Update: 2005-01-17 03:55 PM +0700


The Burmese Empire
a hundred years ago

As described by Father Vincenzo Sangermano
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.

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Burmese History

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Chapter 07

origin of the Burmese nation and monarchy

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Section 01

When I enumerated the nations subject to the Burmese dominion, it was not my intention to convey to my reader any idea of their origin, of the country whence they came, nor the time and manner of their emigration to their present position. Not to say that this would be irrelevant to my present design, which is to treat only of the Burmese and their kingdom it would be truly a difficult or rather impossible task, not only because the different languages of those nations are unknown, but also because they have no historical books nor authentic traditions, from which any true records might be gleaned. In fact, some of them have no knowledge of writing or of books, especially the Carian and Chien. I shall therefore confine myself to the origin of the Burmese, as they are the ruling nation, and have consequently introduced their customs and laws into Pegu, Aracan, and other countries which they have subdued, and will commence with a brief sketch of the origin and subsequent history of their monarchy. Even on this the reader must not flatter himself that he will receive accurate information, since the Burmese histories and traditions are filled with strange hyperbolical accounts and fabulous narratives.

If you ask the Burmese what was their origin, they will reply: -- 'Our name alone demonstrates at once the antiquity and nobility of our race, and our celestial origin.' In fact, in their own language their name is not Burmese, which we have borrowed from the Portuguese, but Biamma, the very name, as we have seen above, * borne by the descendants of those


* See Cosmography, sec. 34, 35.

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beings who once occupied the blessed regions of the Rupŕ. fn046-01 Nevertheless if we notice many peculiarities of the Burmese, and especially a certain fierceness of character not possessed by other Indian nations, we shall be led to conclude that they are of Tartar origin, being probably descendants of some tribe of Tartars, who, as we are informed by history, spread themselves over every part of Asia, especially in the expeditions of the famous Gengis-Khan.

Even on the origin and progress of the Burmese monarchy, the reader must be prepared to meet nothing in their annals but marvellous tales, mixed up with a very little truth. Before my arrival in India, some missionaries made it their particular study to compose a faithful history of the Burmese kings, but in vain. I myself, while residing in the kingdom of Ava, asked one of the wisest and most learned of the natives, whose intimate friendship I enjoyed, whether there were any book from which I might learn the true history of the founder andperpetuators of their monarchy. He candidly answered, that the task was difficult, or rather impossible; and endeavoured to persuade me to give up the study as useless. To satisfy the curiosity of my readers, I have, therefore, nothing better to offer them on this subject than an abridgment of the Maharazaven, that is, the great history or annals of the king. It is only towards the conclusion of this work that anything like a a glimpse of truth appears.


fn046-01 'Only a few of the names by which the indigenous tribes were called in the remote past are now know; but the Indian settlers gave to them, and adopted themselves, the name of Brahmâ, which is that used in Buddhist sacred books for the first inhabitants of the world. This term, when used to designate the existing people, is now written Mrâmmâ, and generally pronounced Bamâ. Hence have been derived the words used by Europeans for this people.' ----- History of Burma, by Sir Arthur P. Phayre, p. 2.

Bigandet, however, derives Mrâmmâ from Mian, meaning man; and this view is adopted in the Census Report, 1891 p.194     fn046-01b

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End of TIL file