Dr. Constance Wilson, Department of History
Northern Illinois University
Pegu was once a Mon center. It is said to have been established in 573 A.D. by two Mon princes. It later became the center of the Mon Kingdom of Ramanadesa (1287 -- 1539). During this period the Mon kingdom covered all of lower Burma. But in 1539 in the Mon kingdom was annexed to the Burman Kingdom of Toungoo. At this time Pegu was an important seaport visited by many European sailors, including the Portuguese, British, and Dutch. Two centuries later, in 1740, Pegu again became a independent Mon center. Finally, in 1757, the Burmese sacked Pegu, and incorporated its territory into the new unitary kingdom of Burma. Pegu was rebuilt between 1782 and 1819. At this point in time Pegu no longer served as a seaport for the river on which it had been located had changed its course leaving Pegu an inland town.
We start our visit to Pegu with a stop by the roadside to view a Burmese village that has been flooded during the monsoon season. The houses are built on stilts which serve to protect them from the floodwaters.(1) We then approach the bridge entering Pegu. As you can see the main means of transportation is the bicycle (2). The central street of Pegu extends into the distance (3).An oxcart carrying bamboo passes by (4). Several buildings are painted in bright colors (5).
Pegu supports an active busy market (6). We see many women relaxing at a food stall with vegetables, bananas, and other fruits (7). As we walk around Pegu we see a young novice, his headed protected from the sun with a yellow towel. In the background are homemade brooms (8). We pass by a flower stand (9) and a line of pony carts (10).
Pegu is the home of many monuments. Among them is the Kyaik Pun Paya built in 1467, with four large Buddha images sitting back to back (11). The most famous Buddha image in Pegu is the Shwethalyaung. We approach the image through an alleyway lined with small shops (12). The Shwethalyaung (13) is one of the largest images of the reclining Buddha to be found in South East Asia. In this case the Buddha is in "a relaxing mode" with his eyes open (14). One foot casually rests on top of the other (15) revealing the wheel of the law along with other decorative elements.
The Shwemawdaw Paya has the same basic plan as the Shwedagon in Rangoon. It was first built about 1,000 years ago. It has been rebuilt many times with major reconstructions taking place in 1756 and in 1952-1954. The Shwemawdaw is on a low terrace. Two chinthe (lion-like figures) serve as guardians at one of the four entrances, in the background is the central stupa (16). The entrance hall is decorated in glass mosaic (17). The stupa has the familiar bell shape of many stupas in Burma (18).
A row of small chedi and a large walkway surrounds the stupa (19). Two women with heavy loads on their heads walk past (20). Donations of flowers and paper parasols stand at the edge of the platform of the main stupa (21). Another building at the Shwemawdaw clearly illustrates the traditional tiered, decorated, classic Burmese roof (22). A small shrine (23) and a large bell stand on the platform (24).
Taunggyi, in eastern Burma, is the center of the Shan state. Again we arrive on the main street (1). There is a large concrete building to the right which turns out to be a movie theater (2). Other storefronts attract the interest of passers-by (3). We view other storefronts (4,5) as we wander around town. The market ( 6,7) is as usual very busy.
Taunggyi is a place from which the traveler can approach Inle Lake. Inle Lake is a large shallow body of water (8) is that is best known for its floating islands (9). The floating islands are created by the local residents who use them for gardens as well as a place for their residences. Inle Lake is famous for its large, comfortable houses (10). Many canals flow through the islands. An Inle Lake leg rower stands at rest while transporting sacks of grain through the canals (11). Another boat, this time with two rowers, passes a cluster of houses (12). A stupa sits on one of the islands (13). More canal scenes follow (14, 15).
We approach a temple. On the right a bridge crosses from one island to another (16). As we pass under the bridge, we see the temple in the distance (17). People relax on the marble floor inside (18). The outer edges of the central shrine are covered with gold leaf (19).
We now visit two villages in the region of Pagan, the most famous archeological site in Burma. These slides, which were taken in the 1970s and 1980s, are of two villages. The larger of the two is Nyaung-U which serves as a center for the area. The smaller is Minnanthu, a more rural settlement. Standing on the roof of the Htilominlo Temple we look west to the Irrawaddy River, flooded by the monsoon rains (1). Then we turn and look in the opposite direction across the plains toward a row of low hills in the background. We can see many of the old monuments that are located in this region (2). Slide 3 reveals the width of the Irrawaddy in flood. A small local boat (4) heads north. A large motorized boat assisted with a sail carries both cargo and passengers (5). Local boats wait along the edge of the river (6). A larger boat with many people arrives at the shore (7).
The main street of Nyaung-U is busy with pedestrian traffic. Many women carry heavy loads on their heads (8). A pony cart passes by (9). A Burmese family poses for a picture (10). The older woman carries a large basket on her head; the young girl wears a typical Burmese hair style for a person of her age. The local loudspeaker informs people of an event taking place (11). People gather outside small shops (12). A pony cart driver waits for passengers (13).
Two people carry on a conversation on the porch of a large building (14). A food stand located in the market (15). Two people stand in front of a shed with bamboo matting for its walls (16). A young girl with flowers in her hair (17). A building constructed for a festival (18). Musical instruments are being carried into the building (19).
The market at Nyaung-U is a very busy one. Women arrive from the countryside to sell their crops (20). Notice the traditional hair style worn by the second girl from the bottom. Two women watch the shopkeeper using the scale (21). Past it a woman smokes a large cheroot (22). Burma is famous for its tobacco. The basketwork is of a very high quality. Here another woman smokes a cheroot, but this one is probably made out of corn husks (23). A young girl stops behind her mother to take a look at the camera (24). A purchase has been completed (25). Three young girls, with tummeric dusted on their faces to protect them from the heat, pose for the camera (26). A food stall keeps busy(27).
We move away from the market out into the countryside of Minnanthu. (28) Here we have a slide showing the many styles of bamboo matting that makes the wall of a house. A Burmese barnyard contains the traditional cart (29). A woman prepares rice while her children watch (30). Again note the variety of patterns in the woven bamboo mats on the side of the buildings. A Burmese family at work (31) surrounded by traditional baskets and tools. (32) We see another traditional house. The family lives upstairs while the ground floor is used as a storage and work area. A bamboo fence protects this house (33).
Another Burmese family poses for its portrait (34). A group of children - again note the traditional topknot on some of the young girls (35); a portrait of one of the girls again with a topknot (36). Two small boys pose for the camera (37). Washing clothes in the Irrawaddy River (38). Local cattle rest in the heat of the day in a peaceful scene(39).