Journal of Burma Studies - Volume 1

Journal of Burma Studies1997

"The Importance of the Dhammathats"
Andrew Huxley

Burma's dhammathats are pre-colonial compilations of legal and ethical material. They provide vivid insights into the details of everyday village life and into the process by which Burmese authors adapted Pali texts from India to their own purposes. They appear to be at least as old as any other surviving Burmese literature and contain valuable lessons for contemporary Burma. This article hopes to rescue them from their unjust neglect.

"Temples and Rainfall in Ancient Pagan"
Richard Cooler

This article examines unusual features of various religious buildings located at Pagan, such as below-ground monasteries and brick-lined water-catchment basins, to establish that low rainfall of less than 24 inches annually was a constant in the local climate throughout the Pagan period. Confirming this fact sheds light on the critical role the construction of religious structures played in linking the inadequately watered capital to outlying irrigated agricultural lands, thus ensuring the necessary provision of food to the city. As the population of Pagan grew, the need to increase food supplies from the outlying areas created an incentive for focusing the practice of the Merit Path to Salvation on the erection of still more religious buildings, thus creating the "forest of temples" seen at Pagan today.

"Comparison of Three Pottery Villages: Shan State Burma"
Charlotte Reith

During my visit from 1991-1994 to three pottery-producing villages in Shan State, I was struck by the differences in technology and product. Contrary to my assumption that this small area would evidence a shared technology and similar products, I found three distinctly differing pottery traditions. In some places in the world, membership in the same ethnic group seems to be an important factor in determining the techniques and products of the potters belonging to that group. However, two of these villages, Compani and Awe Yaw, are both populated by Danu and have distinctly different ways of making pots. While it is primarily concerned with the pottery-making processes in the three villages, this article is also interested in the lives of the potters and how they face the challenges inherent in their craft.

"Half a Century of Publishing in Mandalay"
Anna Allott

The Ludu Kyi-bwa-yay Press was established in Mandalay as a radical left-wing publishing house by Ludu U Hla and his wife, Daw Amar, in 1938. Ludu U Hla was a pioneering Burmese journalist, would-be social reformer, social historian, and, most of all, recorder of folk-tales. Daw Amar began her writing career in 1938 as a translator, mostly of anti-Western works; in 1964 she began a series of major works dealing with Burmese traditional performing arts and the history and culture of Upper Burma and of Mandalay. U Hla died in 1982, and in March 1984 much of the press was destroyed in the great Mandalay fire. Nevertheless, the press resumed publishing in 1987 under the direction of Daw Amar and despite continued strict government censorship has remained in operation until the present. The latest book in Ludu U Hla's folktale series appeared posthumously in 1996. This article is followed by a translation of a short biography of Ludu U Hla written by Daw Amar.

"The Development of Political Themes in Minthuwun's Poetry"
Saw Tun

Min-thuwun is perhaps the greatest of living Burmese poets. Over the past 70 years he has published more than 100 poems covering a broad range of topics, including young love, the hardships of village and student life, and Burmese nationalism. Following a brief biographical sketch of the poet, this article presents a series of readings of selected poems that show Min-thuwun to be a passionate promoter of Burmese culture and an astute and subtle social commentator whose political messages are conveyed in figurative verse notable for its depictions of the victims of injustice. By framing his discussion within the periodization of 20th-century Burmese literature put forth by the poet-critic Mya Zin, the author demonstrates how Min-thuwun's career can be taken to exemplify the development of modern Burmese literature as a whole.