Wednesday, May 31, 2006

More warfare during the Razadarit era (c. 1406-1407)

I've posted in my Warfare in the Razadarit Era (c. 1385-1421) weblog two more historical episodes from Razadarit Ayeidawpon:

16. Minkhaung’s renews his attack on Pegu (c. 1406)

[Featuring a sort of contest of recirpocity between gentlemen warrior elites. Ideology or reality?]

17. Ava and Pegu fight over Arakan (c. 1407)

[Ava and Pegu once again fight over Arakan with Ava being the initial aggressor and Razadarit successfully defending and freeing Arakan. Treachery-trickery is used to break a siege. Will compare with additional primary sources that I have soon.]

The monk of Athwa on kings, warfare, and death

I came across this haunting and poignant passage yesterday.

The Monk of Athwa's works (c. 1740), as of now almost all still untranslated, would probably reveal even more passages like this. This passage would be very fitting at the beginning of any scholarly tome devoted to investigating warfare and its effect on society. It is also a good example of the Buddhist theme of impermanence in literature (The end of the Chinese classic Dream of the Red Chamber being another). Here is the passage:

"All the kings who have come down in succession from Mahasamatto [Mahathammada] to Samala and Wimala and their successors who have been kings until now, are thousands and ten thousands of generations."

"All these kings have sought to escape the dominion of Death. Thus they have done: having become Kings, they have planted defences, they have dug moats, they have raised walls and made firm their battlements, they have furnished swords and spears, bows and arrows, muskets, artillery, and engines of war. They have gathered in provisions and mustered armies. They have beaten out weapons, and that they might get the mastery over Death, they have put forth every effort and used every art. All kings have done this have they not?"

"Although these Kings have arranged and planned for their own defence, not one has been able to gain the mastery over Death. Not one has managed to free himself from the power of Death. All rulers have to submit to the power of Death, all of them. Is it not so?"

(Source: Monk of Athwa, Slapat Rajawan Datow Smin Ron [History of Kings], translated from the Mon by Halliday, edited by Christian Bauer (2000) The Mons of Burma and Thailand: Volume 2. Selected Articles, Robert Halliday, Bangkok : White Lotus )

The Monk of Athwa: The greatest and most prolific of all Mon authors

Many of the Mon language works printed at the Pak Lat Press in the early 20th century were authored by one monk known as the Monk of Athwa. This monk supposedly accompanied others fleeing from Pegu during the interregnum preceding the founding of the Konbaung dynasty (1752-1885)and since the books had been left behind to the ravages of war, this monk set to work rewriting them, mostly from memory interpolating in his own literary style in the process. I've included another quote from a monk of Athwa's work on Burmese oppression over the Mon south in another blog entry.

All of the books he wrote can now only be found in rare manuscripts in places like the Myanmar National library in Yangon or the British Library in London. The books he wrote include the Loasiddhi, a book of rules and sayings, the Lik blai bha [Schoolboy’s Book], the Mingala Sutta from the Buddhist Canon of sacred texts, a translation from the Burmese of the poem Parami Kan, the Wan dacit [The Nine Vansas], a collection of works including Buddhawan, Dhatuwan, Mahawan, Rajawan, as well as other legal and didactical works.

Halliday indicates that at the time of writing the Bernard Free Library, the predecessor of the Myanmar National Library, had 304 manuscripts in its catalogue, the earliest dating back to 1655. Some of the works predate this date, but they have been copied and recopied, so don’t let anyone tell you that just because a manuscript dates from a relatively recent times it means the book didn’t originate far in the past. It mahave been copied several times, split apart and rejoined with other texts, several times, all producing complexities in the textual genealogies that philology has yet to unravel and figure out. (Halliday in Christian Bauer (ed.) (2000) The Mons of Burma and Thailand: Volume 1. The Talaings, Robert Halliday, Bangkok : White Lotus, pp. 147-152).

Monday, May 29, 2006

More warfare during the Razadarit era (c. 1403)

Here are two more condensations and interpretations of the Razadarit Ayeidawpon (c. 1385-1421). These passages are particularly rich, touching on topics such as using ocean tides as an offensive weapon, the impact of food supply on strategy, and heroism, estimating troop strength, and oaths:

14. The Mon tidal strategy and victory at Pankyaw (c. 1403)

15. Ava’s defeat at Pankyaw: food supply problems and the travails of a hero (c. 1403)

Human agency in history: Niall Ferguson and Counterfactuals, Nicholas Taleb and Monte Carlo Simulations

If human agency is the traditional mainstay of narrative history, is human agency guided by the rigid deterministic collectivist rules that regulate a society or is there an element of contingent strategic action that jumps the bounds of these rules at critical points sometimes with elite seeking alliances and cultural exchanges with other societies?

Niall Ferguson’s notion of counterfactuals and Nicholas Taleb’s Monte-Carlo simulations are two ways of looking at the strategic behaviour of elites, in short human agency.

Perhaps poking fun at historians a bit, Taleb names the chapter he devotes to hindsight bias: "Skills in predicting past history. He defines hindsight bias as the “overestimation of what one knew at the time of the event due to subsequent information.” He uses apt analogies to convey what hindsight bias means: “Things are always obvious after the fact”, “Imagine taking a test knowing the answer”, “It is hard to imagine that people who witnessed history did not know at the time how important the moment was”, or “While we know that history flows forward, it is difficult to realize that we envision it backwards” (Taleb, Fooled By Randomness, 2nd ed., p. 56).

Taleb stresses the importance of choosing the right perspective: “A mistake is not something to be determined after the fact, but in light of information until that point.” In other words, base your historical interpretation on information that was available to a given historical actor, officer or soldier, up to a given point in time, a call for narrative history written from the perspective of participants?

Taleb combines his critique of after-the-fact history with a plug for Monte Carlo simulations, a mathematical technique from applied probability. “Far more a way of thinking than a computational tool,” Monte Carlo mathematics is a way of creating artificial histories and toying with the role of uncertainty in determining these histories.

A Monte Carlo generator creates thousands of random sample paths, a “succession of virtual historical events.” These historical paths are not just random walks or Brownian random motion. Given the constraints set in the Monte Carlo generator, some outcomes will have a higher probability or frequency than others. Choosing historical constraints (like Braudel does in his Mediterranean): “One sets conditions believed to resemble the ones that prevail in reality, and launches a collection of simulations around possible events.” You can imagine a huge collection of virtual histories analyzed after they are generated: “One can generate thousands, perhaps millions of random sample paths, and look at the prevalent characteristics of some of their features” (Taleb, 2005, 46). The difference from the normal after-the-fact history mentioned above is that we have thousands of possible histories (or worlds) not just the one history that was actually realized.

How can Monte Carlo techniques be applied to warfare? These mathematical methods are a lot more straightforward to apply to financial markets because detailed time series of prices for the assets traded on these markets are available. The very first historical application of these techniques was probably to warfare. The Rand Corporation think tank of the 1950’s applied Monte Carlo mathematics to war games simulating nuclear war during the cold war era.

It’s doubtful though that war games can adequately capture the continually changing panorama and mix of causal factors that enter real life decision-making. For history reconstructing the constraints that actors faced is an additional problem. The reconstruction of the battle of Waterloo that took place shortly after the battle was the first ambitious attempt to exhaustively assemble such historical constraints.

It is hard to pull the uncertain decisions out of the historical, the chance component of Clausewitz’s three causal factors in warfare (violence, chance, political objectives) because events have already been determined, so they appear deterministic.

In the end though, historical reconstruction is a matter of perspective. Choosing the appropriate perspective for writing history means eschewing an omniscient god-like perspective and adopting the narrative perspective that actual historical actors like officers and soldiers and the political leaders that guided them from above faced.

Of course Taleb is talking about traders on financial markets, not warfare, but there is a mapping from one domain to the other that makes a cross-pollination feasible. Niall Ferguson with his notion of virtual history has pointed the way.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Local power, elites, and warfare: Burma-Yunnan-Bay of Bengal (c. 1350-1600)

If you take long-term deterministic structure, environmental or social structure, versus chance-contingency determined good-ole strategic human agency, which one do scholars tend to focus on and theorize about, the deterministic, of course.

That's why Niall Ferguson's finding that the counterfactuals that human actors proposed before the actual events happened is such a wonderful entry into neglected human agency:

“…historical accidents are products of collisions between chains of deterministic causation” (Niall Ferguson, Introduction to Virtual History, p. 40). What about:

1. deterministic causation works at the level of the localities or regions
2. the collisions are strategic military alliances between elites
3. elite circulation, travels or communications, were the basis of these alliances
4. the accidents were the changes from the deterministic trajectories that this human agency brought about

There were some very loose alliances in early modern Southeast Asian history, for example the Shan confederation that ruled over Upper Burma (c. 1527-1555). During this period there was no real centralization, consolidation around the Avan center.

References to relations between regions such as Chiang Mai and Mottama (From Binnya U 1364 to Dhammazedi c. 1458-1492) both military and religious occurred at intervals during the 14th-15th centuries, they all but cease during the massive centralizations of the 16th century.

Expanded pool of examples:

1. Si Lun-fa’s confrontation with his Ming conquerors (1382-1398)
2. the frequently changing loyalties of the Mon-Ava Wars (1385-1425)
3. Prome’s cooperation with Si Lun (use Tai name) of Mong Yang (1527)
alliance prior to founding of Ava
5. Phitsanulok Thammaracha’s alliance with Pegu against Ayutthaya (Chris Baker)
4. Tabinshweihti’s assassination and a Mon restoration for two years (Pinto)
6. Rebellion, Bayinnaung campaigning in Chiangmai (Than Tun) (c., 1557)
7. Christian Daniel’s paper on Chinese usurpation in (c. 1580)
8. Alliance of Nan with Lan Chang against Chiangmai in my first paper (1590’s).
list of strategic military alliances:
9. Minhkaung requesting help of Chiang Mai when he marches against Pegu (c. 1403)
10. Razadarit requesting help from Hsenwi (c. 1415)

Simple rules for research

Here are some great simple rules for research from Brad De Long's weblog (economics professor at U.C. Berkeley):

David Romer's Rules for Making It Through Graduate School and Finishing Your Dissertation: "Out in Five"

1. Don't clutter up your life with other activities; just write.

2. Don't carry out a thorough and comprehensive search of the literature; just write.

3. Don't attempt to make sure that every page you write shows the full extent of your professional skills; just write.

4. Don't write a well-organized, well-integrated, unified dissertation; just write.

5. Don't think profound thoughts that shake the intellectual foundations of the discipline; just write.

6. If you don't have a paper started by the spring of your third year, be alarmed.

7. If you don't have a paper largely drafted by the fall of your fourth year, panic.

8. Have three new ideas a week while you are getting started.

9. Don't try to game the profession, work on what interests you.

10. Good papers in economics have three characteristics:
i. A viewpoint.
ii. lever.
iii. result.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

More Burmese Chronicle translation

A rough translation of the conquest of the Shan States (1555-1557) (UKII:253-268) has been posted to Burmese Historical Chronicle (By U Kala) [Permalink].

Peasant mobility: The questions it raises

Perdue, Peter (1996) "Military Mobilization in Seventeenth and Eighteenth-Century China, Russia, and Mongolia" Modern Asian Studies 30.4 (1996) 757-793

This paper by Perdue has an interesting discussion of peasant mobility (Also see Krugman's "Serfs Up!"and Brad De Long's republishing of Domar's original paper on the economics of serfdom).

In the history of land tenure in any given society, the notion of peasant mobility appears to be central.

The serf status of Russian peasants bound to the land must be the prototype of immobility.

Peasant mobility is intimately related to the ability to mobilize peasants for warfare.

The notion of peasant mobility raises many questions:

1. During times of warfare, do peasants voluntary move to the center for protection? Or do they flee to the forest?

2. During times of peace, is there more freedom to migrate from the center to the periphery?

3. How mobile were early modern peasant populations in mainland Southeast Asia?

4. Does it really make sense to make only binary distinctions for peasants like mobile versus bound?

5. What does mobility really mean? Is it peasant mobility or elite mobility? Don’t peasant clients follow their elite patron-protector? Did the poorest migrate or was it more affluent peasants?

6. Why did they migrate? What crisis precipitated the migration? Was it over-taxation by an elite trying to extract more of the food surplus? Did the land become unproductive for some reason like environmental degradation or not enough manpower to work it productively? Was protection, war, and raiding for manpower a factor in location? Was mobility associated with homesteading? If population grows, then the land farmed by parents is not enough to sustain the children. Did populations go through cycles of centralization during times of expansionary warfare and political consolidation and decentralization during times of collapse? What about times of endemic internal warfare, non-expansionary, where there is no clear winner? Did you find shifting loyalties among the elite and their peasant-client followers? During these periods of endemic warfare, protection would have been even more important.

7. Was migration always within the same polity or did it sometimes occur across polity boundaries in inter-dynastic times of fragmentation and chaos?

8. Did mobility vary with location? Agricultural productivity? Nearness to the capital and center of the kingdom?


Fernquist, Jon. 2005a. “The flight of Lao war captives form Burma back to Laos in 1596: a comparison of historical sources,” SOAS Bulletin of Burma Research 3.1: 41-68 [Link]

A Model of State Formation and Expansion

Fernquest, Jon (2005) "Min-gyi-nyo, the Shan invasions of Ava (1524-27), and the beginnings of expansionary warfare in Toungoo Burma: 1486-1539," SOAS Bulletin of Burma Research, Vol. 3, No. 2, Autumn 2005, Link.

Here my summary of the model of state formation and expansion that comes from Di Cosmo (1999). I call it the "Di Cosmo-Andreski" model of state formation, but I guess Di Cosmo has intellectual property rights over his name so I better name it the "war-and-society-endogenized" model.

Although Andreski's prose is tortuous to read and his fixed models that he tries to squeeze different societies into are rigid and overly simplistic, the feedback diagram at the back of his book seems to capture a lot of timeless truths about war and society (for a concise description of Andreski's models see Keegan's History of Warfare). I have a full photocopy of this fold-out diagram in Chiang Rai that I will post to this blog in the future, after my own rediagramming of course)

"Four stages in state formation have been proposed by Di Cosmo (1999, 26):

1. crisis
2. militarization
3. centralization
4. acquisition of external resources

In economic terms, an exogenous shock throws a state out of a stable political equilibrium and sets in motion endogenous mechanisms of adjustment (2,3, and 4) that will eventually return it to equilibrium.

First, a crisis is the precipitating cause behind state formation. A crisis is defined as "a general, sometimes abrupt, worsening of economic, political, and social conditions, carrying with it a sense of impending change." Bad climate, bad harvests, droughts, epidemics, overgrazing, and tensions between ethnic groups are all cited as possible precipitating causes behind a crisis that leads to war (Di Cosmo, 1999, 10). Many of these crises can be subsumed under population growth’s positive effect on warfare discussed above. Chinese sources provide ample evidence of tensions between ethnic groups along the Shan-Chinese frontier, whereas the more royal eulogizing style of the Burmese chronicle tends to leave such precipitating causes out of the narrative. One possible crisis in the Shan realm along the Shan-Chinese frontier consisted of population pressure on limited land bounded to the east by the Chinese and the south by Ava. In Toungoo, a possible crisis was the Shans taking Prome two years prior to Tabinshweihti’s first expedition against Ramanya. Toungoo would have been the next likely candidate in the Shan southern expansion. The only alternative was to attack Ramanya in the south and build up manpower from there for an assault against the north.

Second, the initial crisis leads to militarization and the mobilization of the society for war. The military participation rate of the society increases and a high percentage of the adult males are conscripted into military service. Imperial bodyguard units are also formed to strengthen the personal power of the ruler and create greater cohesion in the upper ranks of the military. The general population that conscripts are drawn from undergoes subordination to put it on a war footing. Censuses and tattooing are instituted to stem the flow of population out of social groups that bear a greater burden during warfare such as royal servicemen into those that are exempted like religious institutions (Lieberman, 1984, 40-41, 152-181; Aung-Thwin, 1985; Charney, 214-216). In Burmese society conscripts did not draw a salary and were expected to provide many of the perquisites of war that states in other societies and times (e.g. Roman) provided soldiers with such as food supplies and personal weapons (sword, knife, lance, spear, shield, protective gear, bow and arrow, crossbow, boats, Charney, 2004, 23-41, 105). Rigid disciplinary rules that involved the families of soldiers were used to subordinate the population for war: "to ensure the loyalty of conscripts, their families were treated as hostages for their good behavior" (Charney, 219).

Third, centralization occurs next when small states begin to form alliances and work together. Di Cosmo uses the term "ideology in reserve" to "suggest the latent possibility of the state, made possible by the willing consent of tribal components to alienate part of their power for the greater good of the resolution of the crisis" (Di Cosmo, 1999, 14). Centralization occurs when: During a crisis several leaders would emerge and strive to create a new order, thereby restoring peace; they were usually junior members of the tribal aristocracy vying for power. The competition revolved around the ability of the leader and his close military associates to defend the interests of the tribe. If successful, the leader would attract the support of several other tribes (Di Cosmo, 1999, 13)…

Fourth, the final stage is the actual acquisition of external resources to ensure the future existence of the emergent state. The focus is on more efficient resource extraction. As Di Cosmo describes it, it is “the search for more efficient and more sophisticated ways to supply the new politically dominant class with sufficient means for its continued existence” and “the gradual – but uneven – expansion of ways to achieve better control and management of revenues." States run through an evolutionary sequence of fiscal stages in their finance that runs: raiding, tribute, taxation. As Di Cosmo describes the evolution, fiscal policies become "less rapacious and erratic." From raiding parties "swollen to the size of fully-fledged armies" states pass to more permanent and lasting control by demanding tribute from conquered states, but tribute can be difficult to collect from remote vassals and must ultimately be backed up with the threat of punitive expeditions, so tribute can be volatile and when it disappears can provoke a crisis (Di Cosmo, 1999, 17-18, 27). To ensure fiscal revenues, governors with garrisons, not tributary lords, are appointed from the center to manage more reliable regular taxation of agriculture and trade on the periphery."


Di Cosmo, Nicola (1999) "State Formation and Periodization in Inner Asian History," Journal of World History 10:1 (Spring 1999): 1-40., pp. 10-26), this weblog's entry]

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

More Burmese Chronicle translation
(c. 1550-1555)

In The Burmese Historical Chronicle (By U Kala) I've posted a rough translation of the Burmese Chronicle from the Mon Restoration (c. 1550) to the reconquest of Ava by Bayinnaung (c. 1555)(UKII:223-252) [Permalink].

Juan Cole: Blogging hazards in academia

The link above is to the recent controversial use of a Wikipedia biography page for Juan Cole (University of Michigan professor) being used as debating forum and platform for ad hominem attacks against him.

I created my weblog on the Mon Paradigm for exactly the opposite reason. To systematically give the book "The Mists of Ramanna" a thorough line-by-line review, examining claims, sub-claims, the sources evidence that supports them, and the logical glue that holds the whole argument together.

Apparently, the close-knit community of Burma Studies is not going to allow anyone within the community to critically review even a sentence of this very questionable book. The goal is not polemics or presentism, a polemic being defined as:

"...the art or practice of inciting disputation or causing controversy, for example in religious, philosophical, or political matters. As such a polemic text on a topic is written specifically to dispute or refute a topic that is widely viewed to be a 'sacred cow' or beyond reproach, in an effort to 'stir up trouble'." (Source: Wikipedia:Polemic)

Can one really avoid polemics though when the book itself engages in polemics in the guise of objective scholarship? Like proving that a conquered and subjugated people, a people who were defeated over and over again in war, the Mon, were not "down-trodden". That somehow British colonial rulers created this as a myth to control the Burmese overlords with. And claiming that you have the right to make such arguments, because you yourself are a little Mon in your blood. Eegaeds.

Things like this me compel me to take a quick shower and then start comparing early modern Burmese warfare with, let's say Maori warfare or northwest coast Indian warfare, world history. Why not? There are numerous similarities. There is similarity and difference everywhere.

Revising blog thoughts as a capital crime

This little snippet is also interesting:

"Joffe also raised issues of Cole's intellectual integrity, pointing to instances in which Cole altered his blog posts after they were demonstrated to contain incorrect historical information, without indicating he had made any changes"

Isn't error correction a good feature of weblogs? Is scholarship a competitive sport where you lose points for making errors and are afraid to revise an imperfect hypothesis? Let's all live in a cave because we're afraid to build a house. I guess I am naive.

I've actually seen valuable scholarly work lost, burnt by unknowing relatives, that others could have followed up on, destroyed upon the scholar's death, or a slightly incomplete translation of the Akha oral traditions, not published for decades because there was something slightly incomplete about it. Eventually, the manuscript is lost or the author dies, then all that work goes to waste and is of no use to anyone.

At the least the internet provides the potential for stemming this sort of wasteful behavior.

The false misplaced sense that one's work is complete and error-free only because it is finally published in paper form in a book or prestigious journal article is another part of this wasteful way of thinking.

Blogs make it easy to note evidence against a claim, post it quickly on a blog, and later integrate it into a longer lasting, more finished work. This is just commonsense, but unfortunately commonsense takes years to catch on. Be an early adopter.

With weblogs you can help peers correct mistakes. The challenge when I teach writing is always to get students and their peers to catch the errors, not to rely on the teacher. When I first became a computer programmer, one of the first things I learnt was egoless programming. A philosophy of egoless peer review will catch errors and clarify ideas in Burmese history as well.

There are ways to provide students with an incentive for no-ego peer review. One of my astute colleagues used to make the a collective group writing grade a small percentage, let's say 10%-15%, of the individual writing grade. If students did not help their peers perfect their writing, their individual grade would suffer a little. This is an instance, I believe, where Asian group tendencies definitely win out on the western tendency to individualize everything.

Open source bibliography software anyone?

Bibliography software also known as Reference Management Software automates one of the more mundane parts of scholarship: making sure you adequately attribute and cite your sources.

Endnotes is the most common in the Windows world and probably humanities world too, but in the world of science and mathematics Bibtex based on TeX typsetting system created by Stanford computer science legend Donald Knuth. TeX is probably one of the first open source software projects, starting in 1978 and predating the Open Source movement by a long, long time. Here are some additional points:

1. Citeseer the open access academic paper repository and search engine for the natural sciences uses Bibtex.

2. BibteXML translates Bibtext into XML form which makes it easy to sort, regroup, and reformat bibliographies.

3. It would be really nice if bibliographical tools could be combined with other text processing computer programs to support philological analysis of texts. The Warring States Project had a wonderful site on philology that will eventually be back up I hope. Many of the Burmese and Mon texts that were published ages ago as edited volumes may in fact have much more complex textual genealogies, genealogies that actually might take a lot of work to untangle.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Nidana Arambhakatha: A Bibliographical Essay

This little essay from my notes collects, organizes, and summarizes what others have written about a very rare Mon text that is especially important for the history of state expansion in mainland Southeast Asia (c. 1350-1600), the "Nidana Arambhakatha" being "not only the earliest, but also the most graphic and detailed source on the unification campaigns of the 1550’s" in Burma.

The source is very rare and also difficult to read, so every historian who has used it as a historical source has used the translation of the late Mon linguist Shorto at SOAS.

Even the name that Shorto assigned to the text is disputable. Since this text has actually never been published in the modern edited form that we are used to seeing most pre-modern texts in (e.g. U Kala, Hmannan), it provides a good example of what pre-modern historical sources actually were, stripping away the securities that modern editors provide the reader, and raising fundamental philological questions about how the text arose in the first place, what pieces it was assembled from, and how these pieces were assembled together into a textual whole. This kind of uncertainty, however, is the norm in more fully developed areas of philology like Chinese philology.

Shorto divides Mon historical writing into three genres: 1. Rajawan, the genealogies of kings, 2. Dhatuwan, histories of pagodas, and 3. Pum, biographies of kings. He chooses the "Nidana Arambhakatha" as an exemplar of the Rajuwan genre to describe in further detail (Shorto, 1962).

This work has been referred to in several ways and there has never been any version of the work in widespread circulation in any form much less a well edited form, so there is quite a lot of confusion of what exactly it contains and what its name is and how to refer to it.

Shorto's paper makes it clear that the whole second volume is the "Nidana Ramadipati Katha" but this second volume is a collection of many different texts that have not been logically separated, so it took a trained philologist in Mon like Shorto to analyze the composition of the text.

First, some background on the rather unique background and origins of this work within the community of Southeast Asianists in the early twentieth century and how it was disseminated among them after being printed in Mon orthography by the first Mon printing press. The Pak Lat Mon Press started printing books in Mon orthography in 1902. Halliday writes in 1917 that:

"In recent years a number of Talaing books have been published at Paklat, Siam, but the number of outside people able to read them is very limited. The printer and publisher is the superior of the 'Krun Cin' Monastery. He first projected an edition of the Tripitaka in the Talaing character, which was to run to thirty-nine volumes and of these, twenty-one volumes have already been published. In order to apparently to bring in some ready money to keep the press going for the larger work, a number of lesser, popular, religious works were printed. Dr. Frankfurter, the chief librarian at the National Library, Bangkok, who was taking an interest in the [130] work, urged the printing of some of the historical books as more likely to interest the outside world; and, as a result, two volumes have already appeared" (Halliday and Bauer, 2000, 143).

Philological Analysis

From a philological standpoint the text presents two sets of problems. First, the original manuscript was most likely a composite collation of other texts. Second, the Pak Lat historical volume was also a composite collation of texts. Shorto analyzes the editing and construction of this text:

"The two Pak Lat historical volumes were extracted or cut out of palm leaf manuscripts and typeset in composite fashion into a book with a bare minimal amount of editing. Any indication of breaks in the original texts or where the texts came from is also not given. The textual type would be 'accretional text' from Brook’s Warring States Project (2001) typology of textual types. Accretion probably most accurately describes the growth or genesis of this text, 'accretional' basically meaning cut and paste."

As Shorto describes the work: "It is printed at pages 9-34 and 45-61 of the second of the two volumes…apparently to supply a lacuna at the beginning of the Pum Dhammaceti [Biography of King Dhammazedi] -- since apart from page headings no indication is given that it is a separate work" (Shorto, 1961, 64). The evidence of its age is that, "The manuscript from which the Nidana text was printed came from the National Library in Bangkok and is likely to have been of unusually early date. From the Pali colophon incorporated in the text it appears that the main part, originally entitled Ramann-uppatti-dipaka, was composed by a monk Zingyaik after the extinction of Dhammaceti’s line in 1538; later hands have resumed the story and taken it year by year up to accession of Pyi Min to the Ava throne in 1661. The annalistic character of this later continuation, which appears to be without parallel elsewhere, clearly derives from an extraneous tradition, which is most likely to be Burmese; if so, it offers a most valuable opportunity for discriminating Mon and Burmese elements in the general historiographical tradition of the country" (Shorto, 1961, 64).

"This second volume [of the two Pak Lat Mon script historical volumes 1910-12] bears evidence of being an older composition than the first. There are many old forms of spelling, and there are words not understood at all by present-day Talaings. This is by no means an uncommon thing with Talaing [Mon] literature, but this volume presents more difficulty of interpretation than most works. It is probable that this work was written sometime in the seventeenth century. At any rate its language seems older than that of the monk of Aswo' [Monk of Athwa], who began writing in the first half of the eighteenth century (Halliday and Bauer, 2000)

Summary of Contents

The "Nidana Arambhakatha" is a very short history given that it covers hundreds of years of history in only 43 pages. It starts with pre-Pagan and pagan history, opening with, "an extremely summary account of the history of Thaton…and entering in any detail only into the reign of Manuhaw (Manohara) and the conquest of the kingdom by Anuruddha or Anoratha...this section closes with an account of the brief resurgence of the Thaton kingdom after Anuruddha’s conquest."

So despite its short length, the Nidana Arambhakatha covers a lot of history. Halliday then describes the content of the books in detail:

"The first of these contains (1) a short history of Thaton; (2) the book Gavampati, giving in the form of prophecies of the Buddha,through his disciple Gavampati, historical sketches of Thaton and Pegu, and (3) Rajadhirat , a history of Martaban and Pegu from Warero of Martaban to Bana Thau of Pegu. the greater part of this third section, which occupies 328 pages of the 444 of the entire volume, is devoted to the king whose names gives the title to the work. The story of Warero and his successors is very fully given….The second of these volumes takes its title from Dhammaceti, the Ramadhipati of the Kalyani inscriptions of Pegu. The book is by no means confined to the history of that monarch. It begins with a very brief sketch of the story of Thaton, particularly of its siege and fall before the forces of Anuruddha of Pagan. The story of the founding of Pegu and a brief sketch of the history of the first dynasty are also given. then there is a sketch of the rise of the Talaing monarchy at Marataban under Warero, and the story of his successors is briefly told up to the reign of Bana Thau in Pegu. These sketches differ a good deal from those of the other volume though agreeing with them in the main, where the same facts are states." (Halliday and Bauer, 2000, 143-4)

"The greater part of the book, however, is devoted to the exploits of Bureng Naung [Bayinnaung], the Taungu [Toungoo] Burmese king, under whom Pegu attained its greatest magnificence. His campaigns in Siam, Eastern and Northern Laos, and in the Shan States are all told. He is called by the Talaing writers Jamnah Duik Cah, the Conqueror of the Ten Directions, that is, the eight principal points of the compass together with above and below" (Halliday and Bauer, 2000)

Shorto held that part of the Nidana (the last Burmese part) was written by Bayinnaung’s general Banyadala (c 1518-1572) so the last nine years of the history to 1581 must have been an addition by another author (Lieberman, 198?, 222, footnote 13).

A good summary of the Rajadhirat book will be found in chapter viii of Phayre’s History of Burma.

Information on the French Mon scholar Guillon’s work:

"The second volume, Uppanna Hamsavati Rajavan Sakatha, begins with a legendary introduction and then gives the names of twenty-nine kings and proclaims the reign of Queen Bana Thaw (who will appear again) and king Dhammaceti, 'who will set up a throne for the Buddha.'"

Then from p. 115 to p. 433 there follows the medieval chronicle known as "Rajadhiraj" and this is the part that is the most solid historically. It goes from the second founding of Martaban by King Wareru to the struggles of the Mon kings against the second Ava dynasty of the Burmese. It was republished later in Mon at Rangoon. This chronicle has been translated several times into Thai and Burmese and continues to be popular even today. I myself have studied and translated the beginning of it [Guillon 1983b, 79-98] (Guillon, 1999, 98, Footnote 291).

Lieberman (2003) suggests that the Phongsawadan Mon Phama was based on a late seventeenth century manuscript

Scholarly interest:

This work has interested several scholars besides Shorto. In the early part of the century there was in fact a little bit of a renaissance in Mon Studies among European scholars resident in Siam and Burma. (Some might argue that this interest in the Mon ethnic minority was part of a colonial program of control of the ethnic majority Burmese.)

Edouard Huber planned a comparative translation of the Pak Lat Mon chronicles (Guillon, 1999, 231) (footnote 430: E.B. III, II, 92 and 188). Huber's "sudden death around 1914 left, and still leaves, this work undone." At Charles Duroiselle’s death he left a planned translation of the chronicles undone also (Guillon, 1999, 231).

"The Mon press at Pak Lat in the early 1900s attracted the attention of the recently founded EFEO, and one of the EFEO researchers spent some time in Bangkok collecting copies of what the bhikkhu-publisher was working on. I presume copies of whatever they printed are available at the EFEO library in Paris. A brief notice in the BEFEO about 1910 indicated that the publication of one of the Mon annals was going slowly and uncertainly, and so the EFEO researcher got someone to make a handwritten copy for the EFEO library” (Personal communication, source-name-pending-permission, 2004)

Lieberman’s quotations from the source in published sources:

The battle of Ava in early 1555:

"The attackers built siege works all around the city, and] the officers carried up the weapons and artillery and installed them on the rampart…The bombardment was now unleashed, ringing the town with fire. The reports of the cannon and muskets reverberated like Indra’s thunderbolts. Those within the town had to take refuge in holes, for…there was no other refuge above ground. Night and day succeeded each other unheeded as detonation followed detonation till it seemed a man’s ears would burst; no defender dared expose so much as a finger above the battlements…After five days of siege the town could resist no longer, and [an] assault finished it. As the walls subsided in rubble, elephants, horses, men poured in" (Shorto, n.d., 85-86).

"[When Toungoo forces attacked Pagan] They cut down toddy palms and built turreted stockades around the city, and mounting cannon commenced to a bombardment intended to awe the defenders. The sight of this great preparation, and of the warriors of Pegu, threw both rank and file and officers into such a consternation that they were in no fit posture to resist" (Shorto, n.d., 84).

The campaign against Mohnyin 1557 (?):

"[As Bayinnaung’s forces approached Mohnyin] each division marched to the ceaseless accompaniment of gunfire and musket shots, the sound echoing through the forest as if the earth were splitting in two…The [ruler] of Mohnyin, Cau Lum, said, “When our soldiers…join the battle, they are usually victorious. But after hearing the guns of King’s men, and the rumour of their march, for three days…I wonder whether our elephants and cavalry will stand up to them” (Shorto, n.d., 91-92)

Against Ayutthaya in 1564:

"As the sound of the artillery and musket fire re-echoed like thunder, breaches appeared in the walls wherever a shot struck hom. the upper works were set on fire with pyrotechnic devices; and then the officers, under the cover of a breastwork of planks, mined under the walls, causing subsidence and further breaches…[Finally] the main body with elephants and cavalry entered the town at all the mined places" (Shorto, n.d., 94-95).

The ways the work is cited:

The first Pak Lat historical volume records early Mon history in the "Uppanna Sudhammawati-rajawamsa-katha" and is cited as: Suddhammawati-rajawamsa; Siharajadhirajawamsa (Suddhammawati; Gavampati; Rajadhiraj), ed. Phra Candakanto (Pak Lat, 1910).

The second volume of historical texts is cited as: Nidana Ramadhipati-katha (or as on binding "Rajawamsa Dhammaceti Mahapitakadhara), ed. Phra Candakanto (Pak Lat, Siam, 1912) The Nidana Arambhakatha, "is printed at pages 9-34 and 45-61 of the second of the two volumes...apparently to supply a lacuna at the beginning of the Pum Dhammaceti [Biography of King Dhammazedi] --- since apart from page headings no indication is given that it is a separate work" (Shorto, 1961, 64). It is also cited by (Thianpanya, 2003) in a list compiled by Professor Sued Gajaseni, the past president of the Thai-Raman Association as the 18th and 19th volumes published by the Pak Lat press:

18. Chronicles of Sudhammavati [Thaton] and Hamsavati [Pegu] from Old Mon tradition, 444 pages, B.E. 2453 (1910), 1000 prints.

19. Nidanadhannacetiya (The Story of King Dharmacetiya) from old Mon tradition, 264 pages. B.E. 2455 (1912), 1000 prints.

Cited in (Aung Thaw and Min Maing, 1957, 17) as: Sudharmavati Rajavamsa, History in Mon, edited by Phra Chandakanta, Bangkok, 1909 A.D., 444 pp. (Also cited there: 74. Akkharavidhana Abhidanappadipika, Mon Dictionary, 1909 A.D., 497 pp.)

The Shorto translation of the Nidana Arambhakatha as (Lieberman, 1984) describes it:
Unpublished typescript translation of pp. 34-44, 61-264 of Phra Candakanto, ed. Nidana Ramadhipati-katha (or as on binding Rajawamsa Dhammaceti Mahapitakadhara). Pak Lat, Siam, 1912.

Reference is also made to volume 1:
Unpublished typescript translation of pp. 26-99 of Uppanna Sudhammavati
Rajavamsakatha. Vol. 1. Pak Lat, Siam, 1912 (?).


Burney, Henry. (n.d.) "Talaing yazawin" Unpaginated manuscript. Royal Commonwealth Society, London. Papers of Major Henry Burney, Box 2, (History of Pegu).

Guillon, Emmanuel. (1999) The Mons, A Civilization of Southeast Asia. Translated and edited by James V. Di Crocco. Bangkok: The Siam Society.

Guillon also has a complete list of Mon manuscripts at the National Library Rangoon and the British Library.

Mon Yazawin. Rangoon, 1922. (Modern reprint in Burmese)
(Composed in the 18th century but deriving from much older materials (Lieberman, 198?, 221)

Shorto, Harry Leonard. (1961) "A Mon genealogy of kings: Observations on the Nidana Arambhakatha" in: D. G. E. Hall, ed., Historians of South East Asia. London, Oxford University Press, 63-72.

Halliday, Robert and Bauer, Christian (ed.) (2000) The Mons of Burma and Thailand, Volume 1. The Talaings. Bangkok: White Lotus Press. Reprint of (Halliday, 1917)

Halliday, Robert (1917) The Talaings. Rangoon: Government Printing.

Halliday, Robert (1923) Lik smin asah [The story of the founding of pegu and the subsequent invasion from South India]. Rangoon: American Baptist Mission Press.

Halliday, Robert (1923) Slapat rajawan datow smim ron [The history of kings]. Journal of the Burma Research Society 13.1:1-67.

Paphatsaun Thianpanya (2003) "Mon Language in Thailand: The endangered heritage," Kao Wao, 11 May 2003, [Internet]

Brief notice in the BEFEO about 1910 regarding the publication of the Nidana Ramadipati Katha

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Comparing Livy and U Kala, author of the Burmese Chronicle

de Selincourt, Aubrey (1960) Livy: The Early History of Rome, Books I-V of the History of Rome from its Foundation, London: Penguin Books.

Last night I picked up a cheap copy of Livy and read the introduction over a cup of coffee at the nice little cafe on Sukhumvit 24, Bangkok. Analogies in the Burmese Chronicle arose with almost every sentence that I read. I believe that Lieberman mentioned Livy in his "How reliable is U Kala" paper (reference here), but here are my observations on what I read anyway:

The first Roman history was written over three hundreds after the defining event of the period, the expulsion of the Roman kings. Subsequent writers, "did not seriously investigate or question the credentials of the traditional version of Roman history," a version that was already well-established at the time of the first writing. They took this basically oral history, "on trust and embroidered it."

Livy retells a traditional oral history of Rome, so Livy's history is not a Rankean reconstruction of what actually happened, but rather a mixture of fact and fiction, myth and what-actually-happened.

Most of Livy's stories, "are not really Roman but Greek stories reclothed in Roman dress" (12). The foundation story of Romulus and Remus, suckled by a she-wolf and found by a shepherd is "an adaptation of a Near Eastern myth." In fact, "there is practically no extensive story from early Roman history which cannot be proved to be Greek in origin. The Romans seemed to have no mythology of their own. They did not have the resources of oral epic or choral lyric by which the Greeks preserved and handed on the memories and myths of their prehistory" (13). During the Gallic occupation of Rome in 386 B.C. there was a fire that destroyed much of Rome so, "when...the Romans came to reconstruct their own history...they had to borrow heavily from Greek literature and legend. They also reused events from their more recent history."

Similar truths hold true for the historiographical traditions of Burma. To what extent was U Kala like Livy?

The early parts of U Kala's history were entirely based on Indian history. Charney (2002) traces the passage of one myth, the Pyu Sawhti myth from Arakan in western Burma into the historical textual tradition of central Burma.

Much like Livy’s history, U Kala’s Burmese Chronicle probably, "superseded previous histories so completely that only scattered fragments of them have survived" (11) Even in modern days, the 1500 pages and three volumes of the edited and printed edition of U Kala are imposing, like Livy, "it's very size," probably, "deterred men from reading it all, so that at an early date abridgements of it were made" (11). There are in fact abridgements of U Kala’s history that are attributed to U Kala himself.

Despite its mythical emplotment, there is still a factual substratum to Livy that records what actually happened. There were four ways that historians could determine what-actually-happened when they finally became interested in recording their own history in writing long after it happened.

1. Rome's neighbors had historical records regarding Rome.
2. There were still some surviving documents and inscriptions from this period.
3. Conservative Roman social and political institutions preserved the traditions of the past.
4. There were oral traditions passed down from generation to generation within families that preserved collective memories.

U Kala probably faced similar constraints when he wrote his history. Mon history by the time he wrote was probably very well-fossilized.

When did historians of Rome first begin to realise the mixed mythical-factual nature of Livy's narratives?

These observations I've just made are based on the introduction to a Penguin translation published in 1960, which doesn’t provide citations to the historiography of Rome itself.

Would we write the history of Roman historiography by condemning 19th century historians of Rome like Aung-thwin condemns the early 20th century British historians of Burma?

This history of historians and historiography is interesting in its own right, but there aren't even adequate translations of the basic historical texts for the history of Burma yet.

How could other scholars not fluent in the Burmese language adequately assess histories of histories when the basic source materials of the history are not available?

But translations are just antiquarian acts that steal from the culture, perhaps some post-colonial intellectual interjects.

If the history of Burma is to be a part of world history and not an isolated act of scholarly solipsism, translations, literal annotated translations are needed.


Michael Walter Charney, "Centralizing Historical Tradition in Precolonial Burma: the Abhiraja/Dhajaraja Myth in Early Kon-baung Historical Texts," _South East Asia Research_ 10, no. 2 (2002): pp.185-215, See this book review.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Historical Gazetteer of Burma-Yunnan-Bay of Bengal

Today I came across this Gazetteer of the Roman World.

Would have been better with more focus.

For example, photos of the Punic Wars, especially the Second Punic War, could help support the purely textual descriptions you get in Livy and Polybius.

The historical geography of mainland Southeast Asian (c. 1350-1600) is even more needful of support.

For example, while Tais were fighting off the Ming from 1382 to 1388 the Burmese chronicle has them raiding Ava and the Burmese heartland. Were two different Tai groups involved or was it one group that moved between the two different places? You're putting together two different historical text traditions here also, the Chinese Ming Shi-lu and the Burmese Chronicle. Both being composed far from the Tai-Yunnan frontier, they could have mistakenly attributed all their problems to one group. There could just of well been multiple Tai groups in both places engaging in raids, offensive attacks, and defensive warfare. There is no reason to assume a priori that it was unified state, particularly given the terrain.

Actually going over this territory with horses and visualizing how they traversed this ground the problems they would have encountered, even though the terrain may have changed since then, would inject geographical reality into what is now a purely textual world.

I got this link from the now defunk The Ancient World Web weblog.

Introduction to
Translation of the Burmese Chronicle

Just finished an introduction to my Burmese Chronicle translation that I am posting to a separate weblog: Burmese Historical Chronicle (By U Kala).

I've moved my military history of the Razadarit era (c. 1385-1421) that is based on Razadarit Ayeidawpon, and eventually U Kala's Burmese chronicle too, to a separate blog. I will do the same for the history of the Tai-Yunnan frontier that I am reconstructing also.

The format of weblogs is ideal for publishing news or updates to information. This information should eventually be incorporated into an evolving master text. For example, breaking news should become part of the background information that readers use to understand new breaking news.

My strategy is to refactor blog entries into an evolving master text, by positioning the master text in the right sidebar of the weblog. Using Wikipedia's software to do this would be better. The final end product should be a pdf ebook and ultimately a paper book edition, but only when the work is perfect and complete, meaning most importantly, that it has been subjected to extensive peer review.

Refactoring is a concept from computer programming about how to revise a program so that its organization is clearer and easier to understand. This clarity also makes program freer from error and more reliable (See Wikipedia:Refactoring). Within the Wikipedia writers community, refactoring is now used to refer to reorganizing text to make it clearer while preserving content (See Wikipedia:Refactoring_writing).

Indian kings in the Burmese chronicle II...
and robots guarding relics in a pagoda?

Here is the next installment of my rough translation of U Kala's Mahayazawingyi.

This section is a legendary history of Indian kings, including I believe Asoka also known as Maha-thiri-thama-thoka.

Also read about robots or automata guard the relics in a pagoda, which truly seems strange.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Wikipedia's History of Myanmar in dire need of some work

Wikipedia's article on the "History of Myanmar" is usually at the top of any Google search for material on the history of Burma.

It's a pity that there really isn't much there yet. For example, the entry on Dhammazedi is only a stub waiting to be filled in with the essential details of his life. The Bayinnaung entry only has a rough sketch for such an important king.

I am continually finding exceptionally good Wikipedia entries for the learning English with the newspaper articles I write each day for the Bangkok Post. Like yesterday I found a great article on collaboration and another one on incentives.

I started working on the page a little bit today by adding what I find to be some of the most useful links for the history of Burma.

Razadarit’'s expedition to Prome (1401)
(Warfare in the Razadarit era, c. 1385-1421)

When Razadarit learned that his daughter had been abducted, he vowed to sack Prome and Sale which belonged to Ava (San Lwin 83-84). Razadarit marched on Myanaung [Kudut] and took the town once again followed by the smaller towns of Uyinpu, Kyakhat, and Shwedaung, sacking these towns and taking captives. His assault against Tayokmaw failed, so he laid siege to the town, the ruler fled from the town into the jungle. Maintaining the siege at Tayokmaw, Razadarit marched on to Prome, his generals advising him that if Prome was taken, then Tayokmaw would fall easily (San Lwin 84).

Prome was ruled by Letya Pyanchi, son-in-law of Laukpya. Razadarit launched three assaults at great cost against Prome to no avail. He finally decided to lay siege to Prome from the land side. As the siege dragged on, the inhabitants of Prome within the walls faced famine. Ava sent forces from Kukhan, Talokmyo, Kinda, and Pinle to relieve the siege (San Lwin 84). To avoid being attacked from two sides, Razadarit maintained the siege with his naval forces, while the seven remaining land regiments went to attack Ava’s approaching forces.

When Razadarit’s scouts sighted Ava’s advancing troops near the village of Theymathaw. They were led by a Tai contingent from Kale. The Mon army itself behind a range of hills. The Mon commander Byat Za tried to get the other leaders to wait for an opportune time to attack, but Lagunein refused to follow his orders and ventured out onto the plain with the intention of instilling fear in his opponent. Another commander, Upakaung, followed. Lagunein’s charge scattered the Tai vanguard which managed to reform and charge back, throwing Lagunein’s forces into disarray with 60 casualties. Byat Za, his elephant in Musth, learning that the four regiments had been put to flight, emerged from hiding and attacked the pursuing Avan regiments, not in orderly formation themselves, and scattered them. Byat Za also set fire to a stockade that had been set up by the ruler of Tarokmyo, forcing its inhabitants to flee. Lagunein regrouped his elephants in a nearby forest and managed to capture many of the soldiers, horses, and men which Byat Za had routed. Arriving back at the capital first, Lagunein presented the victory as his accomplishment and was awarded by Razadarit. Later after Byat Za arrived back, Lagunein admitted that “his troops had been put to flight at the beginning, but that he had later taken the opportunity to capture the enemy that had been scattered by the general Byat Za’s counter-attack” and was upbraided by Razadarit for lying (San Lwin 85-86).

Byat Za informed Razadarit that the ongoing siege of Prome could only be won by waiting it and forcing starvation inside the walls of the town, but many from the Mon side would also die because of the bad environment [unclean air] the soldiers had to live in during the siege. Byat Za suggested, “Since the enemy reinforcemments had been put to route…only three regiments should be placed at Nawin and the main force, both riverine and land concentrate at Thale where the climate was salubrious” (San Lwin 86).

Prome eventually started suffering from starvation with its inhabitants forced to live on rice bran and the pith of toddy palm. Realizing how urgent it now was to relieve the siege, Minkhaung quickly gathered together a large army and marched south to Prome. When Razadarit learned of this, he was encamped upriver at Myede. He consulted his generals who were divided as to whether to continue the siege or retreat. Byat Za and Deinmaniyut advised retreat, arguing that their defenses, consisting of wooden stockades surrounded by a ditch, were no match for the fortifications of Prome which consisted of “brick walls and a wide and deep moat.” Razadarit decided to continue the siege.

As Minkhaung approached Prome the four generals who had been defeated earlier are said ot have rejoined his forces. Minkhaung made an assault on the Mon stockade at dawn on Tuesday, the 5th day of the waxing moon in the month of Dabodwe (January). According to Than Tun’s calendar this could only be the year 1395 [BE756], however in the narrative of Razadarit Ayeidawpon, this event comes after Minkhaung becomes the new king of Ava in 1401, so 1401 seems more reasonable. This would mean that Than Tun’s calendar was one day off though, since Tuesday was on the 4th of this year.

At dawn Ava attacked the Mon stockade which was overrun and with 700-800 of the soldiers defending it killed. Razadarit Ayeidawpon reports that, “an equal number of Shans were captured.” The Tai troop levies included in Ava’s forces were so numerous that soldiers on the Ava side were sometimes just referred to as “Shans”. There is an element of ambiguity here as to whether casualties on the Ava side were Tai troop levies or not.

Razadarit orders the execution of deserters

The river was filled with soldiers fleeing from the Mon Nawin stockade. When Razadarit found out that they were fleeing like this, he ordered them to be pursued and killed. Another commander pleaded with Razadarit, arguing that attacking his own men would be like helping the enemy, so Razadarit had the order rescinded and ordered that the fleeing soldiers be rescued (San Lwin 87).

After the battle was finished, Byat Za advised that the supplies that they had brought with them by means of porters would soon be exhausted and they would have to live off the land and find provisions from the Ava territory that they now occupied. Byat Za believed that they would eventually win the battle this way. Prome being unable to collect supplies/provisions would eventually starve, so Byat Za advised Razadarit not to negotiate with the king of Ava Minkhaung: “with three to four hundred boats and picked men led by nobles we will see that rice from Myede-Thayet-Magwe-Malun is collected and any amount remaining is burnt and destroyed. This scorched earth policy was carried out in every town and village in the area.” When Minkhaung was unable to obtain supplies he sent a submissive letter and returned the war hostages he had taken (San Lwin 87-88).

After a series of letters are exchanged between Razadarit and the king of Ava (San Lwin 88-90) culminating in a meeting at Myathitin pagoda were the two kings exchanged gifts, discussed affairs, and demaracated the boundary between their two kingdoms. They designated Tapindaraung as the western border point, Thapaka in the east” (San Lwin 90). Razadarit promised to remove his garrison in Talehsi where it was currently stationed. Immediately upon returning home, the king of Ava checked to see if Razadarit had removed his garrison yet. When he found out he hadn’t he vowed to attack and take first Arakan and then Pegu. Towards this end he sent a envoy an to Chiang Mai asking for his help in this matter.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Razadarit takes Myanaung from Ava,
Ava counterattacks (c. 1390)
(Warfare in the Razadarit era, c. 1385-1421)

In 1390 [752BE] Razadarit mobilized troops, weapons, and boats from the now subject domains of Bassein, Myaungmya, and Khepaung to attack Myanaung [Kudut] a fortified town south of Prome controlled by Ava (San Lwin 74). After Myanaung had been taken, its defences were strengthened against Ava with a wooden stockade and a garrison of troops.

The king of Ava considered Myanaung part of his domains, so when he learned of Razadarit’s attack and occupation of the town, that the town had been garrisoned by Razadarit, he mustered land and naval forces and traveled downriver to assert his control.

When he encountered the strong Mon naval forces at Myanaung, he quickly moved to the cover of his land forces. The river forces were attacked by archers and some of the boats were captured, some were set fire to, while others abandoned (SL 75). Ava’s land forces, strong with cavalry and elephantry and now commanded by the king himself, were not attacked.

After the initial success of Razadarit’s forces against Ava, a rather curious truce is reached between the two sides. There is a negotiated settlement in the form of a gift exchange which on the surface allowed both sides to maintain face, but through which, in actuality, Razadarit’s commanders gain the upper hand. The steps in the settlement run as follows:

1. Razadarit’s side returns the booty taken in their naval victory.

2. They send a letter to the king of Ava which declares that:

a. If Razadarit’s commanders had known that the king of Ava
accompanied this fleet they would not have attacked.

b. If their king Razadarit learns that his commanders attacked the king of Ava in this fashion, Razadarit will be angry.

c. They wish for the king of Ava to have Myanaung and want no conflict (SL 76-77).

Through the cunning of this negotiation ploy, the Mon side obtains Myanaung and Ava goes back home.

Razadarit finishes consolidating
his rule over the south (c. 1390)
(Warfare during the Razadarit era , c. 1385-1421)

1390 is a turning point in the narrative of the Razadarit Ayeidawpon.

By this time, Razadarit had finished consolidating his control over Lower Burma with military campaigns. He paused for a short time to make religious acts of merit and festivities. In his history of Burma, Harvey offers a concise summary of the events in the narrative of Razadarit Ayeidawpon which goes on at great length about Razadarit's abandonment of his wife and execution of his son:

"In 1390 he [Razadarit] was at the height of his power. He had driven off repeated Burmese attacks, quelled rebellion everywhere...he built shrines at the Shwemawdaw pagoda, feeding a thousand monks throughout a seven days festival and offering his weight in gold...the king of Ayutthia sent him a white elephant...he also proceeded to be crowned again with a favourite queen; some of his queens were from prominent families in Chiengmai. He grew wary of his first love Talamidaw the sister who had so befriended him during his unhappy youth; he took away all her jewels down to the family rings bequeathed her by their father, which she tried to hide in her hair, and seeing that she was finally cast aside she poisoned herself with a mixture made pon-ma-thein a camphor shrub. Worried that his son by his sister, Bawlawkyantaw, might rebel, Razadarit had him commit suicide by drinking the same poison" (Harvey, 113-114; SL 73-75)

Razadarit celebrates the consolidation of his rule over the south (c. 1390)
Warfare during the Razadarit era (c. 1385-1421)

Razadarit was finished with the military consolidation of his power over the south by 1390 and paused for a moment to celebrate. In his history of Burma, Harvey offers a and accurate and concise summary:

"In 1390 he [Razadarit] was at the height of his power. He had driven off repeated Burmese attacks, quelled rebellion everywhere…he built shrines at the Shwemawdaw pagoda, feeding a thousand monks throughout a seven days’ festival and offering his weight in gold…the king of Ayutthia sent him a white elephant…he also proceeded to be crowned again with a favourite queen; some of his queens were from prominent families in Chiengmai. He grew wary of his first love Talamidaw the sister who had so befriended him during his unhappy youth; he took away all her jewels down to the family rings bequeathed her by their father, which she tried to hide in her hair, and seeing that she was finally cast aside she poisoned herself with a mixture made pon-ma-thein a camphor shrub” Worried that his son by his sister, Bawlawkyantaw, might rebel, Razadarit had him commit suicide by drinking the same poison" (Harvey, 113-114; SL 73-75)

It is almost as if the distraction of military campaigns had helped Razadarit keep his house in order up until this time.

Rule-of-one or rule-of-many in
pre-1558 Lanna
(Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai)

Looking at Grabowsky's online working paper on Lanna (Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai before the Burmese invasions of 1558) again at the Asia Research Institute of the National University of Singapore [Paper, Abstract].

Its thesis of a Lanna region split effectively between two polities, one in Chiang Mai and one in Chiang Rai/Chiang Saen has analogues elsewhere in early modern Southeast Asia: 1. the split in the Shin-saw-bu and Dhammazedi's polity (c. 1456-1472) [previous entry] and 2. between Ayutthaya and her northern provinces proposed by Chris Baker [previous entry].

There's also the question of: 3. whether Lower Burma was more fragmented with greater localized power before Razadarit's unification [collection of entries], 4. the prior state of polities along the Tai-Yunnan frontier was fragmented with localized power and not the highly unified state of Mong Mao that many propose [collection of entries].

The Burmese Chronicle - Indian Kings (UKI:91-104)

Posted an English translation of the some of the legendary Indian kings part of the Burmese chronicle.[Permalink]

Often wondered at the origins of this narrrative that mixes Buddhism, Indian religion, indigenous folk elements, as well as other material that just seems put there to shock and amuse the reader.

Aung-thwin's "Myth of the Downtrodden Mon" II

Here's evidence that this myth was not a myth.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Burmese chronicle - By U Kala
English Translation

I'm posting my translation of the Burmese chronicle to a new weblog:

The Burmese Chronicle (By U Kala)

The first entries include the beginnings of the universe (please note the plural), the first king of the world Mahathamadda, and some entries from the early 1400's.

My translation covers hundreds of years, but is far from complete. Use it to get a general idea of what the Burmese chronicle is like, but if you want to put the Burmese chronicle to scholarly use, please use the Burmese language original and this translation as a reading aid. The Burmese language, especially in 1700, is written in a very different fashion from the English language, so any translation faces many difficult and imperfect decisions.

The individual entries are grouped into time periods in the right sidebar.

One day I will perfect the translation and also index it in other useful ways such as by place name and personal name just like Geoff Wade's Online Ming Shi-lu does.

Monday, May 15, 2006

"Myth of the downtrodden Mon"

Does Aung-thwin really prove that Mon oppression was a myth?

That's what this weblog entry addresses.

Published in the weblog Infernal Mon Paradigm Machine.

Blogging Historians' Fallacies

There's an extensive discussion of David Hackett Fischer's invaluable book for unravelling logic in historiography Historians' Fallacies in this weblog entry for a graduate course in the U.S.:

Historical Methods and Interpretations

Welcome to the blog spot for the graduate level course at Georgia College & State University on historical methods and interpretations. We'll be postings our comments here on various topics related to history and the historical method.

Was Thammaracha complicit in the Burmese invasion of Ayutthaya (c. 1568-69) ?

Baker, Chris (2003) "Ayutthaya Rising: From land or sea?," Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 34(1), pp. 41-62, February.

One plausible reading of the conflicting historical sources for Ayutthaya's early history portrays Ayutthaya’s ruling elites as complicit in the Burmese invasion of Ayutthaya.

This is certainly a controversial version of events, not easily accepted, and there probably is a debate about this version of events that I am not aware of. This certainly the plot details in the Thai version of the epic reconstruction of Ayutthaya’s history, Suriyothai, much more interesting to untangle.

This version of events would, however, offer strong support for a thesis of local power, political fragmention at both the inter and intra-regional level, elite circulation, and shifting elite loyalties.

According to Baker's version of history, the northern provinces of Phitsanulok and Sukhothai were only weakly incorporated into the emerging polity of Ayutthaya and this political fragmentation and local autonomy played a role in the eventual Burmese invasion of Ayutthaya in 1568-69.

In 1548 the Sudachan/Coup, "justified the usurpation of the throne on grounds that 'the northern provinces are in turmoil and cannot be trusted in government matters.' After the seizure orders were sent to remove 'the governors of all seven northern provinces.'"

The Worawong/Sudachan coup provoked a counter-coup by Thammaracha, "a descendent of the Sukhothai family who was holding an official post in Ayutthaya. He was joined by other rulers and by the rulers of Phichai/Sawankhalok; Worawong and Sudachan were ambushed and killed. A royal brother who had fled a year earlier was brought out of the monastery and enthroned as Chakkraphat (r. 1548-1569)."

Thammaracha, the power behind the throne, was given Phitsanulok as an appanage and the daughter of Chakkraphat in marriage and, "the rulers of Phichai and Chaliang/Sawankhalok were promoted to Chao Phraya and presented with heaps of golden regalia" (Baker, 2003, 60). According to Baker:

"The fall of Ayutthaya in 1569 is traditionally portrayed as a conflict between 'Siam' and 'Burma,' but in Van Vliet's chronicle it was Thammaracha who engineered the Burmese involvement from 1563/4 onwards. He fled to Pegu after Chakkraphat tried to kill him and began to beseech the king of Pegu to war with Siam'. The king of Pegu was initially reluctant, but Thammaracha provoked him with the story of Chakkraphat’s seven white elephants."

"In Pegu's attack on Ayutthaya, Thammaracha served as 'field marshal', and Phitsanulok was used as the Pegu army’s base. In the (later) Thai chronicles, Thammaracha was aligned with Ayutthaya but mysteriously remained aloof from the conflict. Then in the 1568-9 attack, according to the Van Vliet version, Thammaracha again 'advised the Peguan king to resume the war', led part of the Peguan army, and used Phitsanulok as a base."

"In the Thai chronicles’ version, Thammaracha started out aligned with Ayutthaya but then defected to the Burmese side because of a desperately complex intrigue. Both accounts agree that Thammaracha secured Ayutthaya's fall by leveraging dissent among the nobility inside Ayutthaya using through his wife’s relatives, and winning over the support of some key nobles inside the city who opened the gates to the Burmese and Phitsanulok attackers…The northern nobles now finally took control. The Peguan king 'invited Prince Thammaracha to ascend the throne..." (60-61)."

The early history of the northern provinces of Ayutthaya between Chiang Mai and Ayutthaya (Phitsanulok, Sukhothai, Sawakhalok, Phichai, etc) and their role in the Chiang Mai-Ayutthaya Wars of the mid-1400s is worth looking into. A comparison with the Mon-Burmese wars of Razadarit Ayeidawpon (c. 1385-1421) would also probably be worthwhile.

Pamaree Surakiat's new survey paper reveals the extensive background reading needed to start exploring this area.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Radical revisionisms
And the radically critical appraisals they should engender

Observations by historians of China on how to tread carefully with radically revisionist history.

Published in the weblog Infernal Mon Paradigm Machine.

Rule of one or many?

Guillon, Emmanuel. (1999) The Mons: A Civilization of Southeast Asia. James V. Di Crocco (tr. & ed.). Bangkok: Siam Society.

Problems in Dhammazedi’s reign dates reveal problems with the traditional notion of sovereignty.

Rule can be decentralized as well as centralized and unified. The notion of segmentary state describes decentralized rule. In the limit, as appanages become equally as powerful as the center and capital, power is spread equally over two or more localities. Geographical impediments as well as underdeveloped transportation and military technologies can favor such a dispersion of power. Fissions among the ruling the elite can also favor it. Circulation of ruling elite and the building of bonds between localities through shared religious textual and artistic traditions and inter-marriage ties can concentrate power in alliances (cooperative confederations like the Tai confederation that ruled Ava c. 1527-1555) and make it less disperse.

Historical sources disagree on when Dhammazedi became king of Pegu. The Yathemyo inscription in Pegu of 1456 poses problems for the most reasonable dating of Dhammazedi’s ascension to 1470 or 1472 because it mentions Dhammazedi’s name.

Shorto hypothesized that Shinsawbu (Banya Thaw) might have ruled jointly with Dhammazedi. Guillon further speculates that Dhammazedi ruled over Pegu and Shinsawbu ruled over Dagon [Yangon] (Shorto, Dictionary of Mon Inscriptions, 317, Ramadhipati ; Guillon, 1999, 172). Dagon had been the traditional appanage of Mon queens according to Guillon (170).

Guillon offers a detailed description of Dhammazedi's religious works of merit, but he observes that there was also a political side to the religious. By 1480 he proposes there were 15,666 reordained monks in Pegu under the new Sri Lankan system of ordination and, "from the viewpoint of religious sociology it [the new ordination system] installed a new form of organization of the [monastic] Order. It no longer was a Community freely associated under the initiative of reformers, but rather a 'church' organized by the temporal power" (Guillon, 179). Harvey’s early history also pointed at a political motive:

"Shinsawbu had extended the glebe lands as far as Danok, and finding this excessive Dammazedi reduced them; in compensation he measured his weight and the weight of his queen in gold four times and dedicated that amount to overlaying the pagoda with scroll work and tracery. He also dedicated a great bell there" (Harvey, History of Burma, p. 119, citing Shwemawdaw Thamaing).

Since Harvey’s history was based on the notes of Charles Duroiselle, his Burma Research Association colleague and superintendent of the Archaeological Survey in Burma, these notes and history probably summarized the consensus of scholarly opinion at the time of publication in 1925 when Harvey’s history was published.

Guillon more recently imputes another possible motive for this reduction in lands dedicated to religious orders:

"She [Shin Saw Bu] may actually have been ousted by her successor as suggested by certain indications; for example, the reduction in size of the fief of Rangoon by Ramadhipati when he became king" (Guillon, 173).

Enough evidence exists to at least put forth the tentative hypothesis that Shin Saw Bu and Dhammazedi ruled different parts of Lower Burma at the same time (c. 1456-1472). How to falsify (or not) this hypothesis?

More archaeology in Lower Burma in the area of traditional Mon settlements might help.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

New Survey of Burmese-Thai History Online

By Pamaree Surakiat

[Link to paper]

Finally there is a thorough survey of Burmese history available to everyone for free online for the important 500 years from from 1300 to 1800. Wikipedia writers will finally be able to write extensive and reliable articles on Burmese history.

The era of Burma's history stretching from the fall of Pagan to the Konbaung period and the arrival of the British on the scene around 1800 is under-documented compared with the other periods, but a lot of important transformations happened during this period as Lieberman's Strange Parallels shows. Here's the abstract:

"This paper proposes a new historical interpretation of pre-modern relations between Burma and Siam by analyzing these relations within the historical context of the formation of Burmese states: the first Toungoo, the restored Toungoo and the early Konbaung empires, respectively. The main argument is that the conflictive conditions leading to the military confrontation between Burma and Siam from the 16th to 19th centuries were dynamic. The changing nature of Burmese states’ conflict with Siam was contingent firstly on the internal condition of Burmese courts’ power over lower Burma and secondly on the external condition of international maritime trade. The paper discusses this in seven parts: I Introduction; II Previous studies: some limitations; III Post-Pagan to pre-Toungoo period; IV The first Toungoo empire: the outbreak of Burmese-Siamese warfare; V The restored Toungoo empire: Mandala without Ayutthaya; VI The early Konbaung empire: regaining control of Ayutthaya; and VII The early Konbaung empire: Southward expansion to the Malay Peninsula" (abstract, paper).

Even if you've already read widely on the subject, the paper provides fresh perspectives on certain issues, does an extensive review of the literature if you're a graduate student, and also reminds one of information that is easy to overlook, like it remninded me that Dhammazedi, besides his patronage of Buddhism, also built temples to local Mon precursors of the 37 nats, local gods. The great late Mon linguist at SOAS Shorto did work on this.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Circulation of religious elites: Reordinations in Sri Lanka

I've been reading Pat Pranke's 2004 dissertation at the University of Michigan, an annotated translation of the Vamsa Dipani, a history of Buddhism in Burma, or more correctly I guess, western mainland Southeast Asia, since a lot of the history took place when Lower Burma was under the control of Mon elite, both religious and political, and under one king Dhammazedi, both religious and political.

From 1331 to 1475 several missions of monks were sent from mainland Southeast Asia to Sri Lanka. These missions sought reordination in Sri Lanka so they could start new reformed monastic lineages that could be traced back to the time of the Buddha. In 1475 the last and most famous of these missions was sent by the Mon king Dhammazedi (r. 1458? -1492). According to the scholar of Buddhist history Patrick Pranke:

"King Dhammazedi appears to have been especially influenced by the religious policies of the Lanna Thai king, Tilokaraja, who was his senior contemporary. In addition to promoting the reordination of monks according to the same Kalyani method, both kings in emulation of Asoka, sponsored the planting of Bodhi tree saplings throughout their realms, and both built as monuments at their capital replicas of the Mahabodhi temple replete with even stations (marking the seven weeks the Buddha sojourned at the Bodhi tree)" (Pranke, 2004, 214).

Pranke's translation also covers the religious reformation that accompanied the reordinations, eliminating secular practices among monks. Perhaps there was some breaking up of what amounted to monastic estates. Pranke mentions the breaking up of Sri Lankan monastic estates during the 12-13th centuries (Panke, 216). Sort of like King Henry VIII, the ex-monk arrogates the wealth and estates of his former colleagues. Actually, Harvey mentions that his female predecessor had put too much lands in the hands of monastic institutions. He took it away, but tried to make amends for his actions through religious donations. Will have to check what Harvey's ultimate source is. Anyway, there seems to be a high concentration of royal power from Shin Saw Bu through Dhammazedi. Enough surplus and religious wealth accumulated at the center, at least, to create the biggest copper bell in history. Was Razadarit the initial impetus for this concentration of power in Lower Burma? Maybe the Mon region consisted of low population, culturally rich, but militarily weak localities before Razadarit. Sure would like to see archaeological work done in this region. Hasn't anyone done preliminary surveys? What about aerial surveys?

In addition to paying attention to the economic dimension of monks' lifes in his reforms, the Nidana Ramadhipati Katha has Dhammazedi debating how not to violate the monastic code of conduct [Vinaya] in his own military conduct when rescueing the Mon queen Shin Saw Bu from Ava after she was taken captive by Ava troops. OK, the narrative here seems rather fictional, but Dhammazedi is once again portrayed as a king who pays meticulous attention to the details of religious practice, apparently like the Lanna king Tilokaraja.

Mon historical works certainly have frequent references to the Tai polities of Ayutthaya and Chiang Mai. With Dhammazedi ruling to 1492, that's quite late. Only 50 years before the radical transformations/consolidations of Bayinnaung. More Mon references to Chiang Mai and Ayutthaya than in Ava's Upper Burma history.

The route that Chiang Mai and Ayutthaya used for missions to Sri Lanka must have passed through Tennaserim very close to the Mon region. This is probably why there was more contact. Was Tennaserim more important for religious contact with Sri Lanka before it attained importance for trade? Did religious contact open the way for trade and eventually the military expeditions of Tabinshweihti and Bayinnaung? Will have to look at the writings of Thai scholars, especially professor Sunait Chutintaranond of Chulalongkorn University who writes on this subject, I believe.

Although Mingyinyo (r. 1486-1531) and Tabinshweihti (r. 1531-1550) had contact with Sri Lankan religious traditions (See here), they don't seem to have had contact with Chiangmai religious traditions as Dhammazedi (r. 1458-1492) did shortly before. Perhaps there's a a little bit of geographical determinism here. The isolation of Toungoo protecting them from Shan/Tai invasions and raiding from the north, but also lessening contact with Tai polities from due east due to the mountain barrier and the abscence of any religious motivation to cross the mountains.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Political influence of monks (c. 1365-1600)

Local autonomy and elite circulation:
The Political influence of monks (c. 1365-1600)

Building on Sanjay Subrahmanyam's idea of elite circulation the circulation of Buddhist monks, religious elites, between geographically isolated localities, enabled "ideas and mental constructs" to flow across these boundaries hybridizing local expressions, resulting in connected intellectual histories (that cultural zones that seem closed are in fact permeable or porous is another way of expressing this idea).

Circulation of religious elites seems to have been neglected for at least two reasons: 1. The importance of market exchange in the modern era gives many historians a predisposition to look for this sort of evidence (long distance trade and traders) in premodern historical texts (For example see The Cambridge Economic History of the Greco-Roman World), and 2. Premodern historical texts themselves emphasize the military role of political leaders (warfare and warriors) almost to the exclusion of everything else.

I'm starting to compare how monks exercise political power outside their locality of origin (c. 1350-1600). Here are some examples of the political power of monks culled from early modern historical texts:

1. A Buddhist sermon leads to peace between Ava and Pegu (1394)

2. Itinerant monks and political succession on the Tai-Yunnan frontier (c. 1397)

3. Sri Lankan monks in Mingyinyo's Toungoo (c. 1492)

4. When Tabinshwehti takes Ayutthaya he brings back monks with "one-shoulder and chest binding" practices to Pegu (Pranke, 2004, 219, 339).

5. "Dhammazedi purifies the Mon Sasana. Delegation of Mon monks sent to Sihala Island [Sri Lanka] for reordination. Monks throughout Ramanna laicized and reordained into the Sihala Mahavihara lineage. Ill-disciplined monks unfrocked. Monks ordered to surrender contraband property or leave the order" (Pranke, 2004, 339; Also see weblog entry on the Dhammazedi Bell).


Pranke, Patrick Arthur (2004) The "Treatise on the Lineage of Elders" (Vamsadipani): Monastic Reform and the Writing of Buddhist History in Eighteenth-Century Burma, Unpublished PhD dissertation, University of Michigan. [Contains a translation from the Burmese of the 'Vamsadipani' or "Treatise on the Genealogy of Elders" which chronicles the history Buddhism in Burma].

Sri Lankan monks in Mingyinyo's Toungoo (c. 1492)

From the biography of Mingyinyo, king of Toungoo (r. 1486-1531), in Fernquest (2005):

"Min-gyi-nyo strengthened Toungoo’s ties to a more universal Buddhism originating in Sri Lanka in 1492 (BE 853). A princess, the future Queen of Yindaw, was born this year and a new capital named Dwayawaddy [Dvaravati] was built. Min-gyi-nyo moved from Myawaddy near Poppe stream to the new city and resided there (UKII:151). Harvey maps this city founding to the modern-day settlement of "Myogyi…near the Lakoktaya pagoda outside Toungoo" (Harvey, 124). A mission of Sinhalese monks from "the lineage of the great Elder Divakara who belonged to the Mahavihara fraternity” visited Min-gyi-nyo in his new city (Pranke, 2004, 268). Min-gyi-nyo invited the great elders Suvannasobhana and Divakara who accompanied this mission “to accept a monastery built for them in the eastern quarter of Dvaravati [Dwayawaddy, Toungoo]. This residence became known as Thihoyauk monastery. Under their guidance, the king purified the Sasana [religion] in the city of Taungoo [Toungoo] so that it would be wholly in accord with the Theravada, and for this reason all monks residing there became united under the lineage of the great elders" (Pranke, 2004, 218). In the same year an umbrella was raised and fixed atop the pagoda which Min-gyi-nyo had built in the middle of the new city (UKII:151). It seems to have been the experience of becoming a new father which stimulated Min-gyi-nyo to engage in this great burst of building and religious activity" (Fernquest, 2005, 54-55).


Fernquest (2005) "Min-gyi-nyo, the Shan invasions of Ava (1524-27, and the beginnings of expansionary warfare in Toungoo Burma: 1486-1539," SOAS Bulletin of Burma Research, Vol. 3, No. 2, Autumn 2005.[Link1,Link2]

Sunday, May 07, 2006

To escape from colonial era historiography, go back to the original sources

In the weblog Infernal Mon Paradigm Machine I continue to document the flawed logic of the Mon paradigm.

I'm currently looking at how colonial era historiography distorts the way the Mon Paradigm interprets historical sources from the Pagan and Ava eras (c. 1364-1555).

The Mon Paradigm is perhaps best viewed as a monster who has escaped from its creator and master: Aung-thwin. A sort of Pygmalion running berserk in Southeast Asian historiographical space, biting other historians. Perhaps people feel that being critical of the Mon Paradigm is just giving free PR to Aung-thwin and helping him sell books? Or that by doing so, they are stooping to his own low level? Maybe this is it.

The red herring Mon Paradigm is synonymous with a flawed logic of historiography.

Honestly trying hard to find some hint of beauty in the truly hideous, I realized today that some of the debates in the classics like the so-called hoplite revolution in Greece have the same flavor as some of the sub-issues of the Mon paradigm taken separately, but classics scholars focus on one point and they do not use smear tactics like associating the names of contemporary scholars with discredited colonial era ideas (See Harry Sidebottom, Ancient Warfare: A very short introduction, Oxford University Press).

Sidebottom's book shows how evidence for the hoplite revolution relies on interpretations of images from wine jugs and vases, art historical evidence. Kurt Raaflaub argues for a "more nuanced version of polis development...a long evolution rather than a hoplite revolution" (Source).

A detailed reading of the Burmese chronicle itself can lead to a more nuanced version of polity development during the early-modern era in central and western mainland Southeast Asia. For instance, Harvey when faced with the chaos and complexity of the Razadarit era chose to summarize it in a popularizing sort of way rather than seriously try to understand what was going on. There is a lot of raw data in the Burmese chronicle for the Razadarit era that needs to be carefully analyzed. We have to unravel textual genealogies. Parts of the Burmese chronicle come from the Razadarit Ayeidawpon, but where does the Razadarit Ayeidawpon itself come from? Enough manuscripts probably exist to do this in the Myanmar National Library, the Thai National Library, and the British National library, but it is doubtful whether any scholar can currently gain access to them.

That texts also serve ideological and religious purposes always makes their status as history problematic. The line between religion and ideology is not always clear. For instance, I have met Burmese people who believe in the literal truth of the Burmese chronicle as if it were entirely a sacred text. Acting as a line-item bookkeeper trying to separate truth from fiction in texts that are consumed in this fashion and probably also written in this fashion promises to be a dead-end project. That is why I say: before you interpret texts, do the best that you can to provide the public with literal translations of the texts. These translations should provide many handles into the text. For instance, in Grabowsky's recent BEFEO translations of Lao historical chronicles he provides the text in the original script, central Thai transliteration, English, and French. Grabowsky is an exacting scholar who doesn't take short-cuts, not a circus master juggling dozens of issues under one strawman like the Mon Paradigm.

States will always retrospectively idealize and aggrandize their past for present political purposes. This is the first and most obvious critical Rankean filter to apply to these historical sources, particular when they boast far reaching territorial political control with long and improbable lists and claim long-standing intimate relations with the founders of religions or saints.

For instance, Kengtung across the border in Burma from my home in Chiang Rai, Thailand, has a chronicle that claims that the Buddha visited this remote place and left his footprint. Like your Mon sources, many local inhabitants know of and believe in the veracity of this footprint. If you translated the Mon sources you continually hold up to criticism for us, we might be able to appreciate these sources from the viewpoint of the historical actors themselves (emically rather than etically), rather than pretend that the only relevance of these sources is to prove some Rankean what-actually-happened.

The work of scholars such as Pat Pranke and Geoff Wade who pain-stakingly spent hours translating from older Burmese and Chinese to modern English so they are accessible to a wider audience of scholars should be praised and supported. This would encourage more people to follow in their foot steps and provide the evidence we need to write positive history.