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“Translation” and “Embellishment” in an Early Burmese Jātaka Poem

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 March 2011


Pyo and jātaka. A considerable proportion of the corpus of Burmese literature consists of translations or adaptations from Buddhist texts in Pali. Some works are prose translations, but Pali texts also formed a basis for verse, particularly in the type of poem called “pyo”. There are a few pyo which merely enumerate precepts for virtuous conduct, and a small number dealing with secular subjects, but the majority narrate an episode from the Buddha's life or re-tell one of the jātakas. These are not exact translations: pyo have been described as written “by extracting suitable stories from the life of the Buddha and the jātakas, which are found in the Buddhist scriptures, and embellishing them in Burmese verse”, as “embellished translations”, and as “ornate translations”.

Copyright © The Royal Asiatic Society 1967

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1 The spelling “pyo” is in general use and is adopted for this article. A transliteration based on the system described in JBRS, 6, 1916, part 2, 81, would give pyui |. This system, with tones marked by dashes |andǁ) instead of numbers, is used here for Burmese words which do not have an accepted romanization.

2 e.g. Lokasāra-pyui | by Mahāsangharāja (?14th cent.), Gambhīsāra-pyui | by Shin Raṭṭhasāra (16th cent.), Ovāda-thūǁ-pyui | by Seindakyawthu (18th cent.).

3 e.g. Manoharī-pyui | by Nawade I (16th cent.), Yui ǁdayāǁsaṁ-rok-pyui' by Padesarājā (18th cent.).

4 Tin, U Pe Maung, Mranmā-cāpe-samuin ǁ, People's Trading Corporation, Rangoon, 1965, 62Google Scholar.

5 Raṭṭhasāra, Shin, Catudhammasāra kui ǁkhanǁ-pyui |, ed. Saw, Daw Khin, Nuiṅ-ṅan-tō Buddhasāsanaaphwai|, Rangoon, 1959, intro. p. tha.Google Scholar

6 Lwin, U Tin, “Pali-Burmese nissaya”, JBRS, 46, 1963, part 1, 48Google Scholar.

7 See e.g. Dun, U Kyaw, Kuiǁkhanǁ-pyui| ṭīkā, Rhwe-Thuṁnagara, , Thaton, 1927Google Scholar, cakāǁ khyīǁ, p. 2; and Daw Khin Saw, op. cit., p. la f.

8 Transliterated: Kuiǁ khanǁ -pyui |; also known as the Catudhammasāra and Hatthipāla-pyut|. All references are to verse-numbers in Daw Khin Saw's edition: see n. 5 above.

9 No. 509. Pali text from The jätaka, ed. Fausb⌀ll, V., 1887, Vol. IV, 473–91Google Scholar: referred to below as F. followed by a page-number. Translated into English by Rouse, W. H. D. in The jātaka, ed. Cowell, C. B., 1957, Vol. IV, 293304Google Scholar: referred to below as R. followed by a page-number. All English quotations are from this translation, but I am indebted to Professor Brough and Dr. P. S. Jaini for suggesting some emendations, which are noted where they occur.

10 Latt, U Minn, “Mainstreams in Burmese Literature”, in New Orient (Prague), I, 1960, no. 1, p. 16Google Scholar.

11 Bhūridat-laṅkā-krīǁ (1484), Hanthawaddy, Rangoon, 1908Google Scholar.

2 Emended. R. has: One day, as the chaplain approached his revenue-village, and entered by the southern gate.

13 Emended. R. (reading gahanaṁ) has: Disregarding the rest of the jungle. See his note, p. 294.

11 Shin Raṭṭhasāra has taken this as a name, not an adjective.

5 Emended. R. has: My son, you are very young; your welfare is our care; grow older, and you shall embrace the religious life.

16 There are four instances of ǁ: vv. 2, 5, 173, 269; one of kui, indicating the object of a verb: v. 132; and one of tui |, indicating plural but not an ālup: v. 174.

17 Daw Khin Saw, loc. cit.

18 Mran-mā-cā-ññwanǁ-poṅǁkyam, Government Printing, Rangoon, 1921, vol. 1, 165182Google Scholar; = vv. 26–77, 173–206, 218–228.

19 Rhwe-cak-to-swāǁ to-lāǁ, ed. Mya Kyemon, Mya Ketu, Rangoon, 1957, v. 4Google Scholar.

20 Buridat-zat-paung Pyo: Bhriáat-jat-ponǁ-pyui|, Hanthawaddy, Rangoon, 1914Google Scholar, last verse of nigum ǁ.

21 Chu-tonǁ khanǁ-pyui|, Hanthawaddy, Rangoon, 1922Google Scholar. See e.g. bhwai verbar on the Buddha v. 1, on the city vv. 5–17, ālup v .31.

22 Rakhuin manǁ samiǁ e-khyanǁ, Ranmapura, Moulmein, 1912Google Scholar. See e.g. short bhwai | on a city v. 2, on the Buddha v. 8.

23 Hsu-taung-gan Pyo, see above; and Paratnidawgan Pyo, Parami-to-khanǁ-pyui (1491), Hanthawaddy, Rangoon, 1914Google Scholar.

24 See U Tin Lwin, loc. cit.

25 On these poems see Godakumbura, C. E., Sinhalese literature, Colombo, 1955, ch. XIV, XVGoogle Scholar; Wickremasinghe, Martin, Sinhalese literature, tr. Sarathchandra, E. R., Colombo, 1949, ch. III, IX, XGoogle Scholar.

26 See the quotations from the colophons in various pyo given in Thaung, Ba, Ca-chui-to atthuppatti, Shumawa, Rangoon, 1962, p. 77Google Scholar. Capt. Ba Thaung also gives on p. 84 a quotation to show that after ten years under the instruction of his brother, Shin Ratthasara had other teachers who had themselves been trained under monks who had been to Ceylon.

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