Lost Footsteps
Lost Footsteps

Myanmar's Neighbours Past and Present

Historic Events

"Northeast East India" is almost a mirror image of Myanmar

When most people in Myanmar think of "India" they naturally think of the country's centuries old connections across the Bay of Bengal, to South India (where Buddhism in Myanmar likely originated), Bengal, and places further afield. They rarely think of the 40 million people of "Northeast East India" (Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Meghalaya, and Sikkhim) which is some ways is almost a mirror image of Myanmar, with its central Brahmaputra valley, its surrounding uplands, its history of...

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The great world explorer from Myanmar-Yunnan Border

One of the greatest explorers in world history was a Panthay Muslim from the Burma-Yunnan border. In 1413, a great fleet of Chinese ships were arriving for the first time along the African coast (they would bring back with them, amongst other things, a giraffe for the Ming Emperor's menagerie). This was the fourth of seven monumental voyages (all in the early 15th century) commanded by the great admiral and imperial eunuch Zheng He. Each voyage involved a fleet of...

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Myanmar's most mysterious neighbours:  the peoples of the Andaman Islands

The Andaman Islands are closer to Yangon than Mandalay.  They are today part of India.  But their indigenous peoples are perhaps the most isolated anywhere in the world. There are today only several hundred native Andamanese people left.  They speak languages that are unrelated to any other.   Genetically, they are closer to Asians than anyone else.  Interestingly, the few whose DNA have been tested are of the Y Haplogroup D-M174, which is found also in Tibet, Yunnan and Japan....

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Mere Piya Gaye Rangoon ("My husband went to Rangoon")

This is one of the most famous songs in India - "Mere Piya Gaye Rangoon" ("My husband went to Rangoon").  It's from the 1949 hit movie "Patanga" Rangoon for many Indians was a place of prosperity, a place to reinvent your life and be free.  One Indian family now in the United States told me it was their "first America".   In this song, the wife talks only of missing her husband.  The husband tells her that he is living...

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Tipu's Tiger

“Tipu’s Tiger”, now at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The “Tiger” is a wooden mechanical device. When an organ in the back is turned the European soldier’s arms move and he makes a groaning noise. The device was made for the Tipu Sultan, the ruler of the powerful Mysore kingdom (in South India) from 1782 to 1799. The Tipu Sultan was a great enemy of the (British) East India Company, who fought three wars against him. When he...

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Ladakhi ladies

Ladhaki (and Balti) languages are very similar to Tibetan.  They are the westernmost speakers of Tibeto-Burman languages and so are linguistic cousins of the Burmese. Tibeto-Burman is a family of languages spoken by over 50 million people.  The two biggest languages in the family are Tibetan and Burmese.  Jingpaw, Chin, Naga, and many languages in Nepal, Northeast India, and Southwest China are also part of this family.  The Tibeto-Burman languages closest to Burmese include Yi, Naxi, Lisu, Atsi, and Maru....

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Origin of the Kokang

Kokang (now a ""Self-Administered Zone"") has a particularly interesting history. In the mid-1600s, the Ming dynasty in China was falling fast to the invading Manchus. The last Ming emperor (the Yongli Emperor, better remembered as the Prince of Gui) fled first to Yunnan and eventually across the border to Ava (Inwa). The new Manchu ""Qing"" dynasty would rule until 1912.In the train of the last emperor were tens of thousands (perhaps more) of Ming loyalists. One of these was a...

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A Shared History of India and Burma Independence

India became independent from the British Empire on 15 August 1947. The country was partitioned and the new state of Pakistan was created at the same time. India and Burma immediately established diplomatic ties, but as Burma was then not yet an independent republic outside the Commonwealth, the country was represented in New Delhi by a High Commissioner (U Win). Burma's road to independence was intimately tied with India's. Modern Burmese politics began with the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms of 1917 and...

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Why relations with China is important

Getting relations with China right are critical for the country's economic future and for the success of the ongoing peace talks. Myanmar is today next door to the greatest industrial revolution of the 21st century - the lives of ordinary people will be shaped more by how it handles (or mishandles) this position than by almost anything else. Every major turn in Chinese history has had an enormous impact on Myanmar, from the Mongol conquests to the fall of the...

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Queen of Hlihin

The photograph shows our neighbours to the north: a queen of the Hlihin in what is today western Yunnan c.1945. The Hlihin were an independent people who speak a language related to Burmese; their homeland was absorbed into the Peoples Republic of China in the 1950s.

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