Yazawin Thit

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Maha Yazawin Thit
2012 edition
Author Twinthin Taikwun Maha Sithu
Original title မဟာ ရာဇဝင် သစ်
Country Kingdom of Burma
Language Burmese
Series Burmese chronicles
Genre Chronicle, History
Publication date
1798[1]
Preceded by Maha Yazawin
Followed by Hmannan Yazawin

Maha Yazawin Thit (Burmese: မဟာ ရာဇဝင် သစ်, pronounced [məhà jàzəwɪ̀ɴ ðɪʔ]; lit. the "New Great Chronicle"; also known as Myanmar Yazawin Thit or Yazawin Thit) is a national chronicle of Burma (Myanmar). Completed in 1798, the chronicle was the first attempt by the Konbaung court to update and check the accuracy of Maha Yazawin, the standard chronicle of the previous Toungoo Dynasty. Its author Twinthin Taikwun Maha Sithu consulted several existing written sources, and over 600 stone inscriptions collected from around the kingdom between 1783 and 1793.[2] It is the first historical document in Southeast Asia compiled in consultation with epigraphic evidence.[3]

The chronicle updates the events up to 1785, and contains several corrections and critiques of earlier chronicles. However, the chronicle was not well received, and ultimately rejected by the king and the court who found the critiques of earlier chronicles excessively harsh.[4] It became known as A-pe-gan Yazawin (အပယ်ခံ ရာဇဝင်, the "Discarded Chronicle").[5]

Nonetheless, when Hmannan Yazawin, the first officially accepted chronicle of Konbaung Dynasty, appeared in 1832, it had incorporated many of Yazawin Thit's corrections, in particular regnal dates of Pagan period kings.[6] Modern scholarship notes the chronicle's innovative use of epigraphy but does not find the chronicle's criticisms harsh. Rather, scholarship maintains that for its criticisms and corrections, the chronicle largely retains traditional narratives, and "was —as elsewhere in the world —written with didactic intentions".[3][4][7]

It remains one of the lesser known chronicles today.[8]

The name

The chronicle is sometimes reported as Myanma Yazawin Thit, lit. the "New Chronicle of Myanmar". However, Thaw Kaung, the former Chief Librarian of the Universities Central Library in Yangon, writes that the original name found in the two extant original manuscripts stored at the Central Library is Maha Yazawin Thit, and that the name "Myanmar" was inserted in the title in 1968 by the publisher of that edition. Thaw Kaung adds that the 1968 copy was picked up by international scholars who subsequently reported the chronicle under the name of Myanma Yazawin Thit.[Notes 1] The name Myanma Yazawin Thit continues to be used in English language works.[Notes 2]

Background

The chronicle has its beginnings in a seemingly unrelated royal project. On 24 July 1783, King Bodawpaya issued a royal decree to: (1) collect stone inscriptions from all important monasteries and pagodas around the kingdom, (2) study them to demarcate religious glebe lands from taxable lands, and (3) recast the inscriptions if necessary. He put Twinthin Taikwun Maha Sithu, his former tutor and chief interior minister, and Thetpan Atwinwun Yaza Bala Kyawhtin, another senior minister, in charge of the effort. The two ministers moved hundreds of inscriptions to then capital Amarapura, and began to study them.[9]

Though the purpose of the project was to verify claims to tax-free religious property, Twinthin, a "learned polymath", quickly noticed several discrepancies between the dates given in Maha Yazawin, the standard chronicle of the monarchy, and the dates given in the contemporary inscriptions he was examining. (Twinthin had already written a biographic chronicle of King Alaungpaya in 1770.) He reported his early findings to the king. The king, who was interested in reading history and had wanted to update Maha Yazawin, commissioned "a new chronicle of the realm which would be more in accord with the stone inscriptions". He appointed Twinthin to write the new chronicle.[3][9]

Organization and content

Twinthin, who may have been writing a chronicle as early as 1782, predating the inscription collection project, began writing the chronicle in earnest after the collection was completed in 1793.[9] He referenced several existing chronicles, inscriptions as well as eigyin and mawgun poems.[5] He completed the new chronicle in 1798 in 15 volumes (fascicles of parabaik paper). He had updated the events to 1785.[9]

Yazawin Thit is noted for its novel organization and for its criticisms of earlier chronicles. It is organized by dynasties and periods whereas all the other Burmese chronicles (except Zatadawbon Yazawin) are organized strictly along the linear order of kings. (However, Zata is mainly a list of regnal dates and horoscopes, not a full-fledged national chronicle like Yazawin Thit). Twinthin's choice of organizing along dynastic lines was a notable departure from then prevailing practice. All historians of Theravada Buddhist tradition, (Burmese, Sinhalese and Thai), had treated their kings as cakkavatti universal monarchs, rather than kings who were leaders of national groups.[7]

Though organized differently, the chronicle's content closely followed the narratives of the earlier chronicles. The chronicle however does contain several corrections (most notably, regnal dates of earliest kings) and critiques of the earlier chronicles, especially Maha Yazawin. Twinthin highlighted several inconsistencies and mistakes of the earlier chroniclers, and made no apologies for correcting earlier writers' work.[4]

Rejection

Twinthin's critiques were taken by the court as a criticism of one's elders/ancestors, a behavior highly frowned upon in Burmese culture. Although the king himself had commissioned the chronicle, he did not accept the chronicle when his former tutor presented it to him.[4] The chronicle came to be viewed as the "antithesis" to Maha Yazawin's "thesis", and became known as A-pe-gan Yazawin (အပယ်ခံ ရာဇဝင်, the "Discarded Chronicle").[5]

Twinthin's views are not viewed as harsh by modern academics. Pe Maung Tin notes that Yazawin Thit "with all its criticisms, on the whole follows the Great Chronicle" (Maha Yazawin).[4] The author, for all his academic zeal, still "shared the purpose of early writers to legitimize the dynasty",[3] and "had similar priorities in terms of content" with early chroniclers.[7]

Significance

The chronicle is the first known historical document in Southeast Asia to use epigraphic sources. According to (Woolf 2011), it shows that historians in Southeast Asia were using epigraphy for sourcing and verification around the same time as the practice was first used in Europe, even if Twinthin's methods may not have "evolved into a formal method". Woolf continues that "We should not overstate the 'scientific' character of these works since much Burmese historiography was — as elsewhere in the world — written with didactic intentions."[3]

Using epigraphy, Twinthin updated the regnal dates of earliest Burmese kingdoms. Hmannan, the official chronicle of Konbaung court, would retain nearly all of Twinthin's corrections. The table below shows a comparison of the regnal dates of Pagan Dynasty. Hmannan's dates largely follow Yazawin Thit's.[6]

Name Reign per Zatadawbon Yazawin Reign per Maha Yazawin Reign per Yazawin Thit Reign per Hmannan Yazawin Reign per scholarship
Pyinbya 846–876 846–858 846–878 846–878
Tannet 876–904 858–876 878–906 878–906
Sale Ngahkwe 904–934 876–901 906–915 906–915
Theinhko 934–956 901–917 915–931 915–931
Nyaung-u Sawrahan 956–1001 917–950 931–964 931–964
Kunhsaw Kyaunghpyu 1001–1021 950–971 964–986 964–986
Kyiso 1021–1038 971–977 986–992 986–992
Sokkate 1038–1044 977–1002 992–1017 992–1017
Anawrahta 1044–1077 1002–1035 1017–1059 1017–1059 1044–1077
Saw Lu 1077–1084 1035–1061 1059–1066 1059–1066 1077–1084
Kyansittha 1084–1111 1063–1088[Notes 3] 1064–1093 1064–1092 1084–1112/1113
Sithu I 1111–1167 1088–1158 1093–1168 1092–1167 1112/1113–1167
Narathu 1167–1170 1158–1161 1168–1171 1167–1171 1167–1170
Naratheinkha 1170–1173 1161–1164 1171–1174 1171–1174 1170–1174
Sithu II 1173–1210 1164–1197 1174–1211 1174–1211 1174–1211
Htilominlo 1210–1234 1197–1219 1211–1234 1211–1234 1211–1235
Kyaswa 1234–1249 1219–1234 1234–1250 1234–1250 1235–1249
Uzana 1249–1254 1234–1240 1250–1255 1250–1255 1249–1256
Narathihapate 1254–1287 1240–1284 1255–1286 1255–1286 1256–1287
Kyawswa
Vassal of Mongols (1297)
1287–1300 1286–1300[Notes 4] 1286–1298 1286–1298 1289–1297
Saw Hnit
Vassal of Myingsaing/Pinya
1300–1331 1300–1322 1298–1330 1298–1325  ?
Uzana II
Vassal of Pinya and Ava
1331–1368 1322–1365 1330–1368 1325–1368  ?

Current status

For all its groundbreaking introductions, the chronicle remains one of the "lesser known" chronicles today.[8] Moreover, only the first 13 of the total 15 volumes have been found and published. (The Universities Central Library of Myanmar has portions of two original manuscripts of the chronicle. Of the original 15 volumes, only the first 13 volumes, which cover up to 1754, have survived. The 14th volume is believed to be the same as Twinthin's 1770 work, Alaungpaya Ayedawbon, the biographic chronicle of King Alaungpaya, covering up to 1760. It means the last volume, which covers from 1760 to 1785, has not been recovered. The last volume did exist as it was referenced by later Konbaung writers.)[9]

Notes

  1. ^ (Thaw Kaung 2010: 45, 56) states Victor Lieberman, a foremost historian of Burma, was the first one who reported it as "Twin-thin-taik-wun, whose 1798 chronicle may have been the first to put Burma ("Myan-ma") in its title". However, Thaw Kaung does not cite the publication of the quote in the text or in the end notes.
  2. ^ (Aung-Thwin 2005: 142–144) and (Woolf 2011: 416) both call it Myanma Yazawin Thit. Scholarship uses "Myanma" instead of "Myanmar" without the non-rhotic "r".
  3. ^ (Maha Yazawin Vol. 1 184–185): Saw Lu died in 423 ME (1061–1062 CE), and his death was followed by two years interregnum. Kyansittha succeeded the throne only in 425 ME (1063–1064 CE).
  4. ^ (Maha Yazawin Vol. 1 2006: 252): Kyawswa came to power after two years of interregnum.

References

  1. ^ Hall 1961: 88
  2. ^ Thaw Kaung 2010: 44–49
  3. ^ a b c d e Woolf 2011: 416
  4. ^ a b c d e Thaw Kaung 2010: 50–51
  5. ^ a b c Hsan Tun in preface of (Hmannan Yazawin 2003: xxxv)
  6. ^ a b Maha Yazawin Vol. 1 2006: 346–349
  7. ^ a b c Aung-Thwin 2005: 142–144
  8. ^ a b Thaw Kaung 2010: 44
  9. ^ a b c d e Thaw Kaung 2010: 48–49

Bibliography

  • Aung-Thwin, Michael A. (2005). The Mists of Rāmañña: The Legend that was Lower Burma (illustrated ed.). Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press. ISBN 9780824828868. 
  • Charney, Michael W. (2006). Powerful Learning: Buddhist Literati and the Throne in Burma's Last Dynasty, 1752–1885. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan. 
  • Hall, D.G.E. (1961). Historians of South East Asia. London: Oxford University Press. 
  • Kala, U (1720). Maha Yazawin Gyi (in Burmese). 1–3 (2006, 4th printing ed.). Yangon: Ya-Pyei Publishing. 
  • Royal Historical Commission of Burma (1829–1832). Hmannan Yazawin (in Burmese). 1–3 (2003 ed.). Yangon: Ministry of Information, Myanmar. 
  • Thaw Kaung, U (2010). Aspects of Myanmar History and Culture. Yangon: Gangaw Myaing. 
  • Woolf, Daniel (2011). A Global History of History (reissue, illustrated ed.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-69908-2. 
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