Begun in 1790, the zedi is known as "Bodawpaya's Folly" because, some say, the king (1782-1819) built it too large to be completed. At any rate, an army of thousands (slaves and prisoners) labored to erect the monument. Work stopped in 1819, when the king died. An alternate theory is that this may actually be a finished structure, with the top deliberately left flat. This seems unlikely, however, since there would be no precedent for such a design.
Whatever the truth, the 50m (165')-high structure is in a ruined though still very impressive state today, due to an 1838 earthquake (a large vertical crack from the earthquake is visible in the photograph). Its enormous scale can be appreciated by comparing the tiny human figures visible in the entrance and elsewhere along the terrace.