Suvannabhumi spent much time atop the hill, meditating and praying.
A series of miracles ensued and eight hairs of the historical Buddha were, somewhat magically, brought to the hill. To enshrine the relics, multiple pagodas of silver, tin, copper, lead, marble, iron and gold where built one on top of the other to a height of twenty meters.
During the following centuries, passing from myth to historical fact, the pagoda grew to its present height of ninety-eight meters.
Much of the continued construction of Shwedagon was actually reconstruction following disastrous earthquakes. During the 17th century the pagoda suffered earthquake damage on at least eight occasions. A particularly bad quake in 1786 brought the entire top half of the pagoda to the ground and its current shape and height date from the reconstruction of that time.
The Gold seen on the stupa is made of genuine gold plates, covering the brick structure attached by traditional rivets. Myanmar people all over the country, as well as monarchs in its history,have donated gold to the pagoda to maintain it. It was started in the 15th century by the Mon Queen Shin Sawbu who gave her weight in gold and continues to this day.