Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Administration under King Thalun
(1629 - 48)

This important paper by the recently deceased doyen of Burmese history Dr Than Tun discusses administrative changes in the Burmese state that followed Burma's great expansion of the sixteenth century.

The paper uses the "Cambudipa Uchon Kyam" (more phonetically: Zampudipa Ok-hsaung Kyan), an important primary source for early modern Burmese history. Dr. Than Tun also had a translation of this source that should be published. I'll post my rough and very literal translation along with the original text as an aid to reading the original. Maybe the inadequacies of my own translation will motivate Mr Than Tun's heirs to present the great scholar Dr. Than Tun's own translation for publication.

The University of Washington has made his paper available along with a Burmese version and other important papers by Burmese historians. In the old days of the Journal of the Burma Research Society articles in the Burmese language were often published alongside the mostly English articles.

It is an interesting question whether a different analytical style was associated with writing articles in the two different languages. There is certainly a difference in the use of Chinese and English in anthropological scholarship on the multitude of different ethnic groups in Yunnan, China. Recent conferences and an edited volume seek to address these differences by using Chinese rather than the traditional English as the medium of communication.

This raises the question, if western writers start writing articles in Chinese, whether this could influence academic discourse in China and also vice-versa, whether Chinese papers translated into English could provide a fresh and different perspective on issues that are addressed right now, rather unquestioningly, only from the culturally remote perspective of western academic discourse.