Lost Footsteps
Lost Footsteps

Late Konbaung Myanmar and the English Wars (1824-1885AD)

The Shwethalyaung Buddha at Pegu (now Bago) in 1881

The Buddha image which is believed to be several centuries old, was 'lost'i in 1757 after Alaungpaya's sack and abandonment of the Mon capital Pegu. It was discovered in 1880 in what had become jungle and restored the following year.

Kolia San Thabue, one of the first students from Burma to the United States

This is a photograph of Kolia San Thabue, one of the first students from Burma to the United States. He was an Pwo Karen from Bassein and arrived in the US sometime in the later 1870s. His entire story is not clear to me but he studied at Chicago University and Kalamazoo College before going on to Michigan State College (now University). 

Apparently he ran into financial trouble his sophomore year at Chicago and this photograph is from an appeal...

A favourite daughter of King Mindon: the Princess of Naungmon.

H.R.H. the Princess of Natmauk and Naungmon (Natmauk Naungmon Minthami) is the daughter of HM King Mindon and HM Tharazin Myoza Minbura. Eventually she was raised to Thuriya Mallavadi and then promoted to the title Thiri Padma Devi. Born at the palace in Mandalay in 1859, died during the British occupation.

The portrait was taken at Mandalay palace in early 1880s when she was in her 20s.

late 19th Cen.
Late 19th Century Myanmar men’s dress

Here is a good example of late 19th century Myanmar men's dress (before the longyi, the taik-pon and the English shirt ain-gyi), from the collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

The "Hairy Family" of Mandalay

I'm not sure if many people in Myanmar (or outside of Myanmar) are aware of the strange tale of the "Hairy Family" of Mandalay. They were once world-famous. It started with a boy, found in the uplands of Laos, later named Shwe Maung, brought to the Court of Ava by King Bagyidaw. He and his descendents then lived at the royal court, where they were educated and made money by exhibiting themselves to visiting Europeans, until the fall of Mandalay...

13 May 1783

Amarapura was founded on 13 May 1783 by King Bodawpaya. The Konbaung dynasty was then less than a quarter century old and at the very height of its power. The Konbaung had devastated Siam and defeated the armies of Qing China. They would go on to conquer the Arakan, Manipur, Assam, Jaintia and Cachar. Tens of thousands of captives were brought to the Irrawaddy valley, especially from Manipur and present-day Thailand and Laos. Manipuri and Cachari horsemen were organized into...

July 1813 - 1850
Judson’s life

The missionaries Adoniram and Ann Hesseltine Judson of Massachusetts first arrived in Burma in July 1813. Ann (in picture) would die in 1825 at Amherst (now Kyaikkami) of smallpox. Adoniram Judson was imprisoned during the First Anglo-Burmese War but then released and continued to live in Burma until his death in 1850. He wrote the first English-Burmese dictionary. In addition to Judson College and the Judson churches in Myanmar, there are at least three dozen churches named after him in...

3 February 1822 - 30 June 1908
The birthday of the Kinwun Mingyi

Today is the birthday of the Kinwun Mingyi (3 February 1822 – 30 June 1908). The Kinwun Mingyi (U Kaung) was Burma (Myanmar)’s leading reformer in the 1870s and early 1880s. He was a scholar, diplomat, and the author of numerous works of literature, history, and jurisprudence. Like many in his generation, his vision was of a modern, independent Burma, that would mix the best of the old and the new, importing the latest ideas and technology, whilst also protecting...

5 March 1824 - November 1824
The First Anglo-Burmese War (Part 1)

The king at the time was Bagyidaw, grandson of Bodawpay (the “Grandfather King”) and a great-grandson of the dynasty’s founder, Alaungpaya. He had inherited the empire at its very height. Described by the British as a “mild, amiable, good-natured and obliging” man, said to the be “fond of shows, theatrical exhibitions, elephant catching and boat-racing.” He was in 1824 very much under the influence of the war party, those processing for confrontation. Part of the war party was his senior...

November 1824 - 24 February 1826
The First Anglo-Burmese War (Part 2)

Read part 1 here

The arrival of Bandula and the armies from Arakan and Assam must have cheered the demoralized Rangoon front line. Bandula immediately prepared for confrontation. To the east, at Pazundaung, he placed the governor of Myolat with three thousand men. To the north he placed his brother Mindin Minkaung with another three thousand. To the west he placed a captain of the royal guards, Mingyi Maha Minhla Zeyyathu, with four thousand, and in the forests...

24 February 1826
The Treaty of Yandabo

24 February is a black letter day in Burmese history. The Treaty of Yandabo was signed on 24 February 1826 by Sir Archibald Campbell, representing the East India Company and Maha Minhla Kyawhtin, the Myoza of Legaing, ending the First Anglo-Burmese War. The war had begun with aggression on both sides. By 1826 however, the king's forces had been utterly defeated. 15,000 British and Indian troops and tens of thousands of Burmese were dead. Hundreds of Burmese and Shan princes...

1830 - 1883
The only known photograph of the Yaw Atwinwun U Po Hlaing

This photograph was taken by Dr. Clement Williams, an British representative in Mandalay who became a good friend of King Mindon and his inner circle.  The photograph has just been made public by the heirs to Dr. Williams’ estate.

U Po Hlaing (1830-1883) was a leading reformist at the courts of Kings Mindon and Thibaw.  He was fluent in Sanskrit, Pali, and Burmese and wrote many important works on Buddhism, governance, mathematics, and other subjects.  He was also placed in...

1836 - 1849
Rangoon under King Tharawaddy

Rangoon under King Tharawaddy 1836-49 The Sule Pagoda is in the lower right corner. The Roman Catholic church is where the old HSBC building is now (the corner of Barr Street and Merchant Street). The Customs House and Armenian church are where the Customs House is now on Strand Road. The "New Town" is approximately the Cantonment area (now in Ahlone).

1852 - 20 December 1852
Second Anglo-Burmese War

Earlier in the decade, in 1852, a second Anglo-Burmese War, briefer than the first, had led again to an unambiguous British victory and the loss of more Burmese territory. Whereas the first was the result of aggression by the Burmese as well as British expansion, in this one the blame was entirely with Calcutta. It started with an incident: The governor of Rangoon fined the captains of two British ships for alleged custom violations. And then there was an ultimatum...

Sir Arthur Phayre and the Myoza of Magwé in Calcutta

Another image of early diplomacy: A watercolour of Sir Arthur Phayre and the Myoza of Magwé in Calcutta 1854. In the early years of his reign, King Mindon tried desperately to persuade the British to return Lower Burma, which had been seized during the Second Anglo-Burmese War (1852-3). In 1854 he sent one of his most powerful ministers the Myoza of Magwé (a minister to the very influential senior queen) as his envoy to the Marquess of Dalhousie, then Governor-General...


A watercolour portrait of "Ameegalay" by the British artist Colesworthy Grant, 1855."Ameegalay" was the younger daughter of the Sitke of Prome. Colesworthy Grant was the official artist attached to Sir Arthur Phayre's 1855 mission to Amarapura and the court of King Mindon. Prome was one of their stops on the way from Rangoon to Amarapura.

October 1855
U Bein bridge October 1855.

The photograph was taken by Linnaeus Tripe during the mission of Sir Arthur Phayre to King Mindon's court at Amarapura.

Bagan in 1855

This photograph of the Gawdawpalin temple is probably the very first ever taken in Bagan. It was taken by Linnaeus Tripe who accompanied the British embassy to King Mindon that year. The Gawdawpalin was built by King Narapatisithu and his son King Htilomino in the early 13th century.

The Ananda temple c. 1855.

This first ever photograph of the Ananda taken by Linnaeus Tripe, then with the British mission to the Court of Ava.

1856 - 1915
Irish monk of Myanmar

There is a the long and colourful history of relations between Myanmar and Ireland and the many Irish men and women that have played a role in Burmese affairs. Perhaps one of the most unusual was U Dhammaloka (original name unknown), who was born to a poor family in Dublin in the 1856, he migrated to the United States, made his way on the first trains across America, then traveled by steamship to Japan before winding up in Rangoon just...