Journal of Burma Studies - Volume 11

Journal of Burma Studies"A Norm of Burmese Kingship? The Concept of Raza-dhamma through Five Konbaung Period Texts"
Aurore Candier

The Burmese concept of raza-dhamma, which derives from the Pali râja dhamma found in early Buddhist literature, refers to a tenfold code for righteous kings. In the early eighteenth century, U Kala’s Maha-raza-win-kyi connected the raza-dhamma to the origin myth of Mahathammata and laid the groundwork for later texts. While scholars thus far have limited their perspectives to the early Konbaung sources, this article attempts a more systematic approach tracing the evolution of a commentarial genre that broadened the scope of the concept. Throughout the middle and late Konbaung period, the interpretation of the ten raza-dhamma represents the first argument of a constantly redefined discourse on kingship. A historical and linguistic investigation of five significant texts shows how this concept participated in the gradual changes of the sociopolitical representations during three periods. From Bagyidaw’s reign (1820s–1830s), this article analyzes the royal chronicle Hman-hnan maha-raza-win-daw-kyi and two normative texts, the Monywe hsayadaw’s Razaw-wada-kyan and the Maha-dhamma-thinkyan’s Dhammaw-padetha-kyan, all three written between 1827 and 1832. Next, it investigates the concept in Mindon’s early reign (1850s–1860s) through the third Maung Htaung hsayadaw’s Raza-thewaka-dipani-kyan (1856), which enlarged upon the Dhammaw-padetha-kyan. Finally, turning to the late Konbaung period (end of the 1870s–1890s), this article look at the concept in Hpo Hlaing’s Raza-dhamma-thingaha-kyan (1878).

"It Has Now Passed For Ever Into Our Hands’: Lord Curzon and the Construction of Imperial Heritage in Colonial Burma"
Stephen L. Keck

Lord Curzon’s ultimately successful effort to save the Palace of Mandalay from misuse and neglect constitutes a good example of imperial heritage building. The palace itself had already been the site for the construction of heritage as the Konbaung dynasty drew upon earlier models of Burmese kingship and Buddhist cosmology to use the pal­ace (and royal capital) to help proclaim its power and legitimacy. However, after the Third Anglo-Burman War, the combination of the removal of the Konbaung dynasty and the British occupation of the palace resulted in the decay of the buildings, leading British travel writers to complain about their condition. In 1901, Lord Curzon evicted the British over substantial objections and began the process of preserving the palace. Curzon’s aims reflected both his experience in India and the debate over historic pres­ervation and restoration. Ultimately, Curzon came down on both sides: restoring some features of the palace while preserving others. Preserving the palace was a means of making the positive aspects of British rule visible; it also had the effect of removing the Konbaung dynasty from the present and consigning them to history.

"Two Bullets in a Balustrade: How the Burmese Have Been Removed from Northern Thai Buddhist History"
Justin McDaniel

This article questions the way the Burmese period of Northern Thailand has been depicted by Thai and international scholars. The Burmese have generally been described as violent invaders whose rule ushered in an era of decline in Buddhist prac­tice and learning. This period of more than two hundred years (1551–1772) has been classified as one of destruction, oppression, and intellectual stagnation. The Burmese, it is stated repeatedly, destroyed the “golden age” of Northern Thai Buddhist litera­ture. However, epigraphic, codicological, economic, and archaeological evidence does not indicate that the period of Burmese rule in the region was particularly devastating, especially for Buddhist practice and the production of manuscripts. I ask us to ques­tion the history of Burmese violence that has been written by historians of Thailand. I argue that scholars need to refrain from a study of regional history that employs sweeping periodization, ethnic branding, and a selective gathering of evidence from Burmese, Yuan, or Siamese sources primarily. We also need to refrain from seeing Burma as one place and its military, monks, nuns, and laity as a single entity. In the postscript, I offer a short reflection on the way violence toward the Burmese is depicted at a Thai Buddhist monastery.