Update: 2013-09-25 12:36 AM +0630


The Burmese Empire a hundred years ago

As described by Father Vincenzo Sangermano, 1833

Preface to Second edition - by John Jardine, Rangoon, 1884


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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Contents of this page

UKT: The pages were in Roman numbers which I have changed to English numerals.

Author of the Introduction and
  Preface to the Second Edition:
  a colonialist judge turned historian -- UKT
Preface to the Second Edition

UKT notes :
Orthography : Sangermano's spellings given in Bur-Myan & Romabama by UKT
King Thibaw : the last king of Burma - a prisoner of the British greed

Contents of this page

Author of the Introduction and
Preface to the Second Edition

-- UKT 130920

Who was this person? His Preface to the Second Edition was written in 1884, when the British were preparing for war in 1885. John Jardine was definitely not a contemporary of Father Sangermano. The Italian Catholic missionary wrote his work in the early years of 1800s, and his work was published in Rome posthumously in 1833.

UKT 130921: The British colonialists swallowed Myanmarpré, the country of my forefathers piecemeal after three wars:
• First Anglo-Burmese War - 1824-1826
• Second Anglo-Burmese War - 1852-1853
• Third Anglo-Burmese War - 1885-1886

John Jardine wrote the Preface to the Second Edition in 1884 to prepare the public opinion in England and elsewhere for the infamous war. He wrote his Introduction to the Third Edition in 1893 when the British colonialists had taken over the country, and annexed it to their Indian Empire. John Jardine seemed to be justifying an unjust action.

True, there were power struggles at the time of succession. But they were confined to the palace and involved only a few people compared to the majority - the common people.

Myanmarpré was a Golden Land. Overall, the inhabitants of the country were peaceful, and even the new king after consolidating his power became bent on doing good deeds as attested by King Mindon in "building" his Theravada Tipitika text in stone while the British were preparing for war to grab the third and last part of his country.

UKT 130922: The king from whom the British grabbed the first portions of the Myanmarpré in the First Anglo-Burmese War of 1824-1826, was King Bagyidaw, son of King of Bodawpaya. He was a much milder king than his father, and he had tried to be on good terms with the British.

The British agent in Ava {a.wa.} aka {a.wa.né-præÑ-tau} at that time was Lieut.-Col. Henry Burney, H. C.'s Resident. He accompanied a Burmese delegation from King Bagyidaw to the British Governor-General in India. During the visit the company visited one of King Asoka's pagodas where an inscription in Bur-Myan dating back to 1296 AD was found. See SOAS Bulletin of Burma Research, Vol. 1, No. 2, Autumn 2003, ISSN 1479-8484 ) - Bur-inscrip-india.htm (link chk 130922).

In connection with Lt-Col. Burney see also - burney.htm: link chk 130922.
on III. -- Notice of Pugan, the Ancient Capital of the Burmese Empire. The account is also available in the PDF download with the TIL library.

John Jardine seems to be trying to justify an unjust action ignored by the Western countries which had diplomatic relations with the Myanmar Kingdom. None of these champions of Freedom and Liberty, came to its aid. After all, these Western nations like the British were themselves colonialists expanding their empires all over the globe. The Americans at about the same time in 1898, swallowed the Kingdom of Hawaii, and  obliterated both the religion and language. At present none could speak nor write their own language. Myanmarpré was lucky -- it was too big for the British to swallow.
See Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overthrow_of_the_Kingdom_of_Hawaii 130820.

Our noted author of the Introduction and the Preface was none other than Sir John Jardine , K.C.I.E , Judge of Her Majesty's High Court of Judicature, at Bombay. He had been the Judicial Commissioner of British Burma, and the President of the Educational Syndicate of British Burma: and sometime Dean of the Faculty of Arts in the University of Bombay. He was also the author of Notes on Buddhist Law, in part edited by E. Forchhammer, 1882 -- http://books.google.ca/books...  130707

I am curious why John Jardine had not mentioned anything about the people of the western coast, the Arakanese who spoke a dialect of Bur-Myan. I expect he would have known about:

Journal of a Tour through the Island of Rambree, with Geological Sketch of the Country, and Brief Account of the Customs, etc. of its Inhabitants. -- by Lieut. Wm. Foley. [Read at the Meeting of 2nd Oct. 1834], Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, vol. IV Jan to Dec 1835, edited by James Prinsep. Printed at the Baptist Mission Press, Calcutta, 1935. A full PDF copy is in the TIL library.  

It would certainly show that the Bur-Myan speakers have been far more advanced than Jardine had written in his Introduction.

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Preface to the Second Edition

In nearly every history of Burma, or account of the Burmese people, the reader finds allusions to Sangermano and often extracts from his book. But he is puzzled to make out who Sangermano was and when and where he lived, and is sometimes left in danger of supposing wrongly that Sangermano's remarks apply to the present times. [UKT ¶]

If, attracted by the interesting matter that every author finds in him, the reader goes to the libraries to get Sangermano's book, he learns that there is no copy. If he goes to a private person reputed to have a copy, he returns disappointed, the copy having perhaps been lent long ago to some one else who never returned it. For several years this was my experience.

A few months ago I discovered that Colonel Spearman, of the British Burma Commission, had a copy, and he obliged me by the loan of it. This is the volume from which the present edition is reprinted by order of the Chief Commissioner, after obtaining the consent to this republication of the Right Rev. P. Bigandet, Bishop of Ramatha and Vicar Apostolic. It was deemed right to refer to him as being the present head of the Roman Catholic mission in Burma.

UKT 130921: When I was young, I had lived with my parents at 221, Thompson St., Rangoon, not far form the corner of Bigandet and Thompson streets, and so the name "Bigandet" has been quite familiar. However, I did not know who this holy personage was. I had even thought he was an Anglican (or Church of England) bishop. Only now do I know that:

Rt. Rev. P. Bigandet, Bishop of Ramatha, Vicar Apostolic of Ava and Pegu,
author of The Life or Legend of Gaudama, the Buddha of the Burmese: the Ways to Neibban, and Notice on the Phongyies or Burmese Monks, in two vol. II., London, Kegan Paul Trench, Trubner & Co., Broadway House, Carter Lane, E.G., 1912.
UKT: The full text is available on the Internet:  http://archive.org/stream/lifeorlegendofga015686mbp/lifeorlegendofga015686mbp_djvu.txt 130921,
or as The Project Gutenberg EBook, Dec 5, 2010 [EBook #34578]
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/34578/34578-h/34578-h.htm 130921

Cardinal Wiseman's preface to the edition of 1833 informs us that Father Sangermano arrived in Burma in 1783, and returned to Italy in 1808. Becoming President of the order of Barnabites at Arpinum, his native city, he employed himself in preparing his work for publication, but was prevented by his death in 1819. [UKT ¶]

Bishop Bigandet informs me that this happened at Leghorn as he was about to sail for Burma, and that during his stay in Italy he was graciously treated by Joachim Murat, [{ed2-33end-ed2-34begin}] king of Naples. The Roman Sub-Committee of the Oriental Translation Fund undertook to publish and translated the manuscript. The orthography was kept except in a few well-known names: hence the proper names are to be read as in Italian. In this reprint no alterations have been made.

The Oriental Translation Fund was instituted in 1828 under the patronage of King William IV. In the binding of Colonel Spearman's copy I find a prospectus showing that Sir Gore Ouseley, the Vice-President of the Royal Asiatic Society, was its Chairman, and John Shakespear and Dr. Rosen its Secretaries. 'This copy was printed for the Right Honourable the Earl of Clare, Governor of Bombay, a subscriber.' The motto of the Fund was 'Ex oriente lux.' Fifty years have passed and no second edition has been issued.

During this half century much has been added to our knowledge of the subjects described by Sangermano. The Burmese legend of Buddha has been translated and edited by Bishop Bigandet. [UKT ¶]

The history of Burma has lately been written by Sir Arthur Phayre; and before this edition issues from the press the learning of Dr. Forchhammer will have thrown light on the Burmese Dhammathat or Code of Law in his edition of King Wagaru's code and his essay on Buddhist law. [UKT ¶]

But all this increase of knowledge does not detract from the real value of Sangermano's work or lessen its charm. Even when he describes the abstract notions of the Buddhist religion, or the dry rules of law, we feel his contact with the people: we learn how the religion influenced their life, and how the despotic and capricious administration of the law produced results which the Dhammathat would never suggest. Sangermano's thoroughness is notable. [UKT ¶]

He gets his account of Buddhism from a treatise drawn up by the king's uncle in 1763: he translated much of the Buddhist canon with the help of a former pôngyi {Boan:kri:} learned in Pali. He went direct to the Burmese annals for his history; and his version of the Burmese Code, called the Golden Rule, shows that he used some such Dhammathat as the Manu Sara Shwe Myin, and took much trouble to understand it. Between 1768 and 1780 several new versions of Dhammathats had been compiled by learned Burmans such as Kyaw Deng; and it is probable that a scholar eager to get at their [{ed2-34end-ed2-35begin}] real meaning would have found some of these lawyers or other learned men competent to teach him. [UKT ¶]

Sangermano proceeded to make an abstract of one of these codes; he seems not to have aimed at precise translation; but after comparing his abstract with the Wagaru and the part of the Wonnana Dhammathat found in our Notes on Buddhist Law, I would be well inclined to treat this abstract as valuable in suggesting meanings of doubtful passages. There is now little oral tradition to explain the Dhammathats, at least in British Burma: but in Sangermano's time there must have been plenty: he was familiar with the king's officials, he had Pali scholars at his elbow, and he noticed the way the Burmese judges applied the law. [UKT ¶]

In these several respects he had advantages which European scholars miss nowadays. Sangermano appends a few notes showing instances where the law was administered contrary to the code, and his earlier chapters on manners must be read in connection with it. [UKT ¶]

I greatly doubt whether Dr. Richardson, who in 1847 translated the Manu Kyay Dhammathat (dated A.D. 1760), had seen this abstract. It is the only popular account of Burmese law that has ever been written; it appears to be a useful manual of that law as understood in Rangoon a hundred years ago; it fairly reflects the spirit of the Dhammathats, and in these respects seemed to me likely to be of such use to the officers freshly appointed to the British Burma Commission that I advised that it should be reprinted. [UKT ¶]

On the other hand, I must remark that until it has been thoroughly compared, section by section, with the Dhammathats, it cannot be treated as equal to those originals or as a safe guide to settlement of doubtful questions. It is curious that nearly all later writers on the Burmese avoid mention or statement of the law; so that information on the simplest questions hardly exists except in judicial decisions.

At the end of the book are two notes, compiled by the Roman sub-committee, to show the progress of Roman Catholic missions in Burma. I add a third, compiled from an Italian book lent me by Bishop Bigandet, Griffini's Vita ki Monsignor Percoto, published at Udine in 1781.

The reader will time after time remark how some generalization of Sangermano's seems as true now as in his day. Burmese [{ed2-35end-ed2-36begin}] medicine, e.g., has not advanced; 'they have themselves no regular surgeons.' But the trade in rice, the great wealth of Burma and principal export of the port of Rangoon at present, is not mentioned at all in the account of trade.

UKT 130921: By his remark "how some generalization of Sangermano's seems as true now as in his day", John Jardine has confirmed my suspicion that his Preface to the second edition was to prepare the public opinion in the West, particularly in the British Parliament, for the Third Anglo-Burmese War. His Introduction in the third edition was to justify the take over the sovereign country and the life-long imprisonment of its young king without any trial for the "murder of his siblings". As a jurist, John Jardine would have known very well that King Thibaw, the young king, would have to be exonerated and given back his throne, if only he had been tried in a court of law!

Rangoon, 5th April 1884.

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UKT notes


-- UKT 130708

The author of this preface, John Jardine wrote: "The orthography was kept except in a few well-known names: hence the proper names are to be read as in Italian. In this reprint no alterations have been made." Since, most of the Bur-Myan readers of this digitized version, and I, know next to nothing of Italian, I am finding it very difficult to find the Bur-Myan equivalents of the supposedly Burmese words used by Sangermano.
Go back ortho-note-b

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King Thibaw

-- UKT 130921

King Thibaw, the last king of Myanmarpré (Burma), at the end of the Third Anglo Burmese War, was taken prisoner and held under house arrest in Madras in India by the British in December, 1885. And on Jan 1,1886, Lord Dufferin, Viceroy of India, officially proclaimed Burma to be part of British Indian Empire to be administered by officers appointed by Viceroy and Governor-General of India.

Unknown to most most in the Myanmarpré, the reigning empress was Empress Victoria, who was a mere queen of the British Isles. Queen Victoria assumed the title of Empress in 1877. Though the British colonialists swallowed the independent Myanmar kingdom piecemeal in three wars, all were fought by the governors in India, using Indian troops officered by the British, and so when King Thibaw was held prisoner, he was held in India and not on the British soil proper.

The timeline for the three infamous wars are http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-Burmese_wars 130707:
- First Anglo-Burmese War - 1824-26
- Second Anglo-Burmese War - 1852-53
- Third Anglo-Burmese War - 1885-1886
- King Thibaw held as a prisoner of war , without a trial - 1886-1916 died at age 58 in Ratnagiri in India, still a prisoner.

Burma was considered to be part of India until 1935 when the Government of Burma Act was passed and a new constitution created. -- Source: Ba Maw, Breakthrough in Burma, Memoirs of a Revolution, 1939-1946, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1968. Copyright 1968 by Theda Maw Sturtvevant and William C. Sturtvevant. Library of Congress catalog card number: 67-24504. Appendices by Theda Maw. p.427.
Go back Thibaw-note-b

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