Published online by Cambridge University Press: 24 December 2009
Studies of political and administrative institutions in pre-colonial Burma have almost invariably adopted a synchronic perspective. In those inquiries limited to two or three generations, the effort to present a composite picture entails perhaps few dangers. But in so far as these investigations embrace very long periods, or in so far as studies of a particular era have attempted to project their findings on to the pre-modern period as a whole, they present an artificially static image of indigenous civilization.
2 Tun, Than, ‘Administration under King Thalun (1629–1648)’, Journal of the Burma Research Society (hereafter JBRS), LI, 2, 1968, 173–88Google Scholar, is a synchronic study without reference to administrative trends before or after Tha-lun's reign.
3 i.e. Ava, Taung-ngu, Prome, and Pegu.
4 Victor B. Lieberman, ‘Europeans and the unifications of Burma, ca. 1540–1620’, (forthcoming).
5 Although we have no clear examples of the use of the term bayin in the few surviving original inscriptions, this title appears regularly in the Restored Taung-ngu chronicle by Kalà, Ù, Maha-ya-zawin-gyì, 3 vols. (hereafter UK), II, Pwà, Hsaya (ed.), Rangoon: Myan-ma thú-tei-thaná-athìn, 1932, 190–451Google Scholarpassim; III, Saya Ù Hkin Soe (ed.), Rangoon: Han-tha-wadi pi-takat pon-hneik-taik, 1961, 1–84 passim; and in Inscriptions copied from the stones collected by King Bodawpaya and placed near the Arakan Pagoda, Mandalay, 2 vols., Rangoon: Supt., Govt. Printing, 1897, I, 56 fGoogle Scholar. More occasionally the designations mìn-gyì and bayin-hkan were employed.
6 ‘A Mon genealogy of Kings’, in D. G. E. Hall (ed.), Historians of South-East Asia (rpt., London: Oxford University Press, 1962), 69.
7 World conqueror and world renouncer, Cambridge: The University Press, 1976, ch. viiGoogle Scholar.
8 Inscriptions collected in Upper Burma, 2 vols., Rangoon: Supt., Govt. Printing, 1900–1903, II, 237 fGoogle Scholar.
9 The Mon word here translated as ‘kingship’ is Kamin. Professor H. L. Shorto, personal communication, 8 May 1979. Cf. Burmese translation. Theìn, Ù Chit (ed. and tr.), Sheì-haùng mon kyauk-sa baùng-gyok, Rangoon, 1965, 105–8Google Scholar.
10 UK, III, 50 f. Cf. p. 80. So, too, a seventeenth-century Siamese history and a contemporary Italian account regarded the heads of both Ava and Pegu in 1584 as ‘kings’. See Frankfurter, O. (tr.), ‘Events in Ayuddhaya from Chulasakaraj 686–966’, Journal of the Siam Society (hereafter JSS), VI, 3, 1909, 15Google Scholar; ‘Gasparo Balbi his voyage to Pegu’, in S. Purchas (ed.), Hakluytus posthumus (rpt., Glasgow: Jas. MacLehose, 1905), X, 159 f.
11 According to Myan-má swe-zon kyàn, Rangoon: Myan-ma naing-ngan ba-tha-pyan sa-pei athìn, 1964, IX, 243 fGoogle Scholar. these were the sceptre, white umbrella, gold headband, yak-tail fly-fl;ap, and footgear. For their significance and a slightly different list, see too the eighteenth-century work by Thi-rí-ú-zana, , Làw-ká byu ha kyàn, third ed. (hereafter LBHK), Rangoon: Baho pon-hneik-taik, 1968, 219Google Scholar. Cf. UK, II, 156, 183, 202, 270, 347, 360.
12 UK, III, 51, 80, 85; II, 396.
14 On the Tai highlands, see UK, II, 307, 312. On the lowland centres, see Rangoon University Library MS 45235 (hereafter RUL 45235), ‘Tahse-chauk tahse-hkun-nit ya-zú myan-ma-mìn ameín-daw-myà’, typescript provided by Professor Than Tun, Edict 45 (999 nadaw 5 wax.). 39 f. See too a reference to sit-kès at unidentified outlying centres in 1367, Furnivall, J. S. and Tin, Pe Maung (ed.), Zam-bu-di-pá ok-hsaùng kyán (hereafter ZOK), Rangoon: Myan-ma naingngan thú-tei-thaná athìn, 1960, 62Google Scholar.
15 UK, II, 261 f.; ‘Han-tha-wadi hsin-byu-shin ayeì-daw-bon’, in Ayeì-daw-bon, ngà-zaungdwè, Bi, Hsaya-gyì Ù et al. (ed.), Rangoon: Thú-damá-wadi pon-hneik-taik, n.d., 387, 391Google Scholar.
16 See UK, II, 218 f., 279 f.; III, 71 f., 95 f., 113, 114; British Library, London, Oriental Manuscript 3418, leaf kà; Original inscriptions collected by King Bodawpaya in Upper Burma and now placed near the Patodawgyi Pagoda, Ainarapura, Rangoon: Supt., Govt. Printing, 1913, 439Google Scholar; and the sixteenth-century Mon chronicle, Candakanto, Phra (ed.), Rājāwaṁsa Dhammacetī Mahāpiṭakadhara, Pak Lat, Siain, 1912 (private typescript translation kindly provided by Professor H. L. Shorto), 84, 100, 101Google Scholar.
17 For example, Mìn-gyì-swa-saw-kè had been a resident eater of Yamè-thìn (or possibly Amyín) before becoming king of Ava in 1367, while in 1385 Ya-za-dí-ya-zá's uncle was resident lord of Myaùng-myà. Alaùng-hpaya's royal ancestor Wapa-naw-rahta, younger brother of King Mò-hnyìn-thadò, was the fifteenth-century eater of Myei-dù where he and his heirs resided. As Alaung-hpayà's family history suggests, a continuum existed between myó-zàs who were appointed for a single reign, and those petty myó-zàs whose privileges, though originally appointive, had become more or less hereditary. The smaller the appanage, presumably, the more likely it was to become hereditary. See Let-wè-naw-yahta, and Twin-thìn-taik-wun, , Alaùng-hpayà ayeì-daw-bon hnit-zaung-dwè, Tin, Ù Hlà (ed.), Rangoon: Pyei-daung-zú yincheí-hmù wun-gyì taná, 1961, 13Google Scholar.
18 See Inscriptions copied, II, 589–91; Original inscriptions, 439.
19 Candakanto, Phra (ed.), Rājāwaṁsa Dhammacetī, 60–74Google Scholar, is the earliest account of this struggle.
21 On Siamese reforms, see H. G. Quariteh Wales, Ancient Siamese government and administration (rpt., New York: Paragon books, 1965), ch. v; Rabibhadana, Akin, The organization of Thai society in the early Bangkok period, 1782–1873, Ithaca: Cornell University Southeast Asia Program, 1969, 26–30Google Scholar; Lailert, Busakorn, ‘The Ban Phlu Luang Dynasty, 1688–1767’, unpub. Ph.D. thesis., University of London, 1972, 164–75Google Scholar; Tambiah, , World conqueror, 132–8Google Scholar.
22 See UK, III, 217 f.; Halliday, R., ‘Immigration of the Mons into Siam’, JSS, X, 3, 1913, 1–13Google Scholar. The assumed priority of Siamese reforms derives entirely from Wales's not overly confident attribution of these measures to Naresuan. If in fact Burma was affected by Siamese precedents, it was apparently not alone. Cambodia, subject to heavy Siamese influence, also began to replace unruly princes in the provinces with more reliable and humble officials, possibly between 1627 and 1635. See Leclère, A., Recherches sur le droit public des cambodgiens, Paris: Librairie Coloniale, 1894, 186–92, esp. 189, n. 1Google Scholar: W. A. R. Wood, A history of Siam (rpt., Bangkok: Chalermnit Bookshop, 1959), 155, 168 f., 187; Jumsai, M. L. Manich, History of Thailand and Cambodia, Bangkok: Chalermnit Bookshop, 1970, 44 fGoogle Scholar.
23 See n. 20 above, and ‘Indian observations…’;, in Purchas, (ed.), Hakluytus posthumus, X, 210–17Google Scholar.
24 Hesitantly, I would mention a fourth factor which may have favoured centralization: increased importation of silver. European accounts show that in contrast to the early sixteenth century, by the early seventeenth century Lower Burma was importing large quantities of the precious metal. (See Cortesâo, A. (ed. and tr.), The Suma Oriental of Tomé Pires, 2 vols., London: Hakluyt Society, 1944, I, 101Google Scholar; Moreland, W. H. (ed.), Relations of Golconda in the early seventeenth century, London: Hakluyt Society, 1931, 38 f.Google Scholar; Hall, D. G. E., Early English intercourse with Burma, 1587–1743, second ed., London: Frank Cass, 1968, 88 f.Google Scholar) This movement may have been part of the influx of New World silver via the Philippines and the Middle East which, starting in the late sixteenth century, affected other countries in the inter-Asian trading network, including China and India. Until 1580, residents of villages in Myatùng-myà township in the western Delta paid an annual house tax of 75 kyats of wax. By 1637 this had been abolished in favour of a household tax payable in silver and gold (ZOK, 50). Cash taxes, of course, were easier to collect and transport, and could be used more easily by central authorities to purchase guns, distribute patronage, etc. Myaùng-myá was in close commercial contact with India. Yet the same sources which claim that Lower Burma imported silver claim that she exported gold, and the Myaúng-myà conversion seems to have been bi-metallic. Moreover, this is the only example of a conversion of in-kind taxes to cash which has come to light, so the hypothesis remains highly provisional.
26 The chief exception was Chiengmai which like the lowland provinces, acquired a myó-wun and deputies. Yet even in the period 1579–99, Chiengmai alone among the Tai kingdoms had been headed by a Burmese bayin.
26 UK, III, 189.
28 UK, III, 76. See below n. 29 for earlier, but less credible, references.
29 RUL 45235, Edict 45 (999 nadaw 5 wax.), 39 f. This edict contains at least one certain anachronism, however, and myó-wun may be an anachronistic title. Pyin-ya, Ù (ed.), Mok-tamá ya-zawin baùng-gyok, Thahton: Thuwunnawady Press, 1927, 11 f., 25Google Scholar, claims that Pegu appointed myó-wuns to govern Tavoy, Tenasserìm, and Yeì in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, but this nineteenth-century history contains many obvious inaccuracies and is yet more suspect.
30 See ZOK, 61, 65.
31 Royal Commonwealth Society, London, Henry Burney Papers, Box IV, ‘Htà-we ya-zawin’, an unpaginated palm-leaf MS, claims that in 1593 Tavoy received a myò-wun. This man's predecessor, however, had been a myó-zà rather than abayin.
32 UK, III, 145, 155.
36 UK, III, 194.
36 RUL 45235, Edict 16 (997 kahson 5 wax.), 15 f.: Edict 45 (999 natdaw 5 wax.), 39 f. Edict 77 (1000 tazaung-mòn 3 wax.), 66 f.; Edict 87 (1000 tabó-dwè 5 wax.), 78 f.; ZOK, 65 Furnivall, J. S. (ed. and tr.), ‘The history of Syriam’, JBRS, V, 1915, 51Google Scholar; British Library London, Oriental Manuscript 3416 [hereafter BL OR 3416], ‘Taung-ngu myó 1146 sit-tàn’ leaf hká.
37 This list is compiled from the same sources as in n. 36, plus ‘Htà-we ya-zawin’, ZOK 83, 98; BL OR 3416, leaf hkí; UK, III, 105, 275, 287, 384; Furnivall, (ed.), ‘History of Syriam’, 133Google Scholar; LBHK, 194; HNY, III, 275, 293–5, 301, 304, 317, 380–4. In truth the proportion of myó-wuns was yet greater because these sources refer only to the most prominent governors.
38 These four were appointed at Prome in 1649 or 1650, Taung-ngu in 1649 or 1650 (reappointed 1661), at Pagan some time before 1661 (reappointed 1661), and at Pagan in 1711.
39 To some extent, the mid seventeenth-century emphasis on myó-wuns arose from accidents of royal fertility: it so happened that Anauk-hpet-lun, Tha-lun, and Naya-wayá had no sons by queens, while Pìn-dalè and Pyei had only one each, so between about 1645 and 1685 there were no mature sons of queens available to serve as bayins. Nonetheless if Pyei, Naya-wayà, and Mìn-yè-kyaw-din had wished, they could have continued Pìn-dalé's policy of elevating sons by royal concubines to new bayin posts (note that at least two of the three bayins and mins appointed before 1661 were actually born to concubines). Their fear of renewed provincial revolts prevented these kings from continuing Pìn-dalè's policy. Between about 1685 and 1740, the same concern led the last Taung-ngu kings to bypass ten mature princes born of queens: rather than appoint them as bayins (or myó-wuns), the kings obliged them to reside at Ava as myó-zàs, albeit with very high honours. See below on the myó-zà system.
40 Furnivall, (ed.), ‘History of Syriam’, 136 fGoogle Scholar. (Burmese text); BL OR 3416 leaves hkahkí; LBHK, 311.
41 LBHK, 42, 59, 311; ‘Htá-we ya-zawin’; RUL 45235 Edict 10 (997 kahson 5 wax.), 15 f. Towards the end of the dynasty, Yeì and Tavoy sometimes were headed by asi-ayins rather than myó-wuns.
42 BL OR 3416, leaves kà and hká Cf. above, n. 14.
43 See n. 36 above, plus LBHK, 42.
44 See their role in Bayín-naung's Ayudhya campaign, UK, II, 416 f.
46 See inter alia, Furnirall, (ed.), ‘History of Syriam’, 50 f., 133Google Scholar; UK, III, 142–5, 155–9, 166, 175–9, 186; Report on the settlement operations in the Sagaing district, season 1893–1900, Rangoon: Supt., Govt. Printing, 1903, 3 f.Google Scholar; Report on the settlement operations in the Shwebo district, season 1900–1906, Rangoon: British Burm a Press, 1907, 13–18Google Scholar; Report on the summary settlement operations in the Myingyan district, season 1899–1901, Rangoon: Supt., Govt. Printing, 1901, 1 fGoogle Scholar.
47 See n. 46 plus ZOK, 56; LBHK, 72–83, 151–9 (these lists are useful if we multiply the standing army by ten since the most common on-duty/off-duty ratio was 1: 10); Daw Mya Sein, The administration of Burma (rpt., Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, 1973), 4: Koenig, William, ‘The Early Kòn-baung Polity, 1752–1819’, unpub. Ph.D. thesis, University of London, 1978, App. IIIGoogle Scholar. This last source, showing ahmú-dàn concentrations of 75 per cent around the capital and 47 per cent in the north-northwest in 1783, is instructive because Kòn-baung kings maintained the same on-duty ratios and the same basic settlement pattern as their Restored Taung-ngu predecessors.
48 ZOK, 41. This analysis assumes that the universal distinction in Kòn-baung and Restored Taung-ngu censuses between households which paid taing taxes (athis) and households which were exempt (ahmú-dàns) underlay the format of the 1581 census. In their Introduction, hkè, Furnivall and Pe Maung Tin seem to support this interpretation, as does Prof. Hla Pe, oral communication. However one sentence (p. 41), suggests that an indeterminate number of non-athis (sú-chà ngàn-chà) may also have been included in the taxpaying category at Pegu. If in fact this was the case, we have no way to determine whether sù-chá ngàn-chà were military ahmú-dàns, civilian ahmú-dàns, or perhaps some special type of non-service people.
48 One might object that Pegu, being near the coast, necessarily had fewer proximate appanages than Ava. Yet we should remember that the Shan hills rise east of Kyauk-hse, and that the basin due north of Ava was also very thinly inhabited. Moreover, the number of major appanages in both periods was so small that they could all have been accommodated within the Delta.
50 Evidence for the existence of a new system of princely residences is as follows:
(a) During a revolt by Tha-lun's son Shin-talok in 1647, at least eight of ten (and possibly all ten) of Tha-lun's sons were present in the capital area. Since the revolt occurred outside the regular homage season, this must have been their normal residence. (UK, III, 244—8.)
(b) Similarly about February 1673 (s. 1034 tabaùng 12 wax.), the myó-zà of Yamè-thìn and an indeterminate number of mature fellow princes were all residing at Ava (HNY, III, 296 f.; Mon-ywei hsaya-daw, ‘Maha-ya zawin-gyaw’, Center for East Asian Cultural Studies, Tokyo, Burma Microfilm 24, 12–14).
(c) The Hman-nàn chronicle and the LBHK refer repeatedly to myó-zá palaces at Ava where ministers sometimes conferred surreptitiously with princes. This writer has yet to find such palaces mentioned in material on sixteenth-century Pegu (see HNY, III, 305, 369 f.; LBHK, 48, 96, 189, 193, 196, 233, 313 f., 324).
(d) The LBHK shows that seventeenth-century princes were present at Ava for religious and secular ceremonies throughout the year (LBHK, 227, 303, 313 f., 316, 324; UK, III, 357).
(e) During the Restored Taung-ngu Dynasty, the capital itself suddenly became the most common locus of princely rebellion. See below.
(f) Materials from the seventeenth century refer to myó-zà agents who supervised administration in the myó-zà's absence (RUL 45235, Edict 33, 997 tazaung-mòn 3 wan., 30; National Library, Rangoon MS 1950 (hereafter NL 1950), Edicts from 1638–1728, Center for East Asian Cultural Studies, Tokyo, Burma Microfilm 80, pt. 1, Edict of 1051, thadìn-gyut 6 wan., leaf nga; ZOK, 94 f. Cf. Koenig, , ‘Kón-baung Polity’, 249)Google Scholar.
51 See HNY, III, 250.
52 Thus we exclude the Martaban troubles of 1660–1 led by local gentry leaders, and Smin Dhaw's Peguan rising of 1740. Note too that whereas this paper referred earlier to eight disloyal governors, two participated in one revolt (1714), so the number of revolts is one short.
53 RUL 45235, Edict 77 (1000 tazaung-món 3 wax.), 66 f.
54 HNY, III, 295 f.
56 ibid., 380 f.; British Library, London, Oriental Manuscript 3464 (hereafter BL OR 3464), (Burmese translation of the Mon history of Pegu by the monk of Athwá), 139 f.
57 HNY. III, 262–74.
59 ‘Gasparo Balbi’, 159–61 claimed, however, that Nan-dá-bayin executed ‘Grandes’ of Pegu on suspicion of sympathizing with the Ava bayin.
60 UK, III, 244–8.
61 HNY, III, 298.
62 British Library, London, Oriental Manuscript 6452–B(1), (Copies of Inscriptions), App., leaves 5–6; Hall, D. G. E., ‘The daghregister of Batavia and Dutch trade with Burma in the seventeenth century’, JBRS, XXIX, 2, 1939, 139–9Google Scholar.
63 See inter alia, Reprint from Dalrymple's Oriental Repertory, 1791–7, of portions relating to Burma, Rangoon: Supt. Govt. Printing, 1926, II, 342, 345 f., 376–80Google Scholar; Hall, , English inter-course, 59, 141 f., 150–5, 184 f., 202Google Scholar; Ba, Vivian, ‘The early Catholic missionaries in Burma’, The Guardian, 08 1962, ch. i, 19Google Scholar; India Office, London, Records of Fort St. George: Diary and Consultation Book of 1688, Madras: Supt., Govt. Press, 1916, 43, 46Google Scholar; Diary and Consultation Book of 1695, Madras: Supt., Govt. Press, 1919, 116 f.Google Scholar; Letters to Fort St. George for 1699–1700, Madras: Supt., Govt. Press, 1921, 27Google Scholar.
64 India Office, London, Records of Fort St. George Diary and Consultation Books of 1679–1740, Madras: Supt., Govt. Press, 1911–1931Google Scholar, provide a continuous record of vessels arriving at Madras from Pegu and departing from Madras for Pegu (unfortunately tonnages are omitted). From 1679–90, the average annual number of such ships was 3·63; from 1691–1700, it was 6–2; from 1701–10, 11·7; 1711–20, 16·4; 1721–30, 12·4; and 1731–40, 15·8. The records make clear that at the same time as Madras-Pegu trade stabilized after c. 1720, Calcutta-Peguan trade rose sharply. On the concomitant growth of shipbuilding at Pegu not only by English, but also by French, Armenians, Arabs, and Indian Muslims, see these Diary and Consultation Books, plus Hall, English intercourse, chs. x, xi; Marshall, P. J., East Indian fortunes, Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1976, 62, 86Google Scholar.
66 Furnivall, (ed.), ‘History of Syriam’, 51–2Google Scholar; Dalrymple's Oriental Repertory, II, 337–404 passim; NL 1950, Edict of 1028 tagù 6 wan., leaf gaw; Hamilton, Alexander, A new account of the East Indies, 2 vols., Edinburgh: John Mosman, 1727, II, 46Google Scholar; Hall, , ‘Daghregister’, 142Google Scholar.
67 Koenig, , ‘Kòn-baung Polity’, 240 fGoogle Scholar. It must be admitted, though, that we are extrapolating from a small number of statistics.
68 See Records of Fort St. George: Diary and Consultation Books of 1711–1733, Madras: Supt., Govt. Printing, 1929–1930Google Scholar, which contain references almost every year to the arrival and itinerary of ships ‘belonging to the King of Pegu’. Their captains seem to have been Muslims, Armenians, or English.
69 On domestic manufactures and foreign imports, see NL 1950, Edict of 1041 kahson 12 wax., leaf gi; Hall, , ‘Daghregister’, 144, 154Google Scholar; HNY, III, 268 f.; Tin, Ù (ed.), Kòn-baung-zet maha-yazawin-daw-gyi (hereafter KBZ), 3 vols., Rangoon: Let-ti-man-daing pon-hneik-taik, 1967, I, 111Google Scholar; M. Symes, An account of an embassy to the Kingdom of Ara (rpt., Westmead, England: Gregg, 1969), 5–6, 319.
70 HNY, III, 268 f.
71 UK, III, 247.
72 See n. 70.
73 Dalrymple's Oriental Repertory, I, 364, 372. I am indebted to my colleague Dr. Michae Aung Thwin for this reference.
75 KBZ, I, 211, 225, 240–3.
76 See UK, III, 339; and n. 74 and 75 above.
77 On the growth of ministerial power in general and that of the Twìn-thìn-hmù-gyì in particular, see LBHK, 200–15; HNY, III, 271–408 passim.
78 See HNY, III, 334, 376; LBBK, 209.
79 On the decay of royal administration, see NL 1950, leaves ga-sàw. The subject is treated at length in ch. iii of my unpublished Ph.D. thesis, ‘The Burmese dynastic pattern, ca. 1590–1760’, University of London. 1976Google Scholar.
80 HNY, III, 380–4; BL OR 3464, 139–41.
81 HNY, III, 384.
83 Yi, Yi, Myan-ma naing-ngan achei-anei, 1714–52, Rangoon: Yin-cheì-hmù wun-gyì-tanà, 1973, p. 76Google Scholar.
84 See above, n. 80 and 82, and Dalrymple's Oriental Repertory, I, 130. The growth of maritime commerce may have accelerated political decline late in the dynasty by swelling unauthorized commissions enjoyed by senior patrons at Ava, while at the same time obliging less fortunate officials to lean ever more heavily on the traditional sectors of the economy.
86 On the Ava period, see G. E. Harvey, History of Burma (rpt., London: Frank Cass, 1967), ch. iii; Thaw, Tin Hla, ‘History of Burma: A.D. 1400–1500’, JBBS, XLII, 2, 1959, 135–51Google Scholar; RUL 45235, Edict 7 (992 kahson 10 wax.), 5; Edict 8 (n.d.), 6; Edict 99 (1004 nayon 7 wax.), 88 f.
86 Lieberman, ‘Burmese dynastic pattern’, ch. v.
87 Koenig, ‘Kòn-baung Polity’, esp. ehs. iv, v, vii.
88 Note, however, that in 1761–2 and 1798, as in 1661 and 1714, senior princes who had been allowed to serve as resident myó-wmns or bayins abused their privileges by organizing territorial challenges. For detailed discussion of Kón-baung patterns, see ibid., chs. i, vii, and apps. II, III.