Formative History and Ethnic Origin of Burma

Formative History and Ethnic Origin of Burma

Burma is located on the South Central Peninsula, the largest continent on the Southeast Asian continent, and like Thailand, the majority of its people are Hinayana Buddhists. Despite its rich natural resources, it is also a typical developing country and is ranked as one of the least developed countries in the world. The ethnic groups of Burma are widely believed to have migrated from the Tibetan plateau and northern Burma, and each wave of migration has forced them to move south. As a result, the Mon, Chin, Arakan, Shan, and Karen peoples gradually settled on the high plains. Initially, there was no political structure in the area and it was mostly composed of villages, with the family being the smallest part.

Burma - United States Department of State

According to the British Haraway’s History of Burma, Indian culture, art and Buddhism were first introduced to Burma by the Mon around 300 AD. In fact, the largest state in Burma was the Mid-Burma Valley state of Billiton, around the 1st-10th centuries AD. Of course, in addition to these, the Mon established a new state, roughly distributed along the Dhanasarin coast in southern Burma, the lower Sittang River, the Irrawaddy River valley, the upper Irrawaddy River, eastern Burma, and the Rakhine state in western Burma.

The Great Golden Pagoda of Burma
In Burma, the Mon were the first people to establish a nation. The Mon lived in the lower reaches of the Irrawaddy River in southern Burma, and by the 10th century had formed the Langasso (today’s southernmost part of Burma, Tannasalin), Tuva (today’s Tuva in southern Burma), Thong (today’s estuary of the Salween River), Pegu (today’s Pegu in Burma), and Bawsang (today’s Bawsang in southern Burma).

The Shan, according to the Burmese History of the Bopha letter, entered Upper Burma in the 7th century, around the 1st century A.D. They traveled south to Yunnan, China, on the border with Burma, and founded the Shan state in 650 A.D.

Myanmar (Burma) - Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

The Karen were the early inhabitants of Burma, and they lived mainly in Burma. According to Heshondra’s History of Burma, the Karen migrated to Burma from southern China in the 6th and 7th centuries, and some scholars have even speculated that they entered the Mon-Khmer region around the 5th century AD.

The Burmese are the main ethnic group in Burma, originating from the Gobi Desert in northwest China and the “Qiang” people of Gansu in the northwestern Tibetan Plateau. Forced by feudal rulers to flee to northeastern Tibet, they fled southward over the mountains around the 2nd century A.D. After centuries of dormancy, they returned to the Southern Empire. They moved from the Southern Empire to Burma in the mid-9th and 10th centuries, eventually settling in the Nyingchi region.

Later, the Myanmarese, through their ability to train a superior cavalry, conquered the other peoples of Burma. As they traveled through the southern imperial kingdom, they learned from the locals to use water buffalo, terraced fields, planted rice, learned warfare, and tamed horses.

Pagoda in Bagan, Burma
With their large population and ability to learn, the Burmese grew and established several dynasties in Burma. In 1044, Anuruddha established the first unified feudal society in Burma, known as Bagan, and was the first Burmese king.

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In 1057, Anuruddha himself led his troops southward to the Mon people and other countries, and Dzung and Pegu surrendered to Bagan one after another. In Dzung, Anuruddha obtained a large number of Buddhist scriptures and monks and brought them to Bagan, which had a profound influence on the development of Bagan. By the time Anuruddha died twenty years later, his influence had extended to most of Burma, including Arakan province in the west, Dhanasaram in the south, and the Shan mountains in the east.

After the fall of Bagan, parts of central and southern Burma remained under Burmese domination. At this time, the rise of the Shan states led to the establishment of several small states in northern Burma, and in 1312, the youngest of the three Shan brothers, Singhoshu, moved his capital to Binya, the Binya dynasty, and three years later, his son, Shuyun, established a new dynasty in central Burma. Thereafter, the kings of both countries died at the hands of Dado Min Phya, a descendant of Singhasit.

Burma Road - Wikipedia

Burmese girl
In 1539, Debin Shwe Thieu captured Pakok and soon unified the whole Burma and created the Toungoo Dynasty. 1548, he marched to Siam, but returned to Burma and was assassinated by the guards. In 1593, he made five expeditions to Siam, but they all ended in failure and he was soon assassinated. His son, Leong Un, rose to fame in the kingdom of Ava and tried to reunite Burma, but at the last moment, his son, Ahnophelon, inherited the throne. In order to consolidate his rule, he led his army southward and conquered Pehmiya and Toungoo, “recovering” the Portuguese Salem, and it was not until King Darun that the economy of the Kingdom of Toungoo was restored to its original state.

In 1752, the Musso chief Yongyiya occupied Dagon, a Mon stronghold, and renamed it Yangon, bringing Burma back under his rule. Upon Yongdia’s death, his second son, Monyat, succeeded to the throne.

The U.S.-Burma Human Rights Dialogue: Frank Criticism but No Action |  Council on Foreign Relations

The British launched an invasion of Rangoon in 1824, citing a conflict along the Indo-Burmese border. In the battle of Rangoon, the Burmese army suffered more than 5,000 casualties. In March of the following year, the British army moved north, and the Burmese army was immediately thrown into chaos when the dynastic general Bandua was killed at the Battle of Daw Lyu Phet.

In February 1826, the British army continued northward and occupied Yandapo, near the Burmese capital. The Kampong Dynasty was forced to sign the Treaty of Yangtapo on the 24th, which was a disgrace to Britain. The treaty included: 1) the Burmese government gave up the rule of Assam and Manipo; 2) Burma’s Arakan and Tanasarin were given to Britain; 3) Burma paid 10 million rupees (i.e. £1 million); 4) Britain agreed to send an ambassador to the Burmese capital; 5) British ships passed through Burmese ports and merchant ships were exempted from taxation.

Scores of buildings burn in Burma town

In 1837, the Treaty of Yandavati was completely abrogated and the British ambassador in Burma was expelled. 1852, Britain again declared war on Burma and the British shipowners were arrested, leading to the Second World War. On April 5 of the same year, British troops again occupied Rangoon. On the 20th of December, the Governor-General of India declared Pakokku to be British, and in 1862, Arakan, Tanasarin and Pakokku were placed under the administration of the Governor-General of India in Lower Burma.

In October 1885, the Third World War broke out between Britain and Burma on the pretext of timber smuggling by Burmese merchants in Bombay. In November of last year, the Burmese dynasty collapsed and Burma became a British colony.