Saturday, December 31, 2005

Burmese Historical Manuscripts

Where are they?

The paper linked to above is a good place to begin, but it's only the tip of the iceberg. I know there is a lot of interesting stuff at the following places:
1. Aichi University online parabaik collection
2. Toyo Bunko microfilms
3. National library microfilms
4. The British Library

There are many other places as Tilman Frasch's "A Preliminary Survey of Burmese Manuscripts in Great Britain and Ireland" in the SOAS Bulletin of Burma Research shows. The history behind editing and publishing editions of important chronicles like U Kala, Hmannan, and Toungoo during the colonial era is also worth investigating.

Of course, the only reason I know about these primary sources in the first place is because I read books by professor Victor Lieberman like Strange Parallels: Southeast Asia in Global Context, c. 800–1830, Volume 1, Integration on the Mainland.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Trade routes through Yunnan, the Shan states, and Upper Burma

Here's a map of trade routes through Yunnan,the Shan states, and Upper Burma taken from Bin Yang's "Horses, Silver, and Cowries: Yunnan in Global Perspective"(Journal of World History,vol. 15, no. 3, September 2004). Includes interesting historical detail on silver mining in Yunnan during the Ming dynasty and some unexplored avenues for research on the Yunnan-Tai frontier:

"As revealed, Yunnan silver in the Yuan and early Ming constituted a major amount of the national production, and can be compared with the New World silver import in terms of scale as James Lee states...the case of Yunnan silver obviously sheds light on the interaction and impact of the Chinese incorporation of local societies. Local resources were utilized to serve the national interest. To put it another way, it is fair to conclude that the inland prosperity was built at the price of exhausting the local resources of frontier/peripheral areas, though this article will not examine this issue."

I used his summary of trade routes through Burma in my paper.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Maps of the Bay of Bengal

Some later European maps of the Bay of Bengal. Burma is on the bottom map, but the separate division into Pegu and Burma must be based on old information. Trade routes are given in this map of the Bay of Bengal, but no citations. What sources are they based on? From this extensive collection of old maps.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Thai-Burmese History for kids

King Naresuan's naughty elephant is the subject of Thailand's first 3D animated film. From the Bangkok Post:

"The story begins with the young Khan Kluay living with his mother and the herd in deep jungle during the Ayutthaya era. Naughty and enjoying his freedom, Khan Kluay is also curious about his missing father so one day he decides to leave his safe haven to search for him. This is when his journey begins.

"The mission to find his father turns out to be a big adventure for the young elephant, one that will prepare him to follow in his father's footsteps and become a war elephant. Soon after leaving the herd he stumbles into a Burmese army camp, hoping to find his father.

"At the camp, he first meets the young future King Naresuan, who later helps him escape. However, he is caught by Ayutthaya soldiers and trained for battle. In time he will become one of the greatest war elephants in the battlefield ever.

"Khan Kluay became the war elephant of King Naresuan and was on the battlefield when the Great King was duelling with the Crown Prince of Burma. After winning the battle, King Naresuan named him Chao Phraya Prab Hongsa.

"...for very complicated scenes, like the duelling between King Naresuan and the Burmese Crown Prince on their war elephants, the programmers had to write their own animation software especially for these scenes...Some of the production team were tied to a wooden beam to learn more about how Khan Kluay would move when he hurts his leg and uses a beam for support. And for the battle scenes, the production team had to do real fighting so that the animators could perfect the movement."

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Carniero's Theory of Circumscription

Could Robert Carniero's theory of circumscription be applied to Tai and Burmese expansionary warfare during our period (c 1350-1600)? A brief summary:

"Population growth in itself is insufficient to engender warfare, but population pressure does engender warfare if the expanding populations is constrained either by environmental barriers or by competing social groups whose populations area is so dense as to preclude expansion."

The Tai warrior explains to the Chinese general in the Ming Annals: "We are like that hawk. When we take land we control and live off it" (my paper, page 313-14; Ming Annals entry).Two of the conditions along the Burma-Ming China frontier were:

"7. Shan expansion to the east into China was not possible, 8. Expansion to the south into Upper Burma was an easier natural alternative for territorial expansion" (page 1159, recent paper).

There's a more detailed description of Carniero's theory here.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Population of Portuguese settlements in Asia

What stands out is how few Portuguese there were. Also notice among the extensive entries in the left column the entry for Burma that doesn't exist yet.

History of Shan state
of Hsipaw

Here's an interesting history of the Shan state of Hsipaw with a lot of hard to find photos.

It doesn't explain the differences between the two names Onpaung and Hsipaw though. This is what I'm trying to figure out. These two names refer to two different geographical places or regions. Bayinnaung conquers both of them separately during his conquest of the Shan states around 1557. Before 1557 Onpaung is used exclusively and after 1557 Hsipaw (Burmese: Thibaw). Why did Hsipaw come into prominence after Bayinnaung's conquest?

Shan States Geography

Convenient direct links into the Shan state entries in the "Imperial Gazeteer of India" on the bottom of this page.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Thai Transliteration

Here is a transliteration or romanization tool that historians can use to automate one of the myriad of details they have to attend to when they write history.

When you are writing history that involves several different languages and cultural groups transcription or romanization of local languages can be a sticky issue. Some romanizations reproduce the script perfectly but are impossible to pronounce. Others are easy to pronounce, but don't reproduce the script. The best choice once Burmese unicode fonts can be used would seem to be transliterating for pronunciation including the Burmese script in parentheses or a footnote.

Tools like this that set a standard, are to be welcomed. Computer programs like this aren't always easy to write though. They use finite state machines. I wrote a finite state machine for Burmese script in Perl. When the Burmese language is added to the unicode engine that drives Windows XP, I have a dream of writing a little virtual typewriter for Burmese with a software keyboard on the screen.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

State Formation and Periodization
in Historiography

This article is about how small proto-states (Inner Asian) on the frontier of larger states (China) become states. I believe it is relevant to the study of how small Tai states on the Burma-Yunnan frontier developed (c. 1350-1600). This free online article was published in the Journal of World History: Nicola Di Cosmo, "State Formation and Periodization in Inner Asian History," Journal of World History 10, no. 1 (Spring 1999): 1–40.

Di Cosmois now at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton the same place where Einstein worked. The institute has a School of Historical Studies. Di Cosmo is an expert on state formation and was cited in the announcement for an upcoming conference state expansionat the Asia Research Institute at the National University of Singapore.

Even though the history addressed in the paper is Inner Asian history, the historiographical approach can be applied to pre-modern Burmese history. The paper "explores the basic mechanisms of state formation in inner Asia and presents an argument for the periodization of inner Asian history based on the incremental ability of inner Asian empires to extract from outside sources the wealth necessary for the maintenance of political and military state apparatus."

The role of periodization in historical writing is analyzed: "Periodizations are necessary analytical tools that permit the historian to identify key moments of transition, whose significance and validity depend, naturally, upon the criteria adopted to qualify historical change. The measure of the validity of any periodization rests in its ability to isolate elements accountable for change, whether the subject is society, institutions, production, or cultures" (page 3).

The paper advocates periodizations based on connections between regions, using "phenomena that would bring to the surface connections among different regions of the world — connections otherwise invisible to historians who investigate a single society or civilization. The web of linkages thus uncovered would eventually show the 'systemic' relations existing between 'areal' histories previously considered separately."

This paper is so extensive and useful in a general sort of way that it will warrant multiple postings in the future to this weblog. The genealogy of the ideas it uses can be traced back to the field of political anthropology. I used this article in a recent paper published in the SOAS Bulletin of Burma Research (SBBR).

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.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Strange Parallels in World History

After decades of research and scholarly publication Professor Victor L. Lieberman of the University of Michigan currently ranks as the foremost historian of early modern Burma in the world. In the recent first volume of a two volume series, Strange Parallels: Southeast Asia in Global Context, C.800-1830: Integration on the Mainland (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), he begins an investigation into the strange parallels between the long duree history of mainland Southeast Asia and other regions of the world.

In 2004 he was honored with the coveted World History Association Book Prize for this book . An excerpt and sample chapter from the book are available from the Cambridge University Press. You can also search the contents of the book using Google Book Search. Online reviews have been written by professors Volker Grabowsky and F.K.L. Chit Hlaing. Professor Lieberman's previous book "Burmese Administrative Cycles: Anarchy and Conquest, c. 1580–1760" (Princeton, N.J. 1984) won the Harry J. Benda prize in Southeast Asian Studies. The best place to get a complete list of professor Lieberman's extensive articles on early modern Burmese history is to search through Michael Charney's bibliography of secondary literature on Burma. A speech by professor Anthony Reid of the National University of Singapore talks about professor Lieberman's critique of the idea of a seventeenth century crisis or watershed in Southeast Asian history applied to the Burmese mainland.

Professor Lieberman was recently awarded a Collegiate Professorship in History at the University of Michigan, which he named the Marvin B. Becker Chair after his late colleague. His student Dr. Michael Charney is carrying on his tradition of scholarship on pre-modern Burma as a lecturer at his alma mater the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London which has long been a center for the study of Burmese history, language, and literature.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Biography of the Burmese king Bayinnaung
(r. 1551-1581)

This paper by Myanmar National Library librarian U Thaw Kaung covers the legendary history of Bayinnaung as well as the Hsinpyushin Ayeidawpon, one of the important primary sources for the biography of Bayinnaung. This important work is being translated by U San Lwin and U Thaw Kaung according to the paper. Hopefully, it will be published and available for us to read one day soon. (It may need a financial sponsor.) Bayinnaung's Bell inscription that gives the date for several of his early conquests is also covered.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Portuguese Settlements
on the Bay of Bengal

A nice map of the Bay of Bengal with descriptions of Portuguese settlements along the Indian and Bengal coastline. Doesn't do such a good job with the Burmese and Malaysian coastlines though. For more background information read this online thesis. Wikipedia has a more inclusive map.

The Project Gutenberg of Burmese History

Important European historical sources for the history of Burma (1400-1600) have been published online recently by Dr. Michael Charney, lecturer in Burmese history at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. This project follows in the footsteps of the longstanding Project Gutenberg which publishes classic books with expired copyrights online making them available to people all over the world for free via the internet. For more information see Wikipedia's article on Project Gutenberg.

A recent edition of Dr. Charney's new journal The SOAS Bulletin of Burma Research includes several early descriptions of Burma written by European adventurers. These sources are important because they can be used to verify historical details in indigenous Burmese language historical chronicles. Also see Gaspero Balbi's writing which was included in a previous issue.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Great Sunken Bell of Dhammazedi

On the auspicious day 5 February 1484 the Mon king Dhammazedi had a 600 ton bell cast (293.4 metric = about 600 US tons) out of copper that his ministers had collected from the people against his wishes as taxes. He donated it to the great Shwedagon pagoda. Whether this is based on oral or written sources is not clear since this information is taken from sites online that don't cite their sources.

In 1583, the Venetian merchant Gasparo Balbi described the bell, "I found in a fair hall a very large bell which we measured, and found to be seven paces and three hand breadths and it is full of letters from the top to the bottom, so near together that one touches the other, but there was no Nation that could understand them." Balbi's text is available online. Look at page 29 for a description of the bell.

In the 1608, Filipe de Brito y Nicote ("Nga-zin-ka" in Burmese) was transporting the bell to his fort on Syriam (Than-lyin) island to melt it down and use it in cannons, but at the confluence of the Pegu and Yangon rivers the bell fell into the river and has never been recovered. Until the late 1800's the top of the bell was visible at low tide. The bell is buried below the mud at the bottom of the river. The location can supposedly be seen from Shu-kin-tha amusement park at Pegu point.

This information comes from a Burmese site and a Russian site as well as two weblogs in Burma [1|2].

Here is one news release and another:

November 3, 2004 Dow Jones International News
Myanmar to hunt for historic treasures under riverbeds

Yangon: Myanmar plans next year to begin retrieving cultural treasures that have been buried under riverbeds for centuries, a local cultural journal reported Wednesday.

Foreign experts will train people from Myanmar's archaeology and water resources departments in underwater archaeology skills next year, and the hunt should start soon after, Flower News said.

The journal quoted Hla Gyi Maung Maung, director-general of the Archaeology Department, as saying the search would focus on the Ayeyarwaddy River along which the ancient cities of Bagan, Tagaung and Amarapura once flourished.

The official said the Great Bell of Dhammazedi, which has been lying in the Yangon River for centuries, will be among the treasures salvaged if the training proves successful.

A monarch donated the giant bronze bell to the capital's Shwedagon Pagoda in 1476, but it was stolen by a Portuguese adventurer. However, the vessel carrying the bell sank. Until the late 1800s, the top of the sunken bell could still be seen at low tide.

Earlier attempts to salvage the Dhammazedi Bell, which is believed to weigh about 270 metric tons, were unsuccessful.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Akha tribal people
in Ming dynasty Yunnan (1433)

Here's an entry in the Ming historical annals that supposedly refers to the Hani tribal people of Yunnan:

"12 Nov 1433: In Yun-nan, the Niu-wu Chief's Office was established. Niu-wu, Wu-long and other stockades lay in He-ni territory. At this time, their chiefs Ren-zhe and Tuo-bi came to Court to offer tribute. When they came to the capital, they memorialized that their land was distant, where there were many yi people and fan. They requested that offices be established and officials appointed to govern the people. The Auxiliary Ministry of War requested that Wu-long be merged with Niu-wu and that a Niu-wu Chief's Office be established. This was approved. Subsequently Ren-zhe was appointed as Chief and Tuo-bi and others were appointed as deputies."

There is further information on Geoff Wade's polities page:

"89. Niu-wu ( 鈕兀 ): A polity noted by the MSL in only one reference of 1433 as a "Chief's Office" in Yun-nan. It was created by merging stockades in the territory of Ha-ni people (Xuan-zong shi-lu, juan 106.7b), and was located between Che-li (q.v.) and Yuan-jing (q.v.). See Tan Qi-xiang (1982; 77) and Fang Guo-yu (1987; 884, 893, 1072."

It's number 89 on this map. Near the three way intersection of the Vietnamese northern border with the Laotian border. This map has the current distribution of Hani populations in Yunnan.

Anyone who has lived in Chiangrai or Maesai, Thailand has met some Akha tribal people. Across the border from Maesai in Kengtung, Burma (Chiangtung, Chaing-dong) in the Eastern Shan states there is an even larger population that became Catholic early in this century.The Chinese branch of the Akha are called the Hani. Obviously there is a lot of history here waiting to be uncovered.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Karl Polanyi: Reciprocity, redistribution, and market exchange in economic history

In this essay a student of Karl Polanyi,the anthropologist Anne MacKaye Chapman, provides a penetrating overview of his life and work. The analysis of his "three forms of integration": reciprocity,redistribution, and market exchange makes it easier to apply these concepts to the pre-modern history of Burma. Quoting from Ms. Chapman:

"Polanyi's two uniting themes, throughout his work, are labor and land. He is concerned with how labor and land are organized, how they are institutionalized in terms of "location" and "appropriation"...his interests lie precisely in separating economic institutions from their "embeddedness" in order to submit them to analyses"

"One of the main problems he [Karl Polanyi] faced is how economic processes acquire unity and stability. He proposes that it is achieved through a combination of three patterns, that he calls 'forms of integration:' reciprocity, redistribution and exchange. The dominance of a form in a given society is a function of the degree in which it regulates land and labor...These are perennial "forms" that reoccur and appear in a subordinate context in almost any society...Note that he was not concerned with individual behaviors (as the formalists are) but rather with organized structures, with institutions such as those based on kinship, community or on a body of rules and regulations of a central power. Both reciprocity and redistribution organize production of goods (via labor), the appropriation of land as well as goods, the circulation or distribution of goods and the allocation of labor. These factors must be kept in mind when applying his "forms" to any non-price-making market society."

Quoting from Chapman on redistribution:

"Redistribution’s "supporting pattern" is centricity, movements of the products of land and labor into and out of a center...The central controlling power allocates the land, and recruits the labor, though a margin of freedom may be allowed for the "lesser" structures. Products of land and of the craft industries, move inward as tribute, taxes, rent, fines, dues, gifts, offerings, etc. and outward as retributions for services, rewards, also gifts, allocations of various sorts to the different sectors of the center and the periphery, that is, to the society as a whole, in terms of the status of the different sectors which compose the society."

Chapman quoting from Polanyi on gift trade between empires:

"Over millennia trade between empires was carried on as gift trade - no other rationale of two-sidedness would have met quite as well the needs of the situation. The organization of trade is here usually ceremonial, involving mutual presentation; embassies, political dealing between chiefs or kings. The goods are treasure, objects of elite circulation; in the border case of visiting parties they may be of a more "democratic" character. But contacts are tenuous and exchanges few and far between."

According to Polanyi the so-called triad of trade, money and markets must be pulled apart. This is the major theme of Shigeru Ikuta's “Portuguese Trade Between Malacca and Pegu in the Early Sixteenth Century” (Shiroku 10 (1977): 55-62), namely that in the early sixteenth centurythere was no money that all the trading nodes along the Bay of Bengalheld in common.

If this is too abstract Brad De Long, an economist at U.C. Berkeleysimplifies the ideas with down to earth example in The Embedded Economy Hypothesis".

Friday, December 09, 2005

Historiography and World History

Historiography and World History
1. Lieberman's strange parallels in world history
2. Lieberman, historiography, and scientific methodology
3. Di Cosmo on state formation and periodization
4. Braudel's model of history
5. Karl Polanyi: Reciprocity, redistribution, and market exchange in economic history

Greek and Roman Classics: Myth vs. history, factvs. fiction
1. Gavampti and Razadarit Ayeidawpon
2. Comparing Livy and U Kala, author of the Burmese Chronicle
3. Historical Gazetteer of Burma-Yunnan-Bay of Bengal

Aung-thwin's Mon Paradigm: the fallacy of being a fallacist
1. The "Mon Paradigm" in Burmese History
2. The fallacy of negative proof

Niall Ferguson and Nicholas Taleb: Chance and counterfactuals in history
1. Fooled by Randomness
2. Counterfactuals, Niall Ferguson, and the Burmese Chronicle
3. Human agency in history: Niall Ferguson and Counterfactuals, Nicholas Taleb and Monte Carlo Simulations

Sanjay Subrahmanyam: Elites, geography, and intellectual history
1. Subrahmanyam’s critique of fixed 'area studies' (versus perhaps, adaptable ‘regional studies’)
2. Subrahmanyam’s porous intellectual frontiers of early modern Southeast Asia

Marx and Warfare:
1. Did expansionary warfare drive pre-modern economic growth and decline? (Marx)
2. Cambridge Economic History of the Greco-Roman World

Geoff Wade vs. Gavin Menzies: Truth and scholarship vs. nationalism and marketing in Ming Chinese history
1. Let the people decide what actually happened (a new democratic theory of Chinese history)
2. Exposing fraudulent historical sources

Feedback diagrams
1. Jared Diamond's Feedback Diagram

Academic publishing on the internet
1. Wikipedia and journalistic errors in the Economist

1. Histories of historians instead of what actually happened ?!?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

European Descriptions

Cesar Federici

Cesar Federici I: Translation problems
Cesar Federici II: Portuguese-Burmese conflict in Martaban
Cesar Federici III: Bayinnaung's capital Pegu, Warfare, Wealth of the Kingdom, Royal Administrative work
Cesar Federici IV: Trade

Federici's most quoted passage is on monetization

Dhammazedi Bell (c. 1476) - Historical Sources

The Dhammazedi Bell is one of the largest bells in the world and is still buried under one of the rivers in Yangon, Burma. When I find see facts about this very interesting world-record breaking accumulation of religious wealth in the historical sources that I'm reading I post it to this weblog:

Posting I
Posting II
Posting III

Some possible transliterations of the king's name from Mon script that I have seen:

1. Dhammazedi
2. Damazedi
3. Dammazedi
4. Dhammachedi
5. Dhammaceti

Mon-Burmese warfare during the Razadarit era (1385-1421)

The Razadarit Ayeidawpon is mainly a history of the reign of the Mon king Razadarit (r. 1385-1421). A translation of this important work into English has recently been made by the Burmese scholar San Lwin, but it is only available in an unpublished form. The work consists mainly of military history. The following is a selection of paraphrased extracts from this work presented in chronological order.

Narrative military history of the Razadarit era (c. 1385-1421)

1. Razadarit's minister Deinmaniyut on chain of command (c. 1383)

2. Ava attacks Razadarit for the first time (c. 1385)

3. A delaying action by the ruler of Wun

4. Razadarit takes Martaban (c. 1388)

5. Razadarit’s first efforts to subjugate Bassein and Myaungmya (c. 1388)

6. A Mon Theory of limited warfare (c. 1388)

7. Razadarit finishes consolidating his rule over the south (c. 1390)

8. Razadarit takes Myanaung from Ava, Ava counterattacks (c. 1390)

9. Razadarit Ayeidawpon and the western "Just War" tradition

10. Razadarit and Sieges

11. Avan river patrol from Khepaung captures Paik Thinran (c. 1416)

12. The Battle of Pannin (c. 1416)

13. Ava attacks Panko (c. 1416)

14. Raiding by river around Bassein (c. 1416)

Here's are some weblog postings that address the historiography of the Razadarit era:

1. What was Harvey’s Contribution to his own history of Burma? I

2. Is the "face of warfare" in Razadarit Ayeidawpon the real face?

3. What was Harvey’s Contribution to his own history of Burma? I

4. Local political autonomy and loyalty in Razadarit Ayeidawpon

5. Harvey on the Mon-Burma war (1385-1421) II

Essential Reading

Online Reading

  1. The Changing Nature of Conflict between Burma and Siam as seen from the growth and development of Burmese state from the 16th to the 19th centuries (Pamaree Surakiat)[pdf] (NEW)

  2. Bagshawe's translation of the Burmese Rajadhammasangaha

  3. SOAS Bulletin of Burma Research

  4. Papers by Burmese historians (University of Washington Archive)

  5. Bob Hudson's PhD dissertation on Pagan

  6. Southeast Asia in the Ming Shi-lu (Geoff Wade, translator)

  7. Wade, Geoff (2004) "Ming China and Southeast Asia in the 15th Century: A Reappraisal"

  8. Grabowsky on Lanna's pre-1558 political organization [pdf]

  9. Charney's "Mists of Ramanna" Book Review

  10. The Portuguese in Coastal Burma (1517-1617)

  11. Burma and Yunnan: 1486-1539 I

  12. Burma and Yunnan: 1486-1539 II

  13. Lan Na in chaos (1590's)

  14. Di Cosmo's model of warfare and state formation

  15. Biography of the Burmese king Bayinnaung (r. 1551-1581)

Burmese Language Reading

  1. Online Burmese parabaik collection (Japan)

Chinese Language Reading

  1. Ming Shi [Official Ming Dynasty History] Online in Chinese

  2. Classical Chinese Language Forum (

Books and manuscripts

  1. Lieberman's Strange parallels in world history

  2. Burmese historical manuscripts

Index to History of
the Tai-Yunnan frontier (1359-1402)

This is a narrative event-based history of the Tai-Yunnan-Burma frontier (c. 1369-1398) roughly from the beginning three dynasties: the Ming in China (c. 1368), the Burmese at Ava (c. 1364), and a Mon dynasty at Pegu (c. 1364).

It is a historical interpretation built on top of a computer-based primary source, probably the first of its kind, Geoffrey Wade's "Southeast Asia in the Ming Shi-lu: An Open Access Resource". Citations are linked directly to the primary source.

This paper is indebted to the paper Wade, Geoff(2004) "Ming China and Southeast Asia in the 15th Century: A Reappraisal" for providing a starting point for Ming Shi-lu references. For full bibliographical entries please see my two recent papers: paper1, paper2


1. The initial Ming attempts to win Yunnan over (1369-1380)

2. The Ming invasion and conquest of Yunnan (1380-83)

3. Ming punitive expedition to the Tai-Yunnan frontier (1388)

4. The Tai invasion of Ming Yunnan (1386-99)

5. Failed Ming attempts at intervention on the Tai-Yunnan frontier (1390's).

6.Conclusion: Segmentary States along the Tai-Yunnan frontier

7. Tai raids on Ava in Upper Burma before the Ming conquest (1359-82)

Historical Sources for the Damazedi Bell II

The internet links to the Damazedi Bell from a previous post, I traced this back to some historical sources:

1. The casting of the bell

From January 22, 1476 the Mon king Damazedi sent a mission for religious reformation to Sri Lanka consisting of one senior monk Mogallana and ten junior monks. The monks were reordained in Sri Lanka and the mission arrived back in Dagon on September 3rd. The large bell played an important role in the ceremonies welcoming the monks back. On September 25th Damazedi “left Hanthawaddy [Pegu] for Dagon; the big bell made by his order for the Shwedagon was ready.” On October 2nd there was the “ceremony of hanging the king’s bell at the Shwedagon; it weighed 3,000 viss” and on the next day Damazedi held a feast for all the monks in Dagon. Three days later Damazedi left Dagon and arrived back in the capital Pegu after a four day journey (Than Tun, Royal Orders of Burma, part two, p. xi, citing “Kalyani Inscription” (1958) (ed) LPW, pp. 72-80, but probably in this English work also: Taw Sein Ko. A Preliminary Study of the Kalyani Inscriptions of Dhammachedi, 1476 A.D. Bombay: Education Society’s Steam Press. 1893, there's a copy at Chiangmai University Library).

2. Attempted Portuguese theft of the bell and loss in the river:

In the Chronicle of Syriam:

“When Anauk Pet Lun arrived at Prome there was a Feringhi Kala, Nga Zinga [Portuguese adventurer Philip de Brito y Nicote]. This man, intending to convert it into into a cannon had removed the large bell placed on the Theingottara Hill by Dhammazeti, who had presented it to the Shwe Dagon. By the power of Buddha he and his vessel sank in the Panalwe Creek before his intention could be fulfilled” (Furnivall, John Sydenham. “A Forgotten Chronicle.” Journal of the Burma Research
Society 2.2 (December, 1912): 161-167.; Furnivall (1915) “The History of Syriam” Journal of the Burma Research Association, p. 52-53).

The plundering of the Dammazedi Bell by Portuguese raises questions. Was it common practice to plunder the religious wealth after a military victory? Since most of the food surplus of a society would have been stored in the form of such religious wealth, it seems it might have been common practice. When later in his reign in the 1570’s Bayinnaung began to show (at least according to the Burmese chronicle) more respect for local Tai rule and culture in Chiangmai and Lan Chang, did he leave more of the religious wealth intact? During Tai rule at Ava (1527-1555) explicit mention is made in the chronicle of the plundering of religious wealth, but was this really exceptional in the early modern period even if two cultures shared the same religion such as Theravadan Buddhism? Did Burmese military expeditions to Arakan and Ayutthaya plunder religious wealth? Chronicle renditions of history could contain logical contradictions like this, finding instances of plundering religious wealth in the practices of other cultures while remaining blind to their own pactices.

As usual, almost all the references are in Harvey’s “History of Burma”. Should have checked him first. Nowadays, the only acceptable thing to do with Harvey, it seems, is to criticize him. If you cite him, you look silly, but he is one of the best indexes into the sources, if you can ignore his often obnoxious or silly colonial era historical interpretations. If he had stuck with literal source translations in the English of the King James Bible, let’s say, he would have better maintained his value for posterity. (My Bahai friend says this style is the best for sacred (and maybe semi-sacred texts like the Burmese Chronicle which begins its history at the beginning of time). Although I don’t really agree with her, it is hard to render sacred language in neutral non-sacred language. At least with the King James Bible there is a one-to-one match.).

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Articles Sorted By Category

[Regional: Tai-Yunnan Frontier|General Burmese History|Ava Period (1365-1527) and First Toungoo Dynasty (1486-1599)|Tai, Lanna, and Ayutthaya|Bay of Bengal]
[Methodological: Historiography|World History|Historical Geography|Bibliography|Academic Publishing]
Tai-Yunnan Frontier

General Burmese History

Ava Period (1365-1527) and First Toungoo Dynasty (1486-1599)

Tai, Lanna, and Ayutthaya History

Bay of Bengal

Non-Western Warfare

Intellectual History

World History


Historical Geography

Academic Publishing