Update: 2005-01-17 04:15 PM +0700

TIL

The Burmese Empire
a hundred years ago

As described by Father Vincenzo Sangermano
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.

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Burmese History

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Chapter 09

of the present royal family, and of the principal events that have taken place under the reigning dynasty.

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Section 17

The first who ventured to make any resistance to the Pegłans, after they had taken and sacked Ava, was a countryman of the village of Mozzobņ [Moksobo, Shwebo], who, after having assumed the title of king, was known by the name of Alomprą. He put himself first at the head of a few friends; but having in a short time formed a powerful army from the people that flocked to him, he speedily drove the Pegłans, not only from the city of Ava, but out of the whole territory of the Burmese. Peace being thus restored, and all disturbances quieted, he caused himself to be proclaimed king in Mozzobņ, which place he surrounded with fortifications, and raised to the dignity of capital of his kingdom. It is situated to the northwest of Ava, at the distance of about twenty leagues. His next care was to take vengeance on the Pegłans by carrying the war into their own kingdom, where he overcaem them, and dispersed their army over the neighbouring countries. He then laid siege to Siriam, the principal sea-port of the kingdom, and took it, as well as the capital city Bagņ [Pegł]. Here an end was put to the war by the capture of the king. At the same time he made himself master of the two districts of Tavai and Martaban, which had hitherto been subject to the king of Pegł. Alomprą now determined to undertake a war against the Siamese, whose king had refused him his daughter in marriage. He was soon in full march against this monarch, but on the way was seized with a mortal distemper which forced him to return to Pegł. There it quickly put an end to his life, after he had reigned six years in the midst of a continual war. Before his death he declared his will to his nobles, that his seven sons should successively occupy the throne after

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his decease--a most fatal disposition, as it was the cause of the many troubles and civil wars that shortly arose.

Section 18

According to this regulation, the eldest of the brothers, Anaundoprą ascended the throne, which he held but for three years. Yet in this short space he had to contend with two formidable rebellions. The first had for its author one of the generals of the deceased Alomprą, by name Nattun, who, returning from Siam with the army, made himself master of the city of Ava, and maintained himself in it for some time. An uncle of the king was the leader of the other rebellion. He attempted to make himself king in Taunu [Toungoo], a city lying about forty leagues to the north-east of Rangoon, but was taken prisoner, and with his head the forfeit of his crime.

Section 19

To Anaundoprą succeeded the second brother Zempiuscien [Hsengbyusheng, Sinbyushin], that is to say, lord of of the white elephant; his reign lasted twelve years. In the first and second years of his government he carried his arms against the Cassč, a barbarous nation occupying the country to the north-west of Ava. This he did to revenge the frequent irruptions they had made into the Burmese empire, previous to the coming of the Pegłans. Their country was devastated with fire and sword, and numbers of the inhabitants carried prisoners to Ava; but they were never entirely subdued, on account of the secure retreats which their mountains and forests afforded them. In the third year of his reign, Zempiuscien abandoned the new city of Mozzobņ, and transported the court to Ava, the ancient residence of the Burmese kings. At the same time he despatched his army against the Siames, who had refused to pay the tribute promised to his father Alomprą. Jodią [Ayuthia, ayodhia, an din Fitch's Voyage Odia], the usual residence of their kings was taken and sacked; more perhaps through the cowardice of the Siamese, or rather the dissensions that distracted the court, than by any valour on the part of the Burmese. After a short time, the conquerors abandoned the city, carrying with them an inestimable booty, together with an innumerable multitude of slaves, among whom were most of the members of the royal family. In this expedition the Burmese also obtained possession f Merghi [Mergui], and its district on the coast of Tenasserim. Besides these exploits, Zempiuscien

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had twice to oppose the Chinese, who from Zunan [Yunnan] had poured down upon his territories, with the design of subjecting them to a tribute. He discomfited their numerous armies; principally perhaps by the aid of his heavy artillery, served by the Christians who had established themselves in these parts.

The prince of Zandapori [Chandapuri, Viang-chang], a province situated near the country of Laos, having been attacked by Patajac [Phayā Tak], the new king of the Siamese, implored the protection of Zempiuscien, sending, with many other presents, one of his daughters as a concubine. The Burmese monarch immediately despatched a large against Siam, which speedily so reduced its king that the city of Bancok alone remained in his possession. This too he would have lost, had not the unexpected news of the death of their emperor recalled the invading army to their own country.

After the storming of Jodią in Siam, and the expedition against the Chinese, King Zempiuscien resolved to declare his eldest son the heir to his throne, although this arrangement was expressly contrary to his father's will, the lord of Amiens, younger brother to the king, finding himself thus excluded from the succession, conspired against his life. The plot was discovered, and he was doomed to die; but the tears of their mother, who yet lived, saved him from his fate. Besides this conspiracy there were two rebellions, which, but that they were speedily suppressed, would truly have wrought much turbulence and harm. Of these one was raised by those Cassč whom Zempiuscien had brought prisoners into Ava; the second by the inhabitants of Martaban, of whom many served in the royal armies. For these, while absent from home on the king's service, heard that their families were vexed and oppressed by the governor: whereupon they mutinied, and having elected a chief, came to lay seige to Rangoon. The city could have made no long resistance, but a Dutch vessel, which chanced to be there, beat off the assailants with its guns, and discomfited them utterly.

Then did Zempiuscien hasten hither, and place on the great Pagoda its crown of massive gold, the weight whereof is eighty of our pounds. While this great ceremony was performed with

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much pomp and rejoicing, the last king of Pegł was beheaded, in order, by this bloody execution, to crush entirely the power of that realm.

Section 20

Upon the death of Zempiuscien, the nobles of the kingdom raised to the throne his eldest son, whose name was Zinguzą. His uncle, the lord of Amiens, to whom, as we have said, the succession of right belonged, remained a quiet spectator of his elevation, because at the moment he was destitute of a party and of sufficient forces: but the lord of Salem, his younger brother, made an attempt to grasp the crown. But the conspiracy was discovered, and its author paid the penalty of his rashness by being enclosed in a sack of red cloth and thrown into the river. The lord of Amiens underwent a similar fate, upon attempting, eighteen months later, to dethrone his nephew. After this Zinguzą banished from the royal city all his uncles and near relations: and, thinking himself thus secure, he passed all his time in hunting and fishing, almost always intoxicated, so that he was called by the opprobrious name of the drunkard or the fisher king. But this conduct led to his final ruin. For his cousin, the only son of Anaundoprą, taking advantage of his absence, adv anced kby night to Ava, in company with about forty inhabitants of a village called Paongą, and, without experiencing any resistance, made himself master of the palace. Upon which the youth of Ava and the neighbouring places came eagerly to be enrolled, and take up arms in favour of the new king, who, in the space of five days, was in possession of the person and kingdom of Zinguzą. But the usurper, whose name was Paongozą, from the long abode he had made in Paongą, by these rapid and successful advances, only served as a means to Badosachen, the reigning sovereign, to mount upon the throne. For, scarcely had he taken possession jof the palace, than he called together his uncles, and made them an offer of the kingdom; saying, that according to the dispositions of Alomprą, to them it of right belonged. But they suspected this ingenious declaration of Paongozą to be nothing more than a malicious contrivance to pry into their secret thoughts, and upon their accepting his offer, to give him a pretence for their destruction: and, therefore, not only declined to receive it, but declared themselves, by

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drinking the water of the oath, his subjects and vassals. And here we may observe that the oath of fidelity is taken by drinking certain water upon which have been pronounced sundry false incantations, and which the king gives to drink to the mandarins, ministers, generals, and military officers, and to all others from whom he exacts and oath of fealty. Paongozą then raised them to their former state, and restored all the honours whereof they had been deprived by Zinguzą. But they a few days later took that by force which, when peacefully offered, they had not dared to accept. For on the 10th of February 1782, they suddenly entered the palace, seized Paongozą and placed on the throne Badonsachen, fn065-01 third son of Alomprą. He, according to custom, caused the deposed monarch to be thrown into the river, calling him in scorn the king of seven days. Paongozą at the time of his death had only reached his twentieth year. Oh the following day the unfortunate Zinguzą underwent the same fate in his twenty-sixth year; and all his queens and concubines, holding their babes in their arms, were burnt alive.

Section 21

No sooner had Badonsachen ascended the throne, than he had to defeat two conspiracies, by which he stood in no small jeopardy of losing his kingdom and his life. Of the first was head a certain Nassą, first a famous general under king Zempiuscien, then deprived of his command by Zinguzą and afterwards restored by Badonsachen to his former rank, and by him graced with many honours and dignities. Yet he repaid with ingratitude the kindness of his benefactor; for he attempted to thrust into his place an illegitimate son of Alomprą, intendign so to open a way for his won accession to the throne. The conspiracy was, however, brought to light; and so terrified and troubled therewith was the new king Badonsachen, that never after did he put trust in man, no, not though he were his nearest of kin. Then also did he being his practice of changing daily his chamber and bed.

Still more dangerous was the other conspiracy, headed by Miappon, son of the last king of Ava, who was taken prisoner by the Pegłans and thrown into the river. In consideration of

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fn065-01 Badonsachen, the Badun Meng, now usually known as Bodoahpra or Bhodawbhoora, reigned from A. D. 1781 to 1819. For this reign see Phayre, ch. xx. fn065-01b

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his tender age, his son was fortunately saved from this miserable doom, and lived an unkn own wanderer until the time of Zinguzą. Having then retired into the territories of a tributary to the king of Ava, he began to from designs upon the crown. Upon being informed of this, Zinguzą despatched an armed force to apprehend him, from which he fled into concealmetn. One of the principal inhabitants of Paongą, who had been mainly useful in elevating Paongozą to the throne, finding that all his hopes had been foiled by his death, resolved to make a second attempt by abetting the well-known pretensions of Miappon. To him therefore he repaired, accompanied by a friend, and easily persuaded him to place himself at the head of their party. This proposal exactly tallied with his longcherished plan; so, without  loss of time, followed by fifty men, mostly natives of the same village, and twenty others who joined him on the road, he set forward towards Ava. After midnight of the 4th of December 1782, he scaled with his party the city and the palace without meeting with any resist ance; when his friends raised the following cry, 'Behold the true branch of the royal stock!' Of the royal guards, who were alarmed by this clamour, some fled from their posts and concealed themselves, others feigned themselves asleep. Meanwhile the king and his more immediate attendants, awakened by the uproar, closed the doors and guarded the avenues to the interior of the palace. Although the conspirators had possessed themselves of the cannon and powder, yet could they not effect their purpose from want of balls: notwithstanding which, they obliged the Christian cannoneers to discharge blank cartridge against the palace, and hereby caused their own destruction. For the noise of the cannonade brought together the Mandarins with their guards, who, lighting immense fires, encamped without the palace. As soon as it was day, Badonsachen having discovered that the number of conspirators was only about sixty, and these mostly without arms, had them all seized by his guards, and cruelly put to death. Three also of the cannoneers were beheaded for their conduct. Miappon alone escaped, but was the same evening dragged from his concealment, and paid with his life the forfeit of his audacity. Still was the fury of the king unsatisfied, for he now gave full

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scope to that cruel and inhuman disposition, of which he had already discovered sufficient sings. Notwithstanding the innocence of the great majority of the inhabitants of Paongą, he caused them all to be draged from their dwellings, not excepting even the old men or tender infants, nor respecting the character of the priests and Talapoins, and then to be burnt alive upon an immense pile of wood which had been erected for the purpose. The village was afterwards razed t the ground, the trees and plants in its gardens cut up and consumed by fire, its very soil was turned up with the ploughshare, and a stone erected on the spot as a mark of perpetual malediction.

This cruel execution done, Badonsachen next turned his attention to securing the succession to the crown in his family, after the example of his brother Zempiuscien. And judging that to set himself up as the founder of a new dynasty would be one of he best means to accomplish his purpose, he resolved to abandon his present capital and to build another, thus more easily to obliterate the memory of his predecessors, and fix the eyes of the multitude upon himself alone. Pretexts were not wanting to give a colour to this proceeding. It was said that the city and palace had been defiled by the human blood shed within its precincts, and therefore it no longer became the monarch to inhabit it; and hence it was ordained that a new imperial residence should immediately be constructed. To this proposal none dared to object, and all the Mandarins and royal ministers strove who should best give effect to the orders of the king. As in this country all is regulated by the opinions of he Brahmins, so that not even the king shall presume to take any step without their advice, therefore was counsel taken of them, and thereupon a site selected for the new city, on an uneven sot three leagues from Ava, upon the right or eastern bank of the river. Here the work was commenced by the erection of the walls. These form a perfect quadrangle, each side a mile long, within which is another line of fortification somewhat inferior in height. In the centre was raised the royal palace, almost entirely of teakwood. The walls are built wholly of brick, cemented with an argillaceous earth tempered with water. They are protected on the north by the river, and on the south by an extensive

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pool; on the other two sides was sunk a deep fosse. When the work was completed, the king went in solemn state to take possession of the city and palace, on the 10th of May 1783 observing many superstitious rites and ceremonies prescribed by the Brahmins. After seven days he returned to Ava, in order personally to urge the removal of all his subjects of the new capital, which he effected on the 14th of the next month. Thus were these miserable inhabitants compelled to quit their home with all its comforts, and exchange a delightful situation salubrious in its air and its waters, for a spot infected with fevers and other complaints, from the stagnant waters that surround it. Badonsachen gave to his new metropolis the name of Amarapura, that is, city of security and peace. Of the new inhabitants some took up their abode within the walls; and these were for the most part Burmese and persons attached to t he royal family or to theMandarins: to others were allotted dwellings without the city, whnece arose various suburbs, or, as they are called by the Portuguese, campos. Besides the Burmese, the principal foreign nations who occupy special districts are the Siamese and Cassč, who were brought captives to this country in the wars of Zempiuscien, and have greatly multiplied in number. Perhaps still more populous is the suburb of the Mohammendan Moors, who have settled in the Burmese capital, as in every other part of India. Their profession is mostly traffic, and they enjoy the free exercise of their religion, having many mosques. To these must be added the suburb of the Chinese, whose industry is peculiarly remarkable, and that wherein the Christians dwell. The entire number of the inhabitants of Amarapura amounts to about 200,000. Vain would it be to describe the sufferings and fatigues, the oppressions and exactions, which this transmigration caused, to those whose eyes have not witnessed the extreme rigour with which the royal orders are here executed. No sooner was Amarapura inhabited, that Ava, famed not only as the residence of so many kings, but also for its pleasant and convenient situation and the mangificence of its public buildings, was instantly abandoned. Indeed Badonsachen caused its total destruction, by giving general permission to over throw at will the superb Baņ, or convents of Talapoins, some of which were

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gilt all over, within and without, with the finest gold, the magnificent wooden bridges, the public halls and porticos. All the cocoa-trees, which, planted along the interior of the walls, overtopped them with their green shadowy branches, and gave the city a cheerful and sweet prospect, were cut down and given to the elephants for food. In fine, part of the walls was torn down by order of the king, and the river, being sluiced in reduced the whole to an uninhabitable pool.

In the meantime, the king was also busied with having his eldest son publicly recognised as his legitimate successor. He conferred upon him the title and rank of Einyč or crown-prince; and as he was born of the second queen, in order to strengthen his claims still further, he was married to his own sister, the daughter of the first. It needs not be told how little pleased with these arrangements were the two surviving sons of Alomprą. Of these the younger, called Pandelisachen, being a youth ardent and courageous, protested loudly against the violation of his father's will; and not content with words, proceeded to actions, attempting many times to seize upon the kingdom. But his plots and devices were ever discovered, and his brother, wearied with repeated pardonings, at length put him to the usual death of drowning in a red-cloth sack. The other brother was still alive when I left the country, and led an obscure and miserable life, supported by the labour of his hands.

All things being thus set in order at Amarapura, and all conspiracies thus foiled, the king resolved, in emulation of his brother Zempiuscien, toundertake some glorious achievenment. As early as the last year of Zinguzą, ambassadors had come to Ava from the son of the king of Aracan, to beg assistance against the author of a rebellion. Zinguzą, ever more inclined to diversion and debauchery than to feats of arms, refused to interfere in the concerns of that kingdom. New troubles had interfere in the concerns of that kingdom. New troubles had thence risen, and new dissensions, which king Badonsachen resolved to use as a means of seizing on a new crown. Already was the general of his army appointed, and arms and warlike stores prepared, and nought was wanting to undertaken the expedition except the conclusion of he great three-months' fast, when a mighty rebellion, breaking out in Pegł, diverted

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his from his purpose. The occasion thereof was as follows. A certain Pegłan of great authority dreamed one night that the kingdom of Pegł should shortly be restored; whence, upon its being reported abroad among the Pegłans, about three hundred of them made consultation among themselves, and resolved to make themselves masters of Rangoon and there after raise the dreamer to the throne. Hereupon, at eight in the evening, they marched into the city without opposition, and proceeded to murder its governor. The Mandarins and people, scared by the tumult of the assailants and the conflagration which they raised, abandoned the city and fled to the neignbouring woods. In the meantime the conspirators divided into two bodies, two hundred remaining in garrison, while the other hundred proceeded in haste to the neighbouring towns and villages, to collect as many Peguans as possible. The Burmese, who had fled in the night ignorant of the enemy's true numbers, having now discovered that only two hundred men kept guard over thecity, placed at their head the Mandarin next in command to the governor, and returned to the town; of which being easily possessed, they put to the sword the two hundred conspirators. Mean while a vast concourse of Pegłans, collected by those who had gone forth, approached in small barks to the city, fearless and rejoicing, nothing doubting but that it was still in the possession of their friends: but scarcely had their boats reached the land than the Burmese, assisted and directed by the Europeans, made of them with their cannon a cruel slaughter. Great numbers were drowned, and the rest fell beneath the spears and swords of their enemies.

The expedition to Aracan took place in the following year, 1784. The army, which is said to have consisted of forty thousand men, was under the command of the king's eldest son. Part thereof was sent by land, and part by sea, but all arrived nearly at the same time at Aracan; and the city, being badly provided with man and munition, and governed by a weak effeminate prince, in an instant fell into the hands of the Burmese. By some Aracanese prisoners, of whom many were brought slaves into the empire, it was reported that the inhabitants were grossly deceived by the Burmese: for they said

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that upon the approach of the army, heralds were sent forth to ask the cause of their coming; whereunto answer was made that they came to worship and honour with due solemnity the great idol venerated in their city. This was a colossal statue of bronze representing Godama, as the Aracanese and Burmese have the same religion; which statue, after the taking of the city, the king brought to Amarapura and placed in a stately and sumptuous Pagoda built for the purpose.

The glory acquired by the prince his son in this rapid conquest of Aracan, inspired Badonsachen with the desire of consulting his own fame, by the subjection of the richer and more powerful kingdom of Siam. Such was the pride with which his good fortune, whether in overcoming the enemies of his kingdom, or in discovering the numerous conspiracies which had been formed against him, had filled his heart, that he began to think himself the most powerful monarch in the world, and to form vast plans of ambition. In a grat assembly of the Mandarins of his empire he declared it to be his intention, first to take and destroy the chief city of the Siamese, then to turn his victorious arms against the Emperor of China, and to make him his tributary; thence he would bend his course towards the west, possess himself of the British colonies, attack the Great Mogul in his empire, fn071-01 and, in fine, make himself undisputed master of the whole of the southern island, Zabudibą [Jambudwipa]. But the folly of his pride was soon made manifest to the ruin of all his mighty projects, in his first expedition against Siam. He had set out towards this country with an army amounting to 100,000 men, accompanied by all his sons and concubines. But he had no sooner

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fn071-01 In chapter xx. Phayre mentions the entry of Burmese troops into British territory in 1794 and 1797, and the despatch of several missions between 1807 and 1813 to the native courts of India, on the pretext of procuring religious books, but with the aim of intriguing against the British Government. They visited Lakhow, Delhi, Bhartpur, the Punjab, and probably Cashmir, and even Poona. 'The direct object of these secret negotiations did not appear until later. The conquest of Arakan had brought Burmese officers into more immediate contact with India than at any previous period, and the ambitious king was inspired with the desire of acquiring the districts of Eastern Bengal, at lest as far as Dacca, which had once belonged to Arakan. Even a claim to Murshedabad was some years afterwards openly made.' fn071-01b

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reached the confines, than he was struck with a sudden panic, upon a rumour being spread that the king of Siam was advancing with a large body of troops to oppose him. It was the general opinion of his officers, that through the superiority of his forces, he might easily have overwhelmed his enemies; but he refused all advice, and betook himself to a shameful flight, leaving his elephants, arms, and military stores a prey to the Siamese. Such was his apprehension that he did not think himself safe till he found himself in the vicinity of Rangoon; yet such at the same time was the insanity of his pride, that he caused himself to be proclaimed, in all the places through which he passed, as the conqueror of the empire of Siam. This disgraceful retreat put an end to all his fine projects against the Emperor of China and the Great Mogul, for the Siamese gave him sufficient employment nearer home, and it was with difficulty he could defend his kingdom against their attacks. In these they were assisted by many of the Zaboą or petty princes of the Sciam [Shans], subject to the Burmese, who, wearied by the oppressions and exactions of the Burmese Mandarins and generals, had revolted and made common cause with the enemies of their cruel masters. The Zaboą [Zimme] seems to have been the most considerable amongst them. The war which the Burmese had to sustain with these enemies was long and disastrous. During a period of nine or ten years, did Badonsachen annually send out his armies against them. But the united forces of the rebels and Siamese defied all his efforts, though supported by numerous troops, and directed by his bravest generals; he was always beaten back, and, instead of overcoming the Sciam, only lost day by day the territories they inhabited, and saw their princes range themselves, one after another under the protection of the king of Siam. Indeed nothing but the peaceful disposition of the last-mentioned monarch has saved the Burmese empire from total subjection, as few can doubt, that had he, in conjunction with the revolted Sciam, made a general attack upon Badonsachen, he would have forced him to yield up his crown, or become a tributary to Siam.

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