Update: 2013-09-22 08:26 PM +0630


The Burmese Empire a hundred years ago

As described by Father Vincenzo Sangermano, 1833

Preface to First edition - by Cardinal Wiseman, Rome, 1833


Edited and with notes by U Kyaw Tun, M.S. (I.P.S.T., U.S.A.). Set in html by UKT and staff of TIL Computing and Language Center, Yangon, for students and staff of TIL. Not for sale. No copyright. Free for everyone. Prepared for students and staff of TIL  Computing and Language Center, Yangon, MYANMAR :  http://www.tuninst.net , http://www.softguide.net.mm , www.romabama.blogspot.com

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UKT: The pages were in Roman numbers which I have changed to English numerals. I have split up the text to give prominence to certain sections. The section headings are mine.

Preface to the First Edition
The Church of St. John and the College


UKT notes
State of Times

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Preface to the First Edition

The following work was drawn up by F. Sangermano, partly during his residence as a missionary in Ava, and partly after his return to Europe. He was sent out as a missioner in 1782, and in the July of the following year arrived at Rangoon, whence he proceeded directly to the city of Ava {in:wa.}.  [UKT ¶ ]

UKT 130922: Sangamano arrived in the undivided country of Myanmarpré in the reign of King Bodawpaya (1745 – 1819), in the very year the King had moved his capital back to Amarapura.. To the foreigners of the period the northern part of the country was the country of Ava largely made up of Bur-Myan speakers, and the southern part as the country of Pegu with the majority of the people speaking Mon-Myan.

The reader should note that I am writing from a linguistic perspective, and I have made a distinction between speech and script. Thus Bur-Myan stands for Burmese speech written in Myanmar akshara or script, Mon-Myan stands for Mon speech written in Myanmar akshara, and Pal-Myan for Pali speech in Myanmar akshara.

Myanmar here stands for the script, and the country where the akshara is used commonly is Myanmarpré. The population of the country is Myanmar where various Myanmar languages are spoken. Burmese speech and Mon speech are mutually not understandable, even though Pali the speech of the Theravada monks whether they be Burmese speakers or Mon speakers is the lingua franca, and most of the population uses Pali derived words spelled in the same spelling. The accent is immaterial as long as the spelling remains the same: they carry the same meaning.

The country is mostly literate and unless a person is totally illiterate, he or she can make out what another is saying if spoken slowly.

For the state of Buddhism before British annexation in 1877 to 1923, see Buddhism in Burma by Ānanda Mettēyya, bhikkhu, 1872-1923, pp. 438, published by Adyar, Madras, India: Theosophical Publishing House . The author was an Indian Buddhist monk who had early training in Chemistry and Physics. See downloaded PDF from Archive -- PDF
-- http://archive.org/details/MN40132ucmf_7 130708

But shortly after he was remanded to Rangoon, which was the scene of his future missionary labours. The cause of Christianity was greatly forwarded in this place by his exertions. [UKT ¶]

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The Church of St. John and College

UKT 130922: The road west of Thakhin Mya Gardens in Alone was known as the College Street. This road going north would lead you to Baptist Missionary headquarters, and further beyond to St. John's High School.

He completed the church of St. John, which had been begun before him, as well as the college of the missionaries; both of which were built of brick. He superintended the college as long as he remained there; and under his direction it was very prosperous. It contained fifty students, who were instructed in several branches of learning and science; so that besides some ecclesiastics, it has produced skilful engineers, physicians, and even pilots [UKT: river pilots?]. There is at present a young Burmese practising as a surgeon in Rome who received his education in this institution.

UKT 130708: I wonder, if the young Burmese practising as surgeon in Rome, was Dr. Burman, who played a significant role in promotion Botanical science, and after whose name the plant family Burmanniaceae  was named. It is a botanical name of a family of flowering plants, consisting of about a hundred species of herbaceous plants in roughly a dozen genera. See Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burmanniaceae 130709

F. Sangermano was greatly esteemed by the natives of Rangoon: in particular, the Viceroy [of the King Bodawpaya] and his consort honoured him [the Catholic Missionary] with many marks of distinction. The latter would often come to his church to be present at the Catholic ceremonies, especially those of Holy-week: and sometimes she would pay a visit to the Superior in his College, and hold long conferences with him on religion; so that it was thought that she would become a Christian. On these occasions she always came with her guards and her whole court. Her guards remained in the square opposite the college, but the rest of her suite entered with her.

F. Sangermano was also well known to the foreigners who frequented Rangoon, particularly to the English. From one of the latter he had a commission to make a chart of the port of Rangoon, which he executed with so much ability as to [{ed1-37end-ed1-38begin }] receive a pension for life from our Government. He also experienced great attention from the English authorities when at Calcutta on his return home.

The individual who had given him the above-mentioned commission procured for him a letter of recommendation from the Governor-General [of British-India ?], by which all English captains were required to afford him every facility for his return. He arrived in Italy in 1808: and after having got through the business which had recalled him home, endeavoured to return to his missionary labours. But the state of the times prevented him; and he was finally established as president of the college of his order at Arpinum, his native city. [UKT ¶]

UKT: Unless you have a global perspective, you will not be able to judge what was happening in Sangermano's time in Myanmarpré. See my note on the state of the times .

Here he employed himself in preparing the following work for publication; but his death in 1819 prevented the execution of his designs. His manuscript remained in the hands of the Barnabite Fathers, and would probably have never been presented to the public had not the Roman sub-committee of the Oriental Translation Fund undertaken its translation and publication. Although the primary regulations of this Society seem to sanction the publication of none but Oriental works, the Roman sub-committeed felt themselves warranted in proposing this history to the parent committee, on the ground that it is chiefly made up of translations from important Burmese writings, whereof probably copies do not exist in Europe.

The following note found among F. Sangermano's papers, after the work was partly translated, indicates the original documents he has principally followed.

'1. The Burmese cosmography has been extracted almost entirely from a book expressly composed for the elder brother of the reigning monarch, by a Zaradò or master of the Emperor, wherein he succinctly describes the system of the world, as taught by Godama, according to the expositions and opinions of the most celebrated Burmese Doctors.

UKT 130922: Zaradò is {hsa.ra tau} pronounced loosely as hsa-yar-daw or the "royal tutor". The Bur-Myan usage {tau}, does not always mean the Emperor or King as the learned Italian had imagined. It simply means someone worthy of respect such as a learned monk. {hsa.ra} simply means a teacher. Thus, I, U Kyaw Tun, as a layman is simply {hsa.ra}, not {hsa.ra tau}.

'2. All That is related of the ancient Burmese monarchs, and of the foundation and subsequent history of this kingdom, has been faithfully copied from the Maharazaven {ma.ha ra-za.wing}, that is, the great history of the kings.

'3. In what I have said of the superstitions, astrology, religion, constitutions of the Talapoins [monks], and the sermons of [ed1-38end-ed1-39begin] Godama, I have not followed the tales and reports of the common people, but have carefully consulted the classical writings of the Burmese, known by the name of Kiam {kyûm:}. [UKT ¶]

130922: By Kiam {kyûm:}, Sangamano had meant the Theravada Tipitika which is written based on the Pali language originating in northern India in the Kingdom of Magadha where the population spoke languages of Tibeto-Burman linguistic group. It is not quite the same as Mahayana writings based on Sanskrit language of the Indo-European linguistic group. We are lucky here because, we can write Pali in Myanmar script and Sanskrit in Devanagari script. In order to make out the meanings of words in Pali and Sanskrit, I have to study Sanskrit as a language. You can see my progress in my edition of A. A. Macdonell's A Practical Sanskrit Dictionary which is available on this website.

The chapters on the rules of the Talapoins and the sermons of Godama contain an abstract of all that is worthy of notice in the three Kiam, called Vini, Padimot, and Sottan. I have translated nearly the whole of these books with the assistance of an Ex-Talapoin of the name of Uba, who was one of the most learned of that order in the vicinity of Nabek, where for several years our seminary was situated. He has also taught the Pali language to two of my scholars, one of whom is at the present time labouring in the work of the mission at Rangoon.'

Some slight transposition has been made in the chapters in order to improve the connection between the subjects which they treat. The orthography of the manuscript has been kept, except in a few well-known names: hence the proper names are to be read as in Italian.

It cannot be necessary to enumerate the difficulties experienced in conducting a large English work through a foreign press. Independently of the great labour of correction, it required some courage to think of imitating the beauty of typography which distinguishes the works printed by the parent committee in London. We flatter ourselves that we have done as much as circumstances would allow us, and that our present attempt will be indulgently received, as an earnest of our desire to forward the useful and noble objects of the Fund.

Rome, June 1, 1833.


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UKT footnotes

The State of Times

-- UKT 130709

Cardinal Wiseman, Rome, 1833, wrote:
"But the state of the times prevented [Sangermano from returning to his mission work in Myanmarpré]; and he was finally established as president of the college of his order at Arpinum, his native city."

Age of Enlightenment

From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_Enlightenment 130709

The Age of Enlightenment (or simply the Enlightenment or Age of Reason) was a cultural movement of intellectuals in the 17th and 18th centuries, which began first in Europe and later in the American colonies. Its purpose was to reform society using reason, challenge ideas grounded in tradition and faith, and advance knowledge through the scientific method. [UKT ¶ ]

UKT 130709: These were the very reasons why the forest recluse, the pre-Buddha, Prince Siddhartha, after studying under various religious teachers of his times for six long years, rejected all their teachings -- the last of which was to starve his body to gain insight. He fainted and then when he regained consciousness, he gave up the idea of starving the physical body to improve the mind. He took a bath, and ate milk-gruel offered by an unknown girl who mistook him for the deva she had come to worship. Note: pix on right: https://www.google.ca/search? 130708

With a bit of nourishment in his body, he concentrated his mind, and looked for a universal law, free of unverifiable axioms such as the existence of a Creator, a Deva-God. He discovered the Law of Suffering: "All sentient beings undergo mental suffering." The law is based only on reason, and is supported by historical evidence, and is free from the restraint of Time and Space. Even if the Human race were all wiped out, the Law would stand. Because of the discovery of this Law, I for one, would classify the Prince, who then took up the title the " Buddha" or the Enlightened One as one of the true scientists of this world. The Buddha remained a human being, and at age 80, on his physical death, his body was cremated and all that remained was ash and small bits of charred burnt bones.

It promoted scientific thought, skepticism and intellectual interchange and opposed superstition,[1] intolerance and some abuses of power by the church and the state. The ideas of the Enlightenment have had a major impact on the culture, politics, and governments of the Western world.

Originating about 1650 to 1700, it was sparked by philosophers Baruch Spinoza (1632–1677), John Locke (1632–1704), Pierre Bayle (1647–1706), Voltaire (1694–1778) and physicist Isaac Newton (1643–1727).[2] [UKT ¶]

Ruling princes often endorsed and fostered figures and even attempted to apply their ideas of government in what was known as enlightened absolutism. [UKT ¶]

The Scientific Revolution is closely tied to the Enlightenment, as its discoveries overturned many traditional concepts and introduced new perspectives on nature and man's place within it. The Enlightenment flourished until about 1790–1800, after which the emphasis on reason gave way to Romanticism's emphasis on emotion, and a Counter-Enlightenment gained force. [3]

In France, Enlightenment was based in the salons and culminated in the great Encyclopédie (1751–72) edited by Denis Diderot (1713–1784) and (until 1759) Jean le Rond d'Alembert (1717–1783) with contributions by hundreds of leading philosophes (intellectuals) such as Voltaire (1694–1778), Rousseau (1712–1778) [4] and Montesquieu (1689–1755). Some 25,000 copies of the 35 volume set were sold, half of them outside France. [UKT ¶]

The new intellectual forces spread to urban centres across Europe, notably England, Scotland, the German states, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Italy, Austria, and Spain, then jumped the Atlantic into the European colonies, where it influenced Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, among many others, and played a major role in the American Revolution. The political ideals of the Enlightenment influenced the American Declaration of Independence, the United States Bill of Rights, the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, and the Polish–Lithuanian Constitution of May 3, 1791. [5]

Excerpts from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latin_American_wars_of_independence 130709

American Revolution : 1775-1781

The rebellion by the thirteen British colonies in North America from Great Britain was spurred by several factors, including a number of imposed taxes, repressive acts, and the lack of American representation in British government. This infuriated many colonists, and eventually became the spark that ignited the American Revolutionary War. Initial fighting began in 1775 and lasted until October 1781, when the British army, under the command of General Cornwallis, surrendered in Yorktown, Virginia. The American colonists subsequently founded a republican government grounded in Enlightenment thought. A wave of revolutions followed the conclusion of the American Revolution.

Go back state-times-note-b

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