- From the Editor
We are very pleased to offer you this issue of The Journal of Burma Studies, which brings together a diversity of historical, archeological and linguistic research. We are particularly honored to include pieces by two very senior Myanmar academics, who have long been associated with some of the most respected academic bodies in Myanmar—Daw Kyan and U Thaw Kaung. We hope that you will find these articles stimulating and that they will contribute to furthering academic conversations across the field.
U Thaw Kaung, senior scholar and mentor to many Burma Studies academics, offers us a window into the complex politics of the 18th century with surprising tales of falsified missions, purportedly from the Chinese Emperor, to the Burmese kings. The stories of how local actors in Yunnan used their status as intermediaries to create a false rapprochement between the Burmese and Chinese rules in order to reopen local trade routes, complicates our ideas about the hegemony of imperial and royal power and highlights the agency of those on the margins and borders.
François Tainturier’s article examines how the representation of history can come to serve, and reveal, contemporary political objectives. He examines two representations of the history of Burmese palace architecture, a mid 19th-century illustrated manuscript and a turn of the 21st-century exhibit and publication for the National Museum, both of which use visual representations rather than discursive prose to make an argument about the Burmese royal history with implications for their contemporary contentious political circumstances.
Nathan Waxman and Soe Tun Aung’s essay interrogates the presence of Pali and Sanskrit loans in the Myanmar vernacular. It has long been known that the revered and translocal languages penetrated Burmese and other local tongues. The article is a preliminary investigation of how the two inform contemporary colloquial Burmese—over and above the heavy duty terms present in the language since the 11th [End Page 1] century. In so doing, the authors also investigate how terms’ original meaning, in their Indian homelands, shifted lexically when domesticated in different settings, and on behalf of site-specific agendas.
Lodewijk Wagenaar’s recovery of Ayutthaya’s last days recalls the once pivotal role exercised by the Dutch East India Company. By recreating the life—and death—of the last VOC (as the company was known by its acronym) Resident Nicolas Baang, the article is a reminder of what the 20th-century euphemism “collateral damage” meant in the 18th century. King Alaungpaya did not embark on his expedition to wreak havoc on the Dutch East India Company, but the attack on Ayutthaya also obliterated the company’s local lodge and the raid claimed Nicolas Baang as one of its victims. His life and death are documentable thanks to the rich VOC archives, to be mined by future scholars of colonial Burma interested in accessing the world such scholars’ 18th-century subjects inhabited.
Myo Nyunt Aung, archaeologist and museum specialist, was in charge of several excavation expeditions that uncovered the hitherto unknown Pyu site named Wadee. The detailed archaeological report included in the present issue is another opportune reminder of the Pyus’ shadowy first millennium history, and how much is yet to learn regarding their cities and culture. Unlike better known sites like Sri Ksetra, Halin, and Beikthano, Wadee remained unexcavated until 2008. The excavations yielded rich findings regarding the site’s unique features, early habitation, syncretic religious practices, and entanglement in far-flung trading networks. Material remains lead the excavation’s leader to posit that Wadee strides the waning centuries of a regional variant of the Iron Age, and what scholars have termed an urbanized, and Pyu, period. By linking his findings to the antecedent Samon culture, the author shows how Wadee re-interpreted its heritage to move forward. In so doing, Myo Nyunt Aung problematizes Myanmar’s national narrative that affiliates specific cultures with particular ethnic groups.
Daw Kyan, doyenne of the Myanmar historians, contributes a Note for this issue’s Scholarly Curiosities—on a [End Page 2] treasure trove of information hitherto ignored by scholars—the copper plaques deposited in the Shwedagon over the centuries that surfaced with periodic earthquakes, only...