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Myanmar - Pyu Kingdom


Kings / Queens

Relationship to Predecessor

Beikthano Pyu City State
BC200-?? (unknown) .
Hanlin Pyu City State
BC2???-?? (unknown) .
Tharay Kittarar Pyu City State, Waraman Dynasty (BC 1000-400)
. Shipyabu Waraman .
. Zeyasandra Waraman .
. Hiri Wikyama .
. Thuriya Wikyama .

Myanmar History Map - Pyu Cities The excavations at old towns - Beikthano, Hanlin, Srikestra and Myanadi - prove that the people of Pyu city states are highly intelligent and civilized. They knew how to construct large religious edifices, city drainage canals, clean water supply works and irrigation facilities. And there still remain many Pyu city states in Myanmar that have not been excavated yet. Due to the merging of Pyu and Burmese culture, the Pyu language ceased to be used as early as the 13th century. Consequently, it has not been possible to decipher a great number of the inscriptions written in Pyu.

Third century AD Chinese records mention a people known as the Pyu, who lived in the central Irrawaddy River region of Upper Burma and had apparently migrated into the region from the Tibetan plateau. Chinese Buddhist pilgrims of the seventh century AD describe a Pyu city-state, known as Sri Ksetra (the "Pleasant" or "Fortunate Field"), near the modern town of Prome on the banks of the Irrawaddy. Sri Ksetra possessed over 100 Buddhist monasteries, and both the Theravada and Mahayana schools of Buddhism were respected. Its greatest extant monument is the 50-meter-high Bawbawgyi Pagoda, built of brick in Indian style. According to Burmese chronicles, the Pyu gained supremacy over the Mons, sent ships to India, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), the Malay Peninsula, and the Indonesian archipelago, and claimed tributaries as far afield as the islands of Sumatra and Java.

The Pyu, a people whose language has become extinct but whose architectural monuments remain, arrived in Myanmar in the 7th century and established city kingdoms at Binnaka, Mongamo, Sri Ksetra, and Hanlingyi. A number of cities flourished, among them Hanlin and Thayekhittaya (Sriksetra, "Field of Splendour"), and the Bawbawgyi, Payagyi and Payama pagoda of Thayekhittaya. The Beikthano Pyu City State was located in middle part of Myanmar at the north of Kookogwa Village, 11 miles north of Taung Dwingyee. Tharay Kittarar Pyu City State (AD 400-1000) was located in lower Myanmar, 5 miles southeast of Pyay. Hanlin Pyu City State (AD?-832) was located in upper Myanmar in Shwebo District, Wetlet Township.

Myanmar History Map - 200 AD Pyu people established city states in suitable places. They studied geographical conditions thoroughly and set up city states at safe and secured places. Excavated findings show that ancient cities of Beikthano, Hanlin, Sri Khestra and Myanadi were located not on the bank of big rivers but on that of tributaries. In addition, there was a ridge nearby each ancient city. It might not be a coincidence. It was aimed at defending enemies conveniently. Moreover, Pyu peoplebuilt cities with lakes, ponds, streams and creeks in them. It was the way to ensure sufficient drinking water when the city was surrounded by enemies and to ensure cultivation water.

Beikthano is the Myanmar word for Vishnu, the Hindu God who manifests himself in a chain of divine incarnations or avatars (i.e. descents into temporal order), the two chief incarnations being Rama, the good king whose deeds are recorded in the Ramayana, and Krishna. Although this ancient site is called Beikthano Myo or Vishnu City, it is not an Indian or Hindu site, but an early Buddhist center built by the Pyu people of Myanmar.

Beikthano is a model site, for what is found there very often represents the cumulative finds of the other urbanized sites. Radiocarbon-tested data confirmed an occupation date of around the first century BC and later. The archaeological data include structural remains, pottery, artifacts, bones, and skeletal evidence. The structures include fortifications, large portionsof city walls, shaped in a rectangle, approximately two miles long on each side and about 20 feet thick. The massive fort walls were much higher during the early years of this century, and were constructed of huge baked bricks. Unscrupulous contractors found a ready source of bricks for building roads and railway tracks during the colonial times, and hence the walls on some sides like that on the west have completely disappeared.The charred remains of the massive gateways were the basis of the radio-carbon tests. Virtually identical types of structures are found in several of the other "Pyu" sites.

During this period, Myanmar was part of an overland trade route from China to India. The route was inland involving rivers and roads. One of them followed the Shweli River, crossing the Irrawaddy at Tagaung, followed the Chindwin River north and crossed via the Imphal pass to Manipur. In the 1950s tens of thousands of cowries in Yunnan were found in tombs from the ancient past between the Warring States Period (475 BCE-221 BCE) and the Western Han Dynasty (206 BCE-9 CE). These cowries came from the Pacific and Indian oceans, especially from the Maldives, most likely along the same route.

Myanmar History Map - 850 AD The ancient 'Pyu' Capital lies 8 km south-east of Pyay. Archaeological discoveries indicate that the city attained its height of prosperity between the 5th and 9th centuries. The chronicles of the Tang Dynasty (AD 606-910) describe the land of the Pyu consisting of 18 states and 9 walled towns. In Upper Burma at least seven walled settlements over 200 hectares have been excavated so far. According to Chinese annals, Nanchao invaded and plundered the capital of a Pyu kingdom in 832 AD carrying off 3,000 captives.

In 801-802 BC, a special cultural mission led by Pyu King Yon Chan arrived in Chiangan, China. The cultural mission was accompanied by younger brother of the King Thunada and 35 musicians. According to the Chinese records, the cultural mission presented their entertainment with 22 kinds of musical instruments which are made up of metal, oyster shell, bamboo, leather, horn and ivory. Out of singing, dancing, composing and playing music, singing is the earliest one. Even at the time before literature came into existence there was singing. When literature emerged there was composing. In Myanmar literature, composing of Myanmar literature was found round about 900 BC. Stone inscriptions of various eras found at the pagodas tell us that beginning from the Pyu era, the performing arts developed throughout the Bagan, Pinya, Myinsaing, Sagaing, Inwa, Toungoo, Nyaungyan and Konboung periods. According to the Pyu records, the performing arts gradually improved in harmony with the innovations. The statues of Srikestra era show the style of the traditional dances during the time and those of Shwezigon pagoda, the dance styles of Bagan period. Although the performing arts did not develop much more in Myinsaing and Pinya eras, they continued to exist.

China and Myanmar have friendly ties since long ago. Their foods and clothes are similar but not the same. China was the source of high-quality silk clothings andsilks were traded by land or water. A silk road passed by ancient Hanlin city. However,Pyu people did not like silk clothe as silk was made by killing a huge number of silkworms. As Pyu people did not like to tarnish their panta-precepts (five virtues), theydid not wear silk clothes. In this way, Pyu people preserved their own culture.

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