restricted access 3. Khraung-kaik Pitaka-taik: 16th-Century Repositories for Buddhist Scriptures in Mrauk-U
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3 Khraung-kaik Pitaka-taik: 16th-Century Repositories for Buddhist Scriptures in Mrauk-U Mya Oo To study Myanmar history, we need to examine chronicles, archaeological evidence, historical reports and studies, surveys and interviews with local people, among other sources. The Rakhine region is part of an ancient civilization which comprised several flourishing city states rich in cultural heritage. Chronicles mentioned that the Rakhine kingdoms, contemporaries of Burmese polities, were settled systematically by kings since the first century ce. An example was Dhanyawadi City. Rakhine kingdoms existed prior to the Mrauk-U period, which ended in 1785 ce. Each dynasty left an invaluable cultural heritage which showcased its glory and prosperity. This chapter examines the establishment of libraries in Mrauk-U connected with the propagation of Buddhism in the region between the 15th and 18th centuries. A Brief History of Mrauk-U Mrauk-U city is the most important archaeological heritage of the Rakhine people. Mrauk-U, which means “plentifully perceived foremost 17-J02381 03 Bagan and the World.indd 45 9/10/17 8:46 AM 46 Mya Oo to be completely successful”, was Rakhine’s last powerful kingdom. It represented the zenith of cultural values for the Rakhine people, and flourished from 1430 to 1785 ce (Rakhine State People Council 1988, p. 7). The golden age of Mrauk-U was the 16th and 17th centuries, contemporary with the Tudor kings, Queen Elizabeth I and Shakespeare in England, the Moghuls in India, the Ayutthaya kings in Siam, and the kingdoms of Ava (lnwa), Taungngu and Hanthawaddy of Myanmar (Rakhine State People Council 1988, p. 8). U May Oung provides a chronology of Myanmar kingdoms based on various historical accounts of Myanmar and archaeological reports (May Oung 1912, p. 9). Archaeological evidence from excavations of Dhanyawadi city provides much information on the period beginning with the 1st century ce. Excavations revealed irregular circular brick city walls, a moat, and the palace site. After Dhanyawadi, the Chandra Dynasty established the Vesali kingdom in the middle of the fourth century ce. U Pandi’s Dhanyawadi Yazawinthit (New Dhanyawadi history) states that Vesali was founded in 790 ce, several decades before Bagan was built in 849 ce. Archaeological evidence from the Vesali site includes Buddha images, stupas, metal materials, inscriptions, et cetera. During the reign of the last Chandra king, Sula Chandra, Vesali became weak and was succeeded by a kingdom centred in the Lemro valley (Rakhine State People Council 1988, p. 8). In 1404 ce, during the reign of Min Saw Mon at Launggret, the great grandchild of King Min Hti, the political situation in Rakhine became complicated. Wars between Ava and Hanthawaddy extended to Rakhine. The Ava king conquered Launggret in 1406 ce and Min Saw Mon fled to Bengal. After the king’s brother Min Khari, who allied himself with Hanthawaddy, stabilized the political situation, King Min Saw Mon returned to Rakhine. In 1430 ce, King Min Saw Mon established Mrauk-U as the capital of the last unified Rakhine kingdom. By the early 17th century the city had attained a population of 160,000. Forty-nine kings ruled at the capital of Mrauk-U until its conquest by the Konbaung Dynasty in 1784 (Rakhine State People’s Council 1988, p. 8). Mrauk-U and its External Relations Rakhine reached its zenith of political unity and power during the Mrauk-U period. Mrauk-U’s external relations were mainly concerned with religion, politics and military affairs, as well as trade with its contemporaries. Some 17-J02381 03 Bagan and the World.indd 46 9/10/17 8:46 AM 16th-Century Repositories for Buddhist Scriptures in Mrauk-U 47 religious architectural techniques were likely introduced to Mrauk-U through its contact with the outside world (Mrauk-U Tha 2008, p. 95). King Min Saw Mon’s descendants expanded the Mrauk-U Empire to Bengal by occupying Panwa (or Ramu) and other states from Bengal to Chittagong. They appropriated Indian titles and inscribed their names on the coins produced to facilitate trade (Mrauk-U Tha 2008, p. 98).1 The architecture of the Mrauk-U period appropriated new techniques from India and Bengal. The kings sponsored the construction of pagodas and temples in stone, which made them stronger than those built during the Lemro period. The ancient monuments in Mrauk-U are material evidence reflecting the high level of architectural construction techniques (Mrauk-U Tha 2008, p. 98). The Portuguese traders were the earliest people from Europe to ply their trade...