Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Connected History
of Ming Dynasty Yunnan and Burma

Dr. Geoff Wade at the Asia Research Institute of the National University of Singapore has made important primary sources for the study of Southeast Asian history and Ming dynasty Chinese history available to the world via the internet. The Ming Annals (Ming Shi-lu) are the voluminous records of the Chinese court at work during the Ming dynasty. At 80 volumes these records could easily fill up a bookshelf. Dr. Wade has extracted all the entries from the annals that are relevant to Southeast Asian history and published them as an online ebook at the National University of Singapore. Quite an admirable and unbelievable task. Surely groundbreaking and the first of future online primary source collections.

The Ming Annals show that Burma was much more connected to China via Yunnan than Burmese sources indicate. It also provides a very different and complementary perspective on the Tai-Yunnan frontier separating Burma and China than Burmese sources do. How much the other Ming dynasty sources merely repeat information in the extensive Ming Annals is an interesting question that remains to be answered.