Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Small kingdoms (1287 – 1531)

The Mongols could not stay for long in the searing Ayeyarwady valley. But the Tai-Shan people from Yunnan who came down with the Mongols fanned out to the Ayeyarwady valley, Shan states, Laos, Siam and Assam, and became powerful players in Southeast Asia.

The Bagan empire was irreparably broken up into several small kingdoms:

  • The Burman kingdom of Ava or Innwa (1364 – 1555), the successor state to three smaller kingdoms founded by Burmanized Shan kings, controlling Upper Burma (without the Shan states)
  • The Mon kingdom of Hanthawady Pegu or Bago (1287 – 1540), founded by a Mon-ized Shan King Wareru (1287 – 1306), controlling Lower Burma (without Taninthayi).
  • The Rakhine kingdom of Mrauk U (1434 – 1784), in the west.
  • Several Shan states in the Shan hills in the east and the Kachin hills in the north while the northwestern frontier of present Chin hills still disconnected yet.

This period was characterized by constant warfare between Ava and Bago, and to a lesser extent, Ava and the Shans. Ava briefly controlled Rakhine (1379 – 1430) and came close to defeating Bago a few times, but could never quite reassemble the lost empire. Nevertheless, Burmese culture entered a golden age. Hanthawady Bago prospered. Bago's Queen Shin Saw Bu (1453 – 1472) raised the gilded Shwedagon Pagoda to its present height.

By the late 15th century, constant warfare had left Ava greatly weakened. Its peripheral areas became either independent or autonomous. In 1486, King Minkyinyo (1486 – 1531) of Taungoo broke away from Ava and established a small independent kingdom. In 1527, Mohnyin (Shan: Mong Yang) Shans finally captured Ava, upsetting the delicate power balance that had existed for nearly two centuries. The Shans would rule Upper Burma until 1555.


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