Update: 2013-02-14 06:18 PM +0630


Notice of Pugan, the Ancient Capital of the Burmese Empire


by Lieut.-Col. Henry Burney, H. C.'s Resident In Ava
From Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal 4 (vol. 4, Juy, 1835, pp. 400-404).
in SOAS Bulletin of Burma Research, Vol. 1, No. 2, Autumn 2003, ISSN 1479-8484 
-- See pdf download: 130122

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SOAS Bulletin of Burma Research : Editorial note
Pegu - capital of Southern Burma : {p:hku:}
Notice of Pugan : aka Pagan {pu.gn} - capital of Northern Burma



UKT notes
Battle of NgaZaungChum in Bur-Myan
Henry Burney  

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SOAS Bulletin of Burma Research
Editorial note:

Henry Burney was a scholar, soldier, and diplomat well-known for his numerous contributions to the early British study of Burma as well as the source for equally numerous firsthand observations of the people and country. The following article was published in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal 4 (vol. 4, July, 1835, pp. 400-404).


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City of Pegu - capital of Southern Burma

-- by UKT 130208

Apart from the political divisions of the country from time to time since the fall of Thar Hkttara {a.r-hkt~ta.ra} aka Sri Ksetra to the present time, we can imagine the existence of a geographical line, latitude 21 deg. N., extending from the Natma Taung {nt-ma.taung} aka Mt. Victoria, through Mt. Popa, to a relatively obscure mountain, Loi Pangnao, at the extreme eastern end the country. In my study of geography and history, I keep this line in my mind, dividing the country into a northern and a southern part.

Location of Natma Taung is 21.23N 93.90E. {nt-ma.taung} in the Chin State, and Loi Pangnao is 21.03N 100.03E. in the Shan State. I am not sure whether Loi Pangnao is a sky island or not but Natma Taung is.

I wonder who this female nat is -- perhaps she is Empress Victoria, the Empress of the British Indian Empire. Since Burma was part of her empire, she has every right to claim that she is still looking after the interests of her "children" and then she would be on par with King Kunzaw, King Tabinshwhti, etc.

Natma Taung, lies in the Chin Hills-Arakan Yoma mountain forests ecoregion. Surrounded at lower elevations by tropical and subtropical moist forests, Natma's higher elevations form a sky island, home to many temperate and alpine species typical of the Himalaya further north, as well as many endemic species.

The most prominent geological feature is Mount Popa {poap~pa: taung}, 20.92 deg. N., 95.25 deg. E.

In the East such a prominent feature must have a guardian spirit or Nat {nt}. Do not confuse {nt} with {d-wa.}. {nt} is Bur-Myan, and is the spirit of a dead ancestor who still guards his children. It is akin to the ancient Roman idea of Ma'nes - the good ones. The bad ones are the Lemures - something like the modern poltergeist. The {d-wa.} on the other hand, is a Buddhist and a Hindu idea. Of course, the man on the street - the common man - and the foreign news writer who usually speaks with him during a hasty trip to Myanmar to write an "authoritative report to the world press" would be confused when the two words are put together: {nt d-wa}.

Historically, there were two capitals one in northern Burma, and one in the south. Pegu {p:hku:} was one such capital of southern Burma. From time to time the two parts of the country was united. What the British destroyed in the 19the century was the united Myanmarpr with capital in the north.

However, when the country was fragmented, there were usually two capitals, one in the south and the other in the north. One of the southern capitals was Pegu {p:hku:}, and its three most prominent sovereigns were King Razadharit, Sovereign-queen Shin Sawbu {rhing-sau:pu.}, and King Dhamazedi. They were ethnically different from the Burmese and spoke a different language - Mon. However, the spoken languages of the north and the south use the same basic Myanmar script -- the unifying script of the mother country. I refer to the two languages as Bur-Myan and Mon-Myan.

Pix on right: Mon-Myan consonants. There are 35 glyphs compared to 33 of Bur-Myan. The inherent vowels of the consonants are not consistent through out which is different from Bur-Myan. To my Burmanized hearing, it  sounded like:
  #r1: {ka.} {hka.} {g} {g} {ng}
  #r2: {kya.} {hkya.} {gy} {gy} {}
I can well imagine my Mon ancestors, and the still living Mon friends smiling broadly at my ignorance. But I hope they will forgive me for trying.

What Henry Burney has written below is about the northern capital {pu.gn} which was spelled Pagan and now Bagan. But in order to help me with the transcription of words given by Burney I must include the possibility that some of the words might be Mon-Myan and not Bur-Myan. It must be noted that the British and other westerners have made such a mess with the transcription of Burmese into English that, I -- an native speaker of Bur-Myan -- is sometimes at a loss to guess what a place or a personal name is.


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Notice of Pugan

Notice of Pugan, the Ancient Capital of the Burmese Empire.
Lieut.-Col. Henry Burney
H. C.'s Resident In Ava

The celebrated Venetian traveller, MARCO POLO, (see MARSDEN'S edition of his Travels, pages 441 to 451,) has given us an account of the war between the Tartars and the people of Mien (the Chinese name for Burmah), which occurred some time after 1272, and led the former to take possession of the then capital of the latter nation. [UKT ]

SYMES and CRAWFORD, in the Journals of their Missions to Ava {a.wa.} aka {ing:wa.}, as well as HAVELOCK and TRANT  in their accounts of the late war, have described the extensive remains of Pagan, the former capital of the Burmese empire, lying between Prome {pr} and Ava {a.wa.}, with its innumerable ruins of temples and columns. [UKT ]

UKT from online sources: General Sir Henry Havelock and Capt. Thomas A. Trant.

Perhaps the following account of the destruction of that city, translated from the 5th volume of the large edition of the Royal Chronicles of the Kings of Ava, (Maha Yazawen wen dan gyee,) may be deemed curious. [UKT ]

Pugan {pu.gn}, also called Pouk-gan {pauk~kn} and Arimaddana, is stated to have been founded by a king Thamu-dirit {a.moad-da.raiz}, A. D. 107, shortly after the destruction of the Thor Khettara {a.r-hkt~ta.ra} or Prome empire. King Narathihapade {na.ra.i-ha.pa.te.}, in whose reign the Chinese took possession of the city, was the 52nd from the time of its foundation,

In the Burmese year 643, (A. D. 1281,) the Talain Wareeroo killed the noble Aleimma, who was lord of the city of Mouttama (Martaban) {moat~ta.ma.}, a part of the empire, and set himself up as king there. In the same year, the emperor of China deputed ten nobles with 1000 horsemen, to demand certain gold and silver vessels, on the ground that king Anauratha Men Zau {a.nau-ra.hta ming:sau} (fn01) had presented them. Some histories assert that they came to demand a white elephant.

The Chinese envoys conducted themselves in a disrespectful manner in the royal presence, when his majesty ordered the whole of the ten nobles and 1000 horsemen to be put to death. One of the ministers, Nanda Peetzeen {a.nn~ta.pic~s:}, respectfully addressed the King, saying, [{p021end}]

Although the envoys of the emperor of China are ignorant of what is due to a king, and have conducted themselves in a disrespectful manner, yet if it seemeth well to your glorious majesty, a report of their conduct should be made to the emperor of China. If it pleaseth your majesty to have patience, and issue such orders as may promote the interests of the country, each orders should be issued. To put ambassadors to death has not been the custom during the whole line of our kings. It will be proper then for your majesty to forbear.'

The king replied, saying,

'They have treated with disrespect such a sovereign as I am; put them to death.'

The officers of government, fearing the royal displeasure, put the whole of the Mission to death, without a single exception. (fn02)

UKT 130212: To make the names given in the following account intelligible, see the story of the Battle of NgaZaungChum in my notes. Also note that the Burmese continued to call the "Emperor of China" as Utibwa {U:t-Bwa:} - the same name or title of the opponent in the days of King Anawratha.

When the emperor of China received the intelligence of the execution of his envoys, he was exceeding angry, and collecting an army of at least six millions of horse and 20 millions of foot, sent them down to attack Pagan; the king of which, Naratheehapade {na.ra.i-ha.pa.te.}, as soon as he heard of the coming of this force, placed under the generals Nanda Peetzeen {a.nn~ta.pic~s:} and Yanda Peetzen { } 400,000 soldiers, and numerous elephants and horses, with orders to proceed and attack the Chinese army. [UKT ]

The two generals marched to the city of Nga-young-gyan {nga.zaung-hkym:}, and after putting its walls, ditch, and fortifications in a proper state of defense, opposed the Chinese army at the foot of Bamau {bn:mau}-river, killing, during three months so many of that army, that not a grass-cutter even for its elephants and horses remained. The emperor of China, however, kept reinforcing his army, and replacing those who were killed, by sending 200,000 men, when he heard of the loss of 100,000 men, and 400,000, when he heard of 200,000. Hence the Burman army was at last overpowered with fatigue, and the Chinese crossed the river and destroyed Nga-young gyan {nga.zaung-hkym:}.

As the Nats or spirits attached to either nation were fighting together in the air, four of the Pugan Nats, namely, Tebathen {ta.pa:ing}, (the guardian of one of the gates of Pugan city,) Tsalen wot-thaken young Nat, Kan shye young Nat (guardian of the long lake or tank), and Toung gye yen Nat (lord of the foot of the mountain), were wounded by arrows. In the new Yazawen, Tebathen Nat is styled Thanbethen. On the very day on which the stockade of Nga-young-gyan {nga.zaung-hkym:} was taken, the Nat Tebathen {nga.ta.pa:ing nt] returned to Pugan, and entered the house [monastery] of the king's teacher [the monk-preceptor of the king in his childhood], on whom he had always been accustomed to wait. The king's teacher was asleep at the time [daytime nap]; but the Nat shook [his foot] and awakened him, and said,

'Nga-young-gyan has been destroyed this day. I am wounded by an arrow, and the Nats Tsalen-wot-thaken, Kan shye and Toung gye yen are also wounded in the same manner.' [{p022end}]

The priest and king's teacher called one of his disciples, a young probationer, and sent him to the king to report the loss of Nga-young-gyan {nga.zaung-hkym:}. His majesty inquired how this circumstance was known, when the young probationer declared, that the Nat Tebathen {nga.ta.pa:ing nt], guardian of the Tharabha {a.ra.pa}-gate, had just arrived from Nga-young gyan {nga.zaung-hkym:}, and reported the matter to the king's teacher, who had thus learned, that that place had been destroyed on that very day.

The king then summoned a council of his ministers and officers, and addressed them as follows;

'The walls of the city of Pugan are low, and enclose too small a space to permit all the soldiers and elephants and horses to remain comfortably within, and defend them. I propose therefore to build a strong wall, extending from the eastward, from the village of Balen, in the upper part of the river, straight down to the southward, taking in the village Yonatha. But it is not possible just now to procure bricks and stones quickly; if we break down some of the temples, and use the bricks, we shall be able to complete this wall most expeditiously.'

Accordingly, 1000 large arched temples, 1000 smaller ones, and 4000 square temples were destroyed. During this operation, a sheet of copper, with a royal prediction inscribed on it, was found in one of the temples. [UKT ]

UKT 130210:
Messages such as the one on copper mentioned above were quite common even in my childhood days. Such messages were mostly written on {gon}-paper made in the Shan State from the first days when paper was invented. They are known as Golden-messages {rhw-p-hlwa} and they serve a useful purpose: to pass messages to the kings and authorities to heed to the prevailing conditions. Since the author was a Nat, or even the King of the Nats himself, he could not be punished, and since the message was known to the common people first, the authorities had no way of censoring it. The modern people, when they downplay such beliefs are in fact destroying a very common and effective way of control on the government.

The words were as follows:

'In the city of Pugan, in the time of the father of twins, the Chinese destroying, will be destroyed.

The king thereupon made inquiries among the royal women, and learnt, that a young concubine had just given birth to twins.

UKT 130210:
It is almost certain, that those in Pagan did not realized that the northern Silk and Tea Route between Europe and China was back in operation, and that the southern route that passes through Pagan kingdom was slowly becoming economically unimportant. The kings of Pagan should have conserved whatever wealth that had been accumulated and make the kingdom more secure. It was imperative to create a strong military not only on land but maritime as well. What they knew of China was just a part - the province of Yunnan which was Tib-Bur speaking at one time. 
See Yunnan in China: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yunnan 130212
   The king was certainly a buffoon wallowing in pleasure -- eating and womanizing -- and was ever ready to flee to safety at the first opportunity. Continue reading the Battle of NgaZaungChum in my note.

As his majesty now believed, that even if he built the intended fortification, he would be unable to defend it, he caused 1000 boats with figure heads and war-boats, to be made ready, and embarked in them all his gold and silver and treasures; a thousand cargo boat's, also, he loaded with paddy and rice; in a thousand state boats lie embarked all his ministers and officers, and in the gilded state boats, his concubines and female attendants. But as the boats could not accommodate all the royal concubines and female attendants, who were very numerous, the king said,

These women and servants are too numerous) to be all embarked in the boats, and if we leave them here, the Chinese will seize and take possession of them; tie their hands and feet together, therefore, and throw them into the river.'

The king's teacher [the abbot of the monastery in which the king had studied in his teenage-years.] however observed,

'[I]n the whole circle of animal existence the state of man is the most difficult of attainment, and to attain that state during the time of a Buddha, is also most difficult. There can be no occasion for your majesty to commit the evil deed of throwing these people into the water. Such an act will be for ever talked of even among kings, and will be registered in the records of the empire. Let your majesty therefore grant permission for any person to take such of the royal female attendants as cannot be embarked in [{p023end}] the royal boats, and by so doing, your majesty will be said not only to have granted them their lives, but to have afforded them protection.

The king replied, 'Very true,' and set at liberty 300 of the female servants of the interior of the palace, who were taken and carried away by different inhabitants of the city.

The king then embarked in his gilded accommodation boat, and retired to the Talain city of Bathein (Bassien).

Nanda Peetzeen {a.nn~ta.pic~s:} and Yanda Peetzeen {rn~ta.pic~s}, after the loss of Nga-young-gyan {nga.zaung-hkym:}, retreated and built a couple of stockades on the eastward slope of the male mountain, where they again resisted the Chinese. Both the generals, holding some fixed quicksilver (fn03) in their mouths, leaped 15 and 16 cubits high in the air at a time, and attacked the Chinese; but whilst fighting in this manner, an arrow, which had been discharged by one of the Nats of the two countries, who were contending in the air, struck Nanda Peetzeen {a.nn~ta.pic~s:}, and threw him to the ground lifeless. [UKT ]

In consequence of this event, and the Chinese army being very numerous, victory was unattainable, and defeat again ensued. The Chinese pursued vigorously, and the Pugan generals retreated, keeping their force as much together as possible. On arriving at Pugan, and finding that the king and the whole of the population had left that city and fled to the Talain country, the army followed them to Bathein.

The Chinese continued the pursuit until they reached Taroup maur (fn04), but their army, owing to the great distance which it had marched, and its great numbers, began to experience a scarcity of provisions; and was induced to turn back from that place. In the Burmese year 646 (A. D. 1284), two pat or quarters wanting to complete the 27th lunar asterism, the king Naratheeha-pade fled in fear of the Chinese. Hence he is styled Taroup-pye-men {ta.roat-pr:ming:}, the king who fled from the Chinese."

After remaining five months at Bassien, the King, hearing that the Chinese had retreated from Pugan, made arrangements for returning thither. On his way up the river, it is recorded on one occasion, his cooks having been able to serve him up a dinner of only 150 dishes, instead of the 300, to which he had always sat down every day, he covered his face with his hands and wept, saying, 'I am become a poor man.' Shortly after on his arrival off Prome, he was poisoned by his own son, the governor of that place.

The building at Pugan, which MARCO POLO calls 'a sepulchre of the king,' must have been one of the large Buddhist temples, containing some relics of Gaudama. The body of a deceased king of Ava is usually burnt within the palace enclosed, and the bones and relics carefully collected in some vessel, and thrown, into the Irawdi river.

Like the early kings of England, named Rufus, Beauclerk, Lackland, Longshanks, &c., most of the Burmese kings are distinguished by some sobriquet or particular appellation. A king, [{p024end}] Narathu, who was killed by some Kulas or natives of India from Chittagong, about the year 1171, is styled Kula-gya-men, the king who fell or was killed by Kulas. Another of Toungu, or Toungugu, who was taken prisoner and carried away from Toungugu to Syriam, by the celebrated Portugueze chief, PHILIP DE BRITO and NICOTE, about the year 1612, called Kula-yamen, the king whom the Kulas obtained or seized. See Modern Universal History, vol. 7th, page 118.

In the Sketch (fn05) of the remains of Pugan, the large pagoda on the proper right, is called Ananda; it was built by a king Kyan-zeet-tha {kyn-sic-a:} , who reigned between A. D. 1064 and 1093 [UKT: accepted - 10301112], and was repaired by the father of the present king of Ava, in 1795, when Captain SYMES visited the place. The pagoda on the high point of land, wasted by the river, is called Langa Nanda; it was built by Anauratha-zan {a.nau:ra.hta ming:sau:}, who reigned between A. D. 1017 and 1059 [UKT: accepted - 10151078].

UKT: End of pdf file.

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fn01. This King of Pugan is said to have invaded China about A. D. 1040, and gold and silver flowers or ornaments are the emblems of tributary subjection among all the Indo-Chinese nations.
- fn01b

fn02. There is some kind of tradition at Ava, that the Chinese envoys insisted upon appearing in the royal presence with their boots or shoes on.
- fn02b

fn03. Among the Burmese alchemists, fixed, or as they call it dead, quicksilver, is an object of great desire, owing to the miraculous power which it is said to confer on the possessor.
- fn03b

fn04. Chinese Point, the same as SYMES'S Tirroup-mion.
- fn04b

fn05. We regret extremely that the number of plates in the present No. precludes the admission of the sketch to which the author alludes. Ed.
- fn05b

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UKT notes

Battle of NgaZaungChum

-- UKT 130214

From U KaLa {ma.ha-ra-za.wing-kri:} {ra-pr.}-press, 2006, section 364. Please note that I have three versions of U KaLa, and there are differences in Bur-Myan spelling.

The following 3 sections, 364, 365, 366, describe the Battle of NgaZaungHkyum ending in the death of King Taroakpr on his return from Bassein.

Important personal and place names in the sections:
{a.nau-ra.hta ming:sau}



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Henry Burney

-- UKT 130122

Lieut.-Col. Henry Burney, H. C.'s Resident In Ava, the person named in Bur-inscrip-india.htm .

From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Burney

Henry Burney (27 February 1792 4 March 1845) [1]was a British commercial traveller and diplomat for the British East India Company. His parents were Richard Thomas Burney (17681808), headmaster of the Orphan School at Kidderpore, and Jane Burney (17721842), [2] and he was a nephew of the English writer Frances Burney (17521840). On 30 June 1818 at St. George's Church in George Town, Penang, Malaya, he married Janet Bannerman (17991865), [3] with whom he had 13 children, eight of whom were still living at the time of his death. [4] She was the niece of John Alexander Bannerman, who was governor of Penang in Malaya. [3]

Henry Burney died at sea in 1845 and was buried in Mission Burial Ground on Park Street in Calcutta. [4]


In 1807 Burney joined the East India Company. In 1818, the year of his marriage to Janet Bannerman, he was appointed lieutenant and adjutant of the 20th Regiment of Bengal Native Infantry, Penang's acting town-major and military secretary to Governor Bannerman. [3] Later he worked as an agent of the East India Company, collecting material about Burma and Siam, which he made available to England, while participating in the First AngloBurmese War (18231826). After his 1825 appointment as political emissary to Siam [3] he met King Rama III there the following year, concluding the Burney Treaty and a commercial contract to stimulate development of regional trade between Siam and Europe. Having negotiated a mutually agreed border between Siam and British-occupied Burma, only the exact course of the border at Three Pagodas Pass in Kanchanaburi remained in dispute. From 1829 Burney was the British resident envoy to King Bagyidaw's court at Ava in Burma where he successfully negotiated the return of the Kabaw Valley from Manipur to Burma. [5] By 1834 he had risen to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel [3] in the Bengal army. [6]

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