Update: 2013-09-25 02:09 PM +0630

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The Burmese Empire a hundred years ago

As described by Father Vincenzo Sangermano, 1833

Introduction - John Jardine, 1893

intro.htm

-- by John Jardine, in 3rd ed., at Westminster, 1893
-- http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs09/Sangermano-BE-red.pdf 130707
See downloaded PDF

Edited and with notes by U Kyaw Tun, M.S. (I.P.S.T., U.S.A.). Set in html by UKT and staff of TIL Computing and Language Center, Yangon, for students and staff of TIL. Not for sale. No copyright. Free for everyone. Prepared for students and staff of TIL  Computing and Language Center, Yangon, MYANMAR :  http://www.tuninst.net , http://www.softguide.net.mm , www.romabama.blogspot.com

index.htm | Top
sang-j-indx.htm

Contents of this page

UKT 130920: The pages were in Roman numbers which I have changed to English numerals. The subheadings of sections are mine. I still have to go over this file checking with the downloaded PDF .

Introduction
Burma: the Land and its Peoples : the Golden Land to the Ancients
Theravada Buddhism of Burma: the most scientific religion
The Clans and Tribes : ignoring the Pyus
The Trickery of the Colonialists : divide and rule
Praise to India but more so to the West
Chins, Kachins, Karens and Shans
Buddhism in Burma
Bishop Bigandet and Bur-Myan Theravada Buddhism

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JJ-footnotes
UKT-footnote

UKT notes :
Far-off part of India
Buddhism and Brahanism
Council of Patna
Diamond Sutra : Mahayana Buddhism
Golden Land
Irawadi

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Introduction

UKT 130707: Jardine's Introduction is page-numbered in Roman numbers, which I have changed to ordinary numbers. I have added my own footnotes as UKT01, UKT02, ... . John Jardine's footnotes are given as JJ01, JJ02, ... .

UKT 130923: Jardine's Introduction is certainly a lengthy one - some 30 pages. It will take me a long time to go through it - line by line -- on what he has said about my forefathers, those from the north as well as those from the south. It appears to be very biased and I will do my utmost to refute his assertions. I don't know when I will be able able to finish.

Burma: the land and its peoples:
the Golden Land to the Ancients

[{ intro07begin}]
During all the past Burma has been a land of attraction to men of adventure, a region of delight to those, like the old travellers, whose eyes sought after what is picturesque and strange. This far-off part of India was, indeed, even in the later centuries, hardly known to European merchants who had seen the cities under the dominion of the Great Mogul, and the castles and church towers which at Ormus, Goa, and other points along the coasts, marked the rising power of the Portuguese. [UKT ]

To the people of India, Burma had been known as the Golden Land from remote time, and it may very likely be that this old region was the Golden Chersonese of Ptolemy. Here, on the shores where the rivers Salween {n-lwing-mric} and Sitang {sic-taung: mric} join the sea, a number of powerful colonies from India, planted 2000 years ago, were engaged in constant struggles with the native tribes. The ruins of Golanagar, the town of the Gaudas or people from Gour in Bengal, are still to be seen. [UKT ]

UKT130707: It is dishonorable for a jurist like J. Jardine to describe the Pyus as native tribes. Recent archaeological finds in ancient Pyu sites show that the Pyus were perhaps more civilized than the transplanted colonists from India. However, it could also be said that when Jardine was writing his Introduction in 1893, archaeological survey had not even begun. Yet, the accounts of the Pyus were well recorded by the native historians, in the Glass Palace Chronicle and other works, which the colonialist historians like J. Jardine, and those who came after him such as Professor Luce, conveniently chose to ignore.

See below on what Jardine wrote: "Tagaung {ta.kaung:} (possibly the Tugma metropoils of Ptolemy), are to be treated as mere fable". The insert pix shows excavation sites at Halin at Tagaung.

The year 1893 was just a few years after the British colonialists had taken over our kingdom by strength of arms for which act they could be no better than the ancient Vandals (Vickings: Angles) who not only plundered the British Isles, but had driven the much more culturally advanced Britons into the mountains and had called them foreigners in their own land. In the meantime they renamed the fair country England - the land of the Angles. Myanmarpr was lucky -- it is too big for the British colonialists to swallow.

 

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The Theravada Religion in Burma

Here, in the time of Emperor Asoka (the third century B.C.), came the Buddhist missionaries Sona and Uttara, from the Council of Patna, to preach that faith which ultimately spread among the primitive peoples surrounding the colony. [UKT ]

Albeit the Hindu communities fell in the end under the people of the land, they contrived for a time to establish powerful kingdoms [UKT: Where?], and left a strong impress of their own religions, science, and literature on the minds of these Talaings {ta.leing;} of Pegu {p:hku:}. In that country also, as in India and Cambodia, the conflict between Buddhism and Brahmanism lasted long. [UKT ]

UKT 130924: Was John Jardine referring to Sri Ksestra and Beikthano by his "Hindu ... kingdoms" ? The two communities were Pyu and Buddhist -- people speaking a Tib-Bur language similar to or the same as Bur-Myan. An almost intact community remains today in the area of Mindon. The present state of archeology shows that their centre was Samoan valley, where the present capital Naypyitaw is situated. See: Samoan Valley - a Pyu homeland in the Samoan valley: a new theory of the origins of Myanmar's early urban system - by Bob Hudson, Archaeology Department, Univ. of Sydney, Australia, in Myanmar Historical Commission Conference Proceedings, Part 2: 59-79 Universities Historical Research Centre, Yangon, http://acl.arts.usyd.edu.au/~hudson/BH2005Jan.pdf 080916. Or, you can see the paper on this website in - samoan.htm (link ch 130924)

Although in the course of centuries [{ intro07end-intro08begin}] the former became the prevalent religion of Burma, gaining converts on all sides, the ancient powers of the Brahmans {brah~ma.Na. poaN~Na:} can be traced in the history as well as in the ruins of old cities, in the popular traditions and on the carven stones, such as those which Dr.Forchhammer saw at Thatn, one of which reveals an early endeavour to compromise disputes, where the Dravidian immigrants from the south of India portray Vishnu in his ninth incarnation as Buddha, the Enlightened One. [UKT ]

UKT 130920: MahaDva Vishnu, is one of the Hindu (or Brahmanist Trinity), who was a minor dva-god, as judged by the number of hymns directed to him in the Vedas. There were only 8 hymns to Vishnu compared to 289 to Indra, 218 to Agni, and, 123 to Soma. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rigvedic_deities 130920.

To count Gautama Buddha as one of Vishnu's incarnations was just an futile attempt by the Brahmanic priests ignoring the fact that Brahmanism is a Theist religion based on a scientifically unproven idea (an axiom) of Creation just like the Christian religion, whereas the Buddha had started out from a scientific principle of mental suffering because of adherence to unfounded ideas. To portray the atheist Buddha as a reincarnation of Vishnu - the axiom - was just to mislead the people.

We have in these early facts of history apparent proof of the high antiquity of the influence of India over the various nations dwelling in Burma; whether or no the legends and traditions which describe an ancient incursion of Indians from Kapilavastu, under a royal leader of the Kshatriya caste, by the landward route through Manipur, and the founding of the dynasty at Tagaung {ta.kaung:} (possibly the Tugma metropoils of Ptolemy), are to be treated as mere fable, or, as Sir A. Phayre, following Lassen, inclines to believe, as enshrining some foundation of fact, and accounting for the early use of Sanskrit in names of places and terms of art and law.

UKT 130117: In the face of such writings as above by the European colonist-historians, the only recourse that we have to prove the antiquity of Tagaung or Halin is archeology and carbon-dating of the materials found.

There is now more general agreement of scholars as to the races of men whom these Indians, colonists, and missionaries encountered in Burma. [UKT ]

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The Clans and Tribes
ignoring the Pyus

Into the upper region of the Irawadi the dominant race, now called the Burmese, had descended from Central Asia, which tract their physical resemblances and affinities of language with the people of Tibet show to have been the home of their forefathers. The clans became more or less welded into tribes, as among their 'younger brothers' the Chins of to-day; and in course of time we find dynasties of kings reigning at Tagaung, Panya, Pagan, and Prome, and others ruling the remoter countries of Arakan and Toungoo. [UKT ]

The Tibeto-Burman tribes had, however, to contend with the Tai or Shan people, which in its different branches is perhaps the most widely spread of any race in the Indo-Chinese peninsula, including as it does the Ahoms of Assam, the Laos of Zimme, and the Siamese. Face and language point to racial [{intro08end-intro09begin}] connections with China, and the history and tradition of these tribes tell of an earlier home ages ago in Yunnan, of a Shan kingdom in the north of Burma, with its capital at Mong Maw Long on the Sheveli river, and another Shan kingdom of Tali, which fell under the conquering hand of Kublai Khan in A.D.1253. [UKT ]

Nearer the sea, along the coasts and in the fertile plains bordering the great rivers and creeks, were found another race, the old dwellers of Pegu {p:hku:} and the country round Moulmain {mau-la.mraing}, who call themselves Mns {mwun}. These obtained the mastery of the delta, driving out the Taungthu {taung-u} tribe who originally tilled its soil, and establishing themselves so firmly there as to check for some centuries the ultimate conquest by the Burmans who in contempt styled the Mns Talaings {ta.leing:} or people trodden under foot, and proscribed their language, after Alompra {a.laung:Bu.ra:} in 1757 had taken Pegu, and the Mns had made common cause with the British in 1824. [UKT ]

UKT 130920: Need to check the gloss given by Jardine on:
Mns Talaings {ta.leing:} or people trodden under foot .

 

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The Trickery of the Colonialists:
divide and rule

UKT 130920: The Mons were tricked into making common cause with the British in 1824. Quite a few of them, including my mother's relatives from the outskirt of Ancient Dala, had no choice but to seek refuge under the British in Moulmein, when they saw the Burmese troops return to Rangoon.

However, they did not make 'common cause' with the British during the Second-Anglo Burmese War. Instead the Mon-Buddhist clergy sought refuge with their brethren in Northern Myanmarpr. Dwara Sayadaw and Shwgyin Sayadaw tried to check the exodus of the Buddhist clergy from Southern Myanmarpr which would have only pleased the Christian-British. We can trace the Mon origin of the Dwara and Shwgyin monks by the prefix they attached to their names: {U:} spelled with {nhic-hkyaung:ngin}. [I still need to check the info.]

The Talaing language, which, it is said, is likely to die out, as the nation tends to merge in the Burmese, belongs to the Mn-Annam group of those languages which use tone or variety of pitch of voice, where we employ inflection to modify meaning. Captain Forbes has shown that the language of the Talaings and the Cambodians was originally one, and that before the intrusion of the Siamese the Mn-Annam monarchy dominated the deltas of the rivers Irawadi {-ra-wa.ti mric}, Salween {n-lwing mric}, Menam, and Mekong. [UKT ]

There is a theory held by Sir A. Phayre and others that the Talaings and their language came from Telingana (UKT02), in the south of India. But the researches of later scholars have shown that the Mns and Cambodian tongues are connected with those of China. [UKT ]

It is true, however, that the Talaings were in closer touch than the Burman or Shan races with the higher civilisation of India -- firstly with the Indian colonies where Brahman views prevailed, and next with Buddhist missionaries, who began their teaching there, and soon became involved in conflict with the Brahmans. [UKT ]

UKT 130920: By "Brahman views" John Jardine had obviously meant the Brahmancal Hindu religion of the Brahmin-Poannnas {brah~ma.Na. poaN~Na:} which was a later development corrupting the ancient Vedic religion. Gautama Buddha had a high opinion of the ancient Vedic Rishis, but he branded the Brahmin-Poannas {brah~ma.Na. poaN~Na:} as the "heretics" and banned their language Sanskrit to be used as a liturgical language for dispensation of his teachings. See: The Language Problem of Primitive Buddhism - by Chi Hisen-lin, Journal of the Burma Research Society, XLIII, i, June 1960 - lang-problem-Buddh.htm (link chk 130924)

That the "Talaings were in closer touch than the Burman or Shan races with the higher civilizations of India" is not true. It should be remembered that there are overland route from Nepal, where Buddha was born, to Myitkyina in northern Myanmar through which the Gurhkas of Nepal had been travelling to the present day (based on episodes told to UKT by U Thein Aung aka Chandra Prasad (Lecturer in Chemistry, Bassein University), a native of Sitapur, a Gurhka village on the outskirts of Myitkyina. Some of his villagers had gone back to Nepal in the 1950s, driving their herds of cattle with them, and his own father had travelled from Nepal to settle in Sitapur an outlying village of Myitkyina.

During the first five or six centuries of our era, [{ intro09end-intro10begin}] when Buddhism had spread over India, there was constant traffic ( UKT03)  between the Coromandel coast and the opposite shores (UKT: the Rakhine or Arakan coast) of the Bay of Bengal; and when the persecutions began to rage in India against Buddhism the victims sailed for refuge to the ports on the Burman side.

Conquered at last, and ill-treated by the Burmese kings, the trodden-down Talaings can apply to themselves what Seneca wrote of the Jews in the Roman Empire: Victoribus victi leges dederunt. [UKT 0182]

UKT 130920: Seneca, Lucius Annus, (ca 6 BC - 65 CE), the Stoic philosopher, teacher of Roman Emperor Nero, wrote of the Jews in the Roman Empire: Victoribus victi leges dederunt. - meaning: "The conquered have given laws". J. Jardine was probably giving "advice" to the trodden-down Talaings  that they can still teach their conquerors.

It was to the Talaings of Thatn that about 450 A.D. the greatest Buddhist divine, Buddhaghosa {rhing boad~Da.Gau;a.}, the author of the Visuddhi Magga , or Path of Holiness, brought a complete set of the Buddhist Scriptures in the Pali language from Ceylon. [UKT ]

It was from Thatn that the ecclesiastic [ who?] went who converted King Anoarahta of Pagan [1015-1078] to the orthodox Buddhist faith (UKT04); it was to Thaton that the royal convert sent an embassy to procure the Scriptures, the Tripitakka; and on meeting with a refusal, and invading the Talaing country, and razing this mother-city of Burman Buddhism to the ground with all its pagodas and ancient buildings (A.D. 1057), it was thence he carried off to his own capital the thirty-two elephant-loads of the Scriptures and the 1000 monks, and gave that impetus to pure Buddhism in the Upper Valley of the Irawadi, which some writers treat as the first real planting of the faith in that region. [UKT ]

UKT 130921: Who was the "ecclesiastic" who went to King Anoarahta of Pagan [1015-1078]? He was certainly not Shin Buddhaghosa {rhing boad~Da.Gau;a.}. Was it true that King Anoarahta "raz[ed] this mother-city of Burman Buddhism to the ground with all its pagodas and ancient buildings (A.D. 1057)" ? He might have destroyed the fortifications of the city, but as to razing its pagodas, it is very doubtful.

It was a Talaing monk of Dala, opposite Rangoon, Sariputta (obiit 1246 A.D.), honoured by the King of Pagan with the title of Dhammavilasa, who compiled the first of the Manu Dharmashasters known to the Burmese literature, the Dhammavilasa promulgated in Pagan. [UKT ]

Dala, opposite Rangoon
-- UKT 130925: The present-day village of Dala, now incorporated into Greater Rangoon, is not really the ancient city of Dala which lies deep in the jungle known as Twant Tawgyidan. The village of Mayan (adjacent to the town of Kungyangon where I was born in the 1930s) from which my Mon-ancestors came is on the further side of the ancient city. Go back Anc-Dala-note-b

It was the Talaing or half-Shan king of Martaban {moat~ta.ma.}, Wagaru (obiit 1306 A.D.), who caused the edition of this famous Code of Manu which bears Wagaru's name to be compiled -- the same which the Talaing jurist Buddhaghosa translated two centuries later, and which the King of Toungoo adopted in 1580. [UKT ]

UKT 130925: Martaban {moat~ta.ma.}, was not a kingdom. It was just one area of Mon-Myan dialect. The Mons were always divided along linguistic lines. There were three dialects. The present-day Mons speak the Martaban dialect. (need to confirm.). Martaban {moat~ta.ma.} was a just a city ruled by the tax-collector or {mro.sa:} - lit. "one who eats the city". appointed either by the Mon or Burman king.

 

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Praise to India but more so to the West

It may therefore be said that the Burman races are indebted to India for their religion, their [{ intro10end-intro11begin}] literature and their law, received chiefly through the Talaings dwelling on the coasts and estuaries, and in close communication with the Hindu colonies which Anoarahta overthrew at last. By these same channels of religion, literature, and law, came also the astronomy, astrology, computation of time, the arts of medicine and divination, and the akshara alphabets known at the present day, all which bear the Indian sign and superscription.

UKT130924: In the above para I have struck out the word "alphabets" and inserted "akshara", because our akshara is based on phonemic principles known India for over two thousand years. The second reason is because each character of the akshara is a syllable in itself and is totally different from the letters of the alphabet. Because of these characteristics, akshara of one language, say Myanmar, have a one-to-one correspondence with the akshara of another such as Devanargari.

Until establishment of relationship (UKT03) with the nations of Europe began in later times, these influences of India were the most powerful that affected the contending Burmans and Talaings, from whom also the foreign civilisation spread to the Shans and other tribes connected with the Chinese -- a development which still goes on so prominently as to be discussed in the Census Report of 1891. [UKT ]

The greatest influence of all was and is the Buddhist religion, with which came into the northern valley, according to Sir A. Phayre's opinion, the simple handicrafts, spinning and weaving, and the cultivation of the cotton-plant. Before, however, dealing with the vast effects of this mighty agency, it were well to estimate the conditions, material and moral, of the peoples before its advent. [UKT ]

UKT 130924: Can it be true that Arthur Phayre did not know anything about the Pyus? These ancient residents of Myanmarpr of the Brass Age culture had surfaced in the land well before the Burmese and the Mons. The following statement is from The Sir Arthur Phayre collection of Burmese manuscripts - by Patricia M. Herbet, -- http://www.bl.uk/eblj/1975articles/pdf/article7.pdf 130924 (the PDF is with the TIL library) " IN 1886 the British Museum acquired approximately eighty Burmese manuscripts, now located at Or. 3403-80. These manuscripts formed part of the collection of Sir Arthur Purves Phayre, one of the most distinguished of Burma's early administrators."

We wish to know what kind of institutions the Burmans possessed before the great changes of Anoarahta's reign. To this inquiry the learned Dr. Forchhammer gives an answer which is in general agreement with the opinions of our historians, and of those officials who have studied the rules and customs of the wilder tribes now under the Queen's sceptre (UKT05). [UKT ]

The Chins of to-day reflect the Burman as he was of old. We find them divided into many clans, according to occupation; the unity of the family is preserved by the worship of a family ghost. To this ma'nes are made over offerings of rice, beer, pork, and buffalo-flesh in safe-keeping, to be enjoyed by the giver in the world to come. The Chin also propitiates other spirits (not ma'nes) of evil propensities, who dwell in houses, forests, rivers, and trees. These are the real indigenous Nats or demons of [{intro11end-intro12begin}] the tribes, carefully to be distinguished from the ogres, fairies, and dryads, the rakshasas, devas, and brahmas introduced through Buddhism and the Tantra school of India. [UKT ]

Among these Nats is Maung Zein (UKT06), who in an image-house in old Pagan, is made to kneel before Gaudama Buddha. The Burmans affirm that this Zein was one of their chief Nats before they became Buddhists; and, as Forchhammer observes, it is an admirable act of religious policy on the part of the Burmans that, after adopting Buddhism, and probably moved by a lingering fear of his power, they began to stultify it by changing him into a devoted pupil and adorer of Gaudama. By a converse process the seven evil spirits appear in a Buddhist law-book as seven kinds of witches and wizards. [UKT ]

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Chins, Kachins, Karens and Shans

Like beliefs are found among the wilder Karens and Shans; and among the Kachin tribes whose rites are described by Mr. George in the Census Report of 1891. These frontier people, he says, worship Nats or spirits, of whom the numbers are endless, for any one may become a Nat after his death. This general worship of the powers of nature was widely common all over Central Asia until the Buddhist religion spread there, as is testified by that learned Orientalist, Rehatsek, in his Essay on Christianity among the Mongols.

'The powers of nature had from the most ancient times been personified among Asiatic nations, and, according to them, not only the earth and its bowels, but also the sky, is full of spirits, who exert either a beneficent of maleficent influence on mankind; accordingly, it is no wonder that this belief was current not only among the Mongols, but also the Zoroastrians and Hindus. Every country, mountain, river, brook, tree or any other object of nature was by the Mongols believed to have a spirit for its tenant; not only violent natural phenomena, such as thunder, earthquakes, hurricanes, and inundations, but also bad crops, epidemics, all kinds of other diseases and evils, such as sudden attacks of epilepsy, [{intro12end-intro13begin}] lunacy, etc., were ascribed to the wrath of these gods, who are divided into many classes, greatly differing in power and effect.' --Journal of the R. A. Society, Bombay branch, vol. xiii. pp.152, 181

This Shamanism appears not to differ much from Taoism, the belief of the great majority of the Chinese, on which Confucianism and Buddhism have been grafted. Rehatsek adds that although the spread of Buddhism and Islam has greatly curtailed this extensive faith in demons, it has by no means entirely disappeared from among the Mongols and Tibetans, with whom it still prevails in the midst of Buddhist tenets and ceremonies, nor have its traces entirely vanished from the wandering Mussalman tribes. According to Mr. Leland, similar beliefs survive among some of the ignorant classes in Italy, pagans in two senses of the word -- those who delightedly believe in fays and talismans and spirits, and call this creed of theirs the vecchia religione, in spite of the Catholic Church and all the Christian centuries. Bishop Bigandet tells us that although Buddhism has a hold over the imagination and sentiments of the better educated, the Burmans all publicly and privately indulge in the worship of the Nats. Almost every city has its own patron spirit; and each household is under the guardian care of the family Nat. If calamity overtakes a Burman, he considers it to be the work of unfriendly Nats; and when he wishes to begin any important undertaking, he propitiates these direct representatives of the old animistic worship, the present cult of the Karens, Chins, and other wilder tribes. [UKT ]

Still, we read in the Census Report of 1891 that Nat-worship is a decaying and despised religion, and that both Buddhism and Christianity have increased at its expense. Without giving up their aboriginal rites, the tendency of the unconverted races (UKT07) is to pass into Buddhism. [UKT ]

The Chins, for instance, are not Buddhists, yet when living among Burmans they join in the Buddhist festivals, in the building of monasteries, and in the support of monks; they also prefer to secure [{intro13end-intro14begin}] by a visit to the great Shway Dagon Pagoda at Rangoon the blessings of the Tavatimsa Heaven. The census returns show a Buddhist population of 6,888,075 persons; the proportion being 9056 out of every 10,000; that of the Nat-worshippers being only 221.[UKT ]

The Net-worship is contrary to the principles of Buddhism; and although in Central Asia the Buddhist priests have organised the various kinds of spirits according to Hindu views, and act as exorcisers, magicians, and astrologers, in Burma the occult sciences are relegated to the Brahmans, Burma being the only Buddhist country in which the religious order is prohibited from such studies and arts. [UKT ]

Gaudama of old classed them with palmistry, fortune-telling, oracles, and charms, as lying practices, and censured those who gain their living by such means, whom, it may be remarked, the law of England treats as rogues and vagabonds. It will, perhaps, be objected by the reader that in Christendom, even so late as the time of Burns, of Walter Scott, and the Ettrick Shepherd, the ancient beliefs in malicious or capricious ghosts and demons, and in the spells and charms of witches, lingered in the land, -- survivals of opinions which had once ruled the masculine intellects of such eminent Christians as Chief-Justice Hale, Sir Thomas Browne, and John Wesley. [UKT ]

Yet it is beyond the reach of doubt that the dogmas, sacraments, and morals of the Christian religion had a constant, penetrating, and weighty force; and it is to be noticed that writers on Burma impute many effects on character, customs, and law to Buddhism. Mr Eales in his Census Report does indeed conclude that "the Buddhism of Burma at the present day is but a thin veneer of philosophy laid over the main structure of Shamanistic belief". [UKT ]

On the other hand, Major Temple says with greater caution: "the Buddhism of Burma, as understood by the laity, may as be well compared to the Christianity of the Russian moujik. In both of these countries the imported civilized religion has not yet succeeded in completely ousting the uncivilized Shamanism that preceded it." [UKT ]

UKT 130923: Temple, Richard Carnac, Sir, 1850-1931 - source http://catalog.hathitrust.org/ :
The thirty-seven nats : a phase of spirit-worship prevailing in Burma /
By: Temple, Richard Carnac, Sir, 1850-1931. Published: (1991)
 

The fact appears [{intro14end-intro15begin}] to be that the influences of the good and bad Nats are confined to the passing events of life, to good luck and calamity; the conduct of life, the moral sentiments, and the theology of the people are dominated, not by the old superstitions, but by the religion of Gaudama. [UKT ]

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Buddhism in Burma

It seems generally admitted that Buddhism in Burma has been a civilising institution; and, as Forchhammer tells us, the Burmans have in past centuries been zealous Buddhists; their ways of life, their social and private institutions, are thoroughly Buddhistic, and they would resent the idea of having still the tatters of their former savage condition clinging to them. But I have been unable to find any full estimate of the changes wrought by Buddhism or a summing-up of its elevating results. This desideratum is analogous to the absence of anything like a full account in the histories of India of the effect of Buddhism on laws and social life: scholars have been more fascinated by the theology and the ecclesiastical polity. [UKT ]

Bigandet remarks that Gaudama paid little attention to the dogmatical portion of religion, but laid the greatest stress on morals; and there is abundant proof that the great ethical commands of the Buddhist system, as well as the formulas and creeds, have become familiar to the Burmans and Talaings, and more or less to the wilder tribes. The incessant teaching of the five binding precepts, not to kill, nor steal, nor tell a lie, nor drink intoxicating liquor, nor commit adultery, must have had wide effect. [UKT ]

UKT 130924: Bishop Bigandet and most in the West as well as in the East, faile to realized that Gautama Buddha was one of the greatest scientists of all times. He has no use for dogmas which are nothing but axioms.

dogma - a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true: "the Christian dogma of the Trinity". See AHTD.

Even when all the religions in the world were to disappear with the advance of scientific thought, Buddhism narrowed down to the Four Principles {ic~sa l:pa:}, the Anatta {a.nt~ta.} theory and the Twenty-four Fundamentals {nic-hs.l: pic~s:} of human actions based on six "thoughts" would remain. They are science and would withstand the changes in Time-Space continuum even when all of the human race disappeared from this Earth. See Abelson, Peter (April 1993). Schopenhauer and Buddhism. Philosophy East and West Volume 43, Number 2, pp. 255-278. University of Hawaii Press. Retrieved on: 12 April 2008. " http://ccbs.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JR-PHIL/peter2.htm 130924:
" If I were to take  the results  of my philosophy  as the  standard  of truth, I would  have  to  consider Buddhism the finest of all religion. -- Arthur Schopenhauer (1)

The children of Burma are taught in the monasteries to read religious books, and the habit is kept up on holy days, and when they bewail the death of friends. 'They, without being aware of it, imbibe religious notions and become acquainted with some parts of the religious creed, particularly with what relates to Gaudama's preceding and last existence.' I quote my venerable friend Bishop Bigandet; and as to the persuasion towards virtue contained in the Life of Gaudama, whoever desires to know more should read his translation of the Burmese Legend, which, as Dr. Rhys Davids states, [{intro15end-intro16begin}] adheres very closely to the orthodox books of the Southern Church, introduced into Burma from Ceylon in the fifth century of our era (JJ01). [UKT ]

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Bishop Bigandet and Burmese-Myanmar Theravada Buddhism

The learned Prelate's notes and essays are on all hands treated as authority about Burmese Buddhism, combining, as they do, long experience of men and things with sagacious and judicial reflections. He describes the sermon preached by Gaudama to a Nat (UKT08), the specimen given by Sangermano, as a fair sample of similar performances; and this sermon is a compendium of almost all the moral virtues. Buddhism he calls 'a moral and practical system, making man acquainted with the duties he has to perform in order to shun vice and practise virtue.' Again, 'It will not be deemed rash to assert that most of the moral truths prescribed by the Gospel are to be met with in the Buddhist Scriptures.' The wonder therefore disappears that the Legend of Buddha should have been adapted into a Christian form by St. John of Damascus (in TIL-collect.htm), and the saintly hero canonised by the pope of Rome as St. Josaphat (in TIL-collect.htm), to whom, according to Colonel Yule, a church at Palermo is dedicated. [UKT ]

UKT 130923: Originally I have St. John of Damascus and St. Josaphat in this file as my note: UKT09 which has now been moved. The St. John of Damascus and St. Josaphat are now in a separate folder. Some more will be moved for better book keeping. -- TIL-collec.htm (link chk 130923).

Monier-Williams believes the Buddhists to have been the first to introduce total abstinence from strong drinks into India. Rehatsek, after ascribing the civilisation of the Mongols to their conversion from Shamanism to Buddhism, writes: 'It is almost incomprehensible how the savage Mongols, who were accustomed to massacre whole populations in order to secure their rear from enemies, zealously submitted to a religion inculcating gentleness and kindness to all created beings, and how a nation that loved to raze cities to the ground, and to convert cultivated plains into deserts to obtain pastures, should have eagerly built temples, established convents, introduced useful institutions, and practised religious duties.' The [{intro16end-intro17begin}] tendency of the religion must have been the same among other savage tribes. Buddhism also supplies the mind with ideas of vastness and solemnity, not without elevating effect. The Burman woman, with her rosary in hand, may be heard any day repeating the formula about Vanity of Vanities (TIL-collect.htm) -- the words 'Change, Pain, Illusion.' (UKT10) The other sentence of the three gems, wherein the weary soul takes refuge, is equally familiar: 'Buddha, the Law, and the Communion of Saints'. (UKT11)  We are told by Bigandet that the fervour and love with which Buddhists speak of the Law must be witnessed to be realised: in conversation regarding their faith they are sometimes moved to tears. This law, discovered by Buddha, governs the whole universe physical and moral, in heaven above and the earth beneath, through the operation of cause and effect. The dewdrop is formed, and the heart is tranquillised, and the practice of virtue is rewarded by means of causes that are alike in the manner of their operation. One must suppose that several generations passed away to their long home before the worshippers of ghosts and demons and tribal gods, people addicted to blood-feuds, and as ignorant of letters as the wilder Karens and Chins and Kachins of to-day, accepted a gigantic philosophical theory like this of Dharma.

Turning aside from the tendencies to what is known of the practical results of Buddhism in Burma, we find two of great importance -- a general diffusion of education through the teaching of the monks, and the elevation of the character and position of women. The genius of the religion disregards caste, allows no difference between man and man except what is proved by superiority in virtue, and insists on imparting knowledge to all. The Census Report of 1891, which is the latest official document I have come across, speaks of the exertions of the monks in matters of education in those terms of praise with which we have long been familiar; they seem willing, even in the newly conquered province, to combine the new with the old, to attempt a reconciliation between [{p.roman18}]

UKT10: 'Change, Pain, Illusion.' is to be translated as: anicca , dukkha , anatta . If a Buddhist were to read Ecclesiates in the Old Testament of the Christian Bible, he or she would immediately see how similar the ideas in this "book" were to the Buddhistic ideas.

UKT11: The Three Gems are Buddha, Dhamma (the Teachings of Buddha), and Sangha (the order of monks responsible for dissemination of the Teachings of Buddha.). The reader should note that the Sanskrit word dharma in Hindu religion is different from the Buddhistic dhamma. The two religions are exactly opposite on the fundamental question of the "Soul". Hinduism is based on the presence, the permanence and the indestructibility of a personal soul or atta, whereas Buddhism is based on the non-presence or anatta. Buddhism treats atta as just an idea -- an assumption -- which together with all other ideas and assumptions, is to be get rid off for the attainment of real freedom or {wi.moat~ti.} or Nirvana.

science and religion. The elevation of woman is rather more perplexing, as the theology treats marriage from the ascetic point of view: a wise man is to avoid it as if it were a burning pit of live coals, and to wander lonely on the path of life, like a rhinoceros. These counsels of perfection were met in India by the same sort of arguments that Chaucer puts into the mouth of the Wife of Bath in his Canterbury Tales. According to Monier-Williams, they checked the spread of Gaudama's religion. The people murmured and said, 'He is come to bring childlessness among us, and widowhood and destruction of family life.' All the same, Buddhism admits of nuns and lay sisters; and its love of equality comes to their aid. On so interesting a subject I am constrained to quote at length from the writings of the learned and impartial Bigandet. 'Who could think, ' he asks, 'of looking upon the woman as a somewhat inferior being, when we see her ranking, according to the degrees of her spiritual attainments, among the perfect and foremost followers of Buddha?' Again, 'In Burma and Siam the doctrines of Buddhism have produced a striking, and to the lover of true civilisation a most interesting result, viz., established the almost complete equality of the condition of women with that of men. In those countries women are not miserably confined in the interior of their houses, without the remotest chance of ever appearing in public. They are seen circulating freely in the streets; they preside at the comptoirs (UKT: shops), and hold an almost exclusive possession of the bazaars. Their social position is more elevated in every respect than that of the persons of their sex in the regions where Buddhism is not the predominating creed. They may be said to be men's companions and not their slaves. They are active, industrious, and by their labours and exertions contribute their full share towards the maintenance of the family. The marital rights, however, are fully acknowledged by a respectful behaviour towards their lords.'

The reader acquainted with the tendencies and some of the [{p.roman19}] results of Buddhism will perhaps be perplexed when he hears of the cruelties perpetrated in wars, of in the reigns of terror by some of the absolute monarchs. These atrocities, as well as the corruption and insecurity which despotic government caused, are depicted by Sangermano, and bewailed by our Envoys in their narratives. The King of Burma was the secular head of the religion, and  it may doubtless be argued that he ought to have felt the restraining hand of Holy Church. It would, however, be unjust to blame religion for the secular crimes of uncontrolled kings: it is simpler to impute them in Burma to Oriental despotism. Over these tyrants the religion cast its terrors  when it proclaimed the unchangeable effect of evil action; and in the law-books, which were often compiled by men of the sacred yellow robe at the behest of kings, we find long quotations from the Scriptures explaining the difference between dharma, or rule according to law, and the sinful decrees of passion and brute force. These Codes, originally based on the famous Codes of Manuic India, thus became saturated with Buddhist ethics; and one of the most visible results is the elevation of women in matters of status, marriage, and inheritance. The testimony of these law-books to this great social change is ignored by most writers, although in the general absence of original Burmese literature, except a few lyrics, these Dhammathats are, as Dr. Forchhammer pointed out, the only literary works which disclose to the student the practical effect of a religious system upon the social and political growth of the Talaings and Burmans. It must, however, be confessed that Buddhism did not abolish slavery in Burma or Siam (UKT12); and our Envoys notice with pity a revolting incident of insolvency, whereby the wife or daughter might be sold at the suit of a creditor, and thus condemned to the public brothel. Turning from these non-feasances of the Buddhist Church, we must put in the other scale the religious toleration noted by Sangermano which allowed the Italian Catholics, and later on the American [{p.roman20}]

UKT12: Slavery in Burma as mentioned by John Jardine was not "slavery" in the Western sense. The Bur-Myan word {kyun} which has been translated as <slave> is more close to a "servant" than a "slave". A {kyun} was usually a person who was serving another to repay the debt incurred. There was another kind of {kyun}, the "pagoda slave" or {bura: kyun} who tendered his or her services to the assigned pagoda. Because their master was the Buddha himself, the king usually would not impress them into military service, and they were exempt from taxes. They may be likened to the Levites whose duty was to serve the temple.

feasance -- law n. from French an obligation or duty -- UKT

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Baptists, to confer benefits on the people, before we had gained any territory in Burma. Sometimes one sect of Buddhists has prevailed on the king to persecute the rival sect: but, as a rule, theological hatred shrank from taking human life, round which the religion sheds a sanctity. The Bishops and Abbots often interposed between the monarch or governor and the people, for purposes of humanity or justice; and at the present day religious fanaticism is almost unknown among the Buddhists, and rival sects live with each other on friendly terms. To avoid prolixity, I must now conclude my remarks on the racial origins and Indian institutions affecting Burma, and turn to the next great cause which more and more sways life and thought there -- the intercourse with Europe ending in the conquest by England, and the regulative effects of our law and administration, which may fitly be compared to those of the Romans. It has been no part of my aim to discuss Buddhism in general, and I leave untouched the questions whether the Gaudama of the Legend was a real person or a solar myth, whether Buddhaghosa the divine is a mere name and allegory, and other matters of dispute in religion and philology.

In his Narrative of the Mission to Ava in 1855, Colonel Yule supplies a singularly full and accurate account of the intercourse of the Burmese countries with Western nations, to which, and also the last chapter in Phayre's History of Burma, I refer the reader, abridging here what otherwise I might have to say. The first European traveller of modern times seems to be Nicolo de Conti (UKT13), a noble Venetian of Damascus, who travelled by Persia, India, and Ceylon to Sumatra, whence, after sixteen days' sailing, he reached Tenasserim, which district he says abounds in elephants and a species of thrush. He then crossed to the Ganges, and next went up the river Racha (Arakan) to the city of that name. Then he journeyed over 'mountains void of all habitations for the space of seventeen days, and then through open plains for fifteen days more' to the river Irawadi and the city of Ava, where, he remarks, the king rides

UKT13: Early European travellers
   -- From History of Rangoon by B.R. Pearn, American Baptist Mission Press, Rangoon, 1939, p.27.
"The first European traveller to visit Burma so far as is known was the Venetian merchant Nicolo di Conti, who came to Tenassarim, Arakan, Ava and Pegu, about 1435 (UKT: 500 years before I was born); but makes no reference to Dagon in his description of Pegu. Another Italian, Hieronimo de Santo Stephano, came to Pegu in 1496, and nine years later another fellow-countryman, Luidovico di Varthema also came there; but neither do these refer to Dagon in their accounts of their adventures. It is therefore not unreasonable to conclude that though Dagon had become an eminent religious centre, it was in other respects still insignificant, and not in any way a place likely to interest the commercially - minded. In the second decade of the sixteenth century the Portuguese began to have official relations with Lower Burma, and a Portuguese settlement was established at Martaban. But Pegu was the principal centre of trade, for flow towards the sea past Syriam; on the contrary it flowed into the Gulf of Martaban, and this remained the case till the later sixteenth  century. It was to Pegu that foreign merchants went in pursuit of their trade, and not even Syriam, much less Dagon, was as yet within the range of commercial interests."

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on a white elephant, and the women, as well as men, puncture their flesh with pins of iron, and rub into these punctures pigments which cannot be obliterated, and so they remain painted for ever. The Burman women have now given up this habit of  tattooing, which the Chin women retain. The traveller was not strictly correct in saying that all worship idols: it is interesting to read about the devotion to the three gems. 'When they rise in the morning from their beds they turn towards the east, and with their hands together say, "God in his Trinity and his Law defend us."' About 1496 we find Hieronimo de Santo Stephano of Genoa in the city of Pegu. War was going on with Ava; and he had to wait above a year to get payment from the king for his merchandise. In the sixteenth century the Portuguese appear; and we find them often serving as mercenaries in the wars between the kings of the Delta. One of these military adventurers was the celebrated Ferdinand Mendez Pinto, who mingles romance with his history. Caesar Frederike, a more trustworthy traveller, left Venice in 1563, and spent eighteen years in the East. He refers to the capture of Yuthia by Bureng Naung (A.D. 1569), and the return of the conqueror to Pegu with the spoils of Siam, Frederike being an eye-witness of 'his tryumphs and victorie, which coming home and returning from the warres was a goodly sight to behold, to see the elephants come home in a square, laden with gold, silver, jewels, and with noble men and women that were taken prisoners.' He describes the two cities of Pegu, the old and the new: the houses built of cane and thatched with leaves, the magazine or godon of brick, used as a common store by the merchants, the crocodiles in the ditch, the four white elephants, the gilded shrines with the four statues of gold, silver, brass, and copper alloy. He got an exaggerated notion of an army, mustering 4000 elephants and 80,000 harquebusses (the difficulty usually felt in a campaign, the problem of feeding so great a multitude seemed to him nothing great, as these troops would eat anything, 'very filthie or otherwise, all [{p.roman22}]

harquebus also arquebus n. 1. A heavy, portable matchlock gun invented during the 15th century. Also Called hackbut -- AHTD

serveth for their mouthes, yea, I have seen them eat scorpions and serpents, ' like the King of Cambay in Hudibras,

'Whose daily food
Was asp and basilisk and toad.' (UKT14)

In 1583 Gasparo Balbi, a Venetian jeweller, visited Pegu with a stock of emeralds. He gives a lively account of all that he saw: of Negrais with its swarms of flies, Cosmin the haunt of tigers, Dala with the ten large rooms full of royal elephants, 'the faire citie of Dagon' [Rangoon] with the long approach to the glorious pagoda, rising high in air like the Campanile at Venice. Then he sailed by Syriam, where the ruined walls showed traces of the war of 1567, and at length reached Pegu, where in solemn audience he gave the king an emerald.

Ralph Fitch, a London merchant, who after staying at Aleppo, Ormus, Cambay, Goa, and some places on the Ganges, reached Negrais in 1586, confirms many statements of Frederike's and Balbi's. 'Three days after, we came to Cosmin, which is a very pretty town, and standeth very pleasantly, very well furnished with all things. The people be very tall and well-disposed: the women white, round-faced, with little eyes; the houses are high built, set upon great high posts, and they go up to them for feare of the tigres, which be very many.' He went on to Pegu, and, like Frederike, who says the king 'far excels the power of the Grand Turk in treasure and strength,' he was impressed with all he saw of a pomp and magnificence which far

'Outshone the wealth of Ormus and of Ind.'

In the letters of these old travellers, Pegu stands forth as a right royal abode

'Where the gorgeous East with richest hand
Showers on her kings barbaric gold and pearl.'

Rubies were in such quantity, 'that they know not what to do with them, but sell them at most vile and base prices.' 'The merchandises that go out of Pegu are gold, silver, rubies, [{p.roman23}]

UKT14: Indian Folklores: Poison Robes or Khilats
These lines are from Hudibras (1663-1678) by the English satirist Samuel Butler (1612-1680), a venomous mock-heroic satire on the Puritans. His story is based on an Indian folklore: " The Prince of Cambay's daily food / Is asp and basilisk and toad" (cited in Commissariat 1938, 1:231).

CAMBAY, a native state of India, within the Gujarat division of Bombay. ... In physical character Cambay is entirely an alluvial plain. ... The town of CAMBAY had a population in 1901 of 31,780. It is supposed to be the Camanes of Ptolemy, ... but owing principally to the gradually increasing difficulty of access by water, owing to the silting up of the gulf, its commerce has long since fallen away, and the town has become poor and dilapidated. --- http://41.1911encyclopedia.org/C/CA/CAMBAY.htm

sapphires, spinelles, great store of benjamin, long pepper, lead, lacca, rice, wine, some sugar.' The trade was conducted through brokers, and the practice of selling a debtor's wife and children as slaves is mentioned. There seems to have been a thriving import trade. Sometimes opium came from Cambay; and once a year a ship arrived from Bengal, and another from Madras, with bombast cloth. Martaban traded with Malacca. Wool, scarlets, velvets, opium, and chickinos came from Mecca, and the King of Acheen's ships brought pepper. But the Pegu king was menaced by the naval power of Arakan. Fitch went a journey of twenty-one days from Pegu to 'a very faire and great towne,' where merchants from China came 'with great store of muske, golde, silver, and many other things.' 'I went, ' he writes, 'from Pegu to Iamahey, which is in the country of the Langeiannes, whom we call Iangomes.' This remote city is Zimme, or, as our Foreign Office, which has established a consulate there, now spells it, Chieng-mai. Thither the East India Company's factor in Siam sent in 1618 one Thomas Samuel to open up a trade. The place had been captured from Pegu by the King of Siam; but after the fall of Pegu, the Burman king took possession of Zimme, and carried off Samuel among other prisoners to Pegu, where he died. During the seventeenth century the Madras authorities of the East India Company started factories at Syriam, Prome, and Ava; and for a great part of that period the Dutch had establishments at the same places. In the great collection of Dutch archives made by de Jonge, we find a letter of 1608 from the King of Arakan, self-styled Salimscha, Kaiser of Pegu, and traces of contact with the famous Portuguese adventurer Philip de Brito, who afterwards ruled at Syriam. The 'interlopers,' as the East India Company's servants called the private traders from England, soon appeared on the scene; and in 1687 the Company sent Captain Weldon in a ship from Madras to drive out the English settlers at Mergui, [{p.roman27}]

spinel also spinelle n. 1. A hard, variously colored mineral with composition MgAl2O4 , with iron, zinc, or manganese sometimes partly or wholly replacing magnesium. The red variety is valued as a gem and is sometimes confused with ruby. [Italian spinella, diminutive of spina thorn (from its sharply pointed crystals) -- AHTD

benjamin n. 1. See benzoin . [Alteration of benjoin, bengewyne early forms of benzoin ]
benzoin n. 1. A balsamic resin obtained from certain tropical Asian trees of the genus Styrax and used in perfumery and medicine. Also Called benjamin Also Called gum benjamin Also Called gum benzoin . 2. A white or yellowish crystalline compound, C 14H12O2 , derived from benzaldehyde. [French benjoin Italian benzoino both from Arabic lubān jāw īy frankincense of Java. -- AHTD

then under Siam, by force. In a disturbance that followed some Siamese were killed; and seventeen Englishmen who were in the town were massacred in revenge. After this, British subjects were for a long time excluded from Siam. In 1695 Mr. Fleetwood and Captain Lesley went as envoys from Madras to Ava, and in 1709 Mr. Allanson was sent there by Governor Pitt. For the succeeding period, including the reign of Alompra and his conquest of Pegu, the parts played by the English and French in that war, the capture of Syriam from the French in 1756, and the massacre of the English at Negrais in 1759, the best authority is Major Michael Symes' Embassy to Ava in 1795. In the following year Captain Hiram Cox, our Resident at Rangoon, visited the King Bodoahpra, or, as Sangermano calls him, Badonsachen. The entertaining and thoughtful narrative of Symes throws much light on the period, and in many respects supplements Sangermano's account of the Burman Empire. The next events of importance are the war of 1824, which led to the annexation of Arakan and Tenasserim by the British, and the sending of Mr. John Crawfurd on an embassy to Ava in 1826, of which he wrote a journal, which is very good reading. The narrative of Sir A. Phayre's mission in 1855, soon after the second war which gave us the province of Pegu, the city of Rangoon, and all the Delta, was written by Yule, and is in every way of conspicuous merit. This work stands in point of time between Sangermano and the official Gazetteer of Lower Burma, compiled by Colonel Spearman. Since this Gazetteer was published, Upper Burma has been conquered, and the Burman monarchy has come to an end. Great events like these strike those that make them: they have created a new and wider interest in the country, and added to the value of Sangermano's work as a description of a state of things now receding far into the past.

Sangermano's residence in Ava and Rangoon from 1783 to 1806, while the Burman monarchy was in full power and [{p.roman25}] undismembered, enabled him to understand the Burman and Talaing nations. He was one of the earliest of that type of Christian missionaries who, in order to influence the people, set themselves to study their languages, literatures, and institutions; and who were thus enabled to place at the service of the English officials much information, of the utmost use, first to the administrators, and afterwards to scholars. I may add to what is said of Sangermano's life in the Prefaces to the two earlier editions the notice of him written by Major Symes, to illustrate the above remark. Symes says: 'Among the foreigners who came to pay their respects to the English gentlemen was an Italian missionary, named Vincentius Sangermano, who had been deputed to this country, about twenty years before, by the Society de Propaganda: he seemed a very respectable and intelligent man, spoke and wrote the Birman language fluently, and was held in high estimation by the natives for his exemplary life and inoffensive manners. His congregation consisted of the descendants of former Portugeze colonists, who, though numerous, are in general very poor; they, however, had erected a neat chapel, and purchased for their pastor a piece of ground a mile from the town, on which a neat, comfortable dwelling was built and a garden enclosed. He is indebted for his subsistence to voluntary contributions of his flock; in return for their charity he educates their children, instructs them in the tenets of the Romish faith, and performs mass twice a day at the chapel. From this reverend father I received much useful information.' It seems to be the fact that Symes and Sangermano went into matters of learning in their talks, as appears from another passage where Symes notices the resemblance of a Persian edition of the Arakan Code to the Burman version of the Manu Shaster of India. 'I was so fortunate,' says Symes, 'as to procure a translation of the most remarkable passages, which were rendered into Latin by Padre Vincentius Sangermano.' It only remains to [{p.roman26}] add that the reputation of the Italian priest has stood the test of time. He is treated as an authority by Bigandet and every writer on Burma: he is cited also by Dr. Kern and most of the historians of Buddhism. The above considerations appear ample to justify the offer to the public of a new edition of his work.

The notes I have appended to Dr. W. 's translation of the Italian text will, I trust, not interfere with the charm of Sangermano's story. Many of them are proofs of the accuracy of his observations: others throw side-lights on his views of things, especially where I cite the three historians of our embassies -- Symes, Crawfurd, and Yule, whose interesting folios are not easily accessible to the general reader, and are less available for reference because, like Bishop Bigandet's book on Buddhism, they are wanting in indexes. These inconveniences attend some works of research produced in the last decade, Forchhammer's Notes on Archoeology and my series of Notes on Buddhist Law. The Blue-book containing the Census Report of 1891 is full of novel information on the subjects of ethnology and languages, with which Sangermano dealt according to his lights. Since his day, also, the natural history of Burma has received full and scientific treatment. In editing this work I have, where the limits of space allowed, aimed at supplying the results of most recent inquiry; and elsewhere have stated the source where the student of any branch of learning may find it treated. This aim is rendered more difficult, seeing that on many points where research is recent, the authorities propound varying theories and come to different conclusions. In matters of history I have here and there supplemented the author by reference chiefly to Sir A. Phayre's History of Burma; and while avoiding the vast questions about Buddhism upon which great scholars like Kern, Oldenberg, Monier-Williams, Rhys Davids, and Senart raise discussion, I have tried to answer those which arise out of the ordinary life of the people of Burma, by quotations from local [{p.roman27}] authorities, e.g. Bigandet, Forchhammer, Forbes, and Scott. The Italian phonetic spelling of Burmese and other names has been retained, as this affords evidence of the pronunciation in Sangermano's time. To assist the student, I have in many instances inserted in brackets the spelling of kings' names and technical terms used in Phayre's History and Hardy's books on Buddhism, and have given the names of most places of importance as commonly spelt. An index to the work has been supplied. The reader will also observe that here and there I have endeavoured to show what changes have come over the people, so that he may contrast and compare times present with times past.

Sangermano dwelt in Burma during the period of the French Revolution, the Reign of Terror, the European wars that followed, and the Irish Rebellion of 1798. In India many things were allowed under British rule, such as criminal punishment by lopping off the feet, the sale of slaves, and the burning of widows, which in course of time were abolished by such reforming Governors-General as Lord Cornwallis and Lord William Bentinck. The criminal code of England was extremely sanguinary, as is noticed by such different men as Yule and Heine; and the whole condition of society in the United Kingdom, as well as in most parts of Europe then, was far behind what it is now. The crusade against colonial slavery had hardly begun. Facts like these must be borne in mind to balance what Sangermano says of the character of the people. It is only fair to the Burmans and Talaings to record that many competent judges think that the amiable Italian hardly does justice to their better and more agreeable qualities. Happily, two great changes have taken place, let alone the general increase of enlightenment. Slavery with all its cruel opportunities is abolished, and there is no such thing as the sale of a wife or child for debt. Despotism has given way to just rule: the sale of public offices, the favoritism, the corruption, the licentious treatment of women which went on [{p.roman28}] under the wilful king whose character Sangermano paints in such dark colours, exist no more. These abuses were far less prominent, indeed, in Upper Burma under the rule of the milder prince to whose court Phayre and Yule journeyed in 1855. Security of property and person is now established with the law over the whole land; and if we compare what the Director of State Education says in the Census Report of 1891, of the order of monks, with the estimate of the religious by Bishop Bigandet in 1880, we may fairly hope that the removal of the burden of despotism has infused a freshness of beneficent energy into these common schoolmasters of the people. Two causes, said the learned Bishop, made the Talapoins incomparably idle: the first a physical one, the relaxing heat of the climate; the second a moral one, the relaxing heat of the climate; the second a moral one, the tyranny of the despotic government  which, by making property insecure, destroyed the incentive to work, with all the useful moral discipline that labour affords. ' He who is suspected of being rich is exposed to numerous vexations on the part of the vile satellites of tyranny, who soon find out some apparent pretext for confiscating a part or the whole of his property, or depriving him of life, should he dare to offer resistance.' This sentence skims the philosophy of history. A vivid picture of the state of things about Rangoon in 1813 is found in the journal of Mrs. Judson, the wife of the American missionary. 'The country,' she writes, 'presents a rich and beautiful appearance, everywhere covered with vegetation, and if cultivated, would be one of the finest in the world. But the poor natives have little inducement to labour, or to accumulate property, as it would probably be taken from them by their oppressive rulers.' The change from despotic violence to the rule of law must in time elevate the character of the subjects, and the English in Burma cannot reasonably expect the upward progress to be completed in one generation or even two.

UKT: Talapoin -- This word is used by early European writers probably to describe the Buddhist monks or {boan:kri:}. B. P. Pearn in A History of Rangoon, p28, quoted Gasparo Balbi who visited the ancient city of Dagon in 1583, "After we were landed we began to goe on the right hand in a large street about fifty paces broad, in which we saw wooden houses gilded, and adorned with delicate gardens after their custome, wherein the Talapoins, which are their Friers, dwell, and look to the Pagod, or Varella of Dogon."

In concluding this introduction I must express my thanks [{p.roman29}] to my friend Mr. Taw Sein-Ko, a native of Burma, and at present Lecturer in the University of Cambridge, for the learned aid I have received from him, and my hopes that he will resume on the spot his researches into the recondite lore of the Indo-Chinese countries when the Educational Board of Burma has, as it now proposes to do, changed itself into a University for all the countries and tribes of that part of the Queen's empire.

John Jardine 

[{p.roman30}] is blank.

Contents of this page

List of the Principal Works referred to

[{p.roman31}]
Bigandet, the Right Rev. P. The Life or Legend of Gautama, the Buddha of the Burmese, 2 vols, 3rd ed., London, 1880.
British Burma Gazetteer, 2 vols. Rangoon, 1880
Burma Census Report, 1891. Rangoon

Crawford, John. Journal of an Embassy to Ava in 1827. London, 1829

Davids, Dr. T. W. Rhys, Buddhism

Early Voyages and Travels. See Haklyut's Voyages, India in the Fifteenth Century, and Purchas' Pilgrims
Elphinstone, Hon. Mountstuart. The History of India.

Forbes, Captain. British Burma and its People
Forchhammer, E. Jardine Prize Essay on Burmese Law. Rangoon, 1885
-- Notes on the Early History and Geography of British Burma, 1883 and 1884
-- Notes on the Languages and Dialects spoken in British Burma, Rangoon, 1884
Francklin, Major William. Tracts on Ava. Compiled from Papers of Captain Hiram Cox. London, 1811

Gray, Professor James. Ancient Proverbs and Maxims, from Burmese Sources. London, 1886
Griffini, Father D. M., Della Vita di Monsignor Gio. Maria Percoto. Udine, 1781.

Hakluyts Voyages. Vol. ii. London, 1810.
-- The Voyage of Master Cesar Frederick into the east India, and beyonde the Indies, Anno 1563.
-- The long, dangerous, and memorable voyage of M. Ralph Fitch, merchant of London
Hardy, R. Spence. The Legends and Theories of the Buddhists.
-- India in the Fifteenth Century. By R. H. Major. Hakluyt Society, 1857.
-- Travels of Nicolo de Conti and Hieronimo de Santo Stephano.

Jardine, John. Customary Law of the Chin Tribe. By Maung Tet Pyo. Rangoon, 1884
-- Notes on Buddhist Law, with Translations. Nos. 1 to 8. Rangoon, 1882, 1833
Judson, Ann H., An Account of the American Baptist Mission to the Burmese Empire. London, 1827

Kern, Dr. H. Geschiedenis van het Buddhisme in Indie. Haarlem, 1882.

Mason, Dr. F. Burma, its People and Productions. 2 vols. Theobalds edition. Hertford, 1882 [{p.roman32}]

Maung Tet Pyo. Customary Law of the Chin Tribe. Rangoon, 1884

Pallegoix, Monsignor. Description du Royaume Thai ou Siam. Paris, 1854.
Phayre, Sir Arthur P. History of Burma. London, 1883
Purchas Pilgrims. Edition of 1625, Book 10. - Voyages of Gasparo Balbi, Caesar Frederike and Ralph Fitch

Rehatsek, E. ' Christianity among the Mongols.' Journal of the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. Vol. xiii. 1877.
Rost, Dr. R. Article on 'Pali.' Encylopcedia Britannicu.

Shway Yoe (J. Scott). The Burman, his Life and Notions
Spearman, Colonel H. See British Burma Gazetteer
Sykes, Lieut. -Colonel W. H. Notes on the Religious, Moral, and Political State of India before the Mahomedan Invasion. London, 1841
Symes, Michael; Major in His Majestys 76 Regiment. An Account of an Embassy to Ava in 1795. London, 1800

Theobald, W. See Dr. F. Masons Burma, its People and Productions

Yule, Captain Henry. A Narrative of the Mission to the Court of Ava in 1858. London

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JJ-footnotes

JJ01: To those who believe; with Tennyson, that the poets see 'through life and death, through good and ill,' I would commend Sir Edwin Arnold's Light of Asia. No prose descriptions of the varied landscapes of Burma, with which I am acquainted, approach Mrs. Hemans's verses in "The Better Land.' All the scenes she imagines are beheld in Burma. Go back JJ01b

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UKT-footnotes

UKT 130923: Some of my UKT-footnotes have been deleted. 

UKT02: A comparison of Telugu, a southern Indian script, and Myanmar (the script used by the Mons and Burmese to write) shows very little similarity. However, a comparison to Asoka script shows some very interesting ones. Could it be that the script used by the Mons and the Burmese derived from the Asoka script of northern India, and not from any southern Indian scripts? Or, could it be that the script used by the Mons and Burmese a sister script of the Asoka script? -- Go back UKT02b

UKT03: the original word used by J. Jardine was "intercourse". It has been replaced with words appropriate at the present time, such as <traffic>; <establishment of relationship>. Go back UKT03b

UKT04: Orthodox Buddhist Faith -- It was Shin Arahan who went to Pagan in the 11th century. However, according to J. Jardine, it was Buddhaghosa, the author of Visuddhi Magga. This is to be checked with my peers with reference to the following:
   "CE 400. The missionary yahan Buddhaghosa from Ceylon brings the Buddhist scriptures to Pegu and reforms the religious practice" -- source: " Chronological History of Myanmar (Burma). Burma History: the real and the fabulous"  http://www.se-asia.com/reference/index.php which was based on Max and Bertha Ferrars, "BURMA" Ava House Publishers from Burma: by Max & Bertha Ferrars, "Chronology of the History of Burma, Compiled from Spearman's Gazetteer of British Burma and Phayre's History of Burma". Go back UKT04b

UKT05: Victoria (1819-1901): Empress Victoria of the British-Indian Empire (1876-1901), a mere queen of Great Britain and Ireland (1837-1901). Though probably forgotten by many at the present, Victoria was proclaimed "empress" in 1876 by Benjamin Disraeli, prime minister (1868 and 1874-1880). It well worthy of note that John Jardine wrote his Introduction during Victoria's reign, and like Disraeli had a great affection for his queen and a low opinion of her unfortunate subjects like the Burmese. The same could also be said of Arthur Phayre. Go back UKT05b

UKT06: Maung Zein -- Probably Min-maha-giri Nat who was believed to have been Maung Tint D, a black-smith of Tagaung. His extraordinary strength earned him the jealousy of the king of Tagaung who executed him by burning him alive in a smith's oven. The Zagar tree to which he was tied during execution was floated down the Irrawaddy river. When it reached Pagan, the tree with the spirit of the black-smith was recovered by the king of Pagan and the spirit was made the guardian of the homes of his subjects.
   I am citing this story to show how such an unfortunate event could be made a cause clbre by a far-sighted king, who had used such a story for the national interest. It is unfortunate that later historians cited such stories to discredit a people whom they are looking down. See also Burma: Nats and the State in Nat in My Classroom! by M. J. Gilbert, Department of History and Sociology, North Georgia College and State University, Dahlonega, Georgia. Go back UKT06b

UKT07: The term "unconverted races" means those indigenous people of Myanmar who were not Christians. That would include the Burmans and the Mons who were of Theravada Buddhist faith. Go back UKT07b

UKT08: Most probably the Mangala Sutta. Go back UKT08b

 

 

 

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UKT notes

Shin Buddhaghosa

-- UKT 130921 

Who was Shin Buddhaghosa {rhing boad~Da.Gau;a.}? It was claimed that he was a native of Thaton. A complete translation of Visuddhi Magga , by Bhikkhu Nanamoli,  Buddhist Publication Society, 1975 (in pdf format), is available in TIL library.

As it now stands, Pali as a spoken language has no script of its own. In Sri Lanka it is written in the Sinhala (Dravidian) script with glyph shapes very similar to Tami. If it exactly like Tamil, the script would lack dedicated glyphs for many phonemes of the northern language Maghada (Tib-Bur). So when Shin Buddhaghosa {rhing boad~Da.Gau;a.} arrived in Thaton, would he be able to speak the language of the locals. It points out that he was a Mon who wrote their speech in Myanmar script.

Whenever we heard about missionaries of one linguistic area, say Dravidian, going to another with another language, we must ask what local speech and script that he would use. Mon-Myan belongs to Austro-Asiatic linguistic group, so how would be translate the Pali-Sinhala that he had brought. Similarly when the Mon monks were taken to Pagan, how would they correspond with the locals who spoke Bur-Myan of another linguistic group -- the Tib-Bur. Without answering the language problem, we would have to hold whatever John Jardine and other colonialist historians had taught us to be pure propaganda to serve the interest the British expansionists!

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Far-off part of India 

-- UKT 130707 

King Thibaw, the last king of Myanmarpr (Burma), at the end of the Third Anglo Burmese War, was taken prisoner and held under house arrest in Madras in India by the British in December, 1885. And on Jan 1,1886, Lord Dufferin, Viceroy of India, officially proclaimed Burma to be part of British Indian Empire to be administered by officers appointed by Viceroy and Governor-General of India.

Some of my Indian friends in Canada still thinks that Burma was under Indian rule sometime in history. This in part was due to the British colonialists who spread such misinformation. Going back into recorded history, King Kyansittha (reign AD 1084-1112 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyansittha 130707), the second most important king of Pagan did marry his own daughter Shw Ainthi {rhw aim-)  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shwe-Einthi 130707) to a lame Bur-Myan prince, when she fall in love with an Indian prince. Her son became the third most important of the king of Pagan, King Alaungsithu.

Burma was considered to be part of India until 1935 when the Government of Burma Act was passed and a new constitution created. -- Source: Ba Maw, Breakthrough in Burma, Memoirs of a Revolution, 1939-1946, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1968. Copyright 1968 by Theda Maw Sturtvevant and William C. Sturtvevant. Library of Congress catalog card number: 67-24504. Appendices by Theda Maw. p.427.
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Buddhism and Brahmanism

-- UKT 130708

These two great religions which originated in India might appear similar to each other on the surface. However, they are fundamentally different. Buddhism is based on a natural law that can be simply put as:

Every sentient being is not ever free from mental suffering.

This is the First Law or the First Noble Truth of Buddhism. Every other law can be derived from it, though some few axioms might have to have to be added. Hinduism and all other religions such as Christianity and Islam are based on the axiomatic assumption that there is a Creator - a god. Then came along the Brahmana-Poannas who claimed themselves to be the mouthpiece of the Maha-Deva called Brahma, and everyone else including the kings must "listen" to them. They claimed that their Maha-Deva Brahma was the Creator himself. They eased in two more Maha-Devas, Vishnu and Shiva: thus completing the Hindu Trinity. It was these later-day Hindus who had created Brahmanism that the Buddhists could not tolerate.

Buddhism rejects the idea of a permanent Soul or Atta {t~ta.}. Brahmanism (commonly known as Hinduism) and other religions on the other hand affirms the presence of an everlasting soul or {t~ta.}. That you cannot "see" {t~ta.} is because you are spiritually incompetent. Buddhism insist that it is because there is no such thing as {t~ta.} -- it is Anatta {a.nt~ta.}.

However, it must be admitted that the many Myanmar-Buddhists believe in the presence of {wi-i} .

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Council of Patna
Third Buddhist Coucil

-- UKT 130117

The Third Buddhist Synod (241 B.C.) held at Patna [Pataliputra, Bihar, India] under the patronage of Emperor Asoka. It was at this council that the two Buddhist traditions the Theravada (Southern school) {ht-ra. wa-da.} and Mahayana (Northern school) split.

From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_Buddhist_council 130117

The Third Buddhist council was convened in about 250 BCE at Asokarama in Pataliputra, supposedly under the patronage of Emperor Asoka, a grave question mark hangs over this, because Asoka never mentioned it in his edicts, which one might have expected if he had called the council.

The traditional reason for convening the Third Buddhist Council is reported to have been to rid the Sangha of corruption [UKT: what were they accused of] and bogus monks who held heretical views [UKT: it is in human nature to describe the opposing group as heretics]. It was presided over by the Elder Moggaliputta Tissa and one thousand monks participated in the Council. [UKT ]

UKT 130707: It is probable that the split was also due to the question of Abidhamma. This group of teaching is one of the mainstay of the Theravadims. Their tradition is that Gautama Buddha did not preached it to the humans but to the dvas, and to be passed on to the humans later. Mahayanists do not accept Abidhamma, but accept the Diamond Sutra or the Lightning Sutra which Gautama himself had preached to the nagas, to be revealed to the humans later. See my note on Diamond Sutra .

The council is recognized and known to both the Theravada and Mahayana schools, though its importance is central only to the Theravada school.[1] Tradition has it that Asoka had won his throne through shedding the blood of all his father's sons except his own brother, Tissa Kumara, who eventually got ordained and achieved Arahantship.

UKT 130707: My father's relatives were from central Myanmarpr and they were much afraid of the monsoon rains and the open sea. Thus if the northern Bur-Myan had been in contact with the Third Council held in Pataliputra, their travels would have been over land routes. I do not deny that a mission had gone to Ceylon and thence to southern Myanmarpr. I am suggesting that the Pyu monks from northern Myanmarpr also had contacts with northern India even in the age of the Gautama Buddha, and later in the reign of Asoka.

Historical background

The account of the background to the Third Council is as follows: Emperor Asoka was crowned in the two hundred and eighteenth year after the Buddha's Mahaparinibbāna. At first he paid only token homage to the Dhamma and the Sangha and also supported members of other religious sects as his father had done before him. However, all this changed when he met the pious novice-monk Nigrodha who preached him the Appamada-vagga. Thereafter he ceased supporting other religious groups and his interest in and devotion to the Dhamma deepened. He used his enormous wealth to build, it is said, eighty-four thousand pagodas and viharas and to lavishly support the bhikkhus with the four requisites. His son Mahinda and his daughter Sanghamitta were ordained and admitted to the Sangha.

UKT: I always that the Burmese-Buddhist portraying of the court scenes as preposterous until I came across the statue of Arjuna -- the hero of Mahabharatta, the Hindu epic -- in Bali, Indonesia.

Eventually, his generosity was to cause serious problems within the Sangha. In time the Order was infiltrated by many unworthy men, holding heretical views and who were attracted to the order because of the Emperor's generous support and costly offerings of food, clothing, shelter and medicine. Large numbers of faithless, greedy men espousing wrong views tried to join the order but were deemed unfit for ordination.

Despite this they seized the chance to exploit the Emperor's generosity for their own ends and donned robes and joined the Order without having been ordained properly. Consequently, respect for the Sangha diminished. When this came to light some of the genuine monks refused to hold the prescribed purification or Uposatha ceremony  in the company of the corrupt, heretical monks.

UKT 130117: The term "prescribed purification" can mean any thing because the ceremony is held behind closed doors in the company of a few monks. Since the order is formed as an all male-community, females and outsiders may not attend. I usually translate the purification as "full self confession" by the errant monk - stating all transgressions, physical and oral, and promising to the company that he would never do that again. The others might then accept it, or insist that the errant monk does this again in public, or they might demand that he leaves the Order. In the extreme case of expulsion, the person can still be a good Buddhist and still have full communication with the Order - but only as a layman. Expulsion does not mean "excommunication".

When the Emperor heard about this he sought to rectify the situation and dispatched one of his ministers to the monks with the command that they perform the ceremony. However, the Emperor had given the minister no specific orders as to what means were to be used to carry out his command. The monks refused to obey and hold the ceremony in the company of their false and 'thieving' companions (Pali, theyya-sinivāsaka).

In desperation the angry minister advanced down the line of seated monks and drawing his sword, beheaded all of them one after the other until he came to the King's brother, Tissa who had been ordained. The horrified minister stopped the slaughter and fled the hall and reported back to the Emperor. Asoka was deeply grieved and upset by what had happened and blamed himself for the killings. He sought Thera Moggaliputta Tissa's counsel. He proposed that the heretical monks be expelled from the order and a third Council be convened immediately.

UKT: More in Wikipedia article.

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Diamond Sutra

-- UKT 130707

According to the Theravada tradition Abidhamma (preserved in Pali) was first preached to the Deva-gods. And according to the Mahayana tradition the Diamond Sutra (preserved in Sanskrit) was first preached to the Nagas. We know fairly well who the Deva-gods are. The common English word <divinity> with which the Christian God is described has the same language root of the {d-wa.}.

The common description of Bur-Myan Christians as {hta-wa.ra. Bu.ra:} simply means "The Permanent One who must be worshipped". It should not be confused with the epithet used for Gautama Buddha as {Bu.ra:}, The epithet {Bu.ra:} is used for all who has to be worshipped out of fear, devotion, or respect -- even for a queen {mi.Bu.ra:}.

The spelling {mi.Bu.ra.} was the spelling we used before the MLC changed it {mi.hpu.ra.}. Because of this MLC is accused of breaking the tradition that "every syllable has a meaning". The syllable {hpu.ra:} do not seem to mean anything!

Now, let's turn our attention to Naga {na.ga:}, which must not be translated as "snake". In certain ways the {na.ga:} is far superior to humans -- a fact supported by the incident of Diamond Sutra being preached to them first. Gautama Buddha himself had accepted the protection of a {na.ga:}.

From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diamond_Sutra 130707

The Diamond Sūtra is a Mahāyāna sūtra from the Prajāpāramitā, or "Perfection of Wisdom" genre, and emphasizes the practice of non-abiding and non-attachment. The full Sanskrit title of this text is the Vajracchedikā Prajāpāramitā Sūtra.

A copy of the Chinese version of Diamond Sūtra, found among the Dunhuang manuscripts in the early 20th century by Aurel Stein, was dated back to May 11, 868. [1] It is, in the words of the British Library, "the earliest complete survival of a dated printed book". [2]

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Golden Land

-- UKT 130707

From: Burma and the Third Buddhist Council by Taw Sein Ko, Superintendent, Archeological Survey, Burma, First published in Burma between 1883-1913, http://web.ukonline.co.uk/buddhism/tawsein.htm

"The Golden Khersonese denotes usually the Malay Peninsula but more specially the delta of the Irrawaddi, which forms the province of Pegu, the Suvannabhumi {.wuN~Na. Bu.mi.} of ancient times. The Golden Region, which lies beyond the interior, is Burma, the oldest province of which, above Ava {in:wa.}, is still as Yule informs us, formally styled in State documents Sonaparanta, i.e. Golden Frontier."McCrindle's Ancient India describcd by Ptolemy, p. 198.

 "The identity of the Khryse of Ptolemy, of the Suvarnabhumi of the Buddhist legends and of the city of Thahtun {a.hton} in Pegu, all having the same signification, appears nearly certain " Phayre's History of Burma, page 26.

I wonder whether the three place names, "Chersonese" (Sangermano), "Khersonese" (McCrindle) and "Khryse" (Phayre) are referring to the same place -- the Golden Land.

Go back GoldenLand-note-b

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Irawadi

-- UKT 130117

The principal river which not only has its sources and delta in Myanmar, is the "Irrawaddy" river {-ra-wa.ti-mric}. The orthography has been changed to "Ayeyarwaddy".

Though not well recognized the ancient Irrawaddy river, or the Proto-Irrawaddy was broken up into three sections: the northern-most section which now forms the present-day Irrawaddy conjoined with the Chindwin river, the second portion which now flows from the south to north as the Samoan, and the third portion which is now the Sittang. The Proto-Irrawaddy River was indeed the mother of rivers.

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