This book was inspired by a conference in Bagan, sponsored by the Nalanda- Sriwijaya Centre, ISEAS, in 2012. Participants in the conference were invited to submit chapters for a book about ancient Bagan's connections with the rest of Asia. This book contains ten chapters, each by a respected expert in early Myanmar history. The publication of this volume marks an important step forward in reintroducing scholarship on Myanmar and Myanmar scholars to the rest of the world. Four of the authors are Myanmarese academics, and one of the three author-editors is of Myanmar ancestry.
The conference sought to gather evidence with which to dispel the myth that Myanmar has always been a hermit kingdom or nation. This book presents abundant evidence that the kingdom of Bagan, which flourished from around 1000 to 1300, played a major role in the development of the economy, religion, art and technology in the area which stretches from India to China.
At the time the conference was conceived, Myanmar was just reestablishing contact with the outside world. The publication of this book demonstrates that Myanmar's growing integration into the international community does not signify a new relationship; Myanmar has more often been a catalyst for development and communication between West Asia, South Asia, East Asia, and Southeast Asia than a passive bystander. Buddhism formed one of the major contexts in which Myanmar exerted considerable influence over early Asian civilization. Bagan was also an economic power, and one of Southeast Asia's oldest and largest urban cultures. Myanmar is now resuming its role as an integral part of Asia which it played a thousand years ago.
The editors and authors would like to pay tribute to the late Pamela Gutman, who passed away during the interval between the conference and the publication of this book. She is greatly missed by all scholars with an interest in Myanmar. Her publications will long remain important contributions to the study of this fascinating nation. We would like to dedicate this volume to her memory.