Jewels from the Christian World Civilization



Turks and Afghans



BURMA A.D. 1287-1531.


The Great Khan accepted the conquest of Pagan as an accomplished fact, and for the next two and a half centuries the princelets who ruled the various parts of Burma frequently held authority under the Chinese seal. Technically they were Chinese governors; actually they were the native chieftains who would have ruled there in any case and they did as they pleased.

Since the Nanchao barrier states were henceforth the Chinese province of Yunnan, the road lay open and there was no longer any impediment to communication with China. That being so, we should expect a marked advance in Burmese culture. What we actually witness is a decline. The great palace vanished, and in its stead were several squabbling little courts of which the most important were Ava, Pegu, and Toungoo. Religion languished, and though pagodas continued to be built, none of them can compare with even the lesser temples of Pagan. When at length the darkness lifts, it is from the opposite direction to China that two rays of light appear: one a religious revival from Ceylon, the other the birth of vernacular literature.

Yet it was not the Tartars who destroyed the overlordship of Pagan. They did not wish to upset existing conditions, and gave the dynasty every support in re-establishing itself. It was washed away by a wave of migration which was beyond the control of a purely dynastic government. What we are now to witness is not so much a series of internal squabbles as a racial movement affecting all Indo-China: the Shans swarm south, east, and west. In 1229 they founded the Ahom kingdom of Assam along the Brahmaputra river; about the same time they made themselves felt in Tenasserim, and in 1350 they founded the kingdom of Siam—Siam is the same word as Shan, and she is simply the greatest of Shan states. In Burma they overran the entire country, swamping Burman and Talaing alike. Today they are the most numerous race in Indo-China, numbering eighteen millions.


AVA 1287-1555.

After killing his father, Thihathu proceeded to kill such of his brothers as were in reach, in accordance with that Massacre of the Kinsmen which convention permitted to a Burmese king at his accession. As the Tartars were in occupation of the north, he went south and tried to establish himself in the Delta, but was killed whilst besieging Pegu which was held by its rebellious governor, Tarabya.

The surviving son Kyawswa (1287-98) returned to Pagan, where he paid annual tribute to China and in 1297 sent his son to receive investiture from the Emperor himself as prince of the Upper Burma state. This state, which lasted till 1555, ran from Myedu in Shwebo district to below Prome, and from Laungshe in Pakokku district to Kyaukse.

The Three Shan Brothers

At the same time as he invested Kyawswa, the Emperor sent a seal to Athinhkaya as prince of Myinsaing in the Kyaukse district; Hsenwi had been similarly recognised in 1289, and Mohnyin in 1296. Athinhkaya was the eldest of the Three Shan Brothers (1298-1324) who now became the real rulers of Upper Burma; the second was Yazathinkyan, chief of Mokkaya; the youngest Thihathu, chief of Pinle. Their towns, all in the Kyaukse district, command passes into the Shan hills and were exactly where a chieftain ruling hill and plain would fix his stronghold—to command the plain and afford easy escape to his ancestral highlands. They were the sons of a hill chief who, owing to some feud, had fled to Myinsaing, where there was already a Shan colony; his daughter married no less a person than a son of the Pagan dynasty, so that the family gained favor at court and were entrusted with the administration of the Kyaukse canals. When the dynasty fell, they had every temptation to be disloyal, for, being in charge of the great canals and rice fields, they controlled the food supplies of the palace. In 1298 they plotted with the queen dowager, lured Kyawswa into a new monastery which they had built, and forced him to take the robe and dwell there under guard. They then reported to Yunnan that it had been necessary to dispose him because he was asking for armed assistance from Chiengmai and had intercepted envoys whom the new Talaing state of Pegu was sending to Yunnan. Finally they killed
him; at his death he said: "None of my ancestors was ever executed with the sword. Either throw me into the river or strangle me"; so they strangled and cremated him and cast his remains into the Irrawaddy. They killed also his son, his monk and principal followers, and seized the harem.

Survivors of the dynasty appealed to Yunnan. The Yunnan commandant obtained the Emperor's sanction, and with 12,000 men besieged the Brothers in three walled towns at Myinsaing. On their walls the Brothers mounted balistae, and in one assault the Tartars lost 500 men from the arrows, blocks of stone, and beams which rained down on the stormers. Finding the climate hot and malarious, the Chinese accepted the bribe, 800 taels (63 lb.) of gold and 2200 taels (183 lb.) of silver, and withdrew to Yunnan after letting their men help on the Kyaukse irrigation works, constructing the Thindwe canal. This is the end of Chinese interference in Burma resulting from the expedition of 1287.

Whether Pagan had hitherto been fertile or not it was certainly unfertile now, and the soil of the Myingyan district assumed its present desolate and barren aspect. Denudation of the forests to provide fuel for pagoda bricks had doubtless lessened the rainfall, and extensive irrigation at Kyaukse might attract rainfall thither from Pagan. Crops grow there, but not in such quantity as to supply a city of 50,000 inhabitants who eat rice. Probably this was the reason, in addition to the belief that the luck of the site was exhausted, which now led to the removal of the palace from Pagan.

There was rice in the Delta but it was far away and the Delta was now under a hostile chief. There was rice in Kyaukse, but the capital could not be put there, so far from the country's own highway, the Irrawaddy. It was necessary to find a site which should be on the Irrawaddy and accessible to the rice of Kyaukse. The obvious site was Ava, in the Sagaing district, where the Myitnge river brought down the grain boats from Kyaukse. But as the omens were adverse to Ava, Thihathu, the surviving Shan Brother, in 1312 set up his palace at Pinya, a bad site near by, for which the omens were favorable.

The Pagan dynasty continued to exist as myosa (governors) of Pagan until 1369 and then ceased save where it had merged, on the distaff side, with the lineage of the Shan Brothers. The only specific mention of the Ari after their overthrow by Anawrahta is that Sawyun, lord of Sagaing, a son of Thihathu, in 1314 enumerated Ari among his armed retainers; apparently they were like the warrior abbots of contemporary Christendom.

Even in its limited area the Upper Burma state was loosely knit, towns such as Sagaing, Sagu and Taungdwingyi doing as they pleased. The confusion was something more than brigandage: it was the result of a racial movement, nothing less than the Shan migration into the plains of Burma. In 1364 the Maw (Mogaung) Shans took Sagaing and Pinya, carrying off the princes, the white elephants, and numbers of the townsfolk. To escape being driven off in Shan raiders' slave gangs, the population of Upper Burma took to migrating to Toungoo.

After the Maw Shans had departed, Thadominbya (1364-8), one of the Sagaing family, killed off such of his kinsmen as stood in his way there and at Pinya, drained the swamps round Ava, and built the town. It was usually the Burmese capital for the next five centuries; till two generations ago the English, like the Chinese, referred to Burmah as Ava, and for the Shans the king of Burma was to the end 'The Lord of the Golden Palace at Ava'. On his mother's side Thadominbya was descended from the Three Shan Brothers, and his father was a Shan notable who claimed descent from the primitive Pyusawti lineage. His habits were sufficiently primitive—thus, after killing a Toungoo rebel he ate a meal on the corpse's chest. Whilst trying to subject Sagu he was seized with small-pox. As he lay dying, a pagan who had no respect for Buddhism, he told an officer to return to the palace and kill his queen lest she should pass to his successor. The officer entered the palace and told her his errand so she then and there married him. As part of the regalia she had already been queen to four successive chiefs of Pinya, and her union with the officer raised him to the throne. The pair massacred the royal kinsmen but the ministers would not accept them and hawked round the crown until finally Minkyiswasawke accepted it.

The Kingdom of Ava

Minkyiswasawke (1368-1401) was descended from the union of the Shan sister with the son of the Pagan dynasty, and as a child he had been carried off into captivity with his father, the lord of Thayetmyo, when Minhti, king of Arakan, raided it in 1333. On his release he became thugyi (village headman) of Amyin in the Sagaing district and on becoming king he made an Arakanese monk his primate. He built the Zidaw weir in Kyaukse district and repaired the embankment of Meiktila lake.

Laiukpya, lord of Myaungmya, hated his nephew Razadarit, and when Razadarit succeeded to the throne of Pegu in 1385, Laukpya wrote to Minkyiswasawke offering to hold Pegu as a vassal if Minkyiswasawke would help him to oust Razadarit. This started a war between Upper and Lower Burma which lasted till 1422. The fighting was almost entirely in the Delta and probably the war was a war of migration, Shan saturation of Upper Burma being sufficiently complete for Ava to swarm down on Pegu. The Burmese advance base was Prome, and their usual line of advance was down the Hlaing river to Dagon (Rangoon), sometimes with another string of levies going down the Sittang valley from Toungoo. With them marched contingents from allied states, Mohnyin, Kale, and Yawnghwe; indeed, the Talaing chronicles sometimes refer to the invaders as simply 'the Shans'. Their total strength would usually be some 12,000 and the advance took place every year or so, both sides going home for the rains (June-November). The invaders would sit down in large stockades, and sally forth headhunting and slave raiding, sometimes besieging Hmawbi, Dalla, Dagon (Rangoon), and other towns, or being besieged themselves. Occasionally some determined leader would bring about a battle, but the casualties mentioned are seldom a decimal per cent, of the numbers engaged, and it is difficult to avoid the impression that most of the fighting was of the type not uncommon in mediaeval countries when there was as much shouting as killing and the wretched villagers were
the chief sufferers.

In addition to raiding the Delta, Ava had to defend herself against attacks from the Shan hill states and sometimes they tried to get her to join in their own quarrels. Thus in 1371 the sawhivas (chiefs) of Kale and Mohnyin each asked Minkyiswasawke to help oust the other, promising to become tributary in return; but he let them exhaust each other, and thus secured a nominal supremacy over both for a few years. But in 1373 Mohnyin raided the frontier at Myedu in Shwebo district and the king had so much trouble that in 1383 he sent an embassy to Yunnan. China thereupon graciously
appointed him governor of Ava and ordered Mohnyin to behave. But Mohnyin in 1393 ravaged up to the walls of Sagaing.

In 1374 Arakan was distracted with civil war and some of the people asked Minkyiswasawke to send them a king; he sent them his uncle, Sawmungyi. Sawmungyi ruled well, and on his death a few years later the Arakanese asked Minkyiswasawke to select a successor. Minkyiswasawke sent one of his sons but this son oppressed the people and soon fled back to Ava. Finding Pyanchi, chief of Toungoo, becoming friendly with Pegii in 1377, Minkyiswasawke told his brother, the lord of Prome, to inveigle Pyanchi into a visit and kill him. The king's brother wrote to Pyanchi: 'Come and marry your son to my daughter.' Pyanchi accepted the invitation and came with his son to Prome where, during the night, his host did him to death and seized his retinue with much booty. The king rewarded this exploit with rich presents, and the chroniclers who record the incident describe him as a king with a most upright heart. He died in the odour of sanctity at the age of 70 and after some palace murders was succeeded by a younger son, Minhkaung.

Minhkaung (1401-22) had been married by his father to a daughter presented by the chief of the Maw Shans during a friendly mood about the same time as Razadarit put to death his own son, Bawlawkyantaw. A year later during her first pregnancy, she longed for strange food from the Delta, and the family asked Razadarit, though a foe, to send some. Razadarit consulted his ministers and they perceived that the unborn child was Bawlawkyantaw himself taking flesh again according to his dying prayer; they sent mangoes from Dalla and other food, having bewitched it.

The child, prince Minrekyawswa, born in 1391, was already campaigning at the age of thirteen; he accompanied the 1404 expedition which, in retaliation for an Arakanese raid on Yaw and Laungshe in the Pakokku district, marched over to the An Pass and occupied Launggyet while the raja, Narameikhla, fled to Bengal. The Burmese left behind as regent Anawrahtaminsaw, to whom next year was sent a bride aged thirteen, sister to Minrekyawswa, together with the five regalia (white umbrella, yaktail, crown, sword, sandals).

In 1406 the Burmese overran Mohnyin and killed the chief; China expostulated and they withdrew, as they would doubtless have done in any case. In 1407 they sent an embassy to Yunnan. In 1413 the northern Shan state of Hsenwi ravaged the Ava villages and sent some prisoners to Pekin, but Minrekyawswa shattered the Hsenwi host at Wetwin near Maymyo, killing their leader in single combat. In 1414 Hsenwi again raided Ava at the instigation of Razadarit, whose envoys travelled via Chiengmai carrying a considerable weight of gold as an inducement.

Ava and Pegu

Taking advantage of the usual palace troubles which attended Minhkaung's accession, Razadarit made several raids, and in 1406 he came up the Irrawaddy river. It is characteristic of Burmese warfare that though he failed to reduce the Burmese garrisons at Prome, Myede and Pagan, he simply left them in his rear, pressed on to Sagaing, and camped there, raising the white umbrella and beating his drums in triumph. There was only the palace guard in Ava, and although there were plenty of men in the villages, it was not possible to summon them with the Takings surrounding
the city. Taken at a loss, Minhkaung called a great council. Nobody dared speak, for there was nothing to be said. But at last an eminent monk of Pyinya came forward saying he had eloquence enough to persuade any king in the universe. Minhkaung consented, and the monk went forth riding a tall elephant with a golden howdah, attended by 300 thadinthon (fasting elders) robed in white, 300 old men bearing gifts, and many elephants loaded with silks and rich presents. They met Razadarit on his great barge and the monk spoke holy words on the sin of bloodshed while Razadarit inclined his ear. He could not reduce a walled town, he could not remain for ever in a hostile country, and he consented to withdraw; he even rebuked his men for taking the heads of forty pagoda slaves.

On returning home, Razadarit besieged Prome, and when Minhkaung came down to relieve it, defeated him so severely that he sued for terms. The two kings swore eternal friendship, mounting the steps of the Shwehsandaw pagoda, Prome, together hand in hand, and entering into a marriage alliance. Razadarit granted Minhkaung the customs revenue of Bassein; this, and the fact that throughout the fifteenth century Tharrawaddy was subject to Prome and was held by a governor who was appointed, at least nominally, by Ava, suggest that one cause of the fighting was the need of Ava to trade along the Irrawaddy river as far south as possible.

But in 1407 Razadarit, having intercepted a letter from Minhkaung asking Chiengmai to join him in attacking Pegu and share the booty, supported a fugitive Arakanese prince, son of Narameikhla; the prince marched into Arakan, gathering strength from his fellow countrymen as he went, occupied Launggyet, and captured the Burmese garrison, 3000 strong. Anawrahtaminsaw was executed and his little queen, Sawpyechantha, passed into Eazadarit's harem.

The news so enraged Minhkaung that he insisted on invading the Delta in the rains, with the natural result that he was severely defeated at Pankyaw, north of Pegu. He fled to Ava, leaving his men to be cut to pieces and his Maw Shan queen to be captured; she joined her daughter Sawpyechantha in Razadarit's harem. Now that both his mother and sister were captives, Minrekyawswa became a fiend. "As a crocodile eats his victims, so will I rend the flesh of the Takings", he said. His father Minhkaung went no more to war, for his nerves were shattered after the fight at Pankyaw. But Minrekyawswa took charge. Year after year he carried fire and sword into the hapless Delta, defeating all comers, deporting the population wholesale, and making life so unbearable that in Myaungmya and Bassein men dared not work their fields, and in 1415 the whole west side paid him homage. Things came to such a pass that a hundred Talaings would run at the sight of a couple of Shan-Burmans.

But in 1417 the vengeful re-incarnation of Bawlawkyantaw came to an end. Razadarit, trusting to Minrekyawswa's impetuosity, lured him out of his camp at Dalla until he was separated from his men, and dashed out on him at the head of some thirty Talaing lords on elephants. Minrekyawswa's elephant, maddened by a hundred gashes, shook him off and crushed his thigh; he crawled away under a bush, but was found and taken to Razadarit's camp. There he repelled Razadarit's chivalrous advances and died during the night, uttering hatred with his last breath. He is now worshipped as the Minkyawswa spirit.

At the news of his death, the Burmese Delta garrisons fled in panic, and the war soon came to an end, for men were weary. Minhkaung, broken-hearted at his brave son's death, spent his declining years in piety; the Ari-gyi-do-ahnwe (descendants of the great Ari) frequented his palace and drank there, sometimes to such excess that they had to be carried back to their monasteries.

Nicolo de Conti

He was succeeded by his son Thihathu (1422-26), who took his Other's queen Shin-Bo-me and was so fond of her that his first wife retired into religion. But during a raid on the Delta he did so much damage that the Talaing chief presented him with his sister Shinsawbu to buy him off; he brought her to Ava and crowned her queen consort in great state, so Shin-Bo-me had him assassinated. The court set up his nine-year-old son; Shin-Bo-me poisoned him and brought in a cousin of the royal house, Kalekyetaungnyo (1426-27), and when he was supplanted by a kinsman she married the kinsman Mohnyinthado (1427-40); this was her fifth crowned consort, but she died childless. Mohnyinthado's reign was spent in striving, with tolerable success, to retain his throne against the principal fief-holders and the Shan states of Hsipaw and Yawnghwe; Hsipaw once drove him out of his palace for eight months, withdrawing only on payment of a large sum. It was in his reign that the first European wandered into Burma—Nicolo de' Conti, a merchant of Venice; Conti visited Tenasserim, Mrohaung and Ava. His note is brief, but its references to the white elephant, to tattooing the thighs, and to what he imagined was a prayer to the Trinity (the Buddhist invocation of the ^'Three Names of Refuge'), suggest that Burmese civilisation was then the same as in the nineteenth century.

Mohnyinthado's sons, Minrekyawswa (1440-43) and Narapati (1443-69), overran Kale and Mohnyin for a time, and captured the Maw Shan chief Thonganbwa when he was being hard pressed by Yunnan. Narapati refused to surrender him and in 1445 drove off the Yunnan levies at Kaungton in the Bhamo district. But when in 1446 they appeared in strength before Ava, he yielded, Thonganbwa committed suicide, so only his dead body could be given up; the Chinese removed the intestines, dried the body in the sun and at the fire, thrust an iron spit through it and took it away.

In 1451 they sent Narapati a golden seal as governor of Ava, and in 1454 they gave him some Shan territory in return for the surrender of a Mohnyin chief. At this time China enumerated in and near Burma eight states held by what she was pleased to consider her 'comforters' or governors, of which five can be identified—Ava, Kenghung, Hsenwi, Pegu, and the country round Viengchang.

Narapati was succeeded by his son Thihathura (1469-81), who fought Toungoo, Pegu, Prome and Yawnghwe. In 1474 he and his queen made their hair into a broom, studded the handle with gems and sent it to weep the floor of the Temple of the Tooth at Kandy in Ceylon. In 1472 he asked China to give him Mohnyin. China warned Mohnyin not to obstruct the road between China and Burma, but she would not give his territory to Ava as he had done nothing to merit eviction. Mohnyin remained on good terms with the Chinese frontier eunuch, presenting him with a jewelled girdle.

Jewels also helped the expansion of Momeik, the ruby mine state; founded in 1238, the town was part of Hsenwi but in 1420 it received thirteen villages as a reward for helping Yunnan to raid Chiengmai. In 1465 its chieftainess Nang-han-lung sent ruby tribute separately from Hsenwi and her present of jewels completely won over the frontier eunuch. She even tried to ally herself with Annam. She seized most of Hsenwi, and when China remonstrated, she said : 'Momeik is the baby elephant which has outgrown the mother elephant Hsenwi and can never enter the womb again', and as, in addition to talking, she presented more rubies to the enquiring officers, they reported sympathetically on her case and she was left in possession.

Conceivably the continuance of Chinese interest in Burma is due to the fact that after Kubla Khan's dynasty (1206-1368) had passed away, China lost control of the route across Asia to Europe. She had to look for other outlets, and the trade route down the Irrawaddy was perhaps one of them. Chinese porcelain of the fifteenth century had been found in the bed of the Bassein river near Negrais, and it is recorded that in 1450 the chief of Ava gave to a favorite 'the Chinese customs revenue', probably Yunnan frontier tolls.

Burmese Literature

Hitherto writing had been in Pali and Sanskrit but in this age vernacular literature makes its appearance. Its rise exposes the inadequacy of our material—pagoda inscriptions and court chronicles which, in their present form, are not even contemporary. Away from the track of the chiefs and their rabble, people were probably happy enough, and in many a monastery life must have been calm and beautiful. As is usual in secluded countries, Burmese literature is narrow in range and, though quite voluminous according to mediaeval standards, small in quantity. It shows little development and no improvement has been made on the earliest poets. The prose consists largely of translations and paraphrases from scripture stories. The verse is more original and includes minor poetry of a high order but the condensation of its style and the obscurity of its dialect militate against its having a wide appeal. The usually accepted view, that the following are the first vernacular writers, is probably correct, but the finish of their style indicates that the vernacular had been practised for some generations previously. The earliest writers are three monks. Shin Uttamagyaw, Shin Thilawuntha, and Shin Maharattathara. Shin Uttamagyaw, the author of Tawla, a celebrated poem, was a valued counsellor in the Ava palace. He was born on the same day as Shin Thilawuntha (1453-1520) and together they entered a monastery school at Taungdwingyi, Magwe district. Shin Thilawuntha was expelled for writing Paramiganpyo, as the monk considered poetry sinful; he continued writing in a fine monastery built for him at Ava by the chief, Minhkaung (1401-22); Yazawingyaw, the earliest chronicle extant, is his; it is a disappointing work, for instead of recording what went on round him—it would have been an invaluable picture—he merely reproduced scriptural traditions. Shin Maharattathara (1468-1529), a descendant of the Thihathu, the Shan Brother, wrote Koganpyo and other poems. Probably it is in this period that Yaweshinhtwe lived; she was a maid of honor and wrote verse on the 55 styles of hairdressing used by maids of honor in the Ava palace, styles some of which are still in popular use.

Thihathura was succeeded by his son Minhkaung (1481-1502), who, hearing that Bimbisara, the king of Buddha's period, had raised his son to the throne as joint king, decided to follow the precedent, gave his son the white umbrella, and shared the throne with him. He was continually attacked by Hanthawaddy and Prome in the south, and by the Shans above Shwebo in the north. When his vassal of Toungoo was assassinated, he recognised the assassin as king, sending him the white umbrella, an act which the 1829 chroniclers cite as an instance of statesmanship.

He was succeeded by his younger son Shwenankyawshin (1502-27), as the elder son, the joint king, had died. Shwenankyawshin already had a wife whose sister was consort to the dead joint king; yet now, on coming to the throne, it was not his own wife, but the joint king's widow, who became his chief queen, as she was already part of the regalia. His life was attempted by kinsmen who fled to Toungoo. He thereupon gave his daughter in marriage to Minkyinyo of Toungoo with the villages from Kyaukse to Toungoo as dowry; he was giving his daughter to the harborer of his assassins, and in giving away the rice area of Kyaukse he was giving away his crown. But he could not help himself—Prome and Salin were in revolt, Mohnyin was attacking the Shwebo border, and his own brothers were in the field against him. In 1527 Mohnyin encamped under the walls of Ava, the Shans in the Ava garrison deserted to him, and Shwenankyawshin fell fighting on his elephant. The population fled in large numbers to Toungoo.

Mohnyin set up his son Thohanbwa (1527-43) as king in Ava. Thohanbwa said: 'Burmese pagodas have nothing to do with religion. They are simply treasure chambers,' and proceeded to plunder such as were in reach. Probably, as in 1756 and 1885, the monks led the people in resistance; he said: 'Monks surround themselves with followers and could rebel if they liked. They ought to be killed'; in 1540 at Taungbalu, just outside Ava, he covered a field with huts, slaughtered buffaloes, cows, pigs and fowls and invited the monks to feast. When they were all in the huts, he surrounded them with his braves and massacred them to the number of 360. The survivors fled to Toungoo. He then seized the manuscripts in the monasteries and made bonfires of them. Finally he was assassinated by one of his Burmese ministers who thereupon, though of royal blood, retired into a monastery rather than take the throne.

It therefore passed to Hsipaw,who ruled as Hkonmaing( 1543-46). He joined six other sawbwas in the attack on Prome and was succeeded by his son Mobye Narapati (1546-52), who, weary of attacks from Mohnyin, fled to Bayinmaung, leaving Ava to its last sawhwa, Sithukyawhtin (1552-55), a nominee of Mohnyin.

Indeed for two and a half centuries the ruler of Ava had been sawhwa in all but name; yet there was this difibrence between Ava and the other Shan states, that whereas they were so wild as to leave not even a record, the tradition of the Burmese palace gave Ava a veneer of civilization, and her numerous monasteries contained monks who, if not learned, were at least literate; and to them it is due that though the lamp of civilisation flickered and burnt low, it never went out.


Pegu 1287-1539.

Wareru (1287-96), a Shan pedlar born at Donwun in the Thaton district, took service in the elephant stables of the chief of Sukhotai, became Captain of the Guard, eloped with the chief's daughter and set up as lord of his native village. He had a fair sister, and Aleimma, the Burmese governor of Martaban, wished to marry her. Wareru prepared a wedding feast and when Aleimma came to get his bride, Wareru assassinated him, seized his governorship, and so became lord of Martaban in 1281. When he built its walls in 1287, a pregnant woman was crushed under the gate post as a foundation sacrificed

The Pagan kingdom was now breaking up, and Wareru made common cause with Tarabya, the revolting governor of Pegu, each marrying the other's daughter. But in 1287, after they had expelled the Burmese governors and occupied the country south of Prome and Toungoo, Tarabya tried to ambush Wareru. He failed. Wareru, calling the spirits of earth and air to witness his innocence, and pouring libations of water from a golden bowl, mounted his elephant, fought with Tarabya in single combat, and took him prisoner. At the intercession of the monks he spared his life. Tarabya again plotted, but his wife warned her father Wareru in time. So Tarabya was executed, although she twined her tresses with his and dared the executioners to cut off his head.

Wareru now became sole prince of the Talaing state in Lower Burma which lasted till 1539. In 1298 it received recognition from China, which henceforth chose to regard its rulers as governors appointed by herself. Its capital was Martaban till 1369, when a palace was set up at Pegu.

Wareru received recognition from his old master and father-inlaw, the chief of Sukhotai, who in 1293 sent him a white elephant because it chose to eat Martaban grass; no sooner did they hear of its arrival than the Shan Brothers of Kyaukse came raiding Martaban to get it, but were driven off. To Wareru we owe the earliest law book in Burma that now survives. The Hindu colonists who came to the Delta a thousand years before had brought with them traditional laws ascribed to the ancient sage Manu; these law books were handed down in the Talaing monasteries, and Wareru commissioned his monks to produce the standard collection called after him, the Wareru dhammathat. It forms the basis of Burmese law literature.

The Siamese kingdom, founded in 1350, included in its list of provinces Tenasserim, Moulmein and Martaban; it certainly held Tenasserim, founding the town in 1373, and building the Wutshintaung pagoda there in 1380; but it did not hold Moulmein save through some nominal tribute-offering, and Pegu held the country down to Tavoy. There was little established government. If it was not dacoits it was royal kinsmen who revolted, and sometimes bands of Shan immigrants from Siam would add to the disorder.

Binnya U (1353-85) repaired the Shwedagon pagoda, raising its height to 66 feet. He repelled raiders from Chiengmai who destroyed several towns in Thaton district; on the site of his victory he built a pagoda, enshrining relics obtained by sending a mission to Ceylon. But his white elephant died, after being 61 years in the palace, and while he was devoutly searching the forests for a successor, his kinsmen seized the palace and invited the Chiengmai chief to join them. For six years he maintained himself at Donwun, and then, being driven out, he moved to Pegu and repaired its walls.


His eldest son Razadarit (1385-1423) was the greatest of Wareru's lineage. Fighting for his existence since the age of sixteen, with but little assistance from his father, who could not control the family feuds, Razadarit succeeded in seizing Pegu town soon after his father's death, subjected Bassein, and repelled successive Burmese invasions. Finally, in 1390, he captured Myaungmya with Laukpya inside; in thank-offering he built shrines at the Shwemawdaw pagoda, Pegu feeding a thousand monks throughout a seven days' festival and offering his weight in gold.

Hearing that his son Bawlawkyantaw was practising horsemanship and sharpening his elephant's tusks, Razadarit feared he was about to rebel, and sent two lords to slay him. They announced their duty to the lad, who replied: "I do but follow the custom of young princes in manly exercise. I do not plot against my father and there is no fault in me. Give me time to prepare for death". They gave him time, and for three days at the Shwemawdaw pagoda he listened to the reading of Abidhamma, the holy scriptures. When it was finished, he offered his ruby bracelets and earrings to the pagoda, and thus he prayed: 'If I have wished ill to my father, yea though it be a little, then may I lie in hell for ever, and never behold the coming Buddha. But if I have not wished ill to my father, then may I be born again among the kings of Burma and be the scourge of the Talaings'. Then he took the poison that had been prepared, and drank it and died.

When this was reported to Razadarit, he said : "It was a terrible prayer", and, gilding the pagoda from top to bottom, he prayed: "If he become a prince in Burma and make war on me, may I on my elephant vanquish him".

During the war that followed, though he ultimately repulsed them, the Burmese sometimes left Razadarit in possession of little but Pegu town itself. In 1414 he gained a brief respite by stirring up Hsenwi to attack Ava, but was himself never free from the fear of Shan inroads, as on several occasions when he was hard pressed from the north the princes of Ayuthia, Kampengpet and Chiengmai would raid him from the south.

He built the Danok pagoda near Twante, and to him is ascribed the traditional division of each of 'the Three Lands of the Talaings' (Pegu, Myaungmya, Bassein) into 32 'provinces,' i.e. village circles. He was of great strength and personal courage, and several times killed his man in single combat. The chief of Ava never dared accept his challenge and meet him hand to hand.

When the news of Minhkaung's death in 1422 reached Pegu, the queens jeered, saying to Razadarit: 'Now you can pounce down on his palace and capture all his women.' But he rebuked them, saying: 'My sweet enemy is dead. I will fight no more, but spend my declining years in piety.'

A year later, at the age of fifty-four, while snaring elephants with his own hand in the Labut-tha-lut forest at the foot of the Pegu Yomas, north of Pegu, he was caught in the rope and injured so that he died on the way home. His queens came out to meet the body and buried it at Kamathameinpaik (Minkanyo), near Payagyi, north of Pegu. He has a chronicle all to himself, the Razadarit Ayedawpon, which ends with the words: 'This Lion King, so wise, so generous, so mighty in word and deed, could overcome all his enemies, but he too at the last must bow before King Death.'

Binnyakyan (1450-53) raised the height of the Shwedagon pagoda to 302 feet. At his death, as a result of palace massacres, there was no male of the family left alive. The throne then passed by general consent to Razadarit's daughter Shinsawbu (1453-72). Village headmanships have been known to descend in the female line and Shan hill states have been held by chieftainesses, but this is the only instance of a major state in Burma being held by a woman. Daughter, sister, wife and mother of kings, she ruled well, leaving behind so gracious a memory on earth that four hundred years later the Talaings could think of no fairer thing to say of Queen Victoria than to call her Shinsawbu re-incarnate.

Once, while being carried round the city in her great palanquin, sword in hand and crown on head, she heard an old man exclaim, as her retinue pushed him aside, "I must get out of the way, must I? You call me an old fool, do you? I am not so old that I could not get a child, which is more than your old queen could do!" Thunderstruck at such irreverence, she meekly accepted it as a sign from heaven, and thereafter styled herself 'The Old Queen'.

When young she had been given in marriage to the then chief of Ava and two Talaing monks had gone there to teach her letters. As she was not happy in a Burmese palace, she ran away, and fled down the river to Pegu. Her flight was successful because the two monks helped her, and, by benefit of clergy, a boat carrying monks could not be challenged. She admired the two monks beyond all other men, and when, after being queen of Pegu seven years, she wished to retire, it was one of them that she chose as successor. But she did not know which to choose. Therefore one day, when they entered the palace as usual to receive the royal rice in their alms bowls, she secretly put into one of the bowls not rice but a layman's dress, together with little models of the five regalia; then, having prayed that the lot might fall on the worthier, she returned the bowls. Dammazedi, to whom the fateful bowl fell, abandoned the Order, received her daughter in marriage, and assumed the government. The other in his disappointment took to plotting, and was executed. The ambitious lords also objected, but in the end became reconciled to Dammazedi because of his wisdom and justice; and when some of them continued to murmur that he was not of royal blood, she took a beam out of a bridge in the city and had it made into a Buddha image, and said : "Ye say he is of common blood, he cannot be your king. See here this common wood—yesterday it was trodden in the dust of your feet, but today, is it not the Lord and do ye not bow before it?"

Revival of Religion

Shinsawbu spent the remaining years of her life in retirement at the Shwedagon. Successive princes had added to the original structure, and she made it practically what we see today. Round it she banked up the terrace fifty feet high, nine hundred feet wide, with a great stone balustrade and encircling walls, between which she planted palm trees; she kept forty-four people continually tending the sacred lamps, dedicated five hundred prisoners of war as slaves, and ofiered her own weight (91 lb.) in gold for gilding the dome. When, at the age of seventy-eight, she felt her end approaching, she had her bed placed where her eyes could rest on that wondrous spire, and thus she breathed her last.

Dammazedi (1472-92) gave four times the weight of himself and his queen in gold to the Shwedagon as compensation for revoking some of its lands, which Shinsawbu had extended to Danok. At Pegu he built the Shwekugyi and Kyaikpon pagodas, and west of the Shwemawdaw he built a new stockaded town, and set up his palace and elephant stables there. The masonry of his reign is excellent, and a mass of pious edifices sprang up on the beautiful plateau between the old and the new town, men vying with each in works of merit, for it was an age of religious revival.

Dammazedi himself sent a mission to Buddhagaya in Bengal to take plans of the Holy Tree and of the temple as models for his buildings at Pegu. But his most important work was his mission of twenty-two monks to Ceylon in 1475. It was a long and dangerous journey, and several died in shipwreck or during their wanderings when cast away on the coast of Madras. To the Tooth, the Footprint, and the Holy Trees, at Kandy, they presented a stone alms bowl studded with sapphires, and reliquaries of gold and crystal; to the Cingalese monks, cloths and Chiengmai lacquer boxes; to the king of Ceylon, rubies, sapphires, Chinese silks, fine mats, and a letter on gold leaf. Their object was to secure valid ordination from the clergy of the Mahavihara, the great monastery in Ceylon which, founded in 251 BC, still exists. On their return they proceeded to transmit this ordination to the clergy throughout Lower Burma: it was so generally accepted as valid that monks flocked to receive it from all over Burma and even from Siam; and thus religion in Burma, which for three centuries had been split into sects each with its own ordination, received a measure of unity from the standard Kalyani ordination. It was and is granted at the Kalyani thein (ordination hall) near Pegu, so called because the original monks were ordained on the banks of the Kalyani stream in Ceylon. Dammazedi recorded these events on
ten inscribed stones at the thein, called the Kalyani Inscriptions.

One of the principal monks in the mission was Buddhaghosa, who translated the Wareru dhammathat into Burmese; later generations confused him with his namesake, the Father of the Church who lived a thousand years previously. Dammazedi himself was a wise judge, and a collection of his rulings survives, the Dammazedi pyatton. He died at the age of eighty and was succeeded by his son Binnyaran.

Binnyaran (1492-1526) was beloved for his kindness, although, like others before and after, he enforced the Massacre of the Kinsmen, making a clean sweep of all his brothers. His son Takayutpi (1526-39) was the last king of Pegu.

Soon after 1500 the opening of the sea routes brought the Talaings great prosperity. Burma lay off the beaten track and her goods could be bought in Malacca. Her spices were few, and her finished articles crude. But two places in Burma lay near the track: Martaban and Tenasserim. These commanded short cuts over the hills to Siam, saving a dangerous sea voyage. Martaban sold the produce brought down the Salween and Irrawaddy rivers, and in 1519 the Portuguese founded a trading station there which lasted till 1613. Tenasserim, which belonged to Siam till 1760, commanded an even better overland route, and the Portuguese had a settlement there till 1641. The Portuguese imported European clothes and velvets, and exported rubies, lac, wax, ivory, horn, lead, tin, Pegu jars ('Martabans'), and long pepper, which grew in the moist forests of Tenasserim; they exported also pepper from Achin, camphor from Borneo, and porcelain and scented woods from China, brought by the junks for sale in the Talaing ports. There was no coinage, but goods were weighed against lumps of ganza, an alloy of lead and tin which passed as currency. Nikitin, a Russian from Tver, who travelled in the East about 1470, mentions Pegu as 'no inconsiderable port, inhabited principally by Indian dervishes. The products derived from thence are sold by the dervishes', which indicates that then, as now, the merchant community was largely foreign.

Pegu had peace between Razadarit's death in 1423 and the end of the monarchy in 1539. The dynasty was mild. The kings could indulge their peaceful proclivities because the Upper Burma hordes found all the fighting they wanted among themselves, and the states of Prome and Toungoo acted as a buffer. An Italian traveller in 1505 describes the reigning king, Binnyaran, as so gentle that a child might speak to him, and as wearing so many jewels that at night he shone like the sun. It was the golden age of Pegu, and there can be little doubt that its civilization was higher than that of the savage north. If few traces remain, that is because it was a simple civilization, the steaming climate of the Delta hastens decay, and the Burmese conquerors touched nothing which they did not destroy.


Toungoo 1280-1531.

In 1280 two brothers built a stockade round their village on the hill-spur (taunggnu), and thus founded Toungoo; the stockade was probably a necessity against the ferocious slave-raiders of Karenni. The Pagan kingdom was then on its death-bed, and Toungoo grew up without even such slight traditions of loyalty as other towns possessed. In the next two centuries she was ruled by twenty-eight chiefs, of whom fifteen perished by assassination.

Other places, notably Prome, were equally independent, but Toungoo differed in this, that she remained predominantly Burmese. The Shans made life so unbearable in Upper Burma that every now and then crowds of Burmese families would flock south and settle round Toungoo with its stronghold on the hill. The first migration took place when Pyanchi (1368-77) was lord of Toungoo; he joined the chiefs of Ava and Pegu in making ofierings at Pagan, and in an inscription at the Shwezigon he and his lady record with natural pride that they gave refuge to the Burmese who fled after the Shan sack of Sagaing and Pyinya. These twain prayed that in their next existence they might be man and wife together again, and dwell in the land of Toungoo, and once more rule the people they loved so well.

The lords of Toungoo styled themselves kings and had a golden palace at Gyobinzeik village, with elephant stables, and even an occasional white elephant. And indeed the little throne sometimes descended from father to son. But as often as not they paid homage to Ava, and Ava sometimes sent her nominee to rule as governor.

Toungoo was usually on good terms with Pegu, and when she went raiding it was to the north, especially to Kyaukse. She always looked longingly on that prosperous hollow, growing three crops a year when she could grow only one, and the stronger she grew the more she encroached there. Her greatest chief, Minkyinyo (1486-1531), finally secured it when the chief of Ava gave him a daughter, and, as her dowry, Kyaukse itself together with the country leading up to it from Toungoo, such as the Yamethin villages Taungnyo, Pyagaung (Kyidaunggan), Shwemyo, Kintha, Talaingthe and Petpaing. He deported the population of these to fill the new town Dwayawadi (Myogyi near Toungoo) which he founded. In 1510 he moved and founded the present Toungoo, digging the lake within the walls and laying out orchards. When the Shans finally took Ava in 1527 he sallied forth and deliberately devastated the country in the central zone, filling in the walls and breaking down the channels so as to place an impassable belt between himself and the Shans. While he was doing this, the last great influx of Burmans came fleeing from the Shan terror; the lords of Pyinya in Sagaing district, Myittha in Kyaukse, and Hlaingdet in Meiktila, with many a Burmese family, noble and commoner, fled south to take refuge at his feet. In delight he exclaimed: "Now I know why the bees swarmed on the gate of Toungoo: it meant that my city would be populous"; it meant more than that, although he did not realise it—it meant that Toungoo would see the re-birth of the Burmese race.

Chiengmai as well as Pegu recognised Minkyinyo as an independent chief, and he was so strong that Karenni sent him propitiatory homage. He was a great fighter, and once, when taking Kyaungbya (south-east of Toungoo) from the Talaings, he killed its Shan governor by jumping on to his elephant and cutting him down. He could trace his descent indirectly through forbears of rank to the Pagan dynasty, and dying at the age of seventy-two he bequeathed a great name to Tabinshwehti, his son by the daughter of the headman of Penwegon, six miles north of Toungoo.