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YEAR 1795 








In presenting this work to the pubhc, 1 obey the dic- 
tates of a duty incumbent on every person, the inci- 
dents of whose life have afforded him an opportunity 
of visiting countries that are either unknown, or im- 
perfectly described; and by communicating his infor- 
mation, to add somewhat to the stock of general 

Of the kingdom of Ava, or the Birman Empire, so 
little is known to the European world, that many per- 
sons of liberal education, when the name of the coun- 
try has been mentioned, were at a loss on what part of 
the globe to seek for its position; and some were even 
unacquainted with the existence of such a nation. 

This obscurity renders any apology for introducing 
my work to the public, unnecessary; and 1 have only 
to lament my own inabihty to do justice to so impor- 
tant a subject. The military profession, in every part of 
the world, is unpropitious to literary attainments; but 
in India, where no repositories of European learning 
are to be found, and armies are continually moving 
over a vast region, it can hardly be expected that the 
soldier and the scholar should be united. It has been 
my lot to serve in that distant country from an early 
age, until 1 attained the meridian of life; and it may 
perhaps soften criticism, that 1 aspire not to the orna- 
ments of language, and little aim at a polished struc- 
ture of style: 1 have written my own book; my chief 
object is to be intelligible, and my single claim, to be 

The rise and fortunes of Alompra, and the estab- 
lishment of the present Birman dynasty, supply a 
short, but highly interesting, period of oriental history; 
these extraordinary events having happened within 
the memory of many persons still living, are authenti- 
cated by individuals, who themselves bore a part in 
the transactions: and although their relations are liable 
to that bias which is inseparable from the human 
mind, when the passions are engaged, and self- 
interest is concerned; yet the leading facts are such as 

do not admit of misrepresentation; to these, therefore, 
1 have confined myself, as closely as perspicuity 
would allow. 

For the account of the disastrous fate of our coun- 
trymen at Negrais, and the destruction of the Enghsh 
and French factories, 1 am chiefly indebted to the rep- 
ertory of Mr. Dalrymple; a most useful and judicious 
compilation, which has rescued from oblivion many 
valuable and curious papers. 

The invasion of Ava by the Chinese during the 
reign of King Shembuan, and the subsequent expedi- 
tion into the Cassay country, were recounted to me by 
an old Mussulman soldier who bore arms in both: he 
could have no inducement to deceive, and the leading 
circumstances of his narrative were confirmed from 
other quarters. 

The events which took place in the southern coun- 
tries, in Pegue and Siam, were so generally known, 
that inquiry need only be made to obtain information. 

1 am obhged to the kindness of Mr. [Alexander] 
Dalrymple for the construction of the General Map 
prefixed to this Work, which has been compiled from 
the materials collected by Dr. [Francis] Buchanan, and 
transmitted to the Court of Directors; it is laid down 
on a contracted scale, being designed merely to point 
out the relative situation of the kingdom of Ava, with 
reference to other countries, and to ascertain its local 
position on the globe. The materials requisite to give 
an accurate topographical display of all the parts of so 
extensive an empire, could not be procured during the 
short period of our residence; but the ability, and inde- 
fatigable industry of Dr. Buchanan have effected 
much, to which the astronomical labours of Mr. [Tho- 
mas] Wood have considerably added. 1 cannot better 
do justice to the merits of these gentlemen, than by 
inserting the words of Mr. Dalrymple in a note on the 
subject of Ava geography: 

This part of Indian geography has hitherto re- 
mained in inexplicable obscurity, and although 
much hght has been thrown on the subject in con- 
sequence of the Embassy, of which this work lays 
an account before the public, not only from the as- 
tronomical observations by Ensign Thomas Wood, 
which do him the greatest credit, but from the 
great mass of native geography, which the assidu- 
ous pains of Dr. Buchanan, who accompanied the 
Embassy in a medical capacity, have accumulated 
from various persons. 

These maps obtained by Dr. Buchanan from the 
natives, although they elucidate the geography, 
cannot be considered as positive documents for 
the construction of an accurate map of these coun- 
tries, not being laid down geometrically, nor hav- 
ing even scales affixed; indeed, it is not certain 
that any of them were meant to be laid down by 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


an uniform scale; the wonder is, that there should 
be any thing like uniformity. 

The applause of such respectable authority, cannot be 
enhanced by any encomium of mine. I am, however, 
happy in having an opportunity to acknowledge the 
able and friendly assistance which 1 received from 
these gentlemen: my thanks are also due to Captain 
Thomas, commander of the Sea-Horse, for his circum- 
spect and prudent conduct in conciliating the inhabi- 
tants of Rangoon, during the time that 1 was absent at 

Major RenneU, who never denies the use of his in- 
valuable publications, to those who may require ex- 
tracts from them, to illustrate their own works, has 
been so good, as to allow me to copy from his map of 
Hindostan a part of the Pegue coast, which we had not 
an opportunity of observing. 

The representations of the costume of the country, 1 
am persuaded are as faithful as pencil can delineate: 
the native painters of India do not possess a genius for 
fiction, or works of fancy; they cannot invent or even 
embellish, and they are utterly ignorant of perspec- 
tive; but they draw figures and trace every line of a 
picture, with a laborious exactness peculiar to them- 
selves: the plate of the kioum, or monastery, page 388, 
affords a curious specimen of their minute accuracy. 

The Plate which represents the introduction of the 
English gentlemen, page 414, does not include all the 
objects that were in the original drawing, there not 
being sufficient room to admit them; it, however, ex- 
hibits a just view of the manner, in which the court 
was assembled. A print cannot convey an adequate 
idea of the brilliancy of the dresses, and the general 

The method of catching wild elephants in Ava, 1 
was assured, is faithfully delineated in the drawing 
from which the Plate, page 346, was taken. This draw- 
ing was copied from a painting on glass, in the posses- 
sion of the King: it corresponds with the mode prac- 
tised in Siam, as described in a book, intitled, "A Rela- 
tion of the Voyage to Siam, performed by six Jesuits in 
the year 1685;" in which the following passage occurs: 
"The huntsmen, who were mounted on tame ele- 
phants, threw their nooses so exactly in the place 
where the elephants set their foot, that they never 
failed of catching them." This manner of securing 
these powerful animals, 1 imagine, is not commonly 
used in other countries of the East. 

Several of the human figures bear a striking resem- 
blance in feature to the originals, particularly the Sere- 
dogee, or Secretary of State, page 312, and the man 
and woman of the Kayn tribe, page 446: the dress and 
character, in aU the figures, are extremely' well pre- 

The kindness of Colonel Sir John Murray supplied 
me with the Code of Arracan Laws, from which the 

Birman Dherma Sastra is compiled. It should be ob- 
served, that all the various law tracts, in use amongst 
the Hindoos, throughout Hindoostan, in its extensive 
signification, the region of Hindoos, whether sectaries 
of Boodh, or of Brahma, are but so many commentar- 
ies on the Law of Menu, the great and acknowledged 
founder of Hindoo jurisprudence, whose original 
work has been translated with much elegance by the 
late Sir William Jones. 

The account of the city of Pegue, and the stupen- 
dous temple of Shoemadoo, has already appeared in 
the fifth volume of the Asiatic Researches, printed at 
Calcutta; I did not, however, conceive, that it ought, 
on that account, to be omitted in a general description 
of the country. My official transactions are also in- 
serted in the records of the Bengal government. 

In the orthography of Birman words 1 have endeav- 
oured to express, by appropriate letters, the sounds as 
they struck my own ear. At the same time it is proper 
to remark, that scarcely any two persons will apply 
the same English letters to the same Birman words: 
this variation, which extends to the writing of all Ori- 
ental languages, and is not easily to be remedied, 
greatly discourages the English reader, and dimin- 
ishes the pleasure of perusing books, on the affairs of 
India. In the names of places 1 have in general fol- 
lowed the orthography of Mr. Wood, in his excellent 
Chart of the Irrawaddy, the great river of Ava. 

In the prosecution of this work 1 have experienced 
so many acts of friendly attention, that were 1 to enu- 
merate all the favours conferred on me, 1 should oc- 
cupy more room, than the limits of a preface will al- 
low. The patronage of the East-India Company is ever 
extended to those who can supply useful information 
on Oriental topics, whilst the encouragement which 1 
received from this munificent body, was rendered 
doubly gratifying by the politeness of Mr. Inglis, then 
Chairman, and Mr. Bosanquet, Deputy Chairman, of 
the Court of Directors. To the learning, and who are 
the spontaneous assistance of men pre-eminently dis- 
tinguished for science, my book owes its most valu- 
able contents. Sir Joseph Banks selected and described 
the plants; Mr. Dahymple, as before mentioned, com- 
piled the General Map; and Mr. Wilkins favoured me 
with the Shanscrit Alphabet, and pointed out the 
analogy of the languages. To these gentlemen my ac- 
knowledgments are particularly due, whilst, ab- 
stracted from a sense of personal obligation, it is a 
subject of pleasing reflection, that, in England, he who 
fairly endeavours to communicate beneficial or curi- 
ous information, can never fail, however he may be a 
stranger, to obtain the disinterested aid of persons, 
themselves amongst the most celebrated for patrons of 
literature in others. It constitutes a part of the national 
character, of that native liberality, which may be 
traced under various shapes, and is manifested in dif- 
ferent forms, through every gradation of society, and 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

amidst every class of men, who have the happiness to 
boast a British birth-right. 

I cannot quit the subject without offering my tribute 
of thanks to my noble friend. Lord Teignmouth, with 
whom the mission to Ava originated; he selected me 
to execute the plans which he had formed; and his ap- 
probation of my labours, is numbered amongst the 
most flattering circumstances of my hfe. 

Michael Symes 

Welbeck Street, 
February 24th, 1800 

Historical Memoirs of the Ava Empire 

There are no countries on the habitable globe, where 
the arts of civilized life are understood, of which we 
have so limited a knowledge, as of those that lie be- 
tween the British possessions in India, and the empire 
of China; concerning India beyond the Ganges, 
scarcely more was known to the ancients, than that 
such a country did exist. Undeserved importance is 
oftentimes attributed to that which is imperfectly 
known; thus, we find, in the Map of Ptolemy, the 
terms Aurea Regio, Argentea Regio, and Aurea Cher- 
sonesus, bestowed on countries eastward of the 
Ganges, and on the Peninsula that divides the Bay of 
Bengal from the Magnus Sinus, or Gulph of Siam. But 
although no satisfactory information is to be obtained 
from writers of antiquity, respecting the population, 
produce, extent, or geographical position of those re- 
gions; yet it may be concluded, that even at the remote 
era, when Ptolemy compiled his chart, the ports of the 
Eastern Peninsula were the seats of commerce, and 
resorted to by foreign merchants; as the Author dis- 
tinguishes places of note, on the sea coast, by the titles 
Emporia; but with what people trade was carried on, 
or in what commodities they trafficked, is not any 
where ascertained. 

From this period almost total darkness seems to 
have obscured India extra Gangem, from the eyes of 
Europeans, until the enterprizing genius of Emanuel, 
at the close of the 15th century, opened a new world, 
and laid the foundation of general wealth to Europe, 
on the ruin of the Egyptian trade, and of the state of 
Venice. Early in the 16th century, the Portuguese 
made themselves masters of Malacca, and soon ac- 
quired influence among the neighbouring maritime 
states. To the writers of this nation, history is princi- 
pally indebted for whatever information has been ob- 
tained of the eastern countries of India; but their nar- 
ratives so abound in hyperbole, and they recount such 
extravagant stories, that credit must be denied to 
many of their assertions; whilst, at the same time, their 
writings furnish some accurate traits of the genius and 

disposition of the people whom they describe. Even 
the accounts of Mendez de Pinto, the prince of fiction, 
although an intelligent traveller, will enable his read- 
ers to form an estimate of the importance and civiliza- 
tion of nations which, at a later period have, by many, 
been erroneously considered in a condition bordering 
on wild barbarity. 

From the testimony of Portuguese historians it 
appears, that in the middle of the 16th century, four 
powerful states divided amongst them the regions 
that lie between the south-east province of British In- 
dia, Yunan in China, and the Eastern Sea; their territo- 
ries extended from Cassay and Assam (there are some 
petty independent princes whose lands intervene), on 
the N.W. as far south-eastward as the island of Junk- 
seylon. These nations were known to Europeans by 
the names of Arracan, Ava, Pegue, and Siam. Arracan, 
properly Yee-Kein, borders on the S. E. province of 
British India, and includes the sea coast, with what is 
called the Broken Islands, as far south as Cape Negrais 
(see Hamilton's new Account of the East Indies); Ava, 
the name of the ancient capital of the Birmans, has 
been usually accepted, as the name of the country at 
large, which is Miamma. This empire is situated east- 
ward of Arracan, from which it is divided by a ridge 
of lofty mountains, called by the natives Anou-pec- 
tou-miou, or the great western hilly country. On the 
N.W. it is separated from the kingdom of Cassay by 
the river Keen-duem, on the north, it is bounded by 
mountains and petty independent principalities, that 
lie contiguous to Assam; on the north-east and east, it 
touches on China, and North Siam; on the south, its 
limits have so often varied, that it is difficult to ascer- 
tain them with any precision. The city of Prome (It is 
doubtful whether Prome, of right, belonged to Ava or 
Pegue; it was claimed by both, and often changed its 
possessor), or Pee, seems to be the original and natural 
boundary of the Birman empire, although conquest 
has since stretched their dominion several degrees far- 
ther south. Pegue, called by the natives Bagoo, is the 
country southward of Ava, which occupies the sea 
coast as far as Martaban, properly Mondimaa, Prome 
was its northern frontier, and Siam adjoined on the 
east. The kingdom of Siam, or Shaan, comprehended 
as far south as Junkseylon, east to Cambodia and 
Laos, and north to Dzemee (probably the Chiamee of 
Loubere), and Yunan in China This nation calls itself 
Tai, and is further distinguished by the appellations 
Tai yay, or great Tai, and Tay-nay, or little Tai; their 
former capital was named Yoodia (called Juthea by 
Europeans), or Yoodra; by De Pinto, Oodia; whence 
the Siamese are frequently, by the Birmans, denomi- 
nated Yoodras. These boundaries, however, may be 
considered rather as the claim of each state, than its 
actual possession: vicissitudes of victory and defeat 
alternately extended and contracted their dominions. 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


Pinto, and Faria de Souza, agree that the Birmans, 
though formerly subject to the king of Pegue, became 
afterwards masters of Ava, and caused a revolution in 
Pegue, about the middle of the 16th century. Hamil- 
ton, a much more recent author, says, that the king- 
dom of the Birmans extended from "Maravi," proba- 
bly Mergui, near Tenasserem, to the province of Yu- 
nan in China, about eight hundred miles from north to 
south, and 250 from east to west. The Portuguese as- 
sisted the Birmans in their wars against the Peguers, 
and, according to Pinto, performed prodigies of val- 
our. The account of the capture of Martaban, and the 
treasures found therein, far exceed the hmits of belief. 
Speaking of the capture of Martaban, Pinto says. 

During this siege, they of the city eat 3000 ele- 
phants, there were found 6000 pieces of artillery, as 
for gold, silver, precious stones, and jewels, that 
were found there, one truly knows not what they 
were, for those things are ordinarily concealed; 
wherefore it shall suffice me to say, that so much as 
the king of Brama had of Chaimbainham's treasure, 
amounted to an hundred millions of gold. 

The account of the feast of Tinagoojoo is ludicrously 

The Portuguese continued to exercise an influence 
in the Birman and Pegue countries, and a still greater 
in Arracan, so long as they maintained an ascendancy 
over other European nations in the East; but on the 
seizure of their settlements, and abridgment of their 
dominions by the Dutch, the consequence that had 
been deservedly annexed to the Portuguese name, 
sunk into insignificance; and the Christian settlers de- 
generated into a contemptible race, distinguished only 
by their feebleness and vice. During the reign of Louis 
the XlVth several splendid attempts were made to 
propagate the doctrines of the church of Rome, and 
advance the interests of the French nation, in the 
kingdom of Siam. Concerning these expeditions, ac- 
counts (vide Loubere, &c.) of unquestionable fidelity 
have been published; little, however, is related of Ava 
and Pegue, with whom, the Abbe Choisy says, "the 
king of Siam was constantly at war." 

In the beginning of the 17th century, both the Eng- 
lish and Dutch had obtained settlements in various 
quarters of the Birman dominions, which were after- 
wards forfeited by the misconduct of the latter; and 
Europeans of all nations were banished from Ava. The 
English, many years subsequent to this expulsion, 
were reinstated in their factories at Syriam and Ava, 
where they appear to have traded, rather in the capac- 
ity of private merchants, than on the part of the India 
Company, in whose service they were not regularly 

" The last half of this paragraph, including the quotation, has been 
pulled up from Symes' footnote. M. W. C. 

enrolled. The Island of Negrais was likewise taken 
possession of by the EngUsh, and a survey made of it 
by one Weldon, in the year 1687. On this island the 
government of Fort St. George estabhshed a settle- 
ment. Little benefit, however, seems to have been de- 
rived from the acquisition: the affairs of the India 
Company, and indeed of the nation, were in too pre- 
carious a state in another quarter of Asia, to admit of 
sparing the supplies of men and money requisite for 
its effectual support. 

The supremacy of the Birmans over the Peguers 
continued throughout the last, and during the first 
forty years of the present century, when the Peguers 
in the provinces of Dalla, Martaban, Tongo, and 
Prome, revolted; a civil war ensued, which was prose- 
cuted on both sides with savage ferocity. In the year 
1744, the British factory at Syriam was destroyed by 
the contending parties, and the views of commerce 
were suspended by precautions of personal security. 
Success long continued doubtful: at length the Pegu- 
ers, by the aid of arms procured from Europeans trad- 
ing to their ports, and with the assistance of some 
renegade Dutch and native Portuguese, gained several 
victories over the Birmans, in the years 1750, and 1751. 
These advantages they pursued with so much vigour, 
that, early in the year 1752, the capital of Ava was in- 
vested. The Birmans, disheartened by repeated de- 
feats, after a short siege, surrendered at discretion. 
Dweepdee, the last of a long line of Birman kings, was 
made prisoner with all his family, except two sons, 
who effected their escape to the Siamese; from whom 
they found a friendly reception, and were flattered 
with assurances of security and succour. 

Bonna Delia, or Beinga Delia, king of Pegue, when 
he had completed the conquest of Ava, returned to his 
own country, leaving his brother Apporaza to govern 
the late capital of the Birman king, whom he carried 
with him a prisoner to Pegue; enjoining his brother to 
reduce the refractory, displace suspected persons, and 
exact an oath of allegiance from such Birmans as 
should be suffered to retain their former possessions. 

Matters at first bore the appearance of tranquillity 
and submission: the land-holders and principal in- 
habitants of the country around Ava, acknowledged 
themselves vassals of the conqueror, and accepted the 
prescribed oath. Alompra, a Birman of low extraction, 
then known by the humble name of Aumdzea (signi- 
fying huntsman), was continued by the conqueror in 
the chief-ship of Monchaboo, at that time an inconsid- 
erable village, about twelve miles from the river, west 
of Keoum-meoum. This man, who possessed a spirit 
of enterprise and boldness equal to the most arduous 
undertakings, at first, like many others, dissembled 
the reluctance he felt at the imposition of a foreign 
yoke, and submitted to the necessity of fortune; but, 
unlike others, he harboured hopes of emancipation. 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

and meditated on the best means of accomplishing his 
future purpose. 

Soon after the Pegue king had reached his capital, 
he caused a general proclamation to be issued, in 
terms of insolent triumph, announcing to all nations of 
the earth, that the Birman king was become his pris- 
oner; that the Birman country, being subdued by the 
prowess of his arms, was annexed, as a conquered 
province, to the Pegue monarchy, and that the city of 
Pegue was in future to be considered as the general 
metropolis. This proclamation, as might be expected, 
increased the hatred of the Birmans, and stimulated 
their desire of revenge. Alompra had at this time, in 
the town and neighbourhood of Monchaboo, one 
hundred devoted followers, on whose courage and 
fidehty he could safely rely; he had strengthened and 
repaired the stockade that surrounded the town (al- 
most all towns, and even villages, in the Birman coun- 
try, are surrounded by a stockade, in like manner as 
the villages in the Camatic are inclosed by a bound 
hedge: the Birmans are very expert in erecting this 
kind of defence), without awaking any suspicion in 
the minds of the Peguers, who never dreamt that a 
person so inconsiderable, would attempt an act of re- 
bellion under the check of a numerous garrison, dis- 
tant only fifteen leagues. Their attention was directed 
to remoter provinces; and occupied by the fears they 
entertained, lest the sons of Dweepdee should return 
in force to recover the possessions of their dethroned 
father. Thus, resting in imaginary security, there were 
not more than fifty Pegue soldiers in Monchaboo, 
who, on all occasions, treated the Birmans with con- 
temptuous arrogance. Alompra, availing himself of 
the resentment excited by some particular act of in- 
dignity, roused his already well prepared adherents to 
active resistance, and attacking the Peguers with irre- 
sistible violence, put every man of that nation to the 

Alompra, after this act of open rebellion, still dis- 
sembling his real intention, and with a view to gain 
time, wrote to Apporaza in terms of the utmost humil- 
ity, expressing much contrition for what had hap- 
pened, representing it as a sudden gust of intemperate 
violence, arising from mutual irritation; at the same 
time, lavishly professing his attachment and fidelity to 
the Pegue government. These assurances, though they 
could not be expected to procure an unconditional 
pardon, yet had the desired effect, of rendering the 
Pegue governor less alert in preparation to reduce 
him; and so far was Alompra from being considered 
in a formidable point of view, that Apporaza, having 
urgent business at Pegue, left Ava under the govern- 
ment of his nephew, Dotachew, with directions to 
keep Alompra in strict confinement, as soon as he 
should be brought from Monchaboo, to which place a 
force, that was thought equal to the service, had been 
detached, on hearing of the massacre of the Peguers. 

Approaching the fort of Monchaboo, the Peguers 
expected nothing less than resistance, and had come ill 
armed and equipped for encountering opposition; but 
they found the gates of the stockade shut against 
them, and heard threats of defiance, instead of suppli- 
cations for clemency. Alompra did not give them lei- 
sure to recover from their surprise. At day-break the 
next morning he sallied forth at the head of his hun- 
dred adherents, and attacking the Peguers furiously 
with spears and swords, routed and pursued them for 
two miles. After this exploit he returned to his httle 
fortress, and lost no time in preparing for a yet more 
hazardor contest; he represented to his people, that 
they must now resolve to conquer or perish; and he 
invited the Birmans of neighbouring towns to enrol 
themselves under his standard. Some obeyed the 
summons, but many were cautious of embracing his 
yet desperate fortune. In this affair, the number of 
Peguers defeated by Alompra, is estimated at one 

News of this disaster reaching Dotachew at Ava, 
he seems to have acted with the most blameable ir- 
resolution; undecided what measure to adopt, 
whether to march in person at the head of his troops, 
which did not exceed three thousand, wait until a re- 
inforcement should arrive, or retreat to Prome. Whilst 
he was thus deliberating, reports were daily received 
of some accession to the force of the adventurer, 
which, though in part true, were greatly exaggerated 
by the general consternation that prevailed through- 
out the city. Alompra had certain intelligence of the 
state of his interests in every quarter; and determined, 
by advancing boldly to Ava, to strike a decisive blow, 
before the fears of the enemy had subsided, and with- 
out giving time to recall the numerous detachments of 
Peguers that were scattered over the neighbouring 
provinces. The prudence and promptitude of this 
measure met with all the success it merited; Do- 
tachew, when he heard of Alompra's intention, fled 
from Ava, whilst the Birmans in that city rose on the 
few Peguers that either could not, or did not choose to 
accompany their leader; aU of whom they put to 
death. Alompra, finding that Dotachew had retreated, 
altered his first resolution of proceeding in person to 
Ava, and remained at Monchaboo, sending his second 
son, Shembuan, to take possession of the city, and gar- 
rison the fort. 

These events appear to have taken place about the 
autumn of the year 1753: Dotachew did not halt until 
he reached Pegue. The misfortunes of the Peguers in 
the remote provinces alarmed Beinga Delia, their king, 
for the safety of his own territories, and particularly 
for the northern towns and districts of Prome, Keoun- 
zeik, Tambouterra, &c. where the Birmans considera- 
bly outnumbered the Peguers. A large force was, not- 
withstanding, collected at Syriam, the command of 
which was given to Apporaza, who, in the month of 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


January, 1754, sailed up the Irrawaddy, with a numer- 
ous fleet of war boats, to reduce the insurgents. At this 
time both the English and French nations had re- 
established their factories at Syriam, and, of course, 
had their separate interests. The French favoured the 
Peguers, whilst the English leaned to the Birmans; but 
until the vicinity of their residence again became the 
seat of war, neither engaged in open hostility: their 
partialities were manifested by petty assistance lent in 
secret, and supplies clandestinely conveyed, probably 
more with a view to private emolument, than from 
any enlarged political consideration. 

When the Enghsh last took possession of Negrais, 
about the year 1751, their affairs were not conducted 
with prudence. A Mr. Hunter was appointed to the 
superintendance, who is represented as a man of ca- 
pacity, but of an unconciliating and perverse disposi- 
tion; the settlement, under his guidance, continued in 
a state of unceasing ferment; the Caffre slaves, who 
had been introduced for the purpose of cultivating the 
lands, rose upon their masters, and seizing on the 
boats belonging to the island, effected their escape. 
When Mr. Hunter died, he was succeeded by the per- 
son next in rank, under whose auspices the interests of 
the infant colony did not improve. In addition to their 
difficulties, the new settlers became unhealthy; these 
discouragements, however, did not induce them to 
evacuate the place, but their exertions were rendered 
languid by the diminished probability of ultimate suc- 

The season when Apporaza undertook his expedi- 
tion to reduce Alompra, was the most unfavourable 
for making a speedy journey. During the dry months 
of January, February, March, and April, the waters of 
the Irrawaddy subside into a stream, that is barely 
navigable (The Ganges, at the same season of the year, 
experiences a like reduction of its waters. The head of 
the Hoogly river continues shut for some months, dur- 
ing which, boats, to reach the Ganges from Calcutta, 
are obliged to navigate through the Sunderbunds, and 
afterwards surmount the stream with difficulty, ow- 
ing to the impediments of numerous shallows and 
sand banks); frequent shoals and banks of sand, retard 
boats of burthen, and a northerly wind invariably 
prevails. These obstructions, whilst they delayed the 
Peguers, gave opportunity to their enemies to collect 
the whole of their force, and arrange it in the most ad- 
vantageous manner, to avert the impending danger. 

The progress of Apporaza was uninterrupted un- 
til he approached the city of Ava, in the neighbour- 
hood of which small parties of Birmans, from the adja- 
cent banks, molested the boats of the Peguers by des- 
ultory attacks; they, however, did not much impede 
the fleet, which continued to advance. Approaching 
the fort, a summons was sent from the Pegue general 
to Shembuan, with a promise to spare his life, pro- 

vided he immediately surrendered, and threatening 
exemplary vengeance should he refuse. 

The fort of ancient Ava was of sufficient strength 
to maintain a protracted siege against an enemy inex- 
pert in war, and Apporaza had good reason to sup- 
pose that resolution would not be wanting in the be- 
sieged. Shembuan replied, that he would defend his 
post to the last extremity. 

In the meanwhile Alompra was unremitting in his 
preparations to receive the enemy; he had collected a 
considerable fleet at Keoum-meoum, and his army 
was recruited to the computed number of ten thou- 
sand, whose confidence increased on the approach of 
danger; whilst, on the contrary, the troops of Appo- 
raza were disheartened by the accounts of the valour 
and strength of their foes; the Pegue commander, 
therefore, judged it more prudent to lead them at once 
to battle, than to waste time in the operations of a 
siege, the termination of which seemed precarious and 

With this design he left Ava in his rear, and pro- 
ceeded with his whole force towards Keoum-meoum, 
where he found Alompra prepared to give him battle; 
an engagement ensued; the contest was chiefly con- 
fined to the fleets, whilst small parties of either army 
skirmished on shore. The action is said to have been 
obstinate and bloody: at length the Peguers, on a re- 
port being spread that Shembuan had left the fort of 
Ava, and was advancing to attack their rear, gave 
way, and fled with precipitation. Numbers were 
slaughtered in the retreat, and Shembuan issuing from 
the fort of Ava, completed their overthrow; Alompra 
pursued the fugitive Peguers as far as the city of Sem- 
bew-Ghewn, after which lie returned to Monchaboo. 
Apporaza, with the remains of his army, retired to the 
province of Pegue. 

The power of the Peguers now seemed hastening 
to its wane; yet, notwithstanding the recent check they 
had received, fresh preparations were made to prose- 
cute the war. At this time, either real or pretended 
caution impelled them to a measure, not less repug- 
nant to humanity, than, as the event proved, injurious 
to their own interests. It was alleged, that a conspir- 
acy had been formed against the Pegue government, 
by their aged prisoner, the dethroned monarch of the 
Birmans, which had been discovered when on the 
point of execution. All the principal men of the Birman 
nation were supposed to be confederated in the plot; 
little formality was used to ascertain whether the ac- 
cusation was true or false. On the 13th of October the 
Peguers rose, and, having first slain the unhappy 
monarch, slaughtered indiscriminately several hun- 
dred Birmans, sparing neither age nor sex. These san- 
guinary acts were as cruelly retaliated. The Birmans, 
though subdued, were still very numerous in the 
towns and districts of Prome, Keounzeik, Loonzay, 
and Denoobew. Exasperated at the murder of their 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

monarch, and the fate of their brethren, they flew to 
arms, and with a barbarity nothing inferior to that 
which had been exercised by the Peguers, exacted a 
severe retribution. Prome, Denoobew, Loonzay, &c. 
changed masters, and their garrisons fell the victims of 

During these transactions, the Birman adventurer 
was sedulously employed in improving his good for- 
tune The eldest son of the late deposed and murdered 
king, hearing that Alompra had raised the standard of 
revolt, returned to Monchaboo, and with a sect of 
brave and attached people, called Quois (by some, 
Yoos), that inhabited an eastern province (called 
Muddora, east of Ava) of the empire, joined the for- 
tunes of the adventurer. This young man. Intoxicated 
by the successes of his party, had the imprudence to 
assume the distinctions of royalty, and attempt to ex- 
ercise sovereign sway, as his hereditary right. Such 
claims, however, were wholly incompatible with the 
views of the ambitious chief, whose opposition soon 
convinced the prince, not only of the futility of his 
hopes, but likewise, that having harboured them, his 
own person was no longer secure; he therefore se- 
cretly withdrew, and again sought an asylum among 
the Siamese. This step so enraged Alompra, that, un- 
der pretence of a conspiracy, he caused near a thou- 
sand of the Quois to be put to death. 

These events occupied the greater part of the year 
1754, which was drawing to a close, when Beinga 
Delia, having made fresh levies, marched from Pegue, 
accompanied by his brother, to retrieve the late dis- 
graceful defeats. The king proceeded with all expedi- 
tion towards Denoobew and Loonzay; the Birmans, on 
his approach, evacuated those towns and fled. The 
Peguers advanced to Prome, a city well defended by a 
sohd wall, a deep fosse, and a strong stockade. In this 
fortress the Birmans prepared to make a resolute de- 
fence, and wrote to Alompra, to acquaint him of their 
situation, entreating him at the same time to come to 
their aid with aU possible dispatch. Beinga Delia drove 
in the straggling Birmans that defended the banks of 
the river; a general assault followed, which was vigor- 
ously repulsed by the besieged; the Peguers then al- 
tered the mode of attack into a blockade; and finding 
that the garrison could only act on the defensive, Be- 
inga Delia dispatched part of his fleet and army up the 
river, as far as Melloon, in order to cut off supplies 
from the northward, and afford his own people more 
convenient subsistence. 

Alompra, although at this time threatened with an 
attack from the fugitive prince, and the exasperated 
Quois, on receiving intelligence of the blockade of 
Prome, immediately detached Meinlaw Tzezo (grand- 
father of the present Viceroy of Pegue), an officer of 
distinction, with thirty-six war boats, to the assistance 
of the garrison. This general, notwithstanding his 
force was far inferior to that of the enemy, boldly at- 

tacked the advanced guard at Melloon, and drove 
them back to Prome; but finding himself unequal to 
contend openly against the main body of the Peguers, 
he threw himself, by a skilful manoeuvre, with a con- 
siderable supply of men and provisions, into the fort; 
a few of his boats only falling into the hands of the 
enemy, whilst the remainder effected their retreat to a 
place of security. 

Forty days are said to have elapsed, without any 
material advantage on the part of the besiegers. The 
danger being past that threatened from the eastward, 
Alompra had, during this interval, collected the choic- 
est of his troops, and leaving the care of Monchaboo 
and Ava to his two eldest sons, he proceeded down 
the river at the head of a formidable fleet, with a ra- 
pidity that equally tended to impress the enemy with 
dread, and inspire his own soldiers with confidence. 
The attack was not delayed beyond the hour of his ar- 
rival; the Peguers were quickly driven from a stockade 
they had erected on the north side of the fort; but the 
hottest action took place between the fleets; instead of 
an ineffectual fire from ill directed musquetry, the 
boats closed, and the highest personal prowess was 
evinced on both sides; knives, spears, and swords, 
were their weapons; after a long and bloody contest, 
victory declared for the Birmans, whilst the van- 
quished Peguers sought safety in a precipitate fhght. 

Alompra, who never failed diligently to improve 
his advantages, suffered no time to elapse in inaction; 
proceeding to Loonzay, he found the town evacuated, 
and, on taking possession, changed its name to Ma- 
yah-oun, signifying rapid conquest, by which it is at 
present known; and such was the terror of his arms, 
that a body of his troops advanced within a few 
leagues of Persaim, or Bassien, unmolested by the en- 
emy, who did not attempt even to retard their pro- 

The report of this disaster spread general conster- 
nation throughout the Pegue dominions; the fugitives 
that escaped gave such accounts, as the facts, exagger- 
ated by .their fears, might be supposed to dictate; a 
general insurrection of all the Birman subjects subor- 
dinate to the Pegue government was apprehended; 
and certain information of plots and conspiracies 
proved that these fears were not groundless. The 
Pegue king, who had retreated to Bassien, left that 
place by night, and retired to Pegue; his thus [sic] ad- 
herents, abandoned and terrified, thought of nothing 
but their own security; every man pursued what he 
judged the safest track; and so universal was the 
panic, that on the 17th of February, the town and fort 
of Persaim were completely deserted, the fugitives 
having first set fire to several houses, and consumed 
the public store-rooms, in which was deposited a large 
quantity of grain. 

On the morning of the 23d, an advanced party of 
the Birman fleet came in sight; shortly after, a body of 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


about 250 men landed, and marched up to a small fac- 
tory (this factory, under the control of the Resident at 
Negrais, consisted of a few storehouses, erected near 
the river, for the purpose of facilitating the timber 
trade) occupied by the Enghsh. These people were 
well armed, according to the country manner, and not 
appearing to entertain hostile intentions against any 
except the Peguers, the English superintendant. Cap- 
tain Baker, received them with confidence, and, in the 
character of a peaceable trader, solicited protection for 
the Servants and property of the India Company; his 
request was granted; neither depredation nor insult 
were offered to the English. About noon the Birmans 
departed, having first set fire to what remained of the 
town, and destroyed part of the stockade; they di- 
rected their route back to Keoum-meoum, a town 
situated on the mouth of that branch of the great river 
that leads to Bassien and Negrais. 

From this time until the 12th of March, frequent 
skirmishes took place between small parties of the 
Birmans and Peguers, in which the latter were gener- 
ally worsted; an ineffectual attempt was made to re- 
possess and defend Bassien, by the late Chekey, or 
Lieutenant, the man who had been second in authority 
whilst the place was subject to the Pegue government. 

The seat of war was now likely to be confined to the 
mouths of navigable rivers, and the numerous creeks 
and canals that intersect the lower provinces of Pegue, 
and communicate between the larger streams; a vessel 
of burthen, provided with guns, and worked by a few 
Europeans, became a formidable foe to the open war 
boats of the natives, though well manned, and con- 
ducted with skill and courage. Alompra, who was at 
this time at Loonzay, or Meyah-oun, formed a right 
estimation of the advantage to be derived from an al- 
liance with nations so well versed in the arts of mari- 
time war; in order, therefore, to engage the good of- 
fices of the English, or at least stipulate for their neu- 
trality, he sent a deputation to Mr. Brooke, Resident at 
Negrais, and at that time chief of all the English facto- 

On the 13th of March, a fleet of twenty-five Birman 
boats arrived at Bassien, having on board two Birman 
deputies, accompanied by an Armenian and a Mus- 
sulman, as interpreters. These personages brought a 
letter from Alompra, directed to Mr. Brooke, couched 
in terms of friendship; but not deeming it prudent to 
venture with so small a force through the Pegue dis- 
tricts to Negrais, the English superintendant under- 
took to forward a copy of the letter, whilst the depu- 
ties returned to a secure post up the river, at no great 
distance from Bassien, there to wait an answer, which 
was expected in four or five days. 

At the expiration of the computed time, the schoo- 
ner, that had been dispatched to Negrais, returned, 
bringing an order from Mr. Brooke to Captain Baker, 
to accompany the deputies to Negrais, and to repair 

thither as speedily as possible: the deputation accord- 
ingly left Bassien on the 19th of March, 1755, and 
reached Negrais on the 22d, at night. 

The business of the deputies was not concluded un- 
til the 26th; when, having received an answer to 
Alompra's letter, and their final dismission, they de- 
parted, attended by Captain Baker. Approaching Bas- 
sien, they were astonished to find the place in the 
hands of the enemy. A detachment of three thousand 
Peguers, in sixty war boats, had arrived during their 
absence; and on the 26th, engaged and captured all the 
boats that waited to convoy the deputies to their mas- 
ter. Captain Baker finding it impracticable to proceed, 
conducted the deputies back to Negrais, where they 
returned on the 3d of April, purposing to wait the oc- 
currence of some more favourable opportunity. 

The impediments that had thus prevented the re- 
turn of the deputies were of short duration. On the 
21st of April, 1755, the Peguers received certain intel- 
ligence that Alompra had attacked Apporaza, in his. 
camp at Synyangong, and that their countrymen had 
suffered a total defeat; their own numbers being 
greatly diminished by desertion, Bassien became no 
longer a place of safety; they judged it therefore most 
prudent to withdraw towards Syriam. On the 23d, the 
ruins of the town, and its vicinity, were completely 
evacuated, and the navigation of the river again 
opened to the Birmans. 

The retreat of these troops was well timed; several 
detached parties of Birmans appeared on the subse- 
quent days; and on the 28th, a body of one thousand 
men arrived at Bassien, a small number by land, the 
rest by water, with forty war-boats; they experienced 
no resistance, and made a few prisoners. A strong 
convoy was sent down to Negrais to escort the depu- 
ties, who now pursued, their journey without molesta- 
tion; they returned on the 3d of June to Bassien, and 
left it on the 5th, with a letter from the resident at Ne- 
grais to Alompra, who had reached Dagon (now 
called Rangoon, Dagon is the name of a celebrated 
temple, a short distance from the present day) early in 
the preceding month. 

The victory gained by Alompra at Synyangong, in 
the end of April, was decisive; the Peguers disheart- 
ened, fled to Syriam; and many did not halt until they 
reached Pegue. Among the latter was Apporaza, who 
left the defence of Syriam to a relation of the king of 
Pegue. The fortifications consisted of a feeble rampart, 
protected by a palisade, and an inconsiderable fosse, 
almost dry. Light as such obstacles would appear to 
regular troops, they presented a formidable opposi- 
tion to the desultory attacks of an undisciplined rab- 

The French and English factories at Syriam were at 
this time in a state of rivalry, such as might be ex- 
pected from the spirit of national emulation, and the 
avidity of traders on a narrow scale; the situation of 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

both became at this juncture highly critical; danger 
approached, from which they could not hope to be 
entirely exempt. It was not to be expected that they 
would be suffered to remain in neutral tranquillity, 
indifferent spectators of so serious a contest; it there- 
fore became necessary to adopt some decided line of 
conduct, in order to avoid being considered as a 
common enemy, whilst the contending powers 
seemed equally anxious to attach them. In this diffi- 
cult situation neither the French nor the English seem 
to have acted with policy or candour; and the impru- 
dence of certain individuals, finally, involved others 
as well as themselves, in fatal consequences. 

Monsieur Bourno, the chief of the French factory, in 
the interest of the Peguers, but apprehensive of the 
power, and dreading the success of the Birmans, had 
recourse to dissimulation, and endeavoured to steer a 
middle course. Under pretence of occupying a station 
where he could more effectually aid the Peguers, he 
embarked on board a French ship, and with two other 
vessels belonging to his nation, dropped down from 
Syriam, and moored in the stream of the Rangoon 
river. Finding, soon after, that Alompra was likely to 
be victorious, he determined, if possible, to secure an 
interest in that quarter. With this intent, he quitted his 
ship accompanied by two of his countrymen, and pro- 
ceeded in a boat to Dagon where Alompra received 
him with marks of distinction and kindness; but on 
the second day after the departure of Monsieur 
Bourno, the officer whom he left in charge of the ship 
during his absence, in concert with a missionary who 
had long resided at the factory, either impelled by 
fear, or prevailed upon by some secret influence, 
weighed anchor suddenly, and returned to the Pegu- 
ers at Syriam, without permission from his com- 
mander, or even advising him of his intention. 

So extraordinary a step surprised Alompra exceed- 
ingly; he taxed Bourno with deceit; the Frenchman 
protested his own innocence, and argued the improb- 
ability of his assenting to any such measure, whilst he 
remained in the Birman camp. He sent an order to his 
officers to return immediately, an injunction that was 
disregarded by them, under plea of their commander 
being a prisoner. He then requested leave from Alom- 
pra to go in person, and bring back the ship; to this the 
king consented, on condition of leaving one of his at- 
tendants (Lavine, a youth) as an hostage for his certain 

From the procedure of Mr. Brooke, resident at Ne- 
grais, in his reception of the Birman deputies, and the 
aid of military stores sent by him to the Birmans, the 
English, when it became necessary to avow the side 
they meant to espouse, seem to have declared explic- 
itly for the Birmans; and this principle was adopted 
not only by the resident at Negrais, but also by the fac- 
tory at Syriam. The Hunter schooner, belonging to the 
India Company, the Elizabeth, a country ship, com- 

manded by Captain Swain, and two other vessels, left 
Syriam in the month of May, and joined the Birmans 
at Dagon. In the beginning of June, the Company's 
snow, Arcot, bound to Negrais, commanded by a Cap- 
tain Jackson, having on board Mr. Whitehill, a gentle- 
man in the service of the East India Company, pro- 
ceeding to Negrais in an official capacity, put into the 
Rangoon river, through stress of weather. A boat that 
had been sent in to fetch a pilot, returned, with an ac- 
count of the state of affairs; and brought a letter, and 
an invitation from Alompra to Captain Jackson, to 
carry his vessel up to Dagon, promising him every aid 
that the place afforded. 

On the 6th of June the Arcot reached Dagon; and 
Mr. Whitehill went on shore to pay his respects to the 
Birman king, by whom he was received in a manner 
that gave no apparent cause for complaint. 

After the defeat of the Peguers at Synyangong, and 
the acquisition of Dagon by Alompra, the English 
ships sailed from Syriam voluntarily, and came to Da- 
gon to assist the Birmans, in conformity to the evident 
determination of Mr. Brooke, whose reception of the 
Birman deputies, together with his subsequent con- 
duct, clearly evinced his friendly intentions towards 
that nation. Until the arrival of the Arcot, with Mr. 
Jackson and Mr. Whitehill, no subject of offence seems 
to have been given to the English by the Birmans. 

A short time previous to the arrival of the Arcot, 
Apporaza returned from Pegue to Syriam, and reas- 
sumed the command; he had been made acquainted 
with the negotiation carrying on between Mr. Brooke 
at Negrais and the deputies of Alompra; and in order 
to counteract its effects, commenced a secret corre- 
spondence with Captain Jackson. His arguments seem 
to have strongly influenced that gentleman, and given 
a decided bias in his favour. Ground of accusation was 
soon found against the Birmans; personal ill treatment 
was heavily complained of, which the tenour of Mr. 
Jackson's dispatches does not satisfactorily establish. 

An attempt was shortly after made by the Peguers 
to surprise the Birman camp, and recover Dagon. 
Notwithstanding the land forces marched by night, 
and the fleet advanced with celerity, increased by a 
rapid tide, they were discovered in time for the Bir- 
mans to prepare for their reception. The boats first ar- 
riving, were repulsed by a heavy fire from the banks, 
which were lined with Birman troops. The post of Da- 
gon could only be taken on the side of the land by a 
resolute assault. The attack of the Peguers was feeble 
and ineffectual; disheartened by the failure of their 
fleet, and destitute of able leaders, they soon aban- 
doned their enterprize. An irregular fire of musquetry 
continued until noon, when the Peguers retreated to 
Syriam, little loss being sustained on either side. 

During this spiritless contest, the English main- 
tained a perfect neutrality, not a shot was discharged 
from any of the ships; a circumstance that tended to 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


create suspicion in the minds of the Birmans: their dis- 
trust, however, seems to have been lulled by assur- 
ances of friendship, and probably by the expectation 
of a supply of cannon and stores from Negrais, which 
Mr. Brooke had announced his intention of sending, 
under care of Messrs. Baker and North; whom he 
meant to depute to the Birman king. Alompra had, a 
short time before, left Dagon to quell a disturbance in 
the northern provinces, caused by the Quois and Sia- 
mese; who, taking advantage of his absence, had in- 
vaded his country, and excited an insurrection of the 
inhabitants in favour of the fugitive son of the ancient 
monarch. The sudden appearance of the victorious 
chief disconcerted his enemies; he soon reduced the 
disobedient, and obliged the Siamese to retire within 
their own frontiers. 

Previous to his departure from Dagon, Alompra 
laid the foundation of the town now so well known by 
the name of Rangoon, or Dzangoon, which signifies 
victory achieved. Here stood, in former days, a large 
and populous city, called in the Pali, or sacred lan- 
guage, Singoun-terra; the site of which Alompra dili- 
gently explored, and raised on its ruins the present 
flourishing sea-port of the Pegue dominions. Dagon, 
often called Shoe Dagon, or the golden Dagon, is a 
name peculiar to the temple; a noble edifice, three 
miles distant from the banks of the river. When Alom- 
pra left his camp, he appointed Meinla-Meingoun to 
command in his absence; an officer of approved repu- 
tation and valour. 

The clandestine negotiations between the English 
and Peguers appear to have been renewed after this 
action; several messages passed, in which a fresh at- 
tack on the Birmans was concerted, and the aid of the 
Company's ships promised to the Peguers, who were 
thus to be befriended by the whole European force, 
both French and English. Confiding in their new allies, 
and assured of victory, the war-boats of the Peguers, 
during the night, dropped down the Pegue river, and 
with the French ships moored in the stream of the Ir- 
rawaddy (the name of the great river of Ava. This 
branch is often called the Rangoon River, to distin- 
guish it from that which leads to Bassein), waiting the 
return of tide to carry them to Rangoon. Dawn of day 
discovered them to the Birmans, whose general im- 
mediately sent for the English gentlemen, to consult 
on the best means of defence. At this interview, the 
Birmans candidly acquainted Mr. Whitehill how iU 
satisfied they were with the conduct of the English 
commanders during the late action, and desired a 
promise of more active assistance on the present occa- 
sion: Mr. Whitehill rephed, that without the Com- 
pany's orders, he was not authorized to commence 
hostihties on any nation; but if the Peguers fired on 
the English ships, it would be considered as an act of 
aggression, and resented accordingly. How much it is 
to be lamented, that such prudent and equitable prin- 

ciples were not better observed; the departure from 
them affixed a stain on the national honour, which the 
lapse of more than forty years has not been able to ex- 

The Pegue force was, on this occasion, highly for- 
midable; it consisted of two large French ships, and an 
armed snow, belonging to the king of Pegue, with two 
hundred teilee, or war-boats. On the approach of this 
armament, the Birmans manifested their apprehen- 
sions, by repeating their entreaties to the English. Ow- 
ing to the time of the tide, it was noon before the 
Pegue boats could advance. When within cannon shot, 
the French ships came to anchor, and opened their 
guns, whilst a brisk discharge of musquetry was 
poured from the Pegue boats on the Birman fleet, that, 
for the most part, had taken shelter in a creek, and 
were protected by the fire kept up from a grove of 
mangoo trees, on the banks of the river, in possession 
of the Birmans, around which they had raised tempo- 
rary works, and erected a battery of a few pieces of 
ship cannon; which, from being ill served, did httle 
execution. At this juncture the English ships Hunter, 
Arcot, and Elizabeth, commenced a fire on the Birman 
fleet. Thus assailed by unexpected foes, the Birmans 
were obhged to abandon their boats, and take shelter 
in the grove. Had the Peguers improved the critical 
opportunity, and pursued their advantage with reso- 
lution, this action might have retrieved their declining 
interests, and restored to them possession of the lower 
provinces. In vain the Europeans persuaded them to 
attempt the capture of the Birman fleet; too timid to 
expose themselves to a close discharge of musquetry 
from the grove, they were contented with the eclat of 
having compelled the enemy to retreat from their 
boats: the rest of the day was spent in distant random 
firing. During the night the Enghsh ships removed out 
of the reach of small arms; two men being killed on 
board the Arcot. The Peguers kept their situation for 
some days, during which much irregular skirmishing 
passed; when having exhausted their ammunition, 
without advancing their cause, the Peguers thought lit 
to return to Syriam, accompanied by the English and 
French ships, leaving the Birmans in possession of the 
fortified grove, and the lines of the newly projected 

Apporaza, who held the chief command at Syriam, 
received the English with every mark of respect; judg- 
ing this a favourable opportunity to regain the alliance 
of their nation, he wrote to Mr. Brooke at Negrais, in- 
viting him to come in person to Syriam, and there set- 
tle terms of permanent connection. Mr. Brooke, in let- 
ters of a friendly tenour, excused himself 1 from per- 
sonal attendance, and requested that Mr. Whitehill 
might be suffered to proceed to his station at Negrais, 
and the Company's ships permitted to pursue their 
voyage to the same place; whither he ordered the sev- 
eral commanders immediately to repair. The compli- 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

ance of Apporaza with this request, demonstrated his 
ardent desire to recover the good will of the English. 
Mr. Whitehill left Syriam, escorted by twenty armed 
boats, and proceeding through the rivers, readied Ne- 
grais on the 26th of August: the Hunter schooner 
sailed on the 26th of September following; the Arcot 
being delayed for some necessary repairs. 

Whilst these matters were agitating at Dagon, Mr. 
Brooke was advancing his negotiations with Alompra; 
Captain Baker and Lieutenant North were delegated, 
with presents, and instructions, to conclude a treaty of 
amity and alliance with the Birman monarch. 

It has been already mentioned that Alompra was 
under the necessity of leaving his post at Dagon about 
the middle of June, in order to suppress an insurrec- 
tion of his own subjects, and repel the Siamese: the 
object of his expedition was attained with little diffi- 
culty, and he had the additional satisfaction to learn 
that his arms had been successful in Cassay, the in- 
habitants of which, taking advantage of the unsettled 
state of the empire, had thrown off their dependence. 
This country is separated from the kingdom of the 
Birmans on the north-west by the river Keen-duem, 
which, taking a south-east course, unites its waters 
with those of the Irrawaddy, a short way above the 
town of Sembew-ghewn. About the time that Alompra 
left Ava to reheve Prome, he detached a body of 
troops across the river, under the command of a dis- 
tant relation, to chastize the Cassayers: these people 
had, for ages past, tasted the sweets of independence 
only at intervals, when the contests of the Birman and 
Pegue powers left them no Insure to enforce obedi- 
ence. Thus accustomed to the yoke, though always 
ready for revolt, they were quickly reduced to submis- 
sion; the prince, or rajah, who resided at Munnepopra, 
the capital of Cassay, sued for peace, which was con- 
cluded on terms advantageous to the Birmans; and, as 
is the custom, a young man and young woman, of the 
kindred of the rajah, were deUvered as hostages for 
the due observance of the compact. 

The Enghsh deputation proceeded in boats slowly 
up the river, which, at that season of the year, is 
swelled by mountain torrents, and the navigation ren- 
dered difficult by the rapidity of the stream. A short 
distance above Prome, they met a detachment, com- 
manded by a Boomien, or general of rank, in its route 
to Dagon; it consisted of eighty boats, and four thou- 
sand troops, to reinforce the army acting against the 
Peguers. Captain Baker had an interview with the 
chief, who expressed sanguine hopes of reducing 
Syriam, and destroying the French ships that had as- 
sisted the Peguers. 

The late extraordinary conduct of the English ship- 
ping at Dagon, was no very favourable introduction to 
the delegates; nor did Captain Baker escape reproach 
for transactions in which he certainly had no share: to 
increase his embarrassment, he had the misfortune. 

the day after he parted with the detachment, to lose 
his colleague, Lieut, North, who died at Roung-Yooah, 
of a dysentery and fever. Captain Baker afterwards 
pursued his voyage, accompanied only by the Bir- 
mans. On the 8th of September he reached Ava, lately 
the metropolis of the empire. Alompra, partial to the 
scene of his first success, had removed the seat of gov- 
ernment to Monchaboo, which he constituted his capi- 
tal, and fixed on as the place of his future residence. 
At Ava Captain Baker was civilly entertained by the 
Governor; on the 12th he reached Keoum-meoum, 
situated on the west bank of the Irrawaddy, and on 
the 16th he received a summons to attend "the golden 
feet" (a Birman expression used to denote the Imperial 
presence). Leaving his boats, at noon the following 
day he proceeded by land to the royal presence; his 
reception was conducted with as much pomp and pa- 
rade, as a king so recently elevated to his honours, and 
seated on a throne so imperfectly established, was ca- 
pable of displaying. During this interview the new 
monarch, in his conversation, gave a striking instance 
of that intoxication which usually attends an unex- 
pected and recent rise to power: yet his vain boastings 
were not accompanied by any mark of personal con- 
tempt or indignity to Captain Baker. He vaunted of his 
victories, and the extent of his empire, in a style of 
presumptuous vanity, equal to the arrogance of 
Xerxes; he upbraided our national character in the af- 
fair of the shipping at Dagon, alleging that he had 
treated the English with kindness, which they repaid 
by perfidiously breaking the promise given to him on 
his departure from Dagon. To these reproaches Cap- 
tain Baker could only reply by expressions of regret; 
and a solemn declaration, that Mr. Brooke, so far from 
having authorized, knew nothing of such proceedings. 
Alompra listened to his assurances with more compla- 
cency than could well be expected from a despot, who 
had waded to a throne through the blood of his ene- 

At a second audience, a few days subsequent to the 
first, his Majesty dictated a letter, addressed to Mr. 
Brooke, in which he granted permission to the Com- 
pany to establish factories at Da-gon and Bassien; hav- 
ing; determined on the total demolition of Syriam. 
Captain Baker made a further requisition of the Island 
of Negrais. Although this desire was not refused, the 
formal assignment was postponed, owing to a domes- 
tic misfortune, which gave the King much uneasiness; 
but as it was his Majesty's intention shortly to repair 
to Rangoon, to conduct in person the Pegue war, the 
completion of the grant was deferred to a future op- 
portunity. Captain Baker, having obtained his dismis- 
sion, set out for Keoum-meoum, and on the 29th of 
September embarked to return to Negrais. 

Whilst friendship and union were thus likely to be 
established between the Birmans and the settlement at 
Negrais, the Peguers hazarded another attempt on the 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


Birman post at Dagon, and were again assisted by the 
Arcot, and two private English ships, which, it is 
probable, on this occasion might have acted, in some 
degree, under compulsatory influence. Three EngUsh 
and one French ship, with three hundred armed boats, 
constituted the Pegue force by water; and ten thou- 
sand men marched by land, to attack the heights at 
Dagon, and the fortified grove. The Birmans, with 
considerable ingenuity, constructed fire-rafts, consist- 
ing of a number of boats fastened together, and filled 
with combustible materials; these rafts were floated 
down a strong spring-tide to where the ships lay at 
anchor, and directed with such skill and effect, as to 
oblige them to slip their cables, and get under weigh, 
the French ship narrowly escaping destruction. This 
manoeuvre effectually removed the vessels for that 
tide, and prevented a cooperation with the land forces, 
who, thus deprived of the support on which they 
chiefly depended, made an ineffectual charge on the 
Birman works: they were easily repulsed, and, with 
the fleet and army, retreated to Syriam; from whence 
they never again dared to hazard another enterprize. 

The affairs of the Peguers were in this desperate 
state when Alompra returned victorious from Ava; his 
presence animated his own army, and spread a heav- 
ier cloud over the unfortunate Taliens (The Birmans 
call the Peguers Taliens). He immediately changed the 
plan of operation: instead of waiting at Dagon, in forti- 
fied posts, the attack of the Peguers, he, in turn, be- 
came the assailant, and leaving the great river, boldly 
advanced his boats to the mouth of the Syriam stream; 
thereby cutting oft all communication with the sea, 
and the countries to the west of Rangoon. Apporaza 
about this time retired from Syriam to Pegue, leaving 
his former station to be maintained by the chief Woon 
or Woongee, of the Pegue empire. Permission had 
previously been given to the EngUsh ships to depart 
with the Company's stores. Mons. Boumo, the French 
Resident, continued at Syriam, where, having moored 
his vessel close to the factory, he prepared to defend 
himself. The tide in the Rangoon river rises to an un- 
common height; the river of Pegue, or, as it is often 
called, of Syriam, being fed by the influx of the sea, 
through the Rangoon river, sinks at low ebb into an 
inconsiderable stream. The French ship, when the wa- 
ter retired, touched the ground; the Birmans, profiting 
by her unmanageable state, during the recess of tide, 
brought gun-boats to bear in such a direction, as to 
annoy her without exposing themselves. This judi- 
cious mode of attack proved successful; the ship was 
quickly disabled, and Mons. Bourno finding the post 
untenable, wrote a letter to Alompra, apologizing for 
his former conduct, and making fresh overtures of ac- 
commodation. The correspondence was either discov- 
ered, or suspected by the Peguers, who suddenly re- 
moved Mons. Bourno and his adherents into the fort 

of Syriam, before the purposed negotiation had time 
to be completed. 

Alompra immediately took possession of the evacu- 
ated factory and vessel; after which he seemed desir- 
ous of attaining his object of Syriam, rather by block- 
ade and famine than by hostile approaches; without 
attempting to assault the place, he continued in its vi- 
cinity, until the month of July, 1756. By such apparent 
inactivity on the part of the Birmans, the garrison was 
lulled into fatal security: Alompra, seizing a favour- 
able opportunity, crossed the ditch in the dead of 
night, carried the outworks without resistance, and 
soon made himself master of the fort. The comman- 
dant, and the greater part of the garrison, favoured by 
the darkness, escaped to Pegue; many, however, were 
slain, and all the Europeans were made prisoners. 

It has already appeared to have been the deter- 
mined policy of the French to espouse the cause of the 
Peguers, and had succours from Pondicherry arrived 
before the state of things became too desperate, affairs 
would probably have worn a different aspect, and the 
Peguers obtained such an addition to their strength, as 
would have enabled them to conclude a peace on ad- 
vantageous terms. But assistance in war, to be effec- 
tual, must be timely, and unless apphed while the 
scales hang nearly even, often comes too late, and is 
found, not only to be useless, but even productive of 
deeper disappointment. In the present case, the French 
brought those supplies which the Peguers had long 
buoyed themselves with hopes of, at the unfortunate 
moment when the communication was cut off, when 
no relief could be conveyed to them, and all prospect 
of retrieving their disastrous fortunes had completely 

Mons. Dupliex, Governor of Pondicherry, a man 
whose comprehensive mind perceived with clearness, 
whatever could benefit his nation, at this juncture 
deeply engaged in the important contest that was ul- 
timately to determine the sovereignty of the East, be- 
ing aware of the consequence of maintaining an influ- 
ence in Pegue, had, notwithstanding the exigencies of 
his own situation, equipped two ships, the Galathie 
and DiUgent, vessels of force, well manned and 
armed, and sent them, with a supply of military 
stores, to the assistance of the Peguers. Shortly after 
leaving Pondicherry, they separated; the Galathie had 
a speedy passage, but owing to a fatal and frequent 
error of mistaking the mouth of the Sitang river, 
which is a few miles to the. eastward, for that of Ran- 
goon, she did not arrive at the bar until two days after 
Syriam had fallen into the hands of the Birmans. The 
boat, sent by the French commander to bring down a 
pilot, was immediately captured. Alompra being ap- 
prized of the circumstance, ordered a pilot, in a coun- 
try boat, to proceed to the Galathie, and compelled 
Boumo, who was then under rigorous confinement, to 
write to the Captain, encouraging him to proceed, and 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

come up to Rangoon, assigning some frivolous excuse 
for the delay of the Galathie's boat, which he was 
given to expect would meet him on the way to town. 
The Captain imprudently became the dupe of this arti- 
fice; he weighed, and stood in with a strong flood tide, 
which in a few hours carried him to Rangoon, where 
the sudden seizure of his vessel prevented all possibil- 
ity of retreat; the stores were brought on shore, and. 
the consignments and papers proved that these sup- 
pUes were meant for the assistance of the Peguers, and 
directed to Beinga Delia, and his brother Apporaza. 
Alompra became so incensed, that he gave orders for 
the instant execution of Bourno, Martine, and the Cap- 
tain and officers of the Gahthie. This sanguinary man- 
date was obeyed with unrelenting promptitude, a few 
seamen and Lascars alone escaped; and these were 
preserved, for no other reason than to be rendered of 
use in further prosecution of the war, and survived 
but to experience all the miseries of hopeless bondage. 

The Diligent was more fortunate; having separated 
from her consort, she met with adverse winds, and 
was obliged to bear away for the Nicobar Islands; this 
delay prevented her reaching her intended port until 
six weeks subsequent to the disaster. The caution of 
the Captain saved him from suffering a similar fate; he 
got intelligence of the massacre of his countrymen in 
time to retire, and carried back news of the failure of 
the expedition, to Pondicherry, whence it was impos- 
sible to attempt the extension of further succour to the 
unhappy Peguers. 

The rage of the conqueror was, on this occasion, ex- 
hausted on the French. Foreigners of other nations, 
who had been captured in Syriam, were treated less 
rigorously; some who incurred his displeasure, and 
had reason to dread its effects, were dismissed with 
admonitions, and suffered to depart. Among these 
were a few English, who had not been able to with- 
draw from Syriam, before it came into the enemy's 

The fall of Syriam seems to have determined the 
fate of the Peguers; cut off from communication with 
the western countries of Dalla and Bassien, deprived 
of the navigation of the Rangoon river and the Ir- 
rawaddy, and shut out from all foreign aid, their re- 
sources failed, and supplies by water could no longer 
reach them. The Bago Miop, or Pegue river, extends a 
very short distance to the north-north-east; the tide 
alone renders it navigable; where that influence fails, 
it degenerates into a streamlet which issues from a 
range of hiUs about forty miles above the city, remark- 
able only for their noisome and destructive atmos- 

Nothwithstanding these discouragements, the 
Peguers prepared to sustain a siege in their capital, 
which was in a better state of defence than is common 
in countries, where the science of war is so imperfectly 
understood. Situated on an extensive plain, Pegue was 

surrounded with a high and solid wall, flanked by 
small towers, and strengthened on each face by demi- 
bastions, equidistant; abroad ditch contained about 
three feet depth of water; wells or reservoirs supphed 
the town; the stupendous pagoda of Shoe Madeo, 
nearly centrical, built on an artificial eminence, and 
inclosed by a substantial wall of brick, served as a 
citadel, and afforded an enlarged view of the adjacent 
country. The extent, however, of the works, the troops 
necessary to defend them, and the number of inhabi- 
tants within the walls, operated to the disadvantage of 
the besieged, and aggravated the distresses they were 
shortly to endure. 

As soon as the rainy season subsided, and the coun- 
try, which between Pegue and Syriam is low and 
swampy, had emerged from the inundations of the 
monsoon, Alompra ordered his General, Meinla- 
Meingoung, to advance towards Pegue at the head of 
a body of troops. A few days after he followed in per- 
son with his whole army: in four marches they 
reached the vicinity of the city, through a country laid 
waste and depopulated. Circumvallation is a favourite 
practice of warfare with the Birmans, and famine a 
weapon on which they repose the greatest reliance. 
Alompra preferred these to the hazard of a repulse, in 
an attempt to storm; he invested Pegue with his army, 
and erected numerous stockades, at once to protect his 
own troops, and prevent communication with the 
country. Thus secured by his defences from surprize 
and sudden attack, fearless of any external enemy, 
and commanding the navigation of the river, he sat 
down in the month of January, 1757, to wait the slow, 
but certain effects of hunger and distress. 

The fort of Pegue was occupied by the royal family 
and the principal nobles of the Talien nation. Among 
the highest in rank were Apporaza, brother of the 
king, Chouparea, his son-in-law and nephew, and Ta- 
labaan, a general who, on former occasions, had been 
distinguished by rendering, his country signal serv- 
ices, and had raised himself by his valour to the first 
military honours of the state. 

The Birmans, though superior in numbers, perse- 
vered in the passive system of reduction, and were not 
to be allured from the protection of their stockades. 
Two months thus elapsed in defensive inactivity. The 
consequences, however, were inevitable; want, and its 
sure concomitants, discontent and mutiny, began to 
rage within the walls. On this emergency the King 
summoned a council of all his family and chieftains; 
after expatiating on the straits to which they were re- 
duced, and the hopelessness of rehef, he declared his 
intention to sue for peace; and further, to propitiate 
the conqueror, he proposed sending to him his only 
unmarried daughter; as by such an act of homage 
alone he could expect to procure favourable terms. 
This proposal was hstened to with sorrowful acquies- 
cence by all but Talabaan, who is said to have cher- 

SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


ished a secret passion for the maiden; for in this coun- 
try, young women of the highest rank are not, after 
the manner of India, precluded from the sight and 
conversation of the other sex. The chief, with haughty 
indignation, reprobated the disgraceful sacrifice, in- 
veighing against it in the sharpest terms; and con- 
cluded with an offer to sally forth at the head of six 
hundred chosen followers, and either raise the siege, 
and procure an honourable peace, or perish in the at- 
tempt; provided, in the event of success, the King 
would promise to bestow on him his daughter, as the 
reward of valour. 

Struck with the gallantry of this proposal, the King 
apparently assented, and the council broke up; but 
Apporaza and the other chiefs, who long had beheld 
with jealousy the growing power and increasing fame 
of Talabaan, remonstrated against the measure, as an 
act still more derogatory to their monarch, than yield- 
ing his daughter as a peace offering to a sovereign po- 
tentate. The King, by these persuasions, was prevailed 
upon to retract the conditions. Talabaan, irritated at 
his disappointment, took an opportunity of leaving 
the fort at midnight, and with a few resolute atten- 
dants, forced his way in safety through the Birman 
camp; he afterwards crossed the Setang river, and 
marched to Mondimaa, or Martaban, where his family 

Two days after Talabaan had retired, the Pegue 
king, in pursuance of his first intention, wrote to 
Alompra, proposing peace on the terms which he had 
intimated to his council before the secession of his 
general. The Birman King readily accepted the offered 
pacification. A negotiation was opened, which termi- 
nated in an agreement, that the Pegue King should 
govern his country under the stipulation of doing 
homage to the Birman monarch; that the ancient 
boundary should be observed; and Prome, or Pee 
Miou, continue the frontier of the Pegue dominions to 
the north. A preliminary of these conditions was the 
surrender of the daughter of the Pegue monarch to the 
royal victor; Apporaza, her uncle, was appointed to 
convey her to the Birman camp, where they were re- 
ceived with music, feasting, and every demonstration 
of joy and amity. 

Some days elapsed in festive ceremonies, during 
which both the besiegers and besieged had frequent 
and almost uninterrupted intercourse; the guards on 
both sides relaxed in their vigilance, and small parties 
of Birmans found their way into the city, whilst the 
Peguers visited the Birman camp without molestation 
or inquiry. Alompra, who, it appears, had little inten- 
tion of adhering to the recent compact, privately in- 
troduced bodies of armed men, with directions to se- 
crete themselves within the city, until their services 
should be required; arms and ammunition were also 
conveyed and lodged in places of concealment. Mat- 
ters, however, were not managed with such circum- 

spection as to prevent discovery; Chouparea, the 
king's nephew, received intimation of the meditated 
treachery; he instantly ordered the gates of the city to 
be closed, and having found out the repositories 
where the weapons were lodged, and detected many 
Birmans in disguise, he gave directions to put to death 
every man of that nation who should be found within 
the walls, and opened a fire upon such part of the 
Birman camp as was most exposed to the artillery of 
the fort. 

Hostilities now recommenced with exasperated 
fury; Apporaza with his royal niece were detained in 
the Birman camp; the uncle under close confinement, 
whilst the lady was consigned to the guardians of the 
female apartments. The Peguers having gained no ac- 
cession to their strength, and added little to their 
stores, during the short interval of tranquilhty, were 
not in a better condition than before to resist the en- 
emy. The Birmans observed the system of warfare 
they at first adopted; so that in six weeks, famine had 
again reduced the garrison to a deplorable state of 
wretchedness and want; the most loathsome reptiles 
were eagerly sought after and devoured, and the 
clamours of the soldiers could no longer be appeased. 
A few secret hoards of grain were by chance discov- 
ered, and many more were suspected to exist; the 
crowd thronged tumultuously round the quarters of 
Chouparea, on whom, after the secession of Talabaan, 
and the imprisonment of Apporaza, the care of de- 
fending the fortress entirely devolved. In order to si- 
lence and satisfy those whom he could not restrain, he 
ordered a general search for grain, and granted per- 
mission to the soldiers forcibly to enter whatever 
houses fell under suspicion. This licence was dih- 
gently improved, and the house of a near relation of 
the king was discovered to contain more grain, than 
either the present situation of affairs or his own wants 
could justify. The deposit was demanded, and as reso- 
lutely refused. The crowd, authorized by the permis- 
sion of Chouparea, proceeded to take by violence 
what was not to be obtained by entreaty: a riot en- 
sued, in which some lives were lost, and the prince 
was at length obliged to abandon his house. Repairing 
to the royal residence, he uttered violent invectives 
against Chouparea, whom he accused to the king of 
harbouring an intention to deprive his sovereign of 
life, and seize upon the imperial throne; and advised 
his majesty rather to throw himself on the generosity 
of the besiegers, and obtain the best terms practicable, 
than hazard the danger to which his person and king- 
dom were exposed from the perfidy of a faithless and 
powerful subject. The king, whose imbecility seems to 
have equalled his ill fortune, lent an ear to the com- 
plaints of a man stimulated by sudden rage, and per- 
sonal jealousy; the unhappy and distracted monarch 
resolved to pursue his counsel; but being too timid 
openly to avow his weakness and suspicion, he sent 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

secret proposals to Alompra to surrender the city to 
him, stipulating for life alone, and leaving the rest to 
the discretion of the conqueror. According to the plan 
agreed on, the Birmans advanced to the gates, which 
were immediately deserted: the Peguers fled in the 
utmost panic; many escaped in the confusion; the 
Pegue king was made prisoner, and the city given up 
to indiscriminate plunder. 

Alompra, having thus triumphed over his natural 
enemy, and to all appearance, given a final blow to the 
Peguers, who, with their city, and their sovereign, lost 
the spirit of resistance, proceeded to bring into subjec- 
tion the countries to the eastward, including the fertile 
districts situate between Pegue and the Three Pago- 
das; which were the ancient boundaries of the Pegue 
and Siam, or Yoodra territories. Talabaan had fled to 
Martaban, where his influence was still considerable, 
and his enterprizing spirit rendered him an enemy not 
to be despised. This chief, on the approach of Alom- 
pra, finding he had not force sufficient to oppose the 
Birmans, fled into the woods, leaving behind him 
some of his family, and many persons who were at- 
tached to his cause. Alompra seized on these, and, 
conformably to the barbarous custom of nations of the 
East, the innocent were condemned to suffer for the 
guilty: the unfortunate Talabaan. was summoned to 
surrender, and menaces of destruction, in case of re- 
fusal, were held out against such of his family and ad- 
herents as had fallen into the conqueror's power. The 
danger to which his dearest connections thus became 
exposed, suppressed in Talabaan's mind all personal 
apprehension; he surrendered himself a voluntary 
prisoner, to preserve those whom he loved more than 
life. When brought into the royal presence, with un- 
shaken but respectful resolution, he demanded the 
release of his friends, and his own sentence. Alompra, 
struck with such an instance of magnanimity, gener- 
ously forgave him, and ordered the captives to be lib- 
erated. He afterwards raised Talabaan to a distin- 
guished station in his own service; the duties of which 
he executed during the reign of Alompra with strict 
fidehty, although he was afterwards instrumental in 
exciting a rebellion against his successor. 

The English interests in India were at this time sus- 
pended in a doubtful scale; little could be spared from 
the coast of Coromandel, then the theatre of most im- 
portant struggles, to aid distant colonies, and support 
precarious projects; Negrais was in consequence ne- 
glected, though not yet abandoned. The Tahen or 
Pegue government, by the surrender of their capital, 
being now extinct, it became necessary for foreigners 
to to conciliate the new sovereign. Alompra had 
summoned Mr. Newton (Mr. Brooke had retired; and 
Captain Howe, who succeeded Mr. Brooke, had died. 
Mr. Newton was only eventual Resident. A Mr. W. 
Roberts was intended for that charge. He, however, 
was killed at the siege of Madras; and from that pe- 

riod Negrais was neglected. Mr. Brooke and Captain 
Howe had the reputation of being very honourable 
men). Resident on the part of the East India Company 
at Negrais, to attend him at Prome. Mr. Newton de- 
puted Ensign Lyster to the Birman chief, with pre- 
sents, and instructions to obtain for the Company the 
settlement of Negrais, with certain immunities and 
privileges of trade. 

In pursuance of his orders. Ensign Lyster left Ne- 
grais on the 27th day of June, 1757, and proceeded in 
the Mary schooner as far as Persaim, or Bassien, where 
he was detained until the 13th of July, waiting for a 
person named Antonio, a native descendant of a Por- 
tugueze family, who was employed by the Birman 
government in the capacity of interpreter; and in con- 
sequence of that office, possessed some share of power 
and influence. This man was charged with the provi- 
sion of boats, and the safe coduct of the deputation. 
Matters being at length in readiness. Ensign Lyster 
with his attendants embarked on board four boats, ill 
equipped against the tempestuous and rainy weather 
which prevailed at that season of the year. Nearly at 
the same time, accounts reached Alompra that symp- 
toms of disaffection had again been manifested by the 
Cassayers, on the west bank of the Keen-Duem. Leav- 
ing the command of Rangoon now considered the 
capital of the Pegue province, to a general named 
Namdeoda, with a respectable force to check the 
Peguers, he departed from Rangoon in the middle of 
July. On the 23d, Ensign Lyster, who had suffered 
great inconvenience from the want of a commodious 
boat, at this stormy season, met the king on his way 
up the river, and was honoured with an audience on 
board the royal barge: at which, though from circum- 
stances, little pomp of royalty could be displayed, yet 
his majesty assumed a lofty tone, boasted of his invin- 
cible prowess, and enumerated the royal captives of 
the Pegue family, who were led prisoners in his train. 
After asking several questions, he postponed the fur- 
ther discussion of business to a future day, and di- 
rected Ensign Lyster to follow him. On the 29th, the 
king halted at Loonzay, where the English deputy was 
honoured with a second admission to the royal pres- 
ence. At this conversation Alompra upbraided Ensign 
Lyster with the conduct of his countrymen, in giving 
encouragement and protection to the disaffected 
Peguers. Having ordered presents of a trivial value to 
be presented, in return for those brought from Ne- 
grais, he referred the deputy to Antonio, and the Bir- 
man governor of Persaim, for a ratification and final 
adjustment of the treaty. Being pressed in point of 
time, the king departed from Loonzay on the follow- 
ing morning, and left the delegate of the English fac- 
tory to complete his mission with the Portugueze 
shawbunder ('Tntendant of the port." This is a Mus- 
sulman term, understood in all the sea-ports of the 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


East. It is called Ackawoon in the Birman language) 
and the governor of the province. 

After some unnecessary delay, said to be occasioned 
by the fraud and avarice of the governor of Persaim, 
or more probably of Antonio the interpreter, an in- 
strument was formally executed, consisting of nine 
distinct articles. Some valuable commercial immuni- 
ties were by these ceded to the India Company, the 
island of Negrais was granted to them in perpetuity, 
together with a piece of ground opposite to the old 
town of Persaim, for the purpose of erecting a factory: 
in return for which, the Company engaged to pay an 
annual tribute, consisting of ordnance and military 
stores. A particular clause specified, that aid should be 
given to the Birmans against the king of Tavoy (Ta- 
voy, now in possession of the Birmans, seems to have 
once been an independent principality, and was rec- 
ognised as such by the English, in the year 1753. It 
probably owed its transitory independence to the 
wars that raged between the greater powers). 

This agreement, the conduct and completion of 
which seem to have been influenced by the undigni- 
fied application of a bribe to the intermediate agents, 
appears to have received the entire sanction and 
authority of the King. Negrais, in conformity with the 
tenor of the compact, was continued in the possession 
of the English; and on the 22d of August, 1757, Ensign 
Lyster measured the allotted portion of ground, on 
which the British colours were hoisted, and three 
volUes of small arms fired, to solemnize the act of oc- 

Elated with success, Alompra returned to 
Monchaboo, now the seat of imperial government. Af- 
ter some months spent in enacting laws, and regulat- 
ing the internal police of the kingdom, he took up 
arms against the Cassayers; and proceeding up the 
Keen-Duem with a fleet of boats, laid waste the west- 
ern bank, burning villages, and capturing such of the 
inhabitants as could not save themselves by flight. 
Having landed his troops, he was preparing to ad- 
vance to Munnepoora, the capital of Cassay when in- 
formation arrived that the Peguers had revolted, and, 
in their attempts to throw off the yoke, had defeated 
Namdeoda; and met with such success as threatened 
the loss of those territories which his valour had lately 
acquired. This intelhgence induced him to abandon 
his views to the westward of the Keen-Duem, and re- 
turn expeditiously to the southern provinces. 

It was supposed by the Birmans, and perhaps not 
without good grounds that this insurrection of the 
Peguers, after the departure of Alompra sprung not 
less from the instigation of others, than from their own 
natural desire of emancipation. Crowds of fugitives 
had Hed from the fury of the Birmans, and taken shel- 
ter in the Siam country; some had settled on the east 
borders of the Sitang river; others found an asylum in 
the province of Martaban; and many wandered, with 

their families and flocks, over uncultivated plains, and 
through deep forests, without any fixed abode, or 
other preference of a place, than as it afforded them 
protection from their persecutors, and pasturage for 
their cattle. 

The absence of Alompra was deemed a favourable 
juncture to make the attempt, and the Siamese were 
not unlikely to encourage the undertaking. The Pegu- 
ers in the neighbourhood of Dalla and Rangoon rose 
suddenly, massacred many of the Birmans, and en- 
gaging Namdeoda, beat him in a pitched battle. This 
general after his defeat Bed to Henzada, whilst Ran- 
goon, Dalla, and Syriam, again experienced a tempo- 
rary change of masters. 

Nor were the English at Negrais exempt from sus- 
picion of being instrumental in bringing about this 
insurrection; no acts of pubhcity, however, have, on 
any occasion, been established against them: love of 
gain might have prompted individuals privately to 
sell arms and ammunition to the Peguers; and these 
transactions, if such did take place, were probably 
presented to the Birman monarch as instances of na- 
tional perfidy; and the English described as a people 
hostile to his government, and conspiring to effect its 

The news of Alompra's approach dissipated this 
transient gleam of success; Namdeoda, reinforced by 
troops and supplies from the northward, collected his 
followers at Henzada, and marched towards Rangoon. 
The army of the Peguers was encamped a httle above 
the city, and their boats were drawn up to defend the 
stockade on the side of the river. An irregular, but se- 
vere engagement ensued, which terminated in the 
overthrow of the Peguers: the Birmans again obtained 
possession of the city of Rangoon; Dalla and Syriam 
fell in course; and the arrival of Alompra soon after, 
finally crushed an insurrection, which at first was at- 
tended with formidable appearances. 

About this time Mr. WhitehiU, whose conduct on 
former occasions had given so much umbrage to the 
Birman chief, either supposing that the transactions 
were forgotten, or that he should be able to justify the 
part he had acted, revisited Rangoon in a small vessel, 
laden with such commodities as were suited to the 
market. Whatever might have been the motives of his 
return, he was mistaken in the consequences. Alompra 
being apprised of his arrival, ordered the vessel to be 
seized, and Mr. WhitehiU made prisoner. He was sent 
up in close confinement to Prome, where he met the 
King returning from Monchaboo: the despot on this 
occasion displayed unexpected moderation; he spared 
the life of his prisoner, but compelled him to pay a 
heavy ransom; his property also was confiscated, to- 
gether with the vessel that conveyed him. Sometime 
afterwards he was permitted to depart in a Dutch 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

The affairs of the British government in India were 
by no means in such a state of prosperity, as to allow 
of sending the supplies that were necessary for the 
effectual support of the settlement of Negrais. Every 
nerve was on the stretch to maintain, in the Carnatic, 
the claims of Mahommed Ally, against the French; it 
was therefore deemed expedient, for the present, to 
withdraw the settlers from Negrais. Captain Newton 
was accordingly recalled, and reached Bengal on the 
14th of May, 1759, with thirty-five Europeans, and 
seventy natives; having left a few persons to take care 
of the teak-timbers, and materials for ship building, 
that could not conveniently be removed, and to pre- 
serve the right of possession, in case it should be de- 
termined at any future period to re-establish the set- 

The tragical catastrophe that followed, presents us 
with an instance of the sanguinary and cruel disposi- 
tion that jealousy inspires, when rival interests are to 
be maintained by the arts of policy and fraud, rather 
than by open force of arms. The Armenians, the Jews 
of the East, a description of men subtle, faithless, and 
indefatigable, whose industry is usually seconded by a 
competent capacity, beheld with a mahgnant eye, the 
progress of European colonies, threatening the annihi- 
lation of that influence which they had supported for a 
long series of years, in the administration both of the 
Pegue and Birman governments. Amongst these, Coga 
Pochas, and Coga Gregory, are represented to have 
been conspicuously active in their efforts to defeat the 
views, and depreciate the credit of the English; the lat- 
ter, in particular, who had obtained a considerable of- 
fice, and carried some weight in the councils of Alom- 
pra, especially in what related to strangers, as soon as 
the affairs of the French were ruined beyond redemp- 
tion, adopted the policy of attaching to him the few 
Frenchmen whom Alompra had spared, in order to 
render them instrumental to the destruction of the 
English, who were now the favoured nation. Laveene, 
the youth before-mentioned as left at Dagon by 
Boumo, an hostage for his fidelity, instead of falling 
the victim of retaliation, had been kindly treated by 
the conqueror, who, pleased with his appearance and 
vivacity, early promoted him to a commission in the 
guards that attended on his person. The young man is 
said to have imbibed the strongest prejudices of his 
nation against the English; and in him, Coga Gregory 
found an apt instrument to execute his purposes. 

Soon after the return of Captain Newton, with his 
party, the government of Bengal thought proper to 
send Mr. Southby to Negrais, to take care of the tim- 
bers and shipping materials collected there for the use 
of the Company, and to retain possession of the set- 
tlement. The Victoria Snow, Alves master, was dis- 
patched on this service, with orders to convey Mr. 
Southby to Negrais. During her passage, the snow suf- 
fered severely from a violent gale of wind; on the 4th 

of October she anchored in the harbour of Negrais, in 
a very shattered and distressed condition: happily for 
her, the Shaftesbury East Indiaman was at this time in 
the harbour, having put into Negrais for the purpose 
of procuring a supply of provisions and water. 

Mr. Southby disembarked on the evening of his ar- 
rival, and next day landed his baggage. Antonio, the 
interpreter, of whom mention has already been made, 
came down to Negrais to meet him, and being a man 
of some official importance, was treated with civility 
and attention by Mr. Hope, at this time in the tempo- 
rary charge of the settlement; as well as by Mr. 
Southby, the new Resident. The pretext for the journey 
was, to deliver a letter to the English chief, from the 
King; this letter, however, was a forgery, to give plau- 
sibihty to the visit, and afford an opportunity of carry- 
ing into execution the horrid plot with which he was 

The address and secrecy with which the intended 
massacre was concerted, gave no room for taking any 
precaution. Antonio, who had paid a visit to Mr. 
Southby on the morning of the 6th, was invited by 
him to dinner on the same day, at a temporary build- 
ing belonging to the Enghsh. Whilst the entertainment 
was serving up, the treacherous guest withdrew. At 
that instant a number of armed Birmans rushed into 
the room, and put Messrs. Southby and Hope to 
death: this transaction took place in an upper apart- 
ment: Messrs. Robertson and Briggs happened to be 
below, with eight Europeans of inferior note; a sepa- 
rate attack was made on these by another set of assas- 
sins, in which five Europeans were slain; the rest, with 
Mr. Robertson and Mr. Briggs, shut themselves in a 
godown, or store-room, where they continued on the 
defensive until the afternoon, when, receiving a sol- 
emn assurance that their lives should be spared, they 
surrendered, and experienced the utmost brutality of 
treatment from the murderers. Mr. Briggs being 
wounded, and unable to move with the alertness re- 
quired of him, was knocked down, and a period put to 
his sufferings by having a spear run through his body; 
the rest were escorted to the water side, where Anto- 
nio, who had retired when the massacre commenced, 
was waiting with a boat to receive them. This fellow 
had the humanity to unchain the prisoners, and pur- 
sued his journey with them to Dagon or Rangoon, 
where he expected to find the King, and doubtless to 
receive a reward for the meritorious part he had acted. 

A midshipman, of the crew of the Shaftesbury, was 
about to enter the house when the slaughter com- 
menced, but on hearing the cries of his countrymen, 
and perceiving the danger, he fled to the water side, 
wounded by a spear that was cast at him in his retreat. 
The Shaftesbury's pinnace brought away the mid- 
shipman, with several black people belonging to the 
settlement; the fury of the murderers being indis- 
criminately levelled against Europeans, and their In- 

SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


dian attendants. The long boat also, that had brought 
on shore some of Mr. Southby's baggage, was fortu- 
nate enough to push off before the Birmans could get 
possession of her, and letting the ensign fly with the 
Union downwards, gave intimation to the ship, by 
that token, of some unexpected mischance. 

The Birmans thus becoming masters of the fortified 
works, and having dispersed or put to death all the 
settlers, turned the guns of the battery, nine in num- 
ber, against the Shaftesbury. In the performance of this 
service, Laveene, the Frenchman, was conspicuously 
active; indeed, the whole of this diabolic assassination 
seems to have been executed under his direction: it 
was afterwards ascertained, that when the Enghsh 
were surprised, and overpowered by the Birmans, this 
man rushed into the works at the head of a body of 
banditti, and compleated the slaughter. The precision 
with which the guns were pointed sufficiently demon- 
strated, that he who had the management, was not 
deficient in the art of gunnery. The Shaftesbury re- 
turned the fire, but suffered considerably from that of 
the enemy; the second officer was killed, the running 
rigging damaged, and nine shots received between 
wind and water; many of the Birmans are said to have 
fallen by the fire from the ship: the action continued 
till dark, and was renewed next morning on the part 
of the enemy. The Shaftesbury having unmoored in 
the night, weighed at day light, and dropped down 
with the ebb to the mouth of the harbour, where, be- 
yond the range of shot, she rode secure: the Victoria 
snow followed her example. 

On the 16th of October, 1759, the Shaftesbury sailed, 
and the Victoria proceeded to Diamond island to pro- 
cure water and ballast; whilst they were at this place a 
small vessel was perceived standing into the harbour 
of Negrais, Captain Alves humanely sent to warn her 
of the danger, but before the intelligence could reach 
her, she had cast anchor within the harbour. It does 
not however appear, that the Birmans had any inten- 
tion of doing further mischief; they contended them- 
selves with setting fire to the place, and abandoned it 
on the night that the vessel arrived. In a few days Cap- 
tain Alves returned from Diamond island to Negrais: 
venturing on shore, he was shocked at the sight of the 
unburied and mangled bodies of his unhappy coun- 
trymen. Amongst these he recognized the remains of 
Messrs. Southby, Hope, and Briggs; the bodies of near 
one hundred natives, who had been attached to the 
settlement in various capacities, lay scattered around; 
the boats, buildings, gun-carriages, and every thing 
combustible, were consumed, except the teak-timbers 
belonging to the Company, which would not easily 
take fire, and were too heavy to be removed. Some 
Birman boats appearing in sight. Captain Alves 
thought it most prudent to depart; he accordingly 
weighed anchor, and leaving the shore that had 
proved so fatal to his friends, prosecuted his voyage to 

Bengal, where he arrived on the 10th of November, 

After so many proofs of a friendly disposition, the 
assurances given to Captain Baker, and the compact 
concluded with Ensign Lyster, it is reasonable to sup- 
pose that some acts of hostility, not thoroughly ex- 
plained, must have been committed, or that very plau- 
sible misrepresentations must have been used, to ex- 
cite the Birman monarch to take such sanguinary re- 
venge. That Gregory, the Armenian, was the principal 
instigator, is a fact of which no native of the country, 
who remembers the transaction, entertains the small- 
est doubt, as well as that Laveene was the agent and 
instrument of execution. It is said, that the former ac- 
cused Mr. Hope, who commanded after the departure 
of Lieutenant Newton, of having supplied the Peguers 
with provisions, and sold to them four or five hun- 
dred musquets; that he had taken pains to instil into 
his Majesty's mind, a persuasion that the English were 
a designing and dangerous people; who, having ac- 
quired Indian territory, first by fraud, and afterwards 
by violence, meditated the practice of similar treach- 
ery upon them; and only waited a fit opportunity to 
wrest from him his empire, and enslave his subjects, 
as they had recently done in the instance of the unsus- 
pecting and abused Mogul. He also added, that the 
Governor of Negrais prevented vessels from going up 
to Bassien, by which the royal revenue was defrauded. 
These arguments, whether groundless or founded, 
were sufficiently plausible to produce the desired ef- 
fect; and there is but too much reason to think, that 
some provocation had been given, though perhaps of 
a trivial nature, and certainly not sufficient to warrant 
a step unjustifiable by every law, human and divine. 

When Alompra, after returning from the Cassay 
country, found his presence required in the southern 
provinces, he left his eldest son, Namdogee Praw, to 
govern Monchaboo during his absence; and attended 
by his second son, Shembuan Praw, and the female 
part of his family, proceeded on his expedition to Ta- 
voy, a sea port on the eastern coast of the gulph 
ofMartaban, which had been wrested from the Sia- 
mese by the Birmans. Many Peguers had taken refuge 
there from the persecution they experienced in the dis- 
tricts of Dalla, Rangoon, Pegue, and Tallowmeou. En- 
couraged by the first successes of the insurgents', and 
secretly instigated by the Siamese, the Birman com- 
mandant threw off his allegiance, and declared him- 
self independent. Alompra sent a large detachment by 
land, under Meinla Raja, against Tavoy; also a consid- 
erable maritime force to act in concert, commanded by 
Namdeoda. The previous defeat of the Peguers at 
Rangoon, had tended to dishearten the rebels. When 
Meinla Raja had advanced as far as Killegoung, within 
one day's march of Tavoy, the Commandant came out 
in a supplicating form to meet him, and surrendered 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

without any stipulation: he was afterwards put to 
death by order of Alompra. 

After the junction of the forces under Meinla Raja 
and Namdeoda, Alompra sent his women, and the 
younger part of his family, back to Monchaboo, and 
accompanied by Shembuan Praw, joined the army at 
Tavoy. Having now a formidable force collected and 
embodied, he determined to chastise the Siamese for 
the encouragement they had given to his rebelHous 
subjects, he accused them of affording protection to 
delinquents and fugitives, and of secretly abetting the 
Peguers in all their hostile machinations against his 
authority. Under this plea, he ordered the Heel to sail 
to Mergui, a sea port belonging to the Siamese, situ- 
ated south of Tavoy, whilst the army advanced by 
land. Mergui, being ill fortified, was easily taken. 
Leaving a garrison for its defence, the Birmans 
marched against Tenasserem, a large and populous 
town, surrounded by a waU and stockade; notwith- 
standing which it made but a feeble resistance. 

These conquests being achieved, Alompra deter- 
mined to cross the peninsula, and carry the war into 
the heart of the enemy's country. After a very short 
halt at Tenaaserem, he undertook an expedition 
against the capital of Siam. The enemy impeded his 
progress by harrassing his troops, and endeavouring 
to distress him in his route, without venturing on a 
decisive action. A month elapsed before he reached 
the vicinity of the metropolis, which was well pre- 
pared to sustain a vigorous siege. Providence, how- 
ever, interposed; and by abridging the days of the 
conqueror, in aU probability saved the Siamese from 
total destruction. Two days after the Birman army had 
erected their stockades, Alompra was taken iU of a 
disease, which in the event proved mortal; the natives 
call it Taungnaa, and describe it as a species of scro- 
phula. On the first attack, Alompra foresaw that his 
end was drawing nigh. He gave orders for an imme- 
diate retreat, in the expectation of reaching his capital 
alive; and of being able to settle the succession, and 
adjust the affairs of his empire in such a manner, as to 
avert the calamities of civil discord after his decease. 
On his return, he did not pursue the route by which he 
had advanced, but took a direct road by the way of 
Keintubbien, and the Three Pagodas, which are con- 
sidered as the boundaries between the Yoodra (or 
Siam proper), and Birman countries. His intentions, 
however, were frustrated; the approaches of mortality 
were too rapid; he grew worse; and death overtook 
him within two day's march of Martaban, where he 
expired about the 15th of May, 1760, and carried with 
him to the grave the regrets of his people, to whom he 
was justly endeared. 

Considering the hmited progress that the Birmans 
had yet made, in arts that refine, and science, that 
tends to expand the human mind, Alompra, whether 
viewed in the hght of a politician, or soldier, is un- 

doubtedly entitled to respect. The wisdom of his 
councils secured what his valour had acquired; he was 
not more eager for conquest, than attentive to the im- 
provement of his territories, and the prosperity of his 
people; he issued a severe edict against gambling, and 
prohibited the use of spirituous liquors throughout his 
dominions; he reformed the Rhooms, or courts of jus- 
tice; he abridged the power of magistrates, and forbad 
them to decide at their private houses on criminal 
causes, or property, where the amount exceeded a 
specified sum; every process of importance was de- 
cided in pubhc, and every decree registered. His reign 
was short, but vigorous; and had his life been pro- 
longed, it is probable, that his country would at this 
day have been farther advanced in national refine- 
ment, and the liberal arts. 

Alompra did not live to complete his fiftieth year: 
his person exceeded the middle size, strong, and well 
proportioned; his features were coarse, his complexion 
dark, and his countenance saturnine: there was a dig- 
nity in his deportment that became his high station. In 
his temper, he is said to have been prone to anger; in 
revenge, implacable; and in punishing faults, remorse- 
less and severe. The latter part of his character may 
perhaps have arisen, as much from the necessities of 
his situation, as from a disposition by nature cruel. He 
who acquires a throne through an act of individual 
boldness, is commonly obliged to maintain it by ter- 
ror: the right of assumption is guarded with more 
jealousy than that of prescription. If we except the last 
act of severity towards the English settlers, his con- 
duct on most other occasions, seemed to be marked by 
moderation and forbearance; even in that one dis- 
graceful instance, he appeared to have been instigated 
by the persuasions of others, rather than by the dic- 
tates of a vindictive mind; and it is manifest, from the 
expressions of his successor on a public occasion, that 
it never was his intention to consign the innocent, 
with the supposed guilty, to the same indiscriminate 
and sanguinary fate. 

Be the private character of Alompra what it may, his 
heroic actions give him an indisputable claim to no 
mean rank among the most distinguished personages 
in the page of history; his firmness emancipated a 
whole nation from servitude; and, inspired by his 
bravery, the oppressed, in their turn, subdued thetr 
oppressors. Like the deliverer of Sweden, with his gal- 
lant band of Dalecarlians, he fought for that which ex- 
perience tells us, rouses the human breast above every 
other stimulant, to deeds of daring valour. Private in- 
juries, personal animosities, commercial emulation, 
wars of regal policy, are petty provocations, compared 
to that which animates the resentment of a nation 
whose liberties are assailed, whose right to govern 
themselves is wrested from them, and who are forced 
to bend beneath the tyranny of a foreign yoke. 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


The decease of an eastern monarch, commonly 
serves as a beacon to hght up the flame of civil dis- 
cord. The letter of the Birman law immutably vests the 
right of succession in the heirs male. Laws, however, 
in all countries, are made subservient to power. Nei- 
ther the mandates of law, nor the claims of equity, can 
curb the career of restless ambition. Shembuan, the 
second son of the late king, who was with the army at 
the time of his father's demise, endeavoured to influ- 
ence the troops in his favour. Having gained over a 
part, he issued a proclamation, declaratory of his right 
to the throne, on the grounds, that Alompra had 
nominated him to be his successor, on his death bed. 
In this step he was premature, and his measures were 
ill concerted. The ardour of youth seems to have 
blinded the prince to the dictates of prudence, as well 
as to the duty and allegiance he owed his elder 
brother, and lawful sovereign. He soon found that he 
had been deceived, that his followers were not firm in 
his interest, and even if they had been sincere, were 
not sufficiently powerful to support his pretensions; 
he therefore hastened to repair his error by timely 
submission, which his brother, through the interces- 
sion of their mother, was prevailed on to accept. 
Shortly after, Shembuan was restored to favour, and 
no mention is made of his ever attempting a second 
time to disturb the government of his brother. 

Namdogee Praw, although his brother's designs 
were frustrated, found in a less dignified subject, a 
still more dangerous competitor. A rebellion that bore 
a serious aspect, was planned and executed by a per- 
son of superior capacity. Meinla Raja, surnamed Nut- 
toon, a general, high in the good graces of the de- 
ceased monarch, commanded the rear of the army that 
was returning from Siam. Namdogee had always har- 
boured an enmity towards this man, who, sensible 
that }ie could expect no protection against the resent- 
ment of a vindictive despot, and possessing a consid- 
erable share of popularity, determined to contend for 
empire with his new sovereign. When certain intelli- 
gence arrived of the actual decease of Alompra, in- 
stead of proceeding to Rangoon, where boats were 
provided to transport the army up the Irrawaddy, he 
marched with the utmost expedition, at the head of 
the division of the army under his command, to 
Tongho, and took possession of that fort, which is ac- 
counted the strongest in the Birman empire. Encour- 
aged by the alacrity with which the soldiers espoused 
his cause, and anxious to push his. rising fortunes, he 
left a garrison in the fort, and advanced by forced 
marches towards the capital; as he approached his 
party strengthened, and the fortifications of Ava were 
surrendered to him without resistance. 

Namdogee Praw was at this time at Monchaboo, 
making levies to oppose the Insurgents. Affairs, how- 
ever, were not yet in a state of sufficient forwardness 
to enable him to take the field, as he placed his chief 

reliance on the arrival of the loyal division of the army 
that had embarked, and were on the way from Ran- 
goon; but the progress they made against a rapid 
stream, was slow, in comparison to the celerity of a 
bold adventurer, whose success depended on his ex- 
pedition and promptitude. 

The distance from Rangoon to Monchaboo, by the 
Irrawaddy, is about five hundred miles. In the months 
of June, July, and August, the river, which, in the hot 
and dry season, like the Ganges, winds over its sandy 
bed a slow and sluggish stream, as soon as the moun- 
tain torrents fall, swells over the summits of its banks, 
inundates the adjacent country, and rolls down an 
impetuous current, unchecked till it approaches the 
sea, and is repelled by the influence of the flowing 
tide. Such violence would be insurmountable, and the 
navigation of the river during this period impractica- 
ble, were it not counteracted by the strength of the 
south-west monsoon. Assisted by this wind, and cau- 
tiously keeping within the eddies of the banks, the 
Birman boats use their sails, and frequently make a 
more expeditious passage at this, than at any other 
season of the year. 

The division of the army that embarked at Rangoon 
reached Chagaing, a large fortified town on the west 
bank of the Irrawaddy, opposite to Ava, shortly after 
the latter city had fallen into the hands of Nuttoon; 
whom the breadth of the river, and a want of boats, 
prevented from taking any effectual measures to op- 
pose the junction of this detachment with the royal 
standard. Namdogee Praw, when advised of their ap- 
proach, marched down from Monchaboo with the 
troops and boats that had been collected. Strength- 
ened by this union, the King's force considerably ex- 
ceeded that of the rebel general; especially as the nu- 
merous fleet that commanded the river, not only se- 
cured the safe embarkation, and landing of men and 
stores, but likewise cut off all supplies by that channel 
from the enemy. These disadvantages depressed the 
spirits of Nuttoon's adherents. A party of Namdogee 
Praw's forces having crossed the river, an irregular 
action took place, which ended so little in favour of 
the adventurer, that he threw himself into the fort of 
Ava; and no longer able to keep the Held, prepared to 
act a defensive part, relying on the arrival of succours 
from Siam, a quarter to which he had applied with 
earnest solicitation. 

These occurrences occupied httle more than two 
months, from the middle of May, the date of Alom- 
pra' s decease, to the end of July; about which time the 
engagement happened that obhged Nuttoon to with- 
draw from the field, and seek security in the walls of 

Whatever might have been their inclination, the 
English settlements of India were not, at this juncture, 
in circumstances to revenge the murder of their ser- 
vants, and exact retribution for the insult offered to 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

their flag. Perhaps, also, they were not ignorant, that a 
discussion of the causes might only produce useless 
explanations: a conjecture that is in some degree cor- 
roborated, by there being no steps taken at any subse- 
quent period, when the British superiority in Asia had 
crushed all rivalry, to vindicate the national honour, 
and chastize the perpetrators of the cruelty; humanity, 
however, urged some interference in order to obtain 
the release of the few survivors, who, on the destruc- 
tion of Negrais, had been carried into captivity. Policy 
also rendered it expedient, to avoid an irreconcilable 
breach with the Birmans, as tending to give the French 
interests an ascendancy in that quarter, and enable 
them to gain a firmer footing, in a country whose 
maritime advantages, and contiguity to our posses- 
sions, might afford them opportunities hereafter to 
disturb our tranquillity, and molest our trade. 

Captain Alves, who in the proceeding year had 
conveyed Mr. Southby to Negrais, and brought back 
news of the fate of the settlers, was selected to return 
as the bearer of conciliatory letters, and presents to the 
Birman monarch, from Mr. Holwell, governor of Ben- 
gal, and Mr. Pigot, governor of Madras. These letters 
appear to have been couched in terms of solicitation, 
rather than resentment; the liberation of the EngUsh- 
men that were carried into confinement, was the prin- 
cipal request; to which a desire was added, that the 
vessel and property belonging to Mr. WhitehiU, con- 
fiscated by order of Alompra, should be restored. Mr. 
Pigott's letter, however, went farther, and intimated 
expectation that the murderers of the English settlers 
should be brought to punishment; a requisition that 
was little attended to, and which the British govern- 
ment of India never manifested any inclination to en- 

Pursuant to his instructions. Captain Alves sailed 
from Madras, on the 10th of May, 1760; instead of pro- 
ceeding direct to Negrais, he shaped his course to the 
island of Camicobar, from whence he sent a letter by a 
Dutch ship to Gregory the Armenian, who held the 
office of Shawbunder, or Ackawoon of Rangoon, ac- 
quainting him of his mission, and intreating his good 
offices with the Birman monarch, to procure the re- 
lease of the English prisoners; at the same time con- 
ciliating him by a present of such articles as he con- 
ceived would be most acceptable. 

On the 5th of June, Captain Alves reached Diamond 
Island, but declined entering the harbour of Negrais 
until he could ascertain the disposition of the natives 
towards the English, which, after the recent catastro- 
phe, there was room to suspect. His doubts being re- 
moved, he sent an officer up to Persaim, with a letter 
to Antony, the Portuguese superintendant, who on 
receipt of it came down, as a mark of respect, to meet 
the English deputy, at a chokey or guard-house, near 
Negrais. Captain Alves dissembling his knowledge of 
the part which Antony had acted in the late affair, re- 

ceived his visitor with apparent cordiality, whilst the 
other took no small pains to convince him that he was 
guiltless. After a short residence at Persaim, Captain 
Alves received a very friendly letter from Mungai- 
Narrataw, a relation of the royal family, and vested 
with the office of Maywoon, or Viceroy of Pegue, in- 
viting him to Rangoon; desiring him at the same time 
to bring with him the presents intended for the King. 
This invitation Captain Alves thought it prudent to 
accept; and on the 5th of August arrived at Rangoon, 
where he was received with sufficient politeness by 
the Viceroy, and made acquainted with the rebellion 
of Nuttoon, and the deranged state of public affairs at 
the capital. 

Mr. Robertson, and the soldiers who had escaped 
the massacre at Negrais, were at Rangoon when Cap- 
tain Alves arrived, and, though under restraint, were 
by no means treated with harshness. Captain Alves 
soHcited their discharge from the Viceroy; who, 
though he could not grant the request without special 
authority from the King, yet consented that Mr. Rob- 
ertson should accompany Captain Alves back to Per- 
saim; and added, that there was httle doubt of procur- 
ing a general release. In the course of this communica- 
tion, the Viceroy gave Captain Alves solemn assur- 
ances that Gregory the Armenian, by his misrepresen- 
tations and artifice, was the principal instigator of the 
tragical scene at Negrais; and that Laveene, who was 
in league with Gregory, was the person to whom the 
execution of the act had been committed; intimating 
also that he himself, through the intrigues of these 
men, had incurred the displeasure of the King, on ac- 
count of his manifest attachment to the English nation. 

Captain Alves continued at Rangoon no longer than 
was necessary; he left it on the 9th of August, the 
Maywoon having previously received from him the 
presents intended for the Birman monarch. An officer 
belonging to the provincial court accompanied Cap- 
tain Alves back to Persaim. 

Captain Alves expecting to receive a summons to 
attend the golden feet, was making preparation for his 
journey, when Gregory the Armenian returned from 
Monchaboo, whither he had proceeded with all expe- 
dition on receipt of the letter which Captain Alves had 
written from Carnicobar. His zeal on this occasion was 
prompted by a desire to prevent, if possible, any ami- 
cable arrangement; or, in case he should fail in that 
view, to make himself of personal consequence, from 
being the ostensible mediator and instrument of rec- 

On receiving intelligence of the expected arrival of 
an authorized agent from the British goverment, 
Namdogee-Praw directed Gregory to return to Per- 
saim, and dispatched along with him a Birman officer 
as the bearer of an order to Captain Alves, command- 
ing him to repair to the royal presence. In the transla- 
tion which Gregory, as interpreter, delivered to Cap- 

SB br VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


tain Alves, the crafty Armenian introduced passages 
favourable to himself, attributing the obtainment of 
any attention, to his intercession: these interpolations 
were fabricated, as the imperial mandate did not even 
mention the name of Gregory. 

The terms in which the royal order was expressed, 
encouraged Captain Alves to undertake the journey; 
he accordingly left Persaim on the 22d of August, ac- 
companied by Antonio the Portuguese, Gregory, and 
two Birman officers. The unsettled state of the country 
subjected him to several unpleasant interruptions; his 
boat, during the course of the voyage, was frequently 
searched, with the excuse of looking for contraband 
commodities, and many articles were carried away 
under various fraudulent pretences. 

On the 22d of August, Captain Alves reached Cha- 
gaing, at this time the head quarters of the Birman 
King, who with a numerous army was besieging the 
rebel general in Ava; on the 23d he was honoured 
with an audience, to deliver his credentials. The letters 
from the Governors of Madras and Bengal were trans- 
lated into the Persian, Portuguese, and Birman lan- 
guages; and the different versions carefully collated. 
His majesty expressed his surprize that the Governor 
of Madras should demand satisfaction for conse- 
quences, which the misconduct of their own servants 
had drawn upon themselves; that the disaster of Mr. 
Southby, was an accident which could not be foreseen 
or guarded against: at the same time he used a forcible 
metaphor, "for," says the Birman King, 

1 suppose you have seen that in this country, in the 
wet season, there grows so much useless grass, and 
weeds in the fields, that in dry weather we are 
forced to burn them to clear the ground: it some- 
times happens there are salubrious herbs amongst 
these noxious weeds, and grass, which, as they 
cannot easily be distinguished, are indiscriminately 
consumed with the others; thus it happened to be 
the new Governor's lot (Journal of Captain Alves, 
recorded in the Bengal Proceedings). 

Compensation for Mr. Whitehill's property, that had 
been confiscated, and restitution of the vessel, were 
peremptorily refused, for the alleged reason, that Mr. 
Whitehill and the Governor of Negrais were the ag- 
gressors: his majesty was pleased to agree, that the 
property of the East India Company should be re- 
stored. Having given an order for the release of all 
English subjects that were prisoners in his dominions, 
he desired that two of the most prudent should re- 
main to take care of the timbers, and reside at Persaim, 
where he consented to give the Company a grant of as 
much ground as they might have occasion to occupy, 
under the stipulation that their chief settlement should 
be at Persaim, and not at Negrais. He assigned as a 
reason, that at Negrais, they would be exposed to the 

depredations of the French, or any other nation with 
whom the English might be at war, without a possibil- 
ity of his extending that protection to them he wished; 
but of which they could always have the full benefit at 
Persaim. In requital for these concessions, his majesty 
intimated his expectation of a regular supply of arms 
and ammunition from the English settlements, to- 
gether with several other products of a useful nature, 
to all which Captain Alves prudently returned a con- 
ditional acquiescence. 

During these conferences, explanations took 
place which created at court, suspicion of the fidehty 
of Gregory, in his capacity of interpreter: a minute in- 
vestigation lost him the confidence of his master, and 
had nearly caused the forfeit of his hfe. His disgrace 
was sudden, public, and ignominious. On the 27th of 
September, Captain Alves attended in company with 
the great officers of state, and the principal nobility, to 
pay his respects at the golden feet, as is the custom on 
the annual feast of Sandenguit. On this day the King 
desired Captain Alves to request whatever mark of 
favour he thought proper, with an assurance that it 
should be granted to him. The freedom of all the Eng- 
lish subjects having been already procured. Captain 
Alves humanely intreated the emancipation of three 
Dutchmen, who had been captured by Alompra dur- 
ing his expedition to the Siam country. In compliance 
with his desire, an order was immediately issued for 
their release. 

The distracted and critical state of public affairs 
necessarily weakened the hand of power, and dimin- 
ished the authority of the King. That rigid severity of 
police, which characterizes the Birman government, 
became relaxed, and illicit exactions were imposed 
and levied, by inferior officers, with little dread of 
punishment. Captain Alves experienced in his own 
person the inconvenience which an individual, at such 
a juncture, may expect to suffer. Under frivolous pre- 
tences his final dismission was protracted; nor could 
he procure the promised answers to the letters of the 
Governor of Bengal and Madras, until he had paid 
fees to certain officers of government, who took ad- 
vantage of the times, to extort unauthorized emolu- 
ments. After suffering much vexatious imposition, he 
at length, on the 10th of October, received in form the 
long expected documents, and on the same evening 
left Chagaing to proceed to Persaim, accompanied by 
Antonio. The mandate for liberating the English pris- 
oners was punctually obeyed: there were five in num- 
ber, two of whom, Messrs. Robertson and Helass, 
Captain Alves, conformably to the promise made to 
the Birman King, left at Persaim, to take care of the 
property belonging to the India Company. On the 1st 
of November he arrived at Rangoon, where he was 
received with kindness and hospitality by Mungai- 
Narrataw, the Viceroy. On the 4th he took leave of his 
host, and on the 14th got to Persaim, where he again 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

embarked, and sailing from Negrais, reached Calcutta 
a few days before the expiration of the year. 

In the mean[time] while the siege of Ava was car- 
ried on with vigour, and the assailants were resolutely 
resisted. The royal army, computed at 100,000 men, 
advanced their stockades within fifty yards of the 
ditch. The batteries, consisting of a few old nine and 
six pounders, casually procured from shipping at the 
ports, made little impression on the walls, which were 
unprovided with artillery, but of an uncommon thick- 
ness, being composed of earth and loose stones, sup- 
ported by a well built face of brick and mortar. The 
water in the ditch, which during the rains is fall, had 
subsided so low as to become fordable in several 
places; the besiegers made repeated attempts to carry 
the place by storm, but were repulsed at every onset. 
In these attacks many hves were lost. The rebels, 
knowing that sure destruction awaited those who 
should be taken, defended themselves obstinately; ca- 
pitulation was not thought of: whenever the enemy 
advanced with intent to escalade the works, they 
poured on them melted lead, boiling petroleum, and 
hot pitch, whilst a brisk fire of musquetry annoyed 
them at a distance. The siege was thus protracted for 
seven months, Nuttoon still cherishing sanguine 
hopes of succour from the government of Siam. 

These expectations were not realized. Supplies from 
the country failed, and want began to make ravages 
within the walls, notwithstanding the magazines, 
which at the commencement of the siege were full, 
had been husbanded with the utmost economy. Dis- 
content is ever the concomitant of distress. The Gov- 
ernor of Mayah Oun, who had embraced Nuttoon's 
fortune, deserted from the fort. Flying to Mayah Oun, 
he collected his adherents, but not being able to resist 
the royal forces, they set fire to the town, and betook 
themselves to the woods and jungles, whence they 
afterwards withdrew to the Eastern provinces, where 
the authority of the Birman monarch was yet scarcely 
acknowledged. The rebels had likewise evacuated the 
fort of Tongho. Towards the end of the year, the garri- 
son in Ava was reduced to the greatest extremity, and 
their numbers diminished above one half by sickness, 
famine, and desertion. In this helpless state, without 
any chance of relief, Nuttoon made his escape from 
the fort in disguise; but had proceeded only the dis- 
tance of two days' journey, when he was discovered 
by some peasants, and brought back in fetters. The 
fort of Ava fell shortly after the flight of its comman- 
dant. Such of his unfortunate adherents as could not 
effect their escape, were without mercy put to death 
Nuttoon likewise suffered the doom of a traitor. 

The destruction of Nuttoon did not put an end to 
the disturbances that agitated the Birman empire. A 
younger brother of Alompra, uncle to Namdogee- 
Praw, who had recently been appointed Viceroy of 
Tongho, aspired to independence, and refused to pay 

homage to his brother's son. Whilst measures were 
taking to reduce him, he suddenly detached a body of 
troops, under a general named Bala-meing-tein, who 
surprized the fort of Prome; but the Chekey or Lieu- 
tenant of Shoe-dong-northa, soon after assembled a 
respectable force, and compelled Bala-meing-tein to 
abandon his conquest. Namdogee-Praw raised an 
army, and, accompanied by his brother Shembuan, 
marched in person to Tongho to punish the contu- 
macy of his rebellious relation, who, not daring to risk 
an open action, shut himself within the walls of 
Tongho. After a siege of three months, the garrison 
surrendered; several of the ringleaders were punished 
with death; mercy, however, was extended to the re- 
bellious uncle. The King spared his hfe, but during the 
rest of his reign kept him a close prisoner in the fort of 

The appointment of a new Viceroy, and the ar- 
rangements necessary to the restoration of good order 
in these provinces, next occupied the attention of the 
King. This task being accomplished, he returned with 
his brother to Monchaboo, from whence he soon after 
removed the seat of imperial government to the city of 
Chagaing, the situation of which, equally convenient 
and salubrious, enjoying .a pure air, and surrounded 
by the most picturesque scenery of nature, had de- 
lighted the King during his late residence, whilst di- 
recting the operations against Ava. The three succeed- 
ing years of his reign were employed in reducing the 
refractory to obedience, and establishing the royal 
authority on a firmer basis. Amongst the turbulent 
was Talabaan, the Pegue chieftain, who had formerly 
experienced the clemency of Alompra: this man, after 
he had been received into favour, was sent by the 
conqueror to the Martaban province, the residence of 
his family and friends, invested with an office of dig- 
nity. So long as that monarch lived, he conducted 
himself like a dutiful servant; the death of his sover- 
eign, however, cancelled in Talabaan's breast the 
bonds of duty and gratitude, and though faithful to 
the father, he took the earhest opportunity to revolt 
against the son. On this occasion, he seems to have lost 
his prudence with his principles. His rebellion was 
feeble, and easily subdued; he was made prisoner, and 
at last suffered that death which he had before so nar- 
rowly escaped. The Peguers at Sitang, a very numer- 
ous body, likewise revolted, but were suppressed by 
the activity of the Viceroy of Pegue, without causing 
any serious danger to the state. No foreign expedition 
was undertaken by Namdogee-Praw; indeed the in- 
ternal state of his empire hardly rendered such a pro- 
ject practicable: his reign was but of short duration, 
yet he is said to have diligently improved his time, 
and benefited his country as much as circumstances 
would admit. He died at his capital about the month 
of March, 1764, of the same disease that brought his 
father to the grave, leaving behind him one son named 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


Momien, yet an infant. Of the general character of 
Nam-dogee-Praw people speak favourably; bigotry is 
ascribed to him as his principal failing: he was inflexi- 
bly severe on those who transgressed against the ten- 
ets of religion, or omitted aught of the respect due to 
the Rhahaans, its ministers. He punished slight im- 
morahties with the rigour due only to atrocious 
crimes; slaying animals for the purposes of food, was 
strictly prohibited, and a second conviction of drunk- 
enness incurred the inevitable penalty of death. 

The imbecile minority of the legal heir to the throne 
gave his uncle Shembuan, who, as the nearest relation, 
became the natural guardian of the child, an opportu- 
nity to undermine the claims and to usurp the right of 
the son of his deceased brother. Shembuan, on the 
demise of Namdogee-Praw, assumed the reins of gov- 
ernment with a strong hand; nor is it ascertained that 
he ever acknowledged holding them in trust for the 
minor. Whatever he might have done on the first as- 
sumption of regal power, he soon threw aside all dis- 
guise, and was proclaimed and acknowledged lawful 
sovereign of the Birman and Pegue nations. 

Nor would Shembuan, who had thus unjustly de- 
prived a nephew of his birth-right, have scrupled to 
secure a more firm possession of the throne by imbru- 
ing his hands in innocent blood, had not a sister of 
Alompra humanely interfered, and obtained charge of 
the child, under a promise that he should be educated 
in religious obscurity, among the Rhahaans, and never 
be in a situation to disturb the government of his un- 

Thus freed from the dread of competition, Shem- 
buan had leisure to follow the bent of his own disposi- 
tion, which was by nature ardent and ambitious. His 
first undertaking was against the Siamese; assigning 
for the rupture the customary excuse, that certain de- 
linquent subjects of the Birman government had re- 
ceived protection from them; likewise that Alompra, 
his father, had enjoined his children in his last mo- 
ments to prosecute the war against the Siamese, which 
he had been prevented by death alone from bringing 
to a successful issue. Such were the pretences, and 
perhaps as well founded as pretences for war usually 
are. Two armies were embodied; one destined to in- 
vade North Siam, commanded by a general named 
Deebedee, the other proceeded to the southward by 
Sitang and Martaban, under the conduct of Ma- 
hanortha; whilst a fleet of small vessels, fitted out for 
the reduction of the maritime towns, was entrusted to 

The equipment of these armaments was not com- 
pleted until the commencement of the year 1765; and 
their progress, after they were in readiness, was so 
slow, that nothing of importance could be effected 
during that year. In the beginning of the next, Deebe- 
dee over-ran the province of Zemee, whilst Che- 
dookaminee with the fleet captured Tavoy; which. 

though it had been reduced by Alompra, was too re- 
mote to be retained, and soon reverted to its former 
possessors. The detachment led by Mahanortha also 
penetrated to Tavoy by land; and cantoned there dur- 
ing the rains. The forces of Deebedee passed the wet 
season on the borders of the Yoodra country: these 
different parties were prepared to act in concert, and 
attempt the conquest of the Siamese capital. 

Whilst matters were thus transacting in the south- 
east quarter, Shembuan marched in person against the 
Munipora Cassayers; who, taking advantage of the 
state of affairs, had thought fit to disclaim the yoke of 
foreigners, and refused to acknowledge the suprem- 
acy of the Birman monarch. This enterprize, however, 
appears to have been a predatory incursion, rather 
than an invasion with a view of permanent conquest. 
The stay Shembuan made in the country did not ex- 
ceed a month; he returned in obedience to more ur- 
gent calls, laden with the booty of the frontier towns, 
and accompanied by a numerous train of prisoners of 
every age and sex. 

In the beginning of the year 1766, the southern ar- 
mies commenced their operations against the Siamese. 
Deebedee entered the Yoodra country by the route of 
Taunglee and Mainhoot, afterward pursuing a more 
southerly direction, in order to effect a junction with 
Mahanortha, who moved from Tavoy in a correspond- 
ing time. Their union was resolutely disputed by the 
Siamese; and Deebedee's division suffered seriously 
during a march of fifteen days. Notwithstanding this 
resistance, a junction was effected; after which they 
advanced against Siam (The city of Siam is frequently 
called by the Birmans Dwarawuddy, and by the Sia- 
mese See-y-thaa. Both these are Pali, or Shanscrit ap- 
pellations. Most places of note are distinguished by 
two names, one in the vulgar tongue, which is the 
most general, the other, a Shanscrit term, seldom used 
but by the learned, and to be found only in books 
treating on religion and science; thus Pegue is called 
Henzawuddy; Arracan, Deniawuddy, &c.), the enemy 
still continuing to harrass them in their march, by ir- 
regular attacks and frequent skirmishes. Having at 
length penetrated as far as the banks of a river (proba- 
bly what is called by the Birmans the Boomagurry 
Meep), seven or eight days' journey from the fort, the 
Siamese tried the fortune of a general action, which 
terminating unfavourably, their army dispersed; part 
retreating to Siam, whilst the remainder either con- 
cealed themselves in the woods, or sought security in 
distant provinces. The consequence of this defeat was 
the immediate investiture of Siam by the Birmans. The 
fort (during the monsoon, the city of Siam is insu- 
lated), by nature strong from its almost insulated 
situation, is represented to have been well built, ac- 
cording to the Eastern fashion, having a good ditch, 
protected by a strong rampart faced with masonry, 
and strengthened by equidistant lowers. The artillery 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

on either side was of little use; for though there were a 
few guns mounted, and some brought against the 
place, yet they neither contributed to the success of the 
attack, nor the security of the defence: passive block- 
ade is the favourite system of Birman warfare. 

The Birman army had been before the city two 
months, when Mahanortha died. As the officer of 
highest rank, he held the chief command; which after 
his decease devolved on Deebedee, who is repre- 
sented as better qualified for the trust than his prede- 
cessor. In a short time after this event, the King of 
Siam, panic struck and hopeless, secretly withdrew 
from the fort, in order to avoid falling into the hands 
of his enemies, and, eluding the Birman outposts, 
sought refuge among the hills. The Siamese, thus de- 
serted by their leader, offered to capitulate; terms 
were proposed, and accepted: a heavy mulct was im- 
posed upon the inhabitants, the defences of the city 
were destroyed, and a Siamese governor appointed, 
who took an oath of allegiance to the Birman monar- 
chy, and engaged to pay an annual tribute. Deebedee 
returned with his victorious army to the province of 
Martaban, enriched by the spoils of Dwarawuddy. 

Scarce was the Siamese expedition drawn to a con- 
clusion, when a new danger threatened from an oppo- 
site direction. The Chinese government, whose ambi- 
tion is only exceeded by its pride and arrogance, had 
planned the subjugation of the Birmans, intending to 
add the dominion of the Irrawaddy, and the fertile 
plains of Zomiem (The name by which the country of 
Ava is known to the Chinese), to their empire; already 
stretched beyond the limits to which any government 
can efficiently extend the force of restrictive authority. 
In the beginning of the year 1767, or 1131 of the Bir- 
man aera, the Governor of Quantong sent intimation to 
Shembuan, that an army of Chinese was advancing 
from the western frontiers of Yunan, and had already 
passed the mountains that skirt the Chinese and the 
Birman empires: this intelligence was scarcely com- 
municated, when it was confirmed by the actual inva- 
sion. The Chinese forces, computed at fifty thousand 
men, approached by unremitting marches. Leaving 
the province of Bomoo to the west, they penetrated by 
a town called Gouptoung between which and Quan- 
tong (Ouantong, or Canton, signifies a port) there is a 
jee or mart,^^ where the Chinese and Birmans meet, 
and barter the commodities of their respective coun- 
tries; this jee was taken and plundered by the Chinese. 
Meanwhile Shembuan appointed two separate armies: 
one, consisting of ten thousand infantry and two thou- 
sand cavalry, under the conduct of a general named 

'^ A similar emporium is established between China and Russia. 
"On the boundary of these two empires two small towns were 
built, almost contiguous, the one inhabited by Russians, the other 
by Chinese; to these all the marketable productions of their respec- 
tive countries, are brought by the subjects of each empire." Robert- 
son's Ind. Note 52. -Symes. 

Amiou-mee took the direct road leading to Quantong, 
through the districts of La-be-na-goo, and Tagoung; 
the other army, of much greater force, was committed 
to Tengia Boo, a general of high rank and reputation. 
This latter was directed to make a circuitous march 
over hiUs that lay more to the southward, to endeav- 
our, if possible, to get into the rear of the Chinese 
army, and prevent their retreat. The Governor of 
Quantong, named Ledougmee, finding that it was not 
the design of the Chinese leader to waste time by at- 
tacking his fort, collected a considerable body of men, 
and took the field against the invaders. The division of 
Amiou-mee first met the army near a town called 
Peengee, where they encamped, within eight miles of 
the Chinese army; on the following day a partial ac- 
tion took place, in which the Birmans were worsted, 
and obliged to retreat to the southward of Peengee. 
The Chinese, animated by this first success, and igno- 
rant of the approach of Tengia Boo, imagined that they 
should meet no farther impediment until they reached 
the Birman capital. With that persuasion they contin- 
ued their march, and deviating from the most fre- 
quented road, probably for the convenience of forage, 
pursued another route by the village of Chenghio. 
Amiou-mee, though repulsed, still kept hovering on 
the skirts of the Chinese army; which had proceeded 
only two days farther, to a town called Chiboo, when 
the division commanded by Tengia Boo suddenly ap- 
pealed in their rear. Ledougmee, the Governor of 
Quantong, approached at the same time, with his 
party: thus inclosed on all sides, a retreat became im- 
practicable, and to advance was desperate. The Tartar 
cavalry, on whose vigour and activity the Chinese 
army depended for provision, could no longer venture 
out, either to procure supplies, or protect convoys. In 
this situation, the Birmans attacked the enemy with 
impetuosity, while, on the other hand, the defence 
made by the Chinese was equally resolute. The con- 
flict had lasted three days, when the Chinese, in an 
effort of despair, tried to cut their way through the 
division commanded by Amiou-mee, that occupied 
the road by which a retreat seemed least difficult. This 
last attempt proved fatal; Amiou-mee's troops, certain 
of support, maintained their ground, until the coming 
up of Tengia Boo, which decided the fortune of the 
day. The harrassed Chinese now sunk under the pres- 
sure of superior numbers; the carnage was dreadful. 
Birmans, when victorious, are the most unpitying and 
ferocious monsters on earth. Death, or rigorous slav- 
ery, is the certain doom of those they subdue in battle: 
of the Chinese army, not a man returned to his native 
country; about 2500 were preserved from the sword; 
these were conducted in fetters to the capital, where 
an exclusive quarter in the suburbs of the city was as- 
signed for their residence. They who did not under- 
stand any particular handicraft, were employed in 
making gardens, and in the business of husbandry: 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


mechanics and artificers were compelled to ply their 
trades according to the royal pleasure, without any 
other reward for their labour than a bare subsistence. 
These people however, were encouraged, as are all 
strangers, to marry Birman wives, and consider them- 
selves as natives of the country. Compliance with so 
hospitable and general an invitation, confers even on 
slaves taken in war certain immunities, from which 
those who refuse the connexion are by law debarred. 

This custom, in which the Birmans follow the ex- 
ample of the wisest and best governed nations of an- 
tiquity, is singular amongst the civilized countries of 
the East; and peculiarly remarkable in a people who 
believe in the Shaster, and derive their religious tenets 
from an Hindoo source; who are surrounded also by 
kingdoms, where women are kept inviolably sacred 
from the sight and converse of strangers, and where 
the exclusive system of casts or tribes admits of no 
proselytes. It is well known, that even the public pros- 
titutes of China are strictly prohibited from having 
intercourse with other than a Chinese; nor is any for- 
eign woman permitted to enter the territories, or visit 
the ports of that jealous nation. The Hindoo women of 
rank are no less inaccessible; and admission into a re- 
spectable cast is not attainable by money. To such nar- 
row prejudices the Birmans are superior; with a 
Lacedemonian liberality, they deny not the comforts 
of connubial commerce, to men of whatever climate or 
complexion. They are sensible that the strength of an 
empire consists in its population; and that a prince is 
great and powerful, more from the number of his sub- 
jects, than from the extent of his territory: hence the 
politic indulgence that the Birman government grants 
to every sect freely to exercise its religious rites: they 
tolerate alike the Pagan and the Jew, the Mussulman 
or Christian, the disciples of Confucius, or the wor- 
shippers of fire; the children of whom, born of a Bir- 
man woman, equally become subjects of the state, and 
are entitled to the same protection and privileges, as if 
they had sprung from a line of Birman ancestry. 

When Shembuan succeeded to the throne, he re- 
moved the seat of government from Chagaing, the 
residence of his brother and immediate predecessor, to 
Monchaboo, where his father Alompra had kept his 
court. With this situation also he became discontented; 
and it is said from certain superstitious reasons, sug- 
gested by astrologers, again changed his abode, and 
made Awa Haung, or ancient Ava, the metropohs of 
the empire. The city, which had fallen into ruin, was 
quickly rebuilt; new keoums (monasteries) and praws 
(temples. Praw is a term applied to all sacred objects) 
arose; a strong stockade was erected; and the fortifica- 
tions, which had been neglected since the expulsion of 
Nuttoon, were put into a respectable state of repair. 

The brilliant success that attended the recent irrup- 
tion of the Birmans into the Siamese country, was 
productive of no permanent advantages: though 

beaten, the Siamese were far from being a subjugated 
people. The inherent enmity that subsists between 
these two nations, will probably prevent the passive 
vassalage of one to the other, unless broken by such 
repeated defeats, as must nearly amount to extirpa- 
tion. Soon after Deebedee had led his army within the 
confines of the Birman dominions, the yoke of the 
conquerors was disclaimed in Dwarawuddy: a man 
named Pieticksing, a relation of the king, and one who 
held an official station about his person, had, previous 
to the capitulation, retired to a town at some distance, 
attended by his followers. As soon as it was known 
that the Birmans had withdrawn into their own terri- 
tories, he returned, at the head of a numerous troop of 
adherents, by whose aid he easily displaced the new 
government, and abolished the regulations made by 
the Birman general. The king, who had pusillani- 
mously abandoned his throne and people, is said to 
have perished in the woods, but through what means 
is not clearly ascertained; probably by the dagger of 
the usurper; who having gained over the populace 
and conciUated some men of influence, found few ob- 
stacles to impede his way to the throne. 

Deebedee, who had so eminently distinguished 
himself, was received on his return to Ava with many 
flattering demonstrations of applause; his Tsaloe, or 
cord of nobility, was increased from six to nine strings, 
and he was farther honoured with the title of Na-ma- 
boo-dee, or most illustrious commander. The Chinese 
being vanquished, and the Peguers to appearance so 
depressed, as to leave no apprehension of disturbance 
to the state, Deebedee was again detached to punish 
the contumacious Siamese, and reduce them to vassal- 
lage and submission; he left Ava on this service with a 
fleet of war-boats, early in the monsoon of the year 
1771: the troops were debarked at Rangoon, and pro- 
ceeded from thence by land. On this occasion, the 
Siamese anticipated the intention of the Birman gen- 
eral, and met him in force on the frontiers, where the 
opposition he experienced from the enemy, and the 
difficulty of passing the rivers, which had not yet sub- 
sided, .were such as to oblige him to retreat; he en- 
camped on the borders of the Sitang river, whence he 
wrote to Ava to represent the necessity of sending him 
further reinforcements. 

In consequence of this application, Chedookaminee, 
who had served on the former expedition, received a 
commission, appointing him Maywoon or Viceroy of 
Martaban, and of all the possessions belonging to the 
Birmans southward of Martaban. This officer was or- 
dered to make the levies, necessary for the assistance 
of Deebedee, within his jurisdiction; after which he 
was to join that general, act in concert with him, and, 
uniting their forces, recommence hostiUties against the 

The southern provinces, over which the authority of 
Chedookaminee extended, were chiefly inhabited by 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

the families of Taliens, or Peguers, who had either 
voluntarily left, or were expelled from the ancient city 
of Pegue, from Dalla, and the districts adjacent; out of 
these Chedookaminee was obliged to form his new 
levies. The Peguers, who were then supposed to be 
sufficiently reconciled to the Birman government, and 
considered, in many respects, as naturalized subjects 
of the state, were accordingly required to contribute to 
the public exigencies, by furnishing men and money, 
in like proportion as the native Birmans. In fact, the 
southern countries were not capable of furnishing 
Birman recruits sufficient for an army; but the confi- 
dence reposed in the Peguers was, in this instance, fa- 
tally misplaced, and their treachery averted from the 
Siamese the gathering storm, Deebedee, probably dis- 
gusted by the appointment of Chedookaminee to the 
Maywoonship of Martaban, obtained permission to 
retire from the army, and return to the capital; on his 
departure, Chedookaminee succeeded to the sole 

Among the troops thus raised, were three popular 
chieftains of the Talien nation, named Tellakien, TeUa- 
sien, and Meenatzi, men of enterprizing, intriguing 
spirit, and of great influence amongst their people. 
The Peguers thus collected in a body, and provided 
with arms, became conscious of their own strength; a 
sense of which, stimulated by the influence of their 
chieftains, inspired them with a desire to regain their 
empire, and retaliate their wrongs on their oppressors. 
The army was assembled at Martaban when the con- 
spiracy was formed: at the close of the first day's 
march, the Peguers suddenly rose upon their Birman 
companions, and commenced an indiscriminate mas- 
sacre; the officer second in command of the Birman 
army was slain; and those who escaped the fury of the 
assassins, fled into the woods. Chedookaminee him- 
self, accompanied by five hundred followers, with dif- 
ficulty effected a retreat to Rangoon; the elated Pegu- 
ers followed the blow, and pursued the fugitives to 
the very gates of the city, where their numbers in- 
creasing, they formed an encampment, and com- 
menced a regular siege. 

Rangoon could not have been attacked at a time, 
when it was worse prepared for defence; imaginary 
security had lulled the Birmans into unsuspecting re- 
pose. The Maywoon of Pegue. whose residence was in 
Rangoon, had, a short time before, proceeded on an 
annual visit of homage to the capital, accompanied by 
the principal officers of his government; he had also 
taken with him the greatest part of the troops, in par- 
ticular those who manned the war-boats; a hardy and 
ferocious tribe who usually attend on the governor, or 
viceroy, on occasions of ceremony. During his ab- 
sence, a heutenant or chekey, named Shoe-dong- 
northa, commanded in the city, and by the gallant de- 
fence he made, proved himself ao undeserving substi- 
tute. News of the revolt quickly spread, and, from its 

first success, created a general alarm among the Bir- 
mans, resident in the adjoining districts. The Meou- 
gees, or chief men of Henzada, Denoobew, and 
Padaung, assembled aU the force they could collect; 
and in a spirited manner came down the river in hght 
boats, and threw themselves into Rangoon, which 
stood in need of such timely succours. The Peguers 
thrice attempted to storm a strong stockade, that en- 
compassed the walls of the town, and were each time 
beaten, off with serious loss. Intelligence of these 
events reaching court, the Maywoon, with his train of 
attendants, and a few additional troops, amounting in 
the whole to about three thousand men, were ordered 
to proceed without delay to the rehef of Rangoon. The 
rapid stream of the Irrawaddy quickly transported 
this detachment to the place of its destination: the 
Peguers, on their approach, thought it most prudent to 
raise the seige, and, without making any further at- 
tempt to oppose the junction of the reinforcement, re- 
tired to the banks of the Saloenmeet. The arrival of the 
Viceroy of Rangoon, was speedily followed by that of 
a still more respectable force, under an officer of the 
highest rank in the empire; Maha-see-soo-ra, one of 
the Woongees, or chief counsellors of state, was en- 
trusted by the King with the conduct of the southern 
war, and the restoration of order in the disturbed 

These events did not deter Shembuan from pursu- 
ing his favourite scheme of conquest to the westward. 
The fertile plains and populous towns of Munnipoora, 
and the Cassay Shaan, attracted his ambition. Early in 
the year 1774, a formidable force was sent against 
these places, under the command of three generals of 
distinction, Moung-wamaa, Captain of the King's 
guard, Oundaboo, and Kameouza. Part proceeded by 
water up the Keen-duem, and the remainder by land 
taking the route of Monchaboo, Kaung-naa, and 
Naky-oun-mee; the armament by water arrived unex- 
pectedly at a town called Nerting, where the Birmans 
landing, surprised and carried away 150 women, who 
were employed in the labours of the harvest. 
Monadella, the Raja of Nerting, made an ineffectual 
attempt to rescue the captives: he fell after a gallant 
struggle, and 250 of his followers lost their lives. The 
Birmans having ravaged the country, and committed 
many acts of wanton barbarity, proceeded to join the 
detachment that advanced by land: when the forces 
were united, they marched towards Munnipoora, the 
Raja of which came forth to meet the enemy, and gave 
them battle at a village called Ampatalla, fourteen 
miles short of Munnipoora. The conflict was long and 
obstinate, but fortune in the end favoured the Bir- 
mans; the Munnipoora Raja fled from the field of bat- 
tle to his capital, where confusion and terror pre- 
vailed: from thence he withdrew to the Corrun hills, 
five days journey north-west of Munnipoora, accom- 
panied by his family, and carrying with him his most 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


valuable effects. The city of Munnipoora submitted to 
the conqueror, who took possession of whatever the 
inhabitants had not been able to remove or conceal. 
The spoils, consisting chiefly of merchandize, and ves- 
sels of gold and silver, were forwarded to the golden 
feet, together with two thousand prisoners of both 

Having reduced the Munnipooreans, Oundaboo left 
to his colleagues, Moung-wamaa and Kameouza, the 
task of enforcing submission from the Cassay Shaan, 
and several neighbouring petty states; whilst putting 
himself at the head of ten thousand men, unincum- 
bered with baggage or artillery, he marched against 
Chawal, Raja of Cachar, who possessed the independ- 
ent sovereignty of a rich, though mountainous terri- 
tory, north-west of Munnipoora. In his progress he 
overcame Anoupsing, prince of a country called Mug- 
galoo (Mr. Wood frequently heard of this country 
whilst he was at Assam, as engineer to a detachment 
sent thither by Lord ComwaUis); thence he is said to 
have penetrated within the Hamalaya hills, which 
form a continuation of the lofty Imaus, and seem to be 
a barrier raised by nature, to protect the mild unwar- 
like inhabitants of India, from the more hardy natives 
of the East, who, unrestrained by such impediments, 
would ages since have spread desolation along the 
fertile banks of the Burhampooter and the Ganges. 
Pursuing his conquests, Oundaboo advanced within 
three days march of Cospore (Cospore is said to be 
twenty days journey from Munipoora by an Hircarra, 
or messenger), capital of Cachar, passing many rug- 
ged mountains and pleasant vallies, embosomed in 
their range. 

Chawal, aware of the storm with which he was 
threatened, had taken the necessary precautions for 
his own security; he joined in a defensive league with 
the lesser rajahs of the hills; who, though waging end- 
less warfare with each other, united in the hour of 
danger to repel the common enemy. The chief of these 
was the Prince of Jointy, surnamed the Gossain Raja. 
Oundaboo, blinded by the ambition of conquest, im- 
prudently pressed forward, until he found himself en- 
vironed with difficulties he could not hope to sur- 
mount, and from which there was now no retreat. To 
complete his misfortunes, that deadly disease too fa- 
tally known to British troops, by the name of the hiU 
fever, had spread its baneful influence through the 
Birman ranks; famine and pestilence accomplished 
what the swords of the mountaineers could never 
have effected. Oundaboo's troops dispersed, and in 
the defiles of the mountains, and the mazes of the for- 
ests, were cut off by the natives in detail, or perished 
the unresisting victims of a supernatural foe. 

The misfortunes of Oundaboo and his army, instead 
of intimidating the Birmans, excited an insatiable 
spirit of revenge. Kameouza undertook to exact retri- 
bution from the Cachars, for the blood of his slaugh- 

tered countrymen; Moungwamaa remained at Mun- 
nipoora, with a garrison sufficient to defend the fort, 
whilst Kameouza marched against Chawal, with a yet 
greater force than had accompanied the unsuccessful 
general, whose error afforded an useful lesson to his 
successor. Instead of the rash and precipitate haste 
made by his predecessor, this more prudent leader 
diligently explored his ground, halting wherever sub- 
sistence could be collected, with which many of the 
rich and luxuriant valleys of Cachar abounded: thus 
continuing a cautious progress, he penetrated as far as 
the pass of Inchamutty (there are passes of the same 
name in Hindostan), two days journey from Cospore, 
where he was met by a deputation from the Raja to 
sohcit peace. Kameouza prescribed terms, which, 
though severe and humiliating, were accepted. Cha- 
wal consented to pay, besides a sum of money, the 
abject homage of a maiden of the royal blood to the 
King of Ava, and to send him a tree with the roots 
bound in their native clay; thereby indicating, that 
both person and property were at the disposal of his 
sovereign pleasure; these acts being considered as the 
most unequivocal proofs of vassalage; expressing, on 
one hand, the extreme of submission, and on the 
other, the most absolute power. 

Kameouza, in his return to Munnipoora, chastised a 
race of mountaineers named Keingee, by whom he 
had been harrassed in his march, burning several of 
their villages in the districts of Bodasser and Chaum- 
gaut. Raja Anoupsing likewise made his submission; 
repossession of Munnipoorawas granted to the fugi- 
tive prince, on condition of paying an annual tribute, 
and offering the acknowledgment of a royal virgin, 
and a tree. Matters being thus adjusted, the Birmans 
returned to their own country, having lost above 
twenty thousand men, from the commencement to the 
close of the expedition, by the various casualties of 

These victories lent only a transitory splendor to the 
Birman arms, without contributing to the real and 
permanent advantage of the state; it was impossible to 
keep possession of the tracts they had over-run, the 
towns they had stormed, and the countries they had 
subdued. The Birman nation was far from being popu- 
lous, in proportion to its widely extended empire. To 
retain the late acquisition of Pegue, and keep in sub- 
jection its discontented and numerous inhabitants, re- 
quired the utmost vigilance, and occupied all the 
troops that could with prudence be spared. Oaths of 
allegiance are considered by eastern vassals, as obliga- 
tions of conveniency; as mere nugatory forms, to be 
observed no longer than there is power to punish a 
breach of them; the conquests therefore, made by the 
Birmans to the westward, were attended with no other 
effect, than to add to their native arrogance, and to 
increase their already inordinate pride. 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

The Peguers, as before related, having raised the 
siege of Rangoon, had returned to the Saloenmeet, or 
the Martaban river, when Maha-see-soo-ra, to whom 
the management of the southern war was intrusted, 
arrived at Rangoon, with an additional reinforcement 
of troops, and several pieces of artillery. Having aug- 
mented his strength with the soldiers that accompa- 
nied the Majrwoon, and drafted part of the garrison, 
his army amounted to thirty thousand men; whilst 
twenty-four pieces of ordnance rendered him formi- 
dable to a foe, casually armed with whatever weapons 
they could procure. 

With this respectable equipment Maha-see-soo-ra 
took the field, about the end of the year 1774. The en- 
emy were in possession of Martaban, and had col- 
lected, from various quarters, a discordant rabble, ill 
provided with necessaries, and altogether unamenable 
to control; from whom the Birman commander met 
with little opposition, in a march rendered tedious by 
the transportation of heavy guns, and the difficulty of 
crossing the numerous watercourses that intersect the 
lower country. On reaching the vicinity of Martaban, 
overtures of a pacific nature were made by the rebel 
leaders, which were rejected with contempt and men- 
ace: the Peguers in despair shut themselves within the 
fort, a seige was commenced, and sustained for a con- 
siderable time. The Peguers were at length forced to 
yield. Tellasien and Meenatzi, with several of their 
adherents, effected an escape to Siam; but Tellakien 
was not so fortunate; he was captured in the fort, with 
many others, and being a leader of the rebellion, his 
fate was reserved for the decision of his sovereign. 

Maha-see-soo-ra was preparing to carry the war 
into the country of the Siamese, when he received in- 
telligence of the intentions of the King to visit Ran- 
goon in person: this circumstance, together with the 
little probability of being able to advance far, before 
the season (The rivers in India usually begin to swell 
before the actual fall of rain in the low countries. This 
is to be ascribed to the monsoon commencing earher 
among the mountains, and to the melting of the snow, 
with which the tops of (he eastern hiUs are covered, in 
the hottest season) when the rivers swell, determined 
him to pass the monsoon in cantonments, at Marta- 

Shembuan having repelled the formidable invasion 
of one enemy, and carried his victorious arms into the 
territory of another: having, by prudent conduct, es- 
tablished his throne on the strong foundations of ter- 
ror and respect, conceived, that his presence would 
contribute to a more speedy termination of the trou- 
bles that agitated the lower provinces, and more effec- 
tually destroy the seeds of disaffection among the 
Peguers, which had so often, at intervals, broke out 
into open rebellion. The temple of Dagon, called Shoe- 
Dagon, or the Golden Dagon, an edifice of venerable 
sanctity, and stupendous size, where Gaudma, the 

Birman and Pegue object of religious worship, was, 
from time immemorial, accustomed to receive at an 
annual festival, the adorations of the devout, had, in 
the year 1769, suffered much damage from an earth- 
quake; in particular the Tee, or umbrella, which, com- 
posed of open iron-work, crowned the spire, had been 
thrown down by the concussion, and rendered irrepa- 
rable from the fall. In the Birman empire, a pagoda is 
not deemed sanctified until it receives the umbrella; 
and the erection of this last, but most important ap- 
pendage, is an act of high solemnity. Shembuan, who 
on this occasion is said to have covered policy with 
the cloak of religion, caused a new and magnificent 
Tee to be constructed at Ava, and declared his inten- 
tion to assist in person at the ceremony of putting it 
on. For this avowed purpose he left his capital, at- 
tended by a numerous train of Birman nobility, whilst, 
to increase the pride and pageantry of the display, Be- 
inga Delia, the unfortunate monarch of Pegue, who 
had surrendered his sceptre and person to Alompra, 
was led captive in the procession. An army of fifty 
thousand men composed the body guard: this splen- 
did array, having embarked in boats, sailed down the 
Irrawaddy, and arrived at Rangoon in the month of 
October, 1775. Tellakien, the Pegue rebel, who had 
been sent up the country loaded with irons, met the 
King at the town of Denoobew, and expiated his trea- 
son by a painful death. 

Whatever respect the glory of conquest, and the 
wisdom of a well regulated government, -might attach 
to the reign of Shembuan, it must be wholly obscured 
by the cruelty exercised on the present occasion to- 
wards his royal prisoner, the unhappy King of Pegue; 
and this too, like a more recent and equally inhuman 
regicide, in a nation professing Christianity, and en- 
lightened by science, was perpetrated under the 
mockery of justice. Shembuan, not content with exhib- 
iting to the humbled Peguers their venerable, and yet 
venerated monarch, bound in fetters, and bowed 
down with years and anguish, resolved to take away 
his life; and render the disgrace still deeper, by expos- 
ing him as a public malefactor, to sufier under the 
stroke of the common executioner. In most countries, 
to the east of Bengal, decapitation is the punishment 
allotted for common thieves; and he who inflicts the 
sentence is usually a culprit, who has once been con- 
victed of the crime. To die by such a hand is deemed 
an ignominy, which the Birmans dread even worse 
than death itself; but for any subject to spill royal 
blood, is forbidden by the Birman and Pegue laws, as 
an act of inexpiable impiety; nevertheless the unfeel- 
ing Shembuan, regardless of law, and devoid of hu- 
manity, issued orders for his ill fated prisoner to pre- 
pare for trial on a charge of high treason. 

The process of law, in Birman courts of justice, is 
conducted with as much formality as in any country 
on earth. Beinga Delia was brought before the judges 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


of the Rhoom, among whom the Maywoon of Pegue 
(In the absence of the king, the Maywoon, or viceroy, 
never attends in person at the Rhoom, he then repre- 
sents the king; remains in his palace, and receives the 
report of the judges, to which he apphes the law, and 
finally awards the sentence) presided. The late King of 
Pegue was there accused of having been privy to, and 
instrumental in, exciting the late rebelhon. Depositions 
of several witnesses, supposed to be suborned, were 
taken; the prisoner denied the charge; but his fate be- 
ing determined on, his plea availed him nothing. He 
was found guilty; and the proceedings, according to 
custom, were laid before the King, who passed sen- 
tence of death, and accompanied it with an order for 
speedy execution. In conformity to this cruel mandate, 
on the 7th of the increasing moon, in the month 
Taboung, the aged victim was led, in public proces- 
sion, through an insulting populace, to a place called 
Awa-bock, three miles without the city, where he met 
his doom with fortitude; and had no distinction paid 
him above the meanest criminal, except that all the 
municipal officers attended in their robes of cere- 
mony, to witness his last moments. 

State necessity is sometimes found to be incompati- 
ble with individual justice, and on occasions, must be 
allowed to plead for measures which, abstractedly 
considered, seem harsh, and bear hard upon particu- 
lar members of the community; but such necessity, to 
be admissible, should be made unequivocally evident. 
Men, whose designs against the public peace cannot 
be doubted, ought to be restrained by the hand of co- 
ercion, even before the commission of any overt act to 
which the law attaches: the proof of intention, war- 
rants and demands such interference. A despot, who 
dreads the extinction of his power, and the loss of his 
crown, will resort to unjustifiable means to remove the 
object of his jealousy, and anticipate on his enemy the 
meditated blow; but the circumstances of the present 
case, appear neither to admit of palhation or excuse: 
the security of the state was not endangered, and no 
rivalry could be dreaded. The Pegue King had passed 
more than twenty years, a contented and inoffensive 
prisoner: had he been only suspected of encouraging 
his former subjects, in any one of their several at- 
tempts at emancipation, his life would have paid the 
forfeit of his temerity; but, in the last instance, when 
bending under the pressure of years and infirmity, 
there was scarce a possibility of his being accessory ta 
so daring a revolt. On the part of the Birman monarch, 
it was a wanton and barbarous display of power, de- 
signed, perhaps, as a humiliating spectacle to the 
Peguers, whose attachment to their ancient sovereign 
bordered on idolatry. It casts a deep shade over a 
splendid reign, and justly brands the memory of 
Shembuan with the odious appellation of tyrant. 

The execution of many Tahens of rank followed that 
of the king; all who were suspected of having borne a 

part in the late rebelhon, and all whose influence ren- 
dered them formidable, were included in the list of the 
proscribed. Several fled from persecution; and after 
the storm blew over, settled in Tongho, or the tribu- 
tary provinces of Zemee, Sandepoora, and the districts 

These are amongst the last transactions of Shem- 
buan's life: after duly solemnizing the ceremony of 
putting on the Tee, he prepared to return to his capi- 
tal, having given instructions to his general, Maha-see- 
soo-ra, to prosecute the war against the Siamese. 

In the beginning of the year 1776, Shembuan left 
Rangoon with the same retinue, and in the same pomp 
which before attended him: during the early stages of 
his progress, he felt the first symptoms of his mortal 
illness. Alarmed at the danger, and impatient under 
his sufferings, he quitted his slow-drawn boat of state, 
and embarking in a lighter vessel, hastened to his 
capital, hoping there to find relief; but his days were 
numbered, and he was doomed shortly to resign his 
diadem and life to that power, which disregards even 
the boasted immortality of Birman kings. 

Languishing under a slow fever, and distempered 
with scrofula., Shembuan obtained little benefit from 
the efficacy of medicine. In order to breathe a freer air, 
he changed the fort of Ava for the open plains: tempo- 
rary wooden houses were erected, on the highest 
banks that overhung the stream, and on spots to 
which superstition pointed as the site of health. But 
the skill of astrologers proved fallacious, and no wind 
that blew wafted alleviation to his pains: after fatigu- 
ing himself by frequent removals, he felt it was but an 
useless aggravation of his sufferings; hopeless of life, 
he returned to the fort to prepare for the last scene, 
and settle the affairs of the empire and the succession 
to the throne. 

Shembuan had two sons, Chenguza, and Chelenza, 
by different mothers; the first, at this time eighteen 
years of age, was bom of the principal queen; the lat- 
ter, not more than thirteen, the offspring of a favourite 
concubine. Competition between these brothers was 
an event scarcely to be dreaded; whilst Momien, the 
son of Namdogee-Praw, seemed to be too closely im- 
mured in monastic privacy, to raise a bar to the suc- 
cession. Nevertheless Shembuan took every prudent 
precaution to transmit an undisputed sceptre: he ex- 
acted from the nobility a solemn promise of allegiance 
to his heir, which the respect entertained for the char- 
acter of the father, inclined few to withhold from the 
son. Having satisfactorily adjusted his temporal con- 
cerns, the monarch yielded up his breath in the city of 
Ava, about the middle of spring, in the year 1776. 

The character of Shembuan is that of an austere, in- 
telUgent, and active prince. He reduced the petty sov- 
ereigns of several neighbouring provinces, to a state of 
permanent vassalage, who had before only yielded to 
desultory conquest: these he compelled, as Chobwas, 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

or tributary princes, to repair in person, or by repre- 
sentatives, at stated periods, to his capital, and pay 
homage at the Golden feet; among them are numbered 
the lords of Sandepoora (Cambodia), Zemee, Ouan- 
tong, Bamoo, and others; together with several less 
civilized (Carreaners, Keins, and Yoos) tribes, inhabit- 
ing the western hills, and the mountainous tracts that 
intersect the country eastward of the river Irrawaddy. 
Shembuan was in most points a superstitious 
observer of the rites and precepts of the Birman relig- 
ion, which originating, as it indisputably does, from 
the same source as that of the Hindoos, differs never- 
theless from the latter, in many essential tenets. Ad- 
mitting the sanctity, and reverencing the learning of 
the Braminical sect, the Birmans, votaries of Buddho 
Tachor, altogether deny the supremacy of the Bramin 
professors over their Rhahaans, or Phonghis. The Bir- 
mans, Peguers, and Siamese, as well as all nations 
whose fundamental principles of rehgion can be 
traced to the Hindoo system, and who acknowledge 
the Shanscrit as their holy text, unite in one benevolent 
doctrine; the sinfulness of depriving any animal of life, 
to satisfy a carnivorous appetite. To eat flesh, is not 
deemed a crime by the Birmans; but he who eats it is 
not exempt from sin, unless the creature died a natural 
death, or was slain by accident, or by other hands. 
This precept of the church, it may be supposed, is not 
very scrupulously observed; and in many parts of the 
empire is wholly disregarded, except by the priest- 
hood, who never even prepare their own victuals. 
Mandates have been issued by viceroys, and procla- 
mations gone forth from the Golden palace, to enjoin 
obedience to the sacred law; but these were httle more 
than expiatory manifestoes, suggested by remorse, 
danger, or superstition. It is likewise at times used as 
an instrument of venal oppression; the greedy retain- 
ers of the law being entitled to a certain quota of the 
fine levied from a convicted delinquent. Shembuan, 
strongly tinctured with bigotry, often, in the course of 
his reign, repeated the pious prohibition, with no 
other effect than causing that to be done in secret, 
which before the order, little precaution had been 
used to conceal. 

On the demise of Shembuan, it does not appear 
that any effort was made, either by Momien himself, 
or the nobles attached to his father, to recover a 
throne, from which he was most unjustly debarred, 
Chenguza ascended without opposition, and assumed 
the government, at a juncture when the flourishing 
state of public affairs held out a flattering prospect of 
an auspicious reign. 

But in the succession to sovereignty, it sometimes 
happens, as in the succession to an estate, that he who 
comes to the fairest inheritance, does not always prove 
a benefactor to his realm, and his subjects, or his ten- 
ants and demesnes. Numerous errors will, and ought 
to be forgiven, in the presumptive heir to an high pub- 

lic trust, or an affluent private property; but a radical 
want of honest principle, a long continued course of 
base and licentious conduct, never fails in time to al- 
ienate the affections of men, whether subjects or ten- 
antry, however inclined they may be to venerate the 
virtues of the sire, in the person of the son. Even the 
jus divinum, so strenuously inculcated by the Birman 
articles of pohtical faith, did not, in the end, prove suf- 
ficiently strong to protect from violence a throne pol- 
luted by the lowest profligacy, and disgraced by an 
open violation of every moral and rehgious duty. 

With all the advantages arising from his father's 
memory, and with a government thoroughly estab- 
lished in power, Chenguza commenced his reign: but 
these distinctions he studied by every means in his 
power to abuse. His first imprudent act was to recall 
the army from the southward, which, shortly after the 
departure of Shembuan, had marched from Martaban 
under Maha-see-soo-ra, and had commenced opera- 
tions against the Siamese. This general, Chenguza not 
only displaced from his military command, but like- 
wise degraded from-his high ministerial office of 
Woon-gee, or chief counsellor of state; a measure that 
drew on himself much odium; as Maha-see-soo-ra was 
a person of concihatory manners, and an officer of ap- 
proved integrity and valour. 

The other parts of Chenguza's conduct, corre- 
sponded with this arbitrary outset: and he plunged at 
once into the most shameless debauchery. Not content 
with repealing the edicts of his father against the use 
of spirituous liquors, he exhibited, in his own person, 
an example of ebriety and dissipation: stimulated by 
jealousy, he caused his younger brother, Chilenza, to 
be put to death: he submitted the affairs of his empire 
to be administered by favourites, and accustomed 
himself to be absent from his capital, whole months 
together indulging in rural sports and carousals; and 
preferring his hunting seats, on the borders of deep 
forests, to the splendid Piasath (Piasath, the regal 
spire, that distinguishes the dwelling of the monarch, 
and the temples of the divinity; to none other is it al- 
lowed) of the royal palace. In the year 1779, his fa- 
ther's younger brother, Terroug-mee (Or possessor of 
Terroug), incurred the suspicion of the tyrant, and fell 
a victim to his jealousy: Pagahm-mee, another of his 
uncles, was kept a close prisoner in the fort of Ava, 
under pretext that he was plotting against the state: 
his uncle, Minderagee Praw, the present King, resided 
sometimes at Chagaing, and sometimes at 
Monchaboo; and though he affected to hve in the most 
inoffensive obscurity, was nevertheless vigilantly 
watched by the minions of the palace. 

Agreeably to the usage of the Birman court, 
Chenguza had early been betrothed to a relation (A 
prince, to be properly qualified to ascend the Birman 
throne, should be of blood royal both in the male and 
female line. In order to guard against plebeian con- 

SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


tamination, the Birman law admits of incestuous mar- 
riages in the royal family: this licence is restricted to 
them alone) of his own; this marriage proving unfruit- 
ful, he espoused, as his second wife, the daughter of 
one of the Attawoons (The Attawoon may be called a 
privy counsellor; there are four, who have access to 
his majesty at all hours, and are consulted by the king 
on affairs of importance; they have influence enough, 
sometimes, to counteract the decisions of the Woon- 
gees passed in the Lotoo, or high court of judgment, 
when laid before his majesty for royal approbation) of 
the court: a young woman endowed with virtue, 
beauty, and accomplishments. Although it was gener- 
ally believed that he was extremely fond of this wife, 
yet the irritation of an intemperate life, together with a 
disposition from nature prone to jealousy, caused 
them to live on terms of unceasing discord. One day, 
actuated by an impulse of sudden rage, he accused her 
of infidelity; and without allowing himself time to 
judge dispassionately, or suffering the unhappy prin- 
cess to vindicate herself, he pronounced sentence of 
immediate death. There are wretches in every nation 
ready to execute the sanguinary mandates of a cruel 
tyrant; the trembling and innocent victim was dragged 
from the palace, and inclosed in a sack of scarlet cloth, 
richly ornamented: thus confined, she was put on 
board a boat (It is expressly forbidden by the Birman 
law to spiU the blood of one of the royal family; 
drowning is esteemed the most honourable death), 
when the sack being suspended between the narrow 
necks of two earthen jars (The jars of Pegue are in gen- 
eral estimation throughout India, being remarkable for 
their size and excellence), the whole was sunk in the 
deepest part of the Irrawaddy. The jars filling, carried 
the body down, and prevented emersion. This diaboli- 
cal act was perpetrated in open day, before thousands 
of spectators, amongst whom were many of her 
friends and relations. Her afflicted father, over- 
whelmed with anguish and deprived of all his offices, 
retired in despair to the city of Chagaing. 

The universal disgust that a conduct so flagi- 
tious could not fail to raise, even in the most depraved 
society, caused the majority of the nobles, and the 
great body of the people, anxiously to desire a change. 
Under such a dominion, no man's life was secure from 
becoming a sacrifice to the caprice of an intoxicated 
barbarian, or the personal enmity of some despicable 
parasite: at such a juncture, the eyes of all were natu- 
rally turned to the rightful heir, who had now attained 
the years of manhood. The retreat chosen for Momien, 
was the Keoum and Praw of Lo-ga-ther-poo, an incon- 
siderable distance from the fort of Ava, where, pro- 
tected by his sacerdotal habit, by the inHuence of his 
aunt, and perhaps, above all, by his own want of ca- 
pacity and personal insignificance, the tyrant had 
hitherto considered him as an object too contemptible 
for notice; little imagining that the simple Phonghi, 

was one day to be, in the hands of others, the instru- 
ment of his destruction. 

A conspiracy was the result of the discontents 
of the people, and the misconduct of the prince. The 
principal actors were Shembuan Minderagee Praw 
(The present monarch, and younger brother of the de- 
ceased Shembuan), the Attawoon before mentioned, 
and Maha-see-soo-ra, the degraded minister. These 
personages easily gained the monks over to their side, 
who, though less willing to meddle in state affairs, 
than is customary with their order in many countries, 
yet, being exasperated by the open contempt Chen- 
guza manifested for rehgion, its rights and ministers, 
gladly lent their aid to bring about a change, which, by 
placing Momien, their illustrious disciple, on the 
throne, promised to advance the interests of the 
church. Momien was accordingly tutored for the part 
he was to act, and nothing remained but to embrace a 
favourable moment to execute the projected revolu- 

During Chenguza's reign, military operations seem 
to have been wholly suspended; whilst the neighbour- 
ing nations, the Chinese, the Siamese, and Cassayers, 
had so recently experienced the power of the Birman 
arms, that they felt no inclination to stand forth as ag- 
gressors. Repeated defeats and severe penal laws, 
crushed the spirit of revolt among the Peguers, who 
appeared to acquiesce in their subjugated state. The 
Anoupectoumeou, or great western mountains, had 
not in the present dynasty been crossed by an hostile 
army; the tranquillity of the empire, therefore, during 
the six years that Chenguza wore the crown, compen- 
sated, in some measure, for the licentiousness that was 
introduced among the people. Population increased, 
and tracts of land were cultivated, which under a 
more warUke prince, would probably have continued 
an unproductive waste. 

After matters were in readiness, the first opportu- 
nity of acting occurred in the month of November, 
1781. Chenguza had gone to Keoptaloun, a town on 
the banks of the river, about thirty miles below Ava, to 
celebrate an high festival. As he never observed any 
regular times of going out, or returning to the fort, it 
often happened that he presented himself at the gates 
when least expected, and at hours when entrance is 
debarred to the multitude. Momien was secretly fur- 
nished with the dress, and equipments of royalty: thus 
personating Chenguza, and attended by the custom- 
ary retinue, he appeared at midnight before the gate 
called Shoedogaa, and demanded admission: at first 
the wicket only was opened by the guard on duty; 
who, suspecting treachery from the unusual earnest- 
ness of the fore-most persons to enter, attempted to 
close the door, and called out treason: resistance, 
however, was too late; the centinel was cut down, and 
the gate thrown open by those who had penetrated 
through the wicket. The conspirators being reinforced 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

by a number of armed men that lay in ambuscade, 
proceeded to surround the palace, which was in itself 
a fortification, being encompassed by a high wall, de- 
fended by a parapet, and flanked by small bastions; 
each gate was further protected by a piece of ord- 
nance. On the first alarm, the Woon-gees and principal 
officers of state, took refuge within the inclosure of the 
palace. During the night, the utmost terror and confu- 
sion prevailed throughout the city: at day-break, the 
number of conspirators being augmented, an attack 
was made on one of the palace gates, which was 
blown open: the guard, commanded by an Armenian 
named Gabriel, stood their ground, and poured three 
discharges from their cannon on the assailants. After a 
smart conflict, the event which usually decides the fate 
of battle between Eastern armies, terminated this; 
Gabriel was killed by the stroke of a spear, and his 
party fled on the fall of their leader: the ministers of 
Chenguza were put to death on the spot. As soon as 
the tumult subsided, Momien was solemnly pro- 
claimed sovereign of the Birman Empire; a new coun- 
cil was sworn, officers of state appointed, and digni- 
ties conferred on the most active partizans. The next 
measure adopted to secure possession of the throne, 
was to proclaim Chenguza an outlaw, in a manifesto 
declaratory of Momien's prior claim, and expatiating 
on the unworthiness of his predecessor. An armed 
force was likewise detached both by land and water to 
Keoptaloun, to seize his person: but Chenguza having 
received timely information, withdrew across the 
river; and, accompanied by several attendants, ef- 
fected his escape to Chagaing, where some men of 
consequence, who were sensible that they had little to 
hope from the benevolence of the new government, 
joined his fortunes, and fed him with hopes of being 
able to recover the sceptre so suddenly wrested from 
him. These expectations, however, were of short dura- 
tion; a tyrant dethroned, has no other friends than the 
companions of his profligacy, and the accomplices of 
his guilt. 

The fort of Chagaing was immediately invested by 
troops in the interest of the new king. Chenguza at 
first thought of defending himself; but finding that he 
was deserted by those on whom he placed his chief 
reliance, after a resistance of four days, his resolution 
failed; and he determined on flying to the Cassay 
country, there to throw himself on the protection of 
the Munnipoora Raja. This intention he privately 
communicated to his mother, the widow of Shembuan 
Praw, who resided in his palace, in the city of Ava. 
Instead of encouraging her son to persevere in so pu- 
sillanimous a resolve, she earnestly dissuaded him 
from flight; urging, that it was far more glorious to die 
even by ignoble hands, within the precincts of his own 
palace, than to preserve hfe under the ignominious 
character of a mendicant, fed by strangers, and in- 
debted for a precarious asylum to a petty potentate. 

Chenguza yielded to his mother's counsel, and prefer- 
ring death to disgraceful exile, he caused a small boat 
to be privately prepared, and kept in readiness at the 
gaut, or landing place: disguising himself in the habit 
of a private gentleman, and attended only by two me- 
nials, he left Chagaing by break of day, and embark- 
ing, rowed towards Ava, on the opposite shore. When 
the boat approached the principal gaut, at the foot of 
the walls, he was challenged by the centinels on duty: 
no longer desirous of concealing himself, he called out 
in a loud voice, that he was "Chenguza Nandaw- 
yengPraw;" "Chenguza, lawful lord of the palace." A 
conduct at once so unexpected and so resolute, struck 
the guards with astonishment, who, either overawed 
by his presence, or at a loss how to act, for want of in- 
structions, suffered him to proceed unmolested; the 
crowd also, that so extraordinary a circumstance had 
by this time brought together, respectfully made way 
for him to pass. Scarce had he reached the gate of the 
outer court of the palace, when he was met by the At- 
tawoon, father of the princess whom he had so inhu- 
manly slain: Chenguza, on perceiving him, exclaimed, 
"Traitor, 1 am come to take possession of my right, 
and wreak vengeance on mine enemies." The Atta- 
woon instantly snatched a sabre from an attendant 
officer, and at one stroke cut the unhappy Chenguza 
through the bowels, and laid him breathless at his feet. 
No person was found to prevent, or avenge his death; 
he fell unlamented, as he had lived despised. 

Momien, destined to be a wretched tool in the 
hands of others, was not long suffered to enjoy his un- 
expected elevation. At the instigation, it is believed, of 
the partizans of the present king, he caused the Atta- 
woon who had slain Chenguza to be apprehended; 
and on the accusation of having shed royal blood, con- 
trary to the express letter of the civil and religious law, 
when it was his duty only to have seized the person of 
Chenguza, and brought him a prisoner to the king, 
this ill-fated nobleman was, without remorse, dehv- 
ered over to the public executioner. 

Shembuan Mia Shean Minderagee Praw, the 
fourth son of the deceased Alompra, had ever care- 
fully concealed under an humble exterior, and appar- 
ent love of retirement, ambition that aspired to the 
possession of the throne; his influence, though less 
prominent than that of the other confederates, yet con- 
tributed above all to the successful accomplishment of 
the late revolution. An ideot youth, who had passed 
his life in monastic retirement, could have but few at- 
tached to him from personal affection; and the use he 
made of his early power, did not encourage a hope 
that the state would derive much benefit from his fu- 
ture administration. Mende-ragee, therefore, found no 
difficulty in forming a party sufficiently powerful to 
crush in its first stage, the government of the young 
ecclesiastic. It is, however, surmised, and apparently 
on good grounds, that the whole chain of events had 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


been preconcerted; and that Momien, when urged to 
take on him the imperial dignity, after he had fulfilled 
the views of others, was himself marked for destruc- 
tion: be this as it may, Minder agee met with little to 
obstruct the execution of his plans. On the first notice 
that Chagaing was abandoned by Chenguza, he left 
Monchaboo, and, at the head of four thousand men, 
took possession of the evacuated fortress: the parti- 
zans of Menderagee profess, that it was not his inten- 
tion to proceed farther, but to do the duty of a good 
subject, by preserving the fort for his legal sovereign; 
and add, that a deputation from the principal person- 
ages in Ava, intreating him to come and assume the 
reins of government, which Momien was found un- 
worthy to hold, alone induced him to take the subse- 
quent steps. In compliance with this real or pretended 
solicitation, he crossed the Irrawaddy, and seized on 
the ensigns of imperial authority. Momien was of 
course made prisoner. Deposition and imprisonment, 
however, did not satisfy the usurper: without assign- 
ing any cause, or granting even the form of trial, the 
unfortunate nephew was, by his uncle's orders, con- 
veyed to the river, and there plunged into the stream, 
between two jars, conformably to the Birman mode of 
executing members of the royal family. 

The reign of Momien, from the date of his ac- 
cession to that of his death, included only eleven days. 
These events happened in the Birman year 1144 (Anno 
Domini, 1782). The present King was then forty-three 
years of age; he had two sons already grown up to 
man's estate, and a third by a different mother, yet an 
infant. Minderagee Praw having now past the im- 
petuous season of youth, ascended the throne with all 
the advantages derivable from experience and exam- 

The intoxication that so frequently attends on 
sudden prosperity, seems not to have affected the new 
monarch: he did not forget or prove ungrateful to 
those whose fideUty screened him in his days of dan- 
ger, and afterwards raised him to the summit of his 
wishes. Although he obtained the sceptre by an act of 
aggravated murder, yet, after he became securely 
seated, he punished with moderation, and rewarded 
with liberality, wisely extending clemency to the ser- 
vants of his predecessors. Maha-see-soo-ra, who had 
been dismissed and exiled by Ghenguza, was recalled, 
and placed at the head of the King's private council. 
The chief Woon-gee (Woon ving Miazo. This noble- 
man still presides in the assembly of Woons; and al- 
though, from years, become incapable of close atten- 
tion to business, is held in high respect for his long 
tried probity and private worth), who possessed 
power in the reign of Alompra, and had proved under 
every change a faithful servant to the crown, was con- 
tinued in office. The person who arrested Momien, 
and superintended his execution, became principal 
Maywoon (There are four Majrwoons, each of whom 

superintends the jurisdiction of a quarter of the city; 
they represent the king in their respective courts; their 
decisions, in capital cases, are revised by the Woons in 
the Lotoo, and afterwards finally determined by the 
king himself) of the city. The present Viceroy (This 
personage is commonly called Meedee Teekein, or 
Prince of Meedee; spelt by Mr. Wood, Meeayday) of 
Pegue, then a very young man, had the district and 
town of Meedee conferred on him by a royal grant, as 
a return for the attachment his father had manifested 
towards the King, when suffering under the jealousy 
of Chenguza; deriving also an additional claim, from 
the circumstance of the King's eldest son having been 
fostered by his mother, which procured him the hon- 
orary title of Teekein, or prince. Many others likewise 
tasted of the imperial bounty; and whilst obnoxious 
persons received the benefit of an act of oblivion, de- 
nunciations of rigour were proclaimed against such as 
should in future act contumaciously, or dare to dis- 
turb the public repose. Kings, however, have other 
enemies to guard against, than avowed foes or rival 
competitors; the wild maniac, or fanatical enthusiast, 
often under the influence of frenzy, directs the poig- 
nard to the breasts of monarchs. The Birman King had 
but a short time enjoyed the crown, when he had 
nearly been deprived both of his life and diadem, by a 
person of this description. Magoung, a low bom man, 
unconnected, and it is said without the privacy of any 
person of condition, who had always been remarkable 
for the regularity of his actions, and a gloomy cast of 
thought; had influence enough to form a confederacy 
of one hundred men, as visionary and desperate as 
himself. This troop bound themselves in secrecy and 
fidehty to each other by an oath: their object was to 
take away the life of the king; but to answer what end, 
or whom they designed to elevate, is not ascertained. 
These desperadoes, headed by Magoung, at daybreak 
in the morning, made an attack on the palace. The cus- 
tomary guard over the king's dwelling consists of 
seven hundred men, who are well appointed, and 
kept alert on duty. Notwithstanding this, the attempt 
had nearly succeeded: bearing down the centinels, 
they penetrated into the interior court, and the king 
escaped, from the casual circumstance of being in the 
range of apartments belonging to the women, which 
he was least accustomed to frequent. His guards, who 
at first shrunk from the fury of the onset, quickly ral- 
lied; their courage and numbers overpowered the as- 
sassins; and Magoung, with all his associates, were 
slain within the precincts of the palace. 

Minderagee Praw, whilst he led a recluse and pri- 
vate life, had imbibed much of the superstition that so 
strongly tinctures every form of religion in the East. 
The gloomy Islamite and tranquil Hindoo (The Mus- 
sulman and Hindoo, though equally bigotted, yet, in 
their doctrinal tenets, are curiously contrasted. The 
Koran enjoins the disciples of Mahommed to make 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

proselytes of the whole world, by the edge of the 
sword; the Shaster proscribes the whole world, and 
denies the cord of Hindooism to all mankind. The 
Mussulmen, seven hundred years ago, cut the throats 
of the Hindoos, because they refused to be circum- 
cised; the Indians never invite any roan to abjure his 
faith), are alike bigotted to their faith, and susceptible 
of the prejudices which ignorance and priest-craft in- 
culcate into minds uninstructed in the benign and en- 
lightened doctrines of Christianity. During his days of 
leisure, the king had directed much of his attention to 
astronomical studies, and became a thorough behever 
in judicial astrology: Bramins, who though inferior in 
sanctity to the Rhahaans, are nevertheless held in high 
respect by the Birmans, had for ages been accustomed 
to migrate from Cassay and Arracan, to Ava, where 
they always met with a favourable reception, and, on 
account of their superior knowledge, were appointed 
professors of science. A college was established, and 
certain lands appropriated for its support: these doc- 
tors composed almanacs, calculated eclipses, and pro- 
nounced, from their intercourse with the planets, the 
propitious or adverse season, to attempt any momen- 
tous undertaking. Minderagee Praw had early accus- 
tomed himself to reverence this sect; he received from 
them instructions in his favourite study, and Ustened 
to their predictions with implicit credulity. Long be- 
fore his elevation they had foretold the fortune that 
awaited him, and the accomplishment of their predic- 
tion, confirmed Braminical influence: he appointed a 
certain number to be his private chaplains, who, on 
court days, arrayed in white robes, and standing 
round the throne, chant a solemn benediction in me- 
lodious recitative. This ceremony is performed as soon 
as the king ascends the imperial seat, and before the 
commencement of public business. Prompted partly 
by the persuasions of his inspired counsellors, and 
partly by that desire of change which Birman mon- 
archs superstitiously entertain, Minderagee resolved 
to withdraw the seat of government from Awa Haung 
(ancient Ava), and found a new city. The site fixed on 
for the projected settlement was judicious: about four 
miles north-east of Ava, there is a deep and extensive 
lake called Tounzemaun, formed by the influx of the 
river during the monsoon, through a narrow channel, 
which afterwards expands and displays a body of wa- 
ter a mile and a half broad, and seven or eight miles 
long. This lake first takes a northerly direction, nearly 
parallel with the river; it afterwards curves to the 
south-east, in a lessening sheet, and diminishes to a 
morass, favourable for the culture of rice. When filled 
by the periodical rains, the lake, with the river on one 
side, incloses a dry and healthy peninsula, on which 
Ummerapoora, the name given to the new city, now 
stands. Buildings in the Birman country are composed 
for the most part of wood, and water carriage being 
here convenient, the old town was speedily demol- 

ished, and the present capital rose from its materials; 
whilst such was the assiduity used in removal, that 
Ummerapoora became in a short time one of the most 
flourishing and well built cities of the East; the fort, 
likewise, which is spacious and regular, is completely 
fortified after the Asiatic manner. A lofty rampart, 
protected by a parapet, and strengthened by bastions 
composed of excellent masonry, is further secured by 
a deep and broad ditch, faced with brick, and filled 
with water: the gateways are guarded by cannon, and 
retrenchments defend the passes of the ditch. 

The first year of the reign of Minderagee, was dis- 
tinguished by the attempt of another petty insurgent, 
who meditated nothing less than the overthrow of the 
Birman, and the re-establishment of the Tahen monar- 
chy. A fanatic fisherman of Rangoon, named 
Natchien, a man of mean extraction, availed himself of 
a prophecy circulated among the vulgar, that a person 
of his profession was to prove the instrument of dehv- 
erance to the Pegue people; and on the faith of this 
prediction, he induced several Peguers, who lived in 
the district of Dalla, to enter into his designs, and en- 
gage in his support. These desperadoes made an at- 
tack upon the municipal officers, when assembled in 
the Rhoom, or public hall of justice, several of whom 
they put to the sword; but by the spirited exertions of 
the Maywoon, the rebellion was crushed before it 
reached to a height that could endanger the state. 
Tranquillity and order were speedily restored. On this 
occasion, upwards of five hundred Peguers suffered 
death by the executioner; which impressed such a last- 
ing terror on the minds of others, that no attempt has 
since been made by the Peguers, to cast off the Birman 

The new monarch, more ambitious than his 
nephew, not content with the widely extended domin- 
ions which he possessed, meditated yet further acqui- 
sitions, in a quarter hitherto untried by any descen- 
dant of Alompra. Conquest had already been 
stretched southward as far as Mergui, on the coast of 
Tenasserem, comprehending Tavoy, and the several 
ports on the western shore of the peninsula. Complete 
subjugation of the Cassayers was scarcely to be ex- 
pected, as from their hills and fastnesses they could 
incessantly harrass the invaders, and render the coun- 
try an unproductive waste. Zemee, Sandapoora (The 
Pali name for Laucbung, or Laos), and many districts 
of the Yoodra Shaan to the eastward, were tributary 
and governed by Chobwas, who annually paid hom- 
age to the Birman King. The province of Bamoo, the 
fort of Quantong, and several places of less note, had 
been taken from the Chinese, as far as the woody 
mountains that divide the south-west of Manchegee, 
or Yunan, from the kingdom of Ava. West of Anou- 
pectoumiou lay a country, the fertility of whose soil, 
and its aptitude for commerce, attracted the avarice of 
the Birman monarch, whilst the imbecility of its gov- 

SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


ernment invited to an easy conquest. The distance 
from the town of Sembeu-Ghewn, on the west bank of 
the river Irrawaddy, to Merong Chickien, at the east- 
ern foot of the hills, does not exceed forty-five miles; 
thence the distance over the mountains to Tellakee, on 
the opposite side, is fifty-six miles, but the road (Since 
the final conquest of Arracan, the road from Sembeu- 
Ghewn to Tellakee has been considerably improved; it 
is nevertheless still a laborious journey, owing to the 
ruggedness of the way, and the steep mountains over 
which the traveller must pass) is so difficult from 
natural impediments, that an enterprizing people 
might, with a small force, defend the passes against 
any numbers. The Birman King, however, was too 
well acquainted with the supineness of Mahasumda 
(Mahasumda is the Shanscrit title given to a long line 
of Kings of Arracan. Eastern kings, whilst living, are 
usually denominated by their titles, of which they 
have many). Raja of Arracan, and the unwarlike dis- 
position of his subjects, to dread any vigorous opposi- 
tion; he determined to invade the country, with a view 
to wrest it from its ancient rulers, and render it an ap- 
pendage to the Birman crown. 

The ancient government of Arracan, according to 
the most authentic writers, had never been so com- 
pletely conquered as to acknowledge implicit vassal- 
age to a foreign power: it experienced, in the two last 
centuries, the usual convulsions to which all states, 
and those of the eastern world in particular, are liable. 
The Moguls on the west (The unfortunate Sultan Su- 
jah, brother to Aurungzebe, was, by the king of this 
country, basely betrayed and put to death, for the sake 
of his treasure. See Dow's Hindostan), and the Pegu- 
ers on the east, had, at different periods, carried their 
arms into the heart of the country. The Portugueze 
(Faria de Souza, on the Portugueze conquests in Asia. 
One Sebastian Gonzales, owing to a combination of 
successful events, made himself master of the island of 
Cheduba, or Sandiva, which he maintained for some 
rime, as an independent principality; his rise was ow- 
ing to a series of heinous crimes, and his rapid fall is 
to be ascribed to the same source, Faria.), sometimes 
as allies, at others as open enemies, gained an estab- 
lishment in Arracan, which decayed only with the 
general ruin of their interests in Asia. Arracan, how- 
ever, though often exhausted, was never wholly con- 
sumed; it always rose from its own ashes, a free and 
independent nation. 

The natives of Arracan proper, call their country 
Yee-Kein; the Hindoos of Bengal, Rossaun; the latter, 
who have settled in great numbers in Arracan, are de- 
nominated, by the original inhabitants, Kulaw Yee- 
Kein, or unnaturalized Arracaners; the Moguls know 
it by the Persian name of Rechan. Mogo is a term of 
religious import, and high sanctity, applied to the 
priesthood, and the king; whence the inhabitants are 
often called by Europeans, Mughs: such a number of 

epithets used indiscriminately, must prove embarrass- 
ing to the reader of the few sketches that have been 
given of this country. Arracan, or Yee-Kein, stretches 
south-south-east from the river Naff, the boundary 
that divides it from the territories of the India Com- 
pany, as far as Cape Negrais, where the ancient Pegue 
empire commenced. The range of lofty mountains al- 
ready mentioned, under the name of Anoupectou- 
miou, nearly encircles it. From the quarter of Bassien 
and Negrais, Arracan can be invaded only by water, 
through the many rivers that intersect the country ad- 
jacent to the sea. From the side of Chittagong, en- 
trance into Arracan must be effected by a march along 
the sea beach, which is Interrupted by several chan- 
nels, that chiefly owe their waters to the action of the 
tide. Arracan thus displays a great space of coast, very 
disproportionate to its internal extension. A few miles 
below Tellakee, at the western foot, the river, till then 
a streamlet that rises in the hills, becomes navigable 
from the influx of the sea; in two tides a boat reaches 
the fort of Arracan. 

From the fort to the sea, the river expands into a 
noble sheet of water, well adapted for trade, and the 
reception of shipping. Cheduba and Ramree, called by 
the Birmans Magou Kioun, and Yamgee Kioun (These 
are the vulgar names, they have also Shanscrit appel- 
lations), are extensive and highly cultivated islands, 
which, with Arracan and Sandowy, form four distinct 
provinces, and comprehend the whole of the Arracan 

The trade of Arracan was never very considerable; 
it is confined to salt, bees' wax, elephants' teeth, and 
rice. This latter article is produced in such abundance, 
that it might be improved, by proper policy, into a lu- 
crative branch of commerce; the soil is luxuriant and 
well watered, and the contiguous islands are uncom- 
monly fruitful. Possession of Arracan and these is- 
lands, became a still more desirable acquisition to the 
Birmans, as affording protection to their boats, which, 
navigating in the north-west monsoon through the 
channel and along the coast, make an annual voyage 
from Bassien, Rangoon, and Martaban, to Chittagong 
and Calcutta, where they dispose of the produce of 
their countries, and in return bring back cloth, and 
commodities of India. 

The invasion of Arracan being finally determined 
on, the Engee Teekien, or prince royal, with his broth- 
ers, the princes of Prome, Tongho, and Pagahm, in the 
Birman year 1145 (corresponding to 1783 of the Chris- 
tian era; The Birman solar year, ending at the vernal 
equinox, may create an apparent confusion in stating 
the two eras), in the month Touzelien, left the imperial 
city, and crossed to Chao-aing, now become a place of 
religious resort from the number of Praws, or temples 
erected in its neighbourhood; as well as for being the 
principal manufactory of idols, which, hewn out of an 
adjacent quarry (The quarry is at Meengoung, about 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

twelve miles distant) of fine alabaster, are sculptured 
here, and afterwards transported to the remotest cor- 
ners of the empire. At this city, they passed three days 
in the performance of rehgious ceremonies; proceed- 
ing thence to Pagahm (Pagahm was once a city of no 
ordinary magnificence and extent; the writer of this 
memoir, accompanied by the Viceroy of Pegue, as- 
cended one of the pagodas or praws, by a decayed 
and dangerous flight of steps on the outside, they had 
from the summit a view of ruins, thickly scattered 
over the face of the country, as far as the eye could 
reach. The Viceroy remarked, that to count the num- 
ber of decayed temples on the plain before us, was 
among the proverbial impossibilities of the Birmans), 
in past ages the residence of a long dynasty of kings, 
and still famed for its numerous temples, they re- 
newed the pious rites; after which they pursued their 
journey to Kama, whence five thousand men, under 
the Princes of Tongho and Pagahm, were detached 
with orders to debark at Maoung (formerly Loonzay), 
and invade Arracan, by penetrating through the 
passes of the mountains. When the Engee Teekien and 
the Prince of Prome reached the city of Prome, the 
Seree of Shegoo was ordered to fall down the Ir- 
rawaddy with a strong Heet of boats, and enter Arra- 
can by the creeks and channels of the Bassien river. 
The elder princes remained at Prome five days, and 
then crossed to Podang on the opposite bank, three 
miles lower down; here they halted fifteen days, in 
order to give the other detachments, whose routes 
were more circuitous, time to advance. 

At the expiration of the period that was judged 
necessary for the co-operation of the different detach- 
ments, the Engee Teekien ordered the Prince of 
Prome, at the head of 7000 men, to advance, and at- 
tempt the defiles of the hills leading from Podang, 
whilst he conducted, in person, the main army, keep- 
ing three days march in the rear of the front division. 
Two generals of reputation accompanied the Engee 
Teekien, Kioumee Matoung, and Nunda Siekyan: the 
detachment sent by water, under the Seree, reached its 
destination before those that went by land could ar- 
rive. This officer met with no obstacle until he reached 
the frontiers of Arracan, where, hearing that the prince 
of the country was preparing to attack him, he judged 
it most prudent to halt, and wait the approach of his 
friends, in order to prevent the Arracaners from con- 
centrating their force 
against his party. 

The way pursued by the junior princes (The 
Princes of Tongho and Pagahm were infants at this 
time; the direction of the armies was intrusted to oth- 
ers. It is a customary thing for Eastern princes to send 
their sons into the field, at a very tender age), was yet 
more difficult and distant than that by which the 
prince royal proceeded; probably they were sent only 
to make a diversion, and distract the attention of the 

enemy. After a troublesome march of three weeks, the 
Prince of Prome, with the advanced guard of the main 
army, reached Loungyat (The distance is estimated at 
one hundred and twenty miles), two days journey 
from the fort of Arracan, where, learning the situation 
of the Seree, he sent a body of one thousand men, un- 
der an Ackawoon, to his assistance. 

Impatient of delay, and probably desirous of seiz- 
ing the present opportunity to distinguish himself, the 
Prince of Prome resolved to assault the fort before his 
brother should arrive; with this intent he wrote to the 
Seree, ordering him to advance next day with the fleet, 
promising to co-operate and support him. In comph- 
ance with the Prince's commands, the Seree put his 
armament in motion; the King of Arracan had by this 
time collected a fleet of boats, which surpassed, in 
size, those of the Birmans, although they were inferior 
in point of numbers. An action took place about two 
miles from the fort, which terminated decidedly in 
favour of the Birmans. The Arracan vessels were for 
the most part destroyed; those that escaped, spread 
consternation around: the approach of the Prince of 
Prome's army, completed the terror of the frighted 
inhabitants. Mahasumda, in despair, collected his 
most valuable effects, which he put on board boats, 
and then embarked himself, accompanied by twenty 
females of his palace, and thirty attendants, chiefly 
relations. This party directed their course to an island 
called Kiounchoppa; but the Prince of Prome, receiv- 
ing early intelUgence of their flight, ordered a detach- 
ment of five hundred men, in light boats, to pursue 
the fugitives. The Birmans overtook them within one 
mile of the island, where Mahasumda being made 
prisoner, together with all his retinue, was conducted 
back a captive to his own capital. 

When the Engee Teekien readied Loungyat, he was 
apprized of the success of his brother. The town and 
fort of Arracan fell after a faint resistance; the booty 
found is said to have been very considerable, but on 
nothing was a higher value placed than on an image 
of Gaudma (the Goutema— Goutema is a name for 
Boodh, or Budhoo —of the Hindoos), made of brass, 
and highly burnished. The figure is about ten feet 
high, in the customary sitting posture, with the legs 
crossed and inverted; the left hand resting on the lap, 
and the right pendant. This image is believed to be the 
original resemblance of the Reshee, taken from life, 
and is so highly venerated, that pilgrims have for cen- 
turies been accustomed to come from the remotest 
countries, where the supremacy of Gaudma is ac- 
knowledged, to pay their devotions at the feet of his 
brazen representative. There were also five images of 
Rakuss, the demon of the Hindoos, of the same metal 
and of gigantic stature; these were accounted of value, 
being guardians to the sanctuary of the idol. A singu- 
lar piece (The writer of this memoir, after his first 
audience, was indulged with a sight of this extraordi- 

SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


nary piece of ordnance, and honoured with an intro- 
duction to the Arracan Gaudma) of ordnance was also 
found, of enormous dimensions, composed of huge 
bars of iron beaten into form: this ponderous cannon 
measured thirty feet in length, two feet and a half in 
diameter at the mouth, and ten inches in the calibre; it 
was transported to Ummerapoora by water, and de- 
posited in the yard of the royal palace, where it is now 
preserved as a military trophy; it is mounted on a low 
carriage supported by six wheels, and is covered from 
the weather by a wooden pent-house. Gaudma and 
his infernal guards were, in like manner, conveyed by 
water to the capital, with much pomp and supersti- 
tious parade. 

The surrender of Cheduba, Ramree, and the Broken 
Isles, followed the conquest of Arracan: many of the 
Mughs (The ancient inhabitants of Arracan are so 
called, from being subjects of the Great Mogo), or sub- 
jects of the Great Mogo, preferred fhght to servitude, 
taking refuge in the Dumbuck hills, on the borders of 
the province of Chittagong, and in the deep forests 
and jungles that skirt the frontier: where they formed 
themselves into independent tribes of robbers, that 
have since created infinite vexation to the Birmans, 
and to this day commit merciless depredations on the 
persons and property of their conquerors; many have 
settled in the districts of Dacca and Chittagong, under 
the protection of the British flag, whilst others ac- 
cepted the oath of allegiance, and bowed their necks to 
slavery, rather than abandon their country, and their 
household gods (The sectaries of Budhoo are much 
attached to their Lares, or domestic gods. A Birman 
family is never without an idol in some corner of the 
house, made of wood, alabaster, or silver). 

The Princes of Tongho and Pagahm did not reach 
Arracan until the business was decided; although they 
bore no share in the conquest they secured a propor- 
tion of the booty (The inhabitants of Tongho are fa- 
mous for their ferocity and licentiousness; a character 
well preserved by the numerous followers of the 
Prince of Tongho, when the writer of this memoir was 
at the Birman capital); the followers of the Tongho 
Prince, in particular, are said to have committed the 
most wanton excesses on the unhappy natives of the 
country through which they passed. 

The arrangements attending their conquest, occu- 
pied the princes for some time. Arracan, with its de- 
pendencies, was constituted a province of the Birman 
empire, and a Maywoon, or Viceroy, appointed to 
govern it. A man named Sholamboo, was first in- 
vested with that office, and one thousand Birman sol- 
diers were left to garrison the fort; small parties were 
likewise distributed in the different towns, and many 
Birmans, who had obtained grants of lands, came with 
their families and settled in the country, thereby in- 
creasing the security of the state. These matters being 
adjusted, the princes returned to the Irrawaddy by the 

same route they had advanced, and embarked at Po- 
dang, carrying with them Mahasumda and all his fam- 
ily. This unfortunate monarch was treated at Um- 
merapoora with much respect; he was allotted a suit- 
able dwelling and establishment, which he did not 
long enjoy; before the first year of his captivity had 
elapsed, he died a natural death; after his decease his 
relations were suffered to sink into obscurity and 
want. The reduction of Arracan was completed in the 
short space of a few months. 

The more recent actions of the reign of the present 
emperor (Boa, or emperor, is a title which the present 
king of the Birmans has assumed; the sovereign of 
China is called Oudee Boa, or Emperor of Oudee, or 
China) may with greater propriety be circumstantially 
recounted at some future period; a brief recital of the 
principal events, and a concise view of the existing 
state of the empire, with the reflections which such a 
view naturally suggests, will enable the reader to form 
an adequate opinion of the political importance of the 
nation that has been treated of, and will close the sub- 
ject of the present Chapter. 

The valuable acquisition of Arracan, did not sat- 
isfy the lust of conquest that inflamed the emperor; he 
turned his eyes towards the eastern peninsula, where 
the rival state of Siam was recovering its former vig- 
our, after enjoying a long respite from hostility 

The success of the Birman arms over the Siamese, 
conducted by King Shembuan, has already been re- 
counted. Although the Birmans could not retain pos- 
session of the inland parts of Siam, they nevertheless 
preserved dominion over the sea coast; all the ports on 
the western shore of the Peninsula, as far as Mergui, in 
north lat. 12° 20', continued subject to them. The is- 
land of Junkseylon was the only addition wanting to 
give them the entire dominion of the western coast, as 
far as the territories of the Malay Prince of Queedah; 
by obtaining this island, the Birmans would monopo- 
lize the commerce of the Peninsula, and prevent the 
Siamese from communication with India by any other 
channel than that of the Gulf of Siam. The trade of 
Junkseylon is considerable in ivory and tin; it stretches 
nearly north and south, about fifty or sixty miles: the 
centre of the island is situated in eight degrees north; 
it is likewise said to be desirable from the blessings of 
a luxuriant soil, and a mild climate. To effect this ob- 
ject, eleven ships of burthen were fitted out at Ran- 
goon, destined to convey troops and warlike stores: 
the Birmans, though expert shipwrights, are indiffer- 
ent seamen, and altogether ignorant of the science of 
navigation: the present Shawbunder of Rangoon, de- 
scended of a Portugueze family, was appointed to 
conduct the fleet. The different vessels were com- 
manded by persons of a like description, who had 
been bred up under the Birman government, and held 
petty offices in the maritime ports; they, however, 
were considered in a light little superior to pilots, be- 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

ing under the check and control of the commander of 
the land forces on board: this fleet reached Mergui in 
the month of January, 1785. 

In support of the troops and squadron sent by sea, 
a detachment of eight thousand men marched in the 
month of November from Rangoon; this body did not 
reach Mergui until the 18th of February: on the 7th of 
March following, the fleet weighed anchor, and the 
forces by land made in a correspondent movement. 
The arm of the sea that divides Junkseylon from the 
main, is in some places very narrow: the Birmans im- 
mediately on their arrival, attacked the fort, which is 
situated on the east side of the island, and were suc- 
cessful, notwithstanding a spirited resistance made by 
Prawselong, the Siamese governor, who afterwards 
withdrew from the fort into the interior of the island. 
The Birmans found here a valuable booty, which they 
embarked on board a vessel captured in the harbour, 
belonging to a Mussulman merchant of Masuhpatam; 
but the ship never reached her destined port: meeting 
with a gale of wind in the Bay of Martaban, she foun- 
dered at sea, and every soul perished. The triumph of 
the Birmans was of short duration; the Siamese gover- 
nor rallied his forces, and having procured an addi- 
tion to his strength, became in his turn the assailant, 
with so good effect, that the Birmans thought fit to re- 
treat to their shipping, which they did not accomphsh 
without a heavy loss: apprehensive of yet greater dis- 
asters, they returned to Mergui, whence the fleet 
sailed for Rangoon, and the troops marched to Marta- 
ban, with intent to canton during the rainy season. 

The Birman monarch, whose pride was deeply 
mortified at the ill fortune of his arms at Junkseylon, 
resolved to repair the disgrace, and invade Siam with 
such a force as he conceived would be irresistible; and 
further, to insure success, announced his intention to 
lead the troops in person. He accordingly left Um- 
merapoora at the head of thirty thousand men, with a 
train of twenty field pieces, and taking the route of 
Tongho, reached Martaban in the spring of the year 
1786: a detachment was likewise sent to invade north 
Siam, and another ordered to penetrate on the south- 
ern quarter from Tavoy. A fleet was also equipped, 
consisting of sixteen ships, mostly belonging to trad- 
ers, which were either hired of the owners, or im- 
pressed for the occasion: this armament blocked up 
the harbour of Junkseylon. Such vigorous prepara- 
tions inspired the Birmans with sanguine hopes: too 
much confidence, however, often betrays into error. 
The Emperor, already anticipating victory, marched 
from Martaban, and had scarcely entered the Siamese 
territories, when he was opposed by Pieticksing, the 
King of Siam, with a powerful army; a furious en- 
gagement ensued, in which the Birmans were com- 

pletely routed, and their useless cannon^s taken by the 
enemy. The Emperor himself, who narrowly escaped 
being made prisoner, returned to his capital with pre- 
cipitation: the fugitives found protection in Martaban; 
and the other detachments hearing of the misfortune 
of the main body, likewise retreated. The season for 
field operations being far advanced, hostilities were 
for sometime suspended on both sides. 

In the commencement of the ensuing year, the Sia- 
mese, in considerable force, laid siege to Tavoy; but 
after a long struggle were compelled to retreat and 
abandon the enterprize. The place was defended by 
Maha-see-soo-ra, who in the month of April, 1788, was 
promoted to the May-woonship, or Viceroyalty of 
Martaban, which comprehends within its jurisdiction, 
Tavoy, Mergui, and all the Birman possessions to the 
southward. Tavoy being a place of great importance, 
was left with a strong garrison, to the care of an officer 
named Numeapeou, by some called Miapeou, a man 
of low extraction, whose father had originally been a 
merchant of small ware between China and Ava, and 
having amassed money, obtained influence by a judi- 
cious application of his wealth. For some time Mia- 
peou conducted himself with fidelity in his command; 
but on the decease of Maha-see-soo-ra, in the year 
1790, being disappointed of the Viceroyalty of Marta- 
ban, which was given to an officer named Meen-la-ze- 
zo, he entered into an intrigue with the Siamese, and 
agreed to dehver up the fort to them, on certain stipu- 
lations for himself and his adherents; the compact be- 
ing concluded, possession was given to the enemy, 
who stationed a strong garrison in it, and as a further 
protection, encamped a body of troops in its neigh- 

Early in the year 1791, Sombee Meengee and Atta- 
woon Mien, officers of high distinction, were ordered 
to proceed from Ummerapoora by land against the 
rebel; a fleet of sixty boats sailed about the same time 
from Rangoon, which were speedily to be followed by 
three ships, then fitting out at the same port. The boats 
having arrived before the ships could reach their des- 
tination, injudiciously entered the river of Tavoy, and 
began an attack on the suburbs bordering on the 
banks. Miapeou, with a party of rebel Birmans and a 
detachment of Siamese, opposed them, and in hght 
war-boats soon got the better of the unwieldy junks 
that had crossed the bay. Many of the Birman vessels 
were destroyed, and those that escaped took refuge in 
Mergui, where soon after this disaster, the ships also 

The army from Ummerapoora having reached 
Martaban, halted there during the rainy monsoon. 
Early in the season for action, the Engee Praw, or 
Prince royal, left the capital and came down to Ran- 

Many well informed men among the Birmans, ascribe their de- 
feat to the incumbrance of their cannon, which were old ship guns 
mounted on low carriages. 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


goon, bringing with him a considerable accession to 
the southern force; the Assay Woongee, and several 
officers of distinguished rank, attended in his suite. By 
the time he had reached Rangoon, the first division, 
under Sombee Meengee and Attawoon Mein, had 
proceeded against Tavoy; the prince halted at Ran- 
goon, but sent forward the greatest part of his troops 
to support the advanced army: the ships also that had 
put into Mergui, again sailed for Tavoy. On the arrival 
of the army and shipping, an engagement took place 
between the Siamese and Birmans, partly on land, and 
partly at the mouth of the river, the Siamese disputing 
the entrance in their war-boats; in this contest the 
Siamese were worsted, and driven with great slaugh- 
ter into the fort, which the Birmans immediately in- 
vested; and having entrenched and stockaded them- 
selves, commenced a formal blockade. No supplies 
could now reach the besieged, whilst the Birmans, 
though the adjacent country was unproductive, being 
masters of the sea, procured subsistence from Arracan 
and Rangoon, which the provincial officers of those 
countries transported to the army, in whatever ships 
they could lay their hands on, pressing indiscrimi- 
nately the vessels^* of all nations, that happened to be 
in their ports. The seige was thus protracted for some 
months, and the place at last fell by treachery. The 
Birmans, who under Miapeou had originally been in- 
strumental to putting the fort in possession of the 
Siamese, became discontented, probably through 
want: a clandestine correspondence commenced be- 
tween them and the leaders of the besieging army: a 
proper understanding being established, at a con- 
certed hour of the night, the enemy advanced to storm 
the outworks of the fort; when the Siamese rose to re- 
pel the assault, the Birmans within, whose fidehty was 
not suspected, fell upon the garrison, which, consist- 
ing of three thousand gallant soldiers, were cut to 
pieces, either by their pretended allies, or avowed 
foes, who soon gained admission through the means 
of their perfidious countrymen. Miapeou was not 
found; he had withdrawn from the fort sometime be- 
fore, and escaped into the country of the Siamese. The 
Birmans thus again became masters of the important 
fortress of Tavoy. 

In the mean while affairs at Mergui seemed likely 
to exhibit a different scene from that which was pass- 
ing at Tavoy: here, the Birmans acted on the defensive, 
and the Siamese were the assailants. A brother of the 
King of Siam had invested the garrison with a strong 
force, and pressed the siege so closely that the Bir- 
mans were reduced to the utmost extremity, and must 

''' Amongst these were several ships belonging to English traders, 
the commanders of which forwarded a remonstrance to Lord 
Cornwallis, and the Supreme Council, complaining of the outrage. 
It is generally supposed, that the Birman King ordered liberal re- 
muneration to be made to those whose ships were pressed, but 
that the provincial officers fraudulently withheld his bounty. 

have surrendered, but for the opportune arrival of six 
ships and five thousand men, detached to their aid 
from Tavoy; the besiegers, disheartened by the ap- 
pearance of these succours, relinquished the enter- 
prise, and retired into the interior of the country. 

Subsequent to these events, no action of impor- 
tance appears to have taken place between the con- 
tending powers; the year 1793 opened with overtures 
for peace on the part of the Siamese; a negociation 
commenced, which speedily terminated in the ratifica- 
tion of a treaty, highly favourable to the Birman inter- 
ests. By this compact, the Siamese ceded to the Bir- 
mans, the western maritime towns, as far south as 
Mergui, thus yielding to them entire possession of the 
coast of Tenasserem, and the two important ports of 
Mergui and Tavoy; acquisitions of great moment, 
when considered either in a pohtical or commercial 

Indisputably pre-eminent among the nations in- 
habiting the vast peninsula that separates the gulf of 
Bengal from the Chinese sea; possessed of a territory 
equal in extent to the German empire; blessed with a 
salubrious chmate, and a soil capable of producing 
almost every article of luxury, convenience, and com- 
merce, that the East can supply, Miamma, or Birmah, 
thus happily circumstanced, enjoyed the pleasing 
prospect of a long exemption from the miseries of war; 
but unbending pride, and resentment unjustifiably 
prosecuted, nearly embroiled them in fresh troubles, 
before they had time to profit by the advantages of 
peace, and threatened to raise them up a foe far more 
formidable than the Chinese, Arracaners, Peguers, 
Siamese, and Cassayers. 

The trade of Arracan, which is chiefly carried 
on with the eastern ports through an inland naviga- 
tion, when the rivers are swollen by the rains, had suf- 
fered repeated interruptions from piratical banditti, 
who, infesting the Broken Islands, among which the 
channels wind, that are the usual course of boats, not 
only committed depredations on private merchants, 
but had even the hardiness to attack fleets, laden with 
the royal customs (Customs are usually received in 
kind, viz. one-tenth of the commodity). These robbers, 
when the season of the year did not admit of their 
plundering on the water, sought adventures by land; 
and, as the Birmans allege, conveyed their booty of 
goods and cattle across the river Naaf, into the Chit- 
tagong province, where, secure from pursuit, being 
then under protection of the British Hag, they dis- 
posed of their spoils to advantage, and hved at ease, 
until returning want impelled them to renew their 
predatory inroads. 

The river Naaf, which bounds the British and Bir- 
man territories, is situated at a considerable distance 
from the town of Chittagong, the seat of provincial 
government, and residence of the English magistrate. 
The banks of this river are covered with deep jungles. 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

interspersed with scanty spots of cultivation, and a 
few wretched villages, where dwell the poorest class 
of herdsmen, and the families of roving hunters, 
whose occupation it is to catch and tame the wild ele- 
phants, with which these forests abound. The asylum 
that such unfrequented places offered to persons con- 
cerned in a lawless traffic, rendered it easy to be car- 
ried on without the knowledge of the Enghsh officers 
of justice; nor could it possibly reach the notice of the 
Supreme Board, unless a proper representation was 
made, either by the individuals that were aggrieved, 
or by the government of their country. This, however, 
was a condescension, to which the mighty Emperor of 
the Birmans, who conceives himself superior to every 
potentate on earth, would never stoop. To ask redress 
was beneath his dignity; he proceeded by a more 
summary course to do himself justice. On its being 
ascertained that three distinguished leaders of the 
robbers had sought refuge in the British districts, his 
Birman Majesty, without communicating his intention, 
or in any form demanding the fugitives, thought fit to 
order a body of five thousand men, under an officer of 
rank, to enter the Company's territories, with positive 
injunctions to the commander not to return, unless he 
brought with him the delinquents, dead or alive; fur- 
ther, to support this detachment, an army of twenty 
thousand men were held in readiness at Arracan. 

So unexpected an aggression, offered without any 
previous remonstrance, or the assignment of any plea, 
left no room for discussing the merits of the case. The 
Birmans having taken upon themselves to redress 
their own grievances, it became necessary to convince 
them that they had mistaken the mode; and what they 
might readily procure from English justice, they could 
never extort through fear: to accomplish this purpose, 
a strong detachment was formed at the presidency, 
the conduct of which was intrusted to Major General 
Erskine; the troops proceeded from Calcutta to Chit- 
tagong, a battalion of Europeans and artillery by wa- 
ter, and the native sepoys by land. 

Seree Nunda Kiozo, the Birman chief, to whom the 
arduous task of reclaiming the fugitives was assigned, 
acted with more circumspection and prudence, than 
the government from which he had received his in- 
structions. After his army had crossed the river, and 
encamped on the western bank, he dictated a letter to 
the British judge and magistrate of Chittagong, ac- 
quainting him of the reasons for the inroad; that the 
caption of the delinquents was his sole object, without 
harbouring any design of hostilities against the Eng- 
lish. At the same time he declared, in a style of per- 
emptory demand, that until they were given up, he 
would not depart from the Company's territories: in 
confirmation of this menace, he fortified his camp in 
the Birman manner, with a stockade, and seemed de- 
termined to resist any attempt to oblige him to retire. 
These matters being reported to government, the Gov- 

ernor General was pleased to order the Magistrate of 
Chittagong to apprehend the refugees, and keep them 
in safe custody until further directions. 

On the approach of General Erskine, Seree Nunda 
Kiozo sent a flag of truce, to propose terms of accom- 
modation, stipulating for the surrender of the fugi- 
tives, as the basis of the agreement. The General re- 
phed, that no proposals could be listened to whilst the 
Birmans continued on English ground; but as soon as 
they should withdraw from their fortified camp, and 
retire within their own frontiers, he would enter upon 
the subject of their complaints; notifying also, that un- 
less they evacuated the Company's possessions in a 
limited time, force would be used to compel them. The 
Birman chief, in a manly confidence of the Enghsh 
character, personally waited on General Erskine, and 
disclosed to him the nature of his instructions, the 
enormity of the offenders, and the outrages they had 
committed. General Erskine, whose moderation and 
judgment on this occasion cannot be too highly com- 
mended, assured him, that it was far from the inten- 
tion of the British government to screen delinquents, 
or sanction in their country an asylum for robbers; but 
as the manner in which the Birman troops had entered 
the Company's district, was so repugnant to the prin- 
ciples that ought to regulate the conduct of civilized 
nations, it was impossible for him to recede from his 
first determination. He gave hopes, notwithstanding, 
that if the Birmans peaceably retired; the Governor 
General would institute a regular inquiry into the 
charges preferred against the prisoners: adding, that 
instant compliance with the conditions prescribed, 
was the only ground on which they could expect so 
great an indulgence. The Birman General, either con- 
tented with this intimation, or convinced that opposi- 
tion would be fruitless, professed his reliance on Gen- 
eral Erskine, and agreed to withdraw his troops: the 
retreat was conducted in the most orderly manner; 
and so strict was the subordination observed in the 
Birman army, that not one act of violence was commit- 
ted either on the person or property of British subjects, 
during the time their troops continued within the 
Company's districts. General Erskine was afterwards 
empowered, by the Governor General, to investigate 
the charges against the refugees, when, after a formal 
and dehberate hearing, their guilt being established on 
the clearest evidence, they were dehvered over to their 
own laws, by whose sentence, two out of the three 
underwent capital punishment. 

The amicable termination of this difference, af- 
forded favourable opportunity to acquire a more accu- 
rate knowledge than had hitherto been obtained, of a 
people, whose situation, extent of territory, and com- 
mercial connections with British India, rendered a lib- 
eral intercourse with them highly desirable. The trade 
between Calcutta, Madras, and Rangoon, had of late 
years so rapidly increased, as to become an object of 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


national importance, more particularly on account of 
teak timber, the produce of Ava and Pegue, whence 
Calcutta and Madras^^ draw all their supplies of wood 
for ship building, and for various other purposes. A 
commerce in one article so essential to us, and, on a 
general scale, so extensive as to require an annual re- 
turn of Indian commodities to the amount of £200,000 
sterling, was an object well worth cultivating. Repre- 
sentations had, at different times, been made to the 
Supreme Board by private merchants, and manners, 
complaining of injustice and oppression at the port of 
Rangoon; the recent inroad of the Birmans, which 
originated partly in pride, and partly in ignorance, 
would probably not have occurred, had there existed 
an authorized channel of intercourse between the re- 
spective governments. To prevent the recurrence of a 
like misunderstanding; to form a commercial connex- 
ion on equitable and fixed principles, and to establish 
a confidential and authentic correspondence, such as 
ought to subsist between two great and contiguous 
nations; Sir John Shore (now Lord Teignmouth) 
thought proper to send a formal deputation to the 
Birman court. Nor were these the only ends to be an- 
swered by the embassy; the influence, which the natu- 
ral enemies of Great Britain had acquired in that quar- 
ter, was to be combated, and, if possible, overcome; 
whilst the natives were to be impressed with an ade- 
quate sense of the power, the resources, and, above all, 
the equity of the British character, in such a manner as 
to convince them that their real interests were con- 
nected with a state that neither meditated, nor would 
suffer encroachment; and sought for nothing beyond 
an interchange of merchandize, on terms mutually 
beneficial. The result of this mission, through the vari- 
ous stages of its progress and completion, will be de- 
tailed in the subsequent pages; thus far it has realised 
the expectations of the British government, and gives 
a flattering promise of national advantage, except it 
should hereafter be obstructed by impediments, which 
no penetration can foresee, and against which no hu- 
man compact can provide. 

The Birmans, under their present monarch, are cer- 
tainly rising fast in the scale of Oriental nations; and, it 
is to be hoped, that a long respite from foreign wars, 
will give them leisure to improve their natural advan- 
tages. Knowledge increases with commerce; and as 
they are not shackled by any prejudices of casts, re- 
stricted to hereditary occupations, or forbidden from 
participating with strangers in every social bond, their 
advancement will, in all probabihty be rapid. At pre- 

sent, so far from being in a state of intellectual dark- 
ness, although they have not explored the depths of 
science, or reached to excellence in the finer arts, they 
yet have an undeniable claim to the character of a civi- 
lized, and well instructed, people. Their laws are wise, 
and pregnant with sound moraUty; their police is bet- 
ter regulated than in most European countries; their 
natural disposition is friendly, and hospitable to 
strangers; and their manners rather expressive of 
manly candour, than courteous dissimulation: the 
gradations of rank, and the respect due to station, are 
maintained with a scrupulosity which never relaxes. 
(A knowledge of letters is so widely diffused, that 
there are no mechanics, few of the peasantry, or even 
the common watermen (usually the most illiterate 
class) who cannot read and write in the vulgar tongue. 
Few, however, are versed in the more erudite volumes 
of science, which, containing many Shanscrit terms, 
and often written in the Pali text, are (like the Hindoo 
Shasters) above the comprehension of the multitude; 
but the feudal system, which cherishes ignorance, and 
renders man the property of man, still operates as a 
check to civilization and improvement. This is a bar 
which gradually weakens, as their acquaintance with 
the customs and manners of other nations extends; 
and unless the rage of civil discord be again excited, or 
some foreign power impose an ahen yoke, the Bir- 
mans bid fair to be a prosperous, wealthy, and en- 
lightened people. 

' Teak cannot be conveyed from the Malabar to the Coromandel 
coast, or to Calcutta, unless at an expence so great, as to preclude 
the attempt. It is said, that this incomparable wood grows in per- 
fection on the banks of the river Godavery; but the impediments of 
procuring it from that quarter have hitherto been found insur- 
mountable. Several excellent ships, built in the river of Bengal, of 
Pegue teak, have delivered and received cargoes in the river 

Part II 
Travel Diary 

Chapter 1 

Having received my commissions from the Governor 
General, one appointing me Agent Plenipotentiary, 
with powers to treat, in the name of the Supreme 
Government of India, with the Emperor of Ava; the 
other, vesting in me authority to take cognizance of 
the conduct of the British subjects, trading to, or resid- 
ing in, the countries 1 was destined to visit; on the 21st 
of February, 1795, 1 embarked at Calcutta, on board 
the Sea-Horse, an armed cruizer belonging to the East 
India Company, Captain Thomas, Commander, at- 
tended by Mr. Wood, Assistant and Secretary, and Dr. 
Buchanan, Surgeon to the mission. A Havildar (native 
Serjeant), Naick (native corporal), and 14 Sepoys, se- 
lected fgrom a battalion at the military station of Bar- 
racpore, formed an attendant guard; these, with an 
Hindoo Pundit (Professor of Hindu learning), for 
whose company 1 was indebted to the goodness of Sir 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

Robert Chambers, a Moonshee (A Mussulman profes- 
sor of language), and inferior domestics of various de- 
scriptions, increased our numbers to more than sev- 
enty persons. Light and unfavourable breezes re- 
tarded our progress down the river, and before we 
had got clear, an accident happened that created much 
concern. An hospital assistant, in the employment of 
Dr. Buchanan, who had never been in a ship, arose in 
the middle of the night, walked leisurely to the gang- 
way, and, insensible to his situation, stepped over- 
board into a rapid tide, and was heard of no more; this 
early loss of a good and useful man, impressed a gen- 
eral sentiment of regret upon the whole crew. 

On the evening of the 26th, our pilot left us in seven 
fathoms of water, having then passed all the dangers 
of the channel. The wind continuing foul, we an- 
chored for the night; next morning weighed and stood 
to the south-east with a favouring breeze, which blew 
without intermission till the 4th of March, when we 
made the Great and Little Cocoa Islands, so called 
from being fuUy clothed with cocoa-nut trees of un- 
usual luxuriance. These islands are flat, small, and 
swampy; they are uninhabited, and destitute of good 
water. We perceived the ruins of a hut on the sea 
shore, which had been erected by an adventurer, who 
came thither from Madras to express oil from the co- 
coa-nut. The scheme did not succeed; some of the 
party died, and the rest relinquished the project. Steer- 
ing between the southern Cocoa, and the north end of 
the Island of Andaman, we opened Port ComwalUs on 
the east side of the latter. At eleven o'clock on the 5th, 
we hauled our wind and stood in; at one, our ship 
came to anchor, a quarter of a mile from the shore. On 
landing we were received by Captains Ramsay and 
Stokoe (Colonel Kyd, the Governor, being absent) 
with the kindest hospitahty, which was equally ex- 
tended to the captain and officers of the ship, and con- 
tinued to every individual belonging to the mission, 
during the time that we remained their guests . . . .^^ 

Chapter 11 

Having passed five days in this wild sequestered 
abode, where the novelty of the scene, and friendly 
attention of our entertainers. Captains Ramsay and 
Stokoe, would have rendered a longer stay agreeable, 
we prepared to depart. The Hindoos, whose religion 
forbids them to drink water drawn by impure hands, 
had filled their own casks; and the stock of our nu- 
merous company was replenished. On the 10th we 
reimbarked, and stood to sea: next morning at day- 
light made the island of Narcondam, about twenty 
leagues east of the Andamans; a barren rock, rising 
abruptly out of the ocean, unihabited, and seemingly 

destitute of vegetation. The wind being foul, we were 
obliged to tack; and on the following day we had ad- 
vanced so little to the northward, that Narcondam was 
still in sight. About noon, we discovered two ships 
and a schooner, standing to the south-east: they 
hoisted English colours, and we kept our course. On 
the 13th the wind veered to the southward, and be- 
came fair: on the 16th we found ourselves, by a merid- 
ian observation, nearly in the latitude of the roads of 
Rangoon, but by our reckoning and time-piece too far 
to the eastward: after steering west some hours, we 
anchored for the night in five fathoms, and plainly 
perceived lights on the beach. Next morning we dis- 
covered low land, about six miles to the north-west. 
Here we remained till the 18th, waiting for a pilot, 
standing off and on with short tacks in the day time, 
and at anchor during the night. Finding that our sig- 
nals, by firing guns and hoisting colours in the usual 
manner, were not answered, Mr. Palmer, the second 
officer, was sent in the pinnace, with instructions to 
proceed up the river as far as Rangoon, in case he did 
not find a pilot sooner. 

On the ensuing day, the wind being moderate and 
fair. Captain Thomas ventured to stand in; and steer- 
ing by land-marks, and sending a boat ahead, crossed 
the bar without a pilot, at half flood, in four fathoms. 
At twelve o'clock we entered the Rangoon river; the 
land on each side appeared low and swampy, and the 
banks skirted with high reeds and brushwood. Four 
miles within the extremes we came abreast of a small 
village, whence a boat rowed towards us: it proved to 
be a watch boat, stationed at the mouth of the river, to 
send Intelhgence of the arrival of vessels to the nearest 
guard, whence it is forwarded to the Governor of 
Rangoon. The Birman officer that came on board was 
a mean looking man, dressed in a shabby cotton 
jacket, and a piece of faded silk, which, after twice en- 
circling his waist, was passed loosely between his legs 
and fastened behind, covering the thighs about half- 
way to the knees. This personage, in his own opinion 
of no insignificant consequence, sat down on a chair^^ 
without the smallest ceremony, and called in an 
authoritative tone for his implements of writing, 
which were produced by one of three attendants that 
accompanied him. These, when their master was 
seated, squatted upon their heels on the deck before 
his chair, attentive only to his commands, in an atti- 
tude and manner very much resembling baboons, al- 
though they were well proportioned strong men. The 
officer inquired, in broken Portugueze, the name of 
the ship, whence she came, what arms and ammuni- 
tion were on board, and the name of the commander: 
being satisfied in these points, he carefully committed 

'* We do not include here Symes' extensive comments on the An- 
daman Islands. M.W.C. 

We were not yet aware that a sitting posture is the most respect- 
ful among the Birmans; and on this occasion were inclined to at- 
tribute to insolence, what, if it had any meaning, was in fact a 
mark of deference. 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


them to writing. Hearing that we were not provided 
with a pilot, he desired the captain to come to an an- 
chor till one could be procured; as, in case of any acci- 
dent happening, he would be held responsible for 
permitting us to proceed. Just then, Mr. Palmer in the 
ship's boat made his appearance. He had been to Ran- 
goon, and brought down a pilot with him: our cau- 
tious visitor offered no farther objections, but took his 
leave with as little ceremony as he had entered. 

About two o'clock a small boat from Rangoon met 
the ship: a man in it hailed our pilot, in the language 
of Hindostan, and desired him to cast anchor, as it 
was the intention of the Governor of Rangoon to come 
down and receive the British deputation in person. We 
immediately complied with his desire. 

The place where we brought to, is twelve miles be- 
low Rangoon. The entrance of the river, and the banks 
on each side, bore a near resemblance to those of the 
Ganges; but the navigation is much more commodi- 
ous. The channel is bold and deep, from six and a half 
to eight fathoms, uninterrupted by shoals or inequal- 
ity of soundings. Mr. Wood judged the river at this 
place to be from three-quarters to a mile in breadth. 
We continued at anchor till next day, in expectation of 
the promised visit. About noon the fleet came in sight: 
it consisted of from twenty to thirty boats; on a nearer 
approach, only four out of the number seemed to be- 
long to persons of superior condition; these were not 
unlike, in form, to the drawings of the state canoes of 
some of the South-Sea Islands: they were long and 
narrow, with an elevated stem, ornamented with pea- 
cocks' feathers, and the tails of Thibet cows; each boat 
bore a different flag, and had a long, flexible, painted 
pole, with a gilded ball at the extremity, protruding 
horizontally from the stem. Three persons, apparently 
of higher rank, came on board; they meant to be civil, 
but were perfectly free from restraint, and took pos- 
session of chairs without waiting for any invitation, or 
paying the smallest regard to those who were not 
seated; whilst their attendants, seemingly as much at 
ease as their masters, formed a semi-circle around 
them on the deck, in like manner as the servants of our 
former visitor. Being as yet unapprized of the external 
forms of respect among them, such conduct surprized 
us a good deal. The chief of the three, a good looking 
young man, of short stature, 1 understood to be a per- 
son of consideration. He was Governor of the province 
of Dalla, on the opposite side of the river to Rangoon, 
which he held on the part of the mother of the Queen, 
whose jaghire or estate it is. The second, an elderly 
plain man, said he was Nak-haan-gee; literally, the 
royal ear. 1 was afterwards informed he was transmit- 
ter of intelligence, or reporter to the imperial court, an 
office of much confidence. The third, a Seree, an infe- 
rior secretary, was a man of little relative importance 
compared with the other two. We conversed for an 
hour, through the medium of an interpreter who 

spoke the language of Hindostan: they were extremely 
inquisitive, and asked a number of questions concern- 
ing the objects of the mission, which were answered in 
friendly but general terms. Having paid their compli- 
ments, they arose to depart, and returned to their 
boats, making lavish professions of friendship; and 
whilst the ship sailed before a gentle breeze, they 
rowed with great velocity round her, performing a 
variety of evolutions, and exhibiting considerable skill 
in the management of their vessels, which were of 
unequal dimensions, from twenty -eight to forty oars: 
we judged the longest to be between sixty and seventy 
feet, and from six to eight in breadth: in this manner 
we proceeded until the town and shipping were in 
view. The princess Royal East Indiaman, that had 
come from Madras for a cargo of timber, fired a salute 
to the Company's colours; and the Sea-Horse paid a 
compliment to the battery on shore, of eleven guns, 
which were returned by an equal number: the pilot 
came to, below the town, apart from the other ships 
about half a mile. As soon as the Sea-Horse dropped 
anchor, all the boats withdrew, without further notice 
or explanation. 

Being desirous of sending some of our attendants 
on shore to refresh themselves, particularly the Hin- 
doos, whose rehgion enjoins them not to eat victuals 
dressed on board, and who were on that account, put 
to great inconvenience, being obliged at sea to subsist 
on dried fruits, sweet-meats, and parched pulse, 1 sent 
one of the attendants to the Governor of Dalla, to ac- 
quaint him with my wish. He, in reply, desired that 1 
would defer landing till the following day, when a 
habitation that was preparing for our reception would 
be in readiness; with this request 1 acquiesced, and 
communicated the same to Captain Thomas, and the 
gentlemen of the deputation, who forbad their ser- 
vants to leave the ship without express permission. 

About five o'clock in the afternoon the interpreter 
returned on board, and informed me, that the 
Raywoon, or Governor of the town, meant to wait on 
me next day at the dwelling assigned to us; intimating 
also, that he was ordered to remain on board to re- 
ceive my commands. This plea of attention was 
probably only a cloak to cover another motive: his 
business seemed to be rather to watch our motions, 
and learn our views, than to obviate inconveniences, 
or manifest respect. He spoke the Hindoo language 
fluently; and 1 desired the Moonshee, a discreet and 
sensible man, to entertain him. The night passed with- 
out any communication with the shore, or with the 
other ships in the river. 

Next morning, the 21st, at ten o'clock, the Seree, or 
under-secretary, came on board, accompanied by a 
man of Portugueze extraction, who spoke very imper- 
fect English. The Seree told me he was about to depart 
for Pegue, charged with dispatches for the Maywoon, 
or Viceroy, and requested to know whether we had 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

any commands: I replied in the affirmative; adding, 
that it was my wish to send a confidential person to 
his Excellency, to deliver to him a letter from the Gov- 
ernor General of India, and another from myself. The 
Seree, finding I would not intrust my dispatches to 
him, promised to call at noon, and convey my mes- 
senger to Pegue (about ninety miles distant) in his 
own boat, a promise which he omitted to perform. 

At four o'clock in the afternoon, Mr. Wood, Dr. Bu- 
chanan, and myself, landed, and were conducted to a 
spacious temporary building, which had been pre- 
pared for our reception; it was situated on the verge of 
the river, about five hundred yards below the town, 
opposite to where the Sea-Horse was moored; it con- 
sisted of only one story, raised three feet from the 
ground, supported on posts driven into the earth; an 
elevation very necessary to the comfort of its inhabi- 
tants, as the high spring tides washed the foundation 
pillars, and almost insulated the building, by tilling a 
channel which the rains had excavated. This edifice, 
about ninety feet in length, was entirely composed of 
bamboos and strong cane mats, and divided into sev- 
eral compartments; the roof was lofty, and covered 
with the same materials, which were laid in such a 
manner as to afford protection from rain, and shade 
from the sun: the floor, a bamboo grating, was like- 
wise spread with mats; and in one apartment small 
carpets were laid, doubtless designed as a mark of dis- 
tinction. On landing, we were received by the Seree, 
who made a frivolous excuse for not having called ac- 
cording to his promise, saying, that another person 
had been sent in his stead. On entering the virando or 
balcony, we were saluted by the sounds of very dis- 
cordant music, issuing from the instruments of a band 
of musicians, that had been sent by the Governor to 
welcome us; to these he had obligingly added a set of 
dancing girls, and tumbling boys, who exhibited a va- 
riety of movements in attitudes, some of which were 
not ungraceful. Having dismissed tills noisy assem- 
blage, and taken a cursory view of our habitation, we 
were unanimous in opinion, that for the present it 
would be more advisable, and more commodious, to 
sleep on board, at least for that night, as we had 
brought no conveniences on shore with us. 

Leaving therefore part of the guard, and a few of 
our attendants to occupy the house, we returned at 
dusk, and passed the night on board the Sea-Horse, 
better lodged, and much more comfortably than if we 
had continued in our new dwelling. Surprize and dis- 
appointment were a good deal excited, to find, that 
during all this time, not a boat of any description came 
to our ship, either from the English merchantmen in 
the river, or from shore; a circumstance that bore the 
appearance of distrust and prohibition on the part of 
the government. Captain Thomas therefore ordered 
his pinnace to be launched, and rowed to the nearest 
vessel: being informed that the commander was on 

shore, he directed his boat to the town quay, and, 
landing without ceremony, proceeded to the residence 
of a gentleman, with whom he was acquainted, where 
he met several masters of merchant ships, who in- 
formed him that they had received an order from the 
Rhoom, or public court in which the council of gov- 
ernment assembled, enjoining them not to go on board 
the Sea-Horse themselves, or suffer any intercourse 
with their ships, as matters of etiquette had not yet 
been adjusted; but added, sailor like, that they had 
agreed to ask permission next morning to pay their 
respects to the representative of their nation, and if 
refused, to go without permission; a resolution from 
which Captain Thomas prudently dissuaded them, 
saying, they could not more oblige the person they 
meant to honour, than by an implicit compliance with 
the wishes of the Birman government. 

On the following morning. Captain Thomas and the 
gentlemen of the deputation accompanied me on 
shore to our habitation. We found no person of distin- 
guished consequence there, but crowds of the lower 
class, both men and women, were collected from curi- 
osity. In a short time several baskets were brought, 
with the Raywoon's, or Governor's compliments, con- 
taining venison, ducks, chickens, bread, and roots: the 
same company of musicians that had performed on 
the preceding day, attended to amuse us. At twelve 
o'clock the approach of a person of condition was an- 
nounced, when a tall elderly man, of a graceful ap- 
pearance, followed by several attendants, was ushered 
in, under the title of B aba-Sheen, whose manners were 
easy and respectful. After informing me, through the 
medium of a Portugueze interpreter, that he was sec- 
ond in authority at Rangoon, and held the office of 
Ackawoon, he apologized for the absence of the 
Raywoon, or Governor of the town, who, he said, was 
prevented from waiting on me by indisposition; and 
added, that he would be happy to shew me every at- 
tention in his power. 1 expressed my sense of his po- 
liteness; remarking, that my wants were confined to 
permission to purchase a few necessaries, and the 
means of sending a messenger to the Viceroy of 
Pegue, with a letter from the Governor General of In- 
dia, and one from myself, which I was desirous 
should be delivered as speedily as possible; to this he 
replied, that he would forward by express any com- 
mands I might have; observing, that it was an useless 
trouble to send a servant of my own. His meaning was 
obvious; and as this was his first visit, which might be 
considered rather as ceremonious, than as intended to 
discuss business, 1 did not press the matter farther: 
being, however, determined not to protract the pur- 
poses of the mission longer than was necessary, 1 ac- 
quainted him that Mr. Wood would return his visit 
the same evening, after which, 1 would converse with 
him further on the objects of the deputation. He en- 
deavoured to wave the visit, by saying it might put 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


Mr. Wood to an inconvenience; but that it was his 
duty to wait on me, which he would do at any time, 
on the shortest notice, either on board the ship, or at 
our habitation. In the course of conversation he in- 
formed me, that though a native of the Birman coun- 
try, he was of Armenian extraction, and professed be- 
Uef in our Saviour. We parted about two o'clock; and 
at his desire, my Moonshee wrote a list of such articles 
as we stood in need of, and tendered payment before- 
hand; an offer that was declined. 

As our baggage and necessaries had not yet been 
disembarked, we returned to dine on board. Early in 
the afternoon the Ackawoon's boat was perceived 
rowing towards the house, with design, as we imag- 
ined, to prevent by anticipation the promised visit. 
Captain Thomas ordered his barge to be manned, and 
accompanied me on shore. To this interview Baba- 
Sheen brought with him, as interpreter, a Mussulman 
merchant, who spoke Persian tolerably well, through 
whom 1 was enabled to convey my sentiments with 
more ease than at our former meeting. 

After an interchange of compliments, 1 told him that 
the friendly inclinations which had long subsisted be- 
tween the British government in India and his Birman 
Majesty, had been a source of so much satisfaction to 
the Governor General of India, that, with a view to 
perpetuate an union mutually advantageous to both 
countries, he had deputed me, in the character of pub- 
lic minister, and a confidential person, to strengthen 
the bonds of amity, by the delivery of friendly letters; 
and to offer, in his name, assurances of a perfect re- 
gard. In proof of this, 1 had brought certain products 
of our country, which, together with the letters, 1 was 
charged to present in person to his Majesty at Ava, 
and to the Viceroy of Pegue; that, coming in such a 
capacity, 1 felt much chagrined at finding, on the part 
of the Rangoon government, an apparent want of con- 
fidence, for which 1 could assign no cause; and experi- 
encing a degree of restraint, imposed on myself and 
my people, so inconsistent with what 1 expected: that 1 
could no otherwise account for such conduct, than by 
attributing it either to their misunderstanding my in- 
tentions, or my own want of knowledge of their cus- 
toms; that 1 wished exceedingly to ascribe it to the lat- 
ter, but found it difficult to persuade myself that such 
obvious marks of distrust could be altogether matter 
of form, without any other meaning. 

To this the interpreter rephed on the part of his su- 
perior, in a very verbose and affected style, that noth- 
ing was farther from the intention of Baba-Sheen and 
the council of Rangoon than to give umbrage or offer 
disrespect; that it was the custom of their nation; and 
that the restraint which was now so irksome to me, 
would, he had no doubt, speedily be removed. 

1 replied, that it was my earnest desire to manifest 
my regard for the Birman government, by acquiescing 
in every ceremonial that their customs prescribed for 

persons in the capacity 1 held, provided such ceremo- 
nials were not derogatory from the dignity of the state 
1 represented: but there was one point in which the 
conduct of the council of Rangoon could not be justi- 
fied, under any plea of form or custom; this was, the 
interdiction laid on the captains of the English ships in 
the river, against going on board the Sea-Horse, to pay 
me that mark of respect to which he well knew 1 was 
entitled, as agent from the English government, and 
which those gentlemen were solicitous to offer me in 
that character; that this prohibition, contrary to the 
usage of all civilized states, was too disrespectful to be 
passed over in silence, and could only arise from un- 
worthy suspicions, or from an intention to give of- 
fence: 1 desired that he would favour me with an ex- 
planation of such extraordinary and unexpected 

To this requisition, Baba Sheen replied in vague and 
unsatisfactory language; assuring me that what had 
been done was only in conformity to long established 
usage, which he begged 1 would not take amiss, or 
consider in a mistaken point of view; that if 1 would 
entrust my letters for the Viceroy to him, he would 
forward them by a safe messenger, who would return 
in two or three days, and probably bring with him an 
invitation from his Excellency to pay him a visit at 
Pegue, whither he should have the honour to attend 

Being furnished with duplicates of all my official 
papers, and apprised that the letter from the Governor 
General to the Viceroy was merely comphmentary, 1 
thought it a fit opportunity to manifest a confidence in 
him, in the hope that it might produce a liberal return. 
1 therefore told him, that although it was contrary to 
our practice to entrust official papers to other than a 
confidential servant, yet, to manifest the reliance 1 had 
on his good will, 1 would take upon me, in the present 
case, to wave all form, and with pleasure commit to 
him the delivery of the letter from the Governor Gen- 
eral, together with one from myself. During this con- 
ference 1 discovered that Baba-Sheen understood my 
meaning in Persian, although he could not himself 
speak it; he, however, spoke the language of Hin- 
dostan in an imperfect manner, but sufficient to ex- 
press intelhgibly what he wished to convey, and we 
soon understood each other so well, as no longer to 
stand in need of an interpreter. It was now late, and he 
took his leave, with lavish professions of respect and 
good inclination. 

The delicacy of my present situation caused me to 
consider seriously on what were the most eligible 
steps to pursue. The vigilant suspicion with which 1 
was guarded, and the restriction, httle short of impris- 
onment, imposed on myself and my attendants, ag- 
gravated by the humiliating prohibition against hold- 
ing any intercourse with my own countrymen, seemed 
to augur an unfavourable issue to the mission, and 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

were sufficient to warrant my availing myself of a 
clause in my instructions, that gave me a discretionary 
power to return, without further explanation, in case 1 
judged it expedient. Reflecting, however, that to with- 
draw in disgust, before 1 had further communication 
with higher authority, would, in the present stage of 
the business, only serve to confirm their suspicions, 
and substantiate that jealousy which it was the pri- 
mary object of the mission to remove. Adverting also 
to the probability that the persons who ruled at Ran- 
goon were inimical to the deputation, as inconsistent 
with their own interests, and perhaps were ignorant 
and at a loss how to act. Weighing these considera- 
tions, together with the ceremonious and respectful 
manner in which the deputation had been received on 
its first arrival, 1 judged it most prudent to submit, for 
some time longer, to the irksomeness of my situation, 
rather than take a step so decided as to exclude every 
avenue of future communication. 

This morning 1 went on shore to our habitation, ac- 
companied by Captain Thomas, and Doctor Bu- 
chanan; we remained till noon, and returned to the 
ship without seeing any person of note: wherever we 
directed our steps, three or four Birman centinels fol- 
lowed us closely. Whilst we were at the house, a pre- 
sent of milk, venison, fowls, and vegetables, came 
from the Governor; and eleven baskets of rice, with a 
large tub of gee (clarified butter), were sent on board 
the Sea-Horse for the use of the people. Payment was 
offered, but positively refused; the messenger saying 
he was instructed to receive my commands for what- 
ever necessaries we might require. Not any person 
belonging to the mission was yet allowed to enter the 
town, or purchase articles at the market, nor could a 
servant go to a well a few yards from our dwelling to 
fetch water, without the attendance of a Birman centi- 
nel; no country boat was suffered to approach us, nor 
did any intercourse pass between the Sea-Horse and 
the vessels in the river. 

In this state of unpleasant restraint we passed the 
24th and 25th; our excursions from the ship extended 
no farther than the insulated habitation. Every morn- 
ing the usual present for our table was regularly 
brought, to which was sometimes added fish of a 
good quality, that which is called in Bengal the sable 
fish. On the morning of the 26th 1 went on shore at an 
early hour, accompanied by Doctor Buchanan; the 
spring tides, which prevailed since the time of our ar- 
rival, had now subsided, and left a dry foot-path in 
the rear of the house, across the water-course that sur- 
rounded it, thereby opening a free communication 
with the country. Doctor Buchanan and myself took 
the liberty to pass the boundary for the first time. 

When the Birman centinels perceived our intention, 
they consulted together, as we imagined, whether or 
not they should interpose and prevent us; they how- 
ever contented themselves with following us, and 

vigilantly observing all our actions. Passing over some 
dry rice grounds, we reached the place where the 
ceremony of burning the dead is usually performed: 
whilst we were examining the ruins of a decayed tem- 
ple, a messenger came to inform me that Baba-Sheen 
had arrived at the house: we immediately went back, 
and found him waiting for us. After the usual saluta- 
tion, 1 asked him if the courier he had dispatched to 
Pegue, was returned? He answered in the affirmative; 
and added, that as the letters contained nothing more 
than a notification of my arrival, and customary com- 
phments, the Viceroy had sent a verbal reply, to sig- 
nify that he would be glad to see me and the rest of 
the English gentlemen at Pegue; at the same time 
commanding him to provide suitable boats, and every 
requisite for our journey, which Baba-Sheen said 
would be in readiness in two or three days; and that it 
was his intention to precede us, in order to make the 
necessary arrangements for our reception. This intima- 
tion was answered on my part with a cool acknowl- 
edgment of the Viceroy's civility: after expressing my 
surprize that he had not written, either to notify hav- 
ing received the Governor General's letter, or desire 
our company, 1 added, that my paying a visit to his 
Excellency was a matter which could not at that time 
be determined. Baba-Sheen hoped that no impediment 
might arise to prevent it, and begged to be favoured 
with a sight of the presents intended for the Viceroy: 1 
promised to gratify his wish, provided he would come 
on board the Sea-Horse; he appointed the following 
morning, and took his leave: in this visit he was ac- 
companied by the Nakhaan, or news writer before- 

At nine o'clock in the morning Baba-Sheen came on 
board; we were likewise honoured by the visit of an 
unexpected personage. The Raywoon, or governor, 
who had before excused himself on account of indis- 
position, found his health sufficiently mended to ven- 
ture to the ship, and by his looks plainly evinced that 
he had not been long an invalid: his appearance be- 
spoke him sixty years of age; his dress was military; 
he carried a sword, and wore a tight coat of European 
broad cloth, with gold buttons of a conical form, a fil- 
let of muslin surrounded his head, a piece of chec- 
quered Pegue silk, wrapped round his waist, and half 
concealed his thighs; on his feet he wore the sandal of 
Pegue, which resembles those used by the Sepoys of 
India; he was attended by seven or eight servants 
armed with sabres, one of whom carried a painted box 
containing beetle leaf and areca nut, another his writ- 
ing materials, and a third a flaggon of water, on the 
neck of which was suspended a large gold cup, that 
served as a cover to the flaggon, and a vessel to drink 
out of all these, 1 afterwards understood, were ap- 
pendages of his dignity, as well as articles of conven- 
ience. After a slight obeisance, for the Birmans are not 
ceremonious in their salutations, he sat down on a 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


chair placed on the quarter-deck, and in his conversa- 
tion displayed more knowledge than 1 had as yet dis- 
covered in any of his countrymen: he informed me his 
name was Seree Nunda Kiouza, that he had com- 
manded the troops which first entered the British ter- 
ritories, and met General Erskine on the borders of 
Chittagong, mentioning circumstances that left no 
room to doubt his veracity. He seemed exceedingly 
pleased to hear that the fugitive delinquents had been 
given up to the justice of their country; and expressed 
himself in handsome terms of General Erskine, whose 
moderation and good sense, he observed, prevented 
the effusion of much blood; intimating also great 
doubt, as to what might have been the issue of the 
contest, had matters been pushed to extremity. Of this 
little ebullition of vanity 1 took no notice, and, at the 
request of B aba-Sheen, ordered the presents designed 
for the Viceroy to be displayed: they consisted of sev- 
eral pieces of gold, silver, and plain muslin, three 
pieces of broad cloth, a piece of velvet, and one of 
flowered satin, a high finished fowling-piece, a cora- 
bah of Persian rose-water, specimens of cut glass, and 
some smaller articles. Our visitants examined them 
with close attention; one of their attendants wrote an 
inventory on the spot, and, 1 afterwards understood, ^^ 
calculated the value of each distinct article. The 
Raywoon expressing approbation of the cloth, particu- 
larly that of a blue colour, 1 requested permission to 
send a piece to his house: he returned a civil answer, 
in general terms, without either declining or accepting 
my offer. After some unimportant conversation, they 
withdrew; and at my desire. Captain Thomas saluted 
the Raywoon with seven guns: shortly afterwards 1 
sent a servant to him, with compUments, and the piece 
of cloth 1 had promised, which, to my no small sur- 
prise, he declined, and returned by the same messen- 
ger, apologizing for his refusal, by saying, that certain 
reasons prevented him at that time from receiving my 
present. For this ambiguous conduct 1 could no oth- 
erwise account, than by ascribing it to that suspicious 
distrust which was so plainly indicated in all the ac- 
tions of this singular people. 

The circumstances 1 have related, together with 
many other petty marks of authorised disrespect from 
different quarters, determined me to come to a full 
and satisfactory eclaircissement with the government 
of Rangoon, before 1 would consent to visit the Vice- 
roy at Pegue. In pursuance of this resolution], 1 sent 
early in the morning to Baba-Sheen, desiring to see 
him as soon as convenient. He came to the house 
about ten o'clock. 

Similar curiosity was expressed by the mandarines at Canton, to 
learn, from the India Company's Commissioners, the particulars 
and value of the presents that were brought by Lord Macartney, 
for the Emperor of China. Sir George Staunton's Embassy, Vol. I, 
chap. 9th. 

After recapitulating the various causes of umbrage 
which had been given me, 1 added, that all these rea- 
sons combined, which were still further strengthened 
by the Viceroy's having returned a vague, and verbal, 
reply to the Governor General's letter, contrary to 
their known usage, rendered it impossible for me to 
proceed to Pegue, until he should explain the motives 
of such mysterious conduct; and 1 desired, that if any 
doubts were entertained respecting the objects of my 
mission, or the nature of my designs, that he would 
express himself freely, and give me an opportunity, by 
removing them, to undeceive their government. He 
replied, as usual, in equivocal terms, and by an assur- 
ance, that it was no more than what was conformable 
to custom. 1 said, 1 was sorry for it, as our customs 
were so incompatible with theirs: that 1 could not, 
consistent with what 1 owed to the dignity of my own 
government, longer submit to my present situation; 
that as their forms and ours differed so widely, and, 
from what he said, were not likely to correspond, 
without a derogatory concession on one part or the 
other, there was no help for it; we could not apply the 
remedy, and should part as we had met, on terms of 
mutual good will and friendship. As 1 had thus far 
acquiesced, Baba-Sheen did not expect that matters 
would take such a turn: intelligence of my arrival had 
been forwarded to the court, and the authors of my 
departure would be subject to its displeasure: he ap- 
peared alarmed, and earnestly asked,— "What is it 
you desire?" 1 replied, immediate release from all per- 
sonal restraint; that the spies which were stationed on 
board the Sea-Horse, and the centinels that accompa- 
nied every boat that left, or came to, the ship, should 
be removed; that my servants should have the same 
liberty that the servants of other strangers enjoyed, 
with leave to purchase what they wanted; that boats 
from the shipping in the river should have free access, 
and the commanders permission to visit me; that Mr. 
Wood should have safe conduct to the Viceroy of 
Pegue, to receive in person either a verbal acknowl- 
edgment of the Governor General's letter, and an invi- 
tation to me to visit Pegue, or bring with him a written 
reply: that unless these reasonable requisitions were 
acceded to, 1 must beg leave to depart, which 1 should 
do on the most amicable terms; and only regret that 
the pubhc character 1 had the honour to fill, did not 
admit of concessions on my part, which would be con- 
sidered as humiUating by my countrymen. To this 
Baba-Sheen answered in his former strain, endeavour- 
ing to amuse me by a story quite impertinent to the 
subject. 1 told him it was very well; the English and 
Birman nations, 1 hoped, would long continue to 
maintain a friendly intercourse: at the same time 
begged to be favoured with his commands to Calcutta. 
He then entreated of me to lay aside my intention, and 
assigned as a reason for the Viceroy's not writing, that 
he had no person with him who understood either 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

Persian or English: this was not true, for I knew, that 
the Mussulman merchant, who interpreted on the 
22nd, carried the letters^^ to him, in order to explain 
them. Finding that 1 was determined, he said he 
would consult the Raywoon, and give me a reply in 
the afternoon: he then took his leave. 

At four o'clock, Mr. Wood and myself met the 
Raywoon and Baba-Sheen, at our habitation; they 
came accompanied by a numerous train of followers; 
among others, the Nak-haan attended to Usten to, and 
note the conversation. At this interview every persua- 
sive art was used to prevail on me to forego my inten- 
tion of departure, without their assenting to my 
propositions; they even condescended to ask it as a 
favour. 1, however, continued inflexible; at their de- 
sire, I recapitulated the terms on which alone 1 would 
consent to remain. After talking for three hours to no 
purpose, and offering to yield in some things, they at 
length agreed to give up every point. Mr. Wood was 
to accompany Baba-Sheen to Pegue; the captains of 
the English ships were to have free access; our atten- 
dants liberty to purchase what they wanted, and to go 
where they pleased; the spies stationed on board the 
Sea-Horse were to be removed; and boats suffered to 
pass from the ship to the shore without a Birman 
centinel. These matters being stipulated, and a punc- 
tual performance solemnly promised, 1 relinquished 
my design of going away for the present, and we 
parted with apparent contentment and good humour 
on both sides. 

The morning of the 29th produced a satisfactory ad- 
justment of every point in contention, by an unquali- 
fied acquiescence on the part of the Rangoon Gov- 
ernment, to my several requisitions. 

At ten o'clock the captains of the principal EngUsh 
ships in the river visited me at the house, accompa- 
nied by Baba-Sheen; the spies were withdrawn from 
the ship, and our people permitted to go to the Bazar, 
or market, without molestation. 

Chapter III 

At the earnest solicitation of Baba-Sheen, I consented 
to embark for Pegue on the 31^' of March, and not wait 
the return of Mr. Wood, as 1 had first intended. The 
annual festival at the great temple of Pegue was about 
to be celebrated with sumptusous magnificence; and 
the Viceroy had expressed a particular desire that the 
English gentlemen should witness the rejoicings. I told 
Baba-Sheen that 1 would reliquish my original deter- 
mination on this point, as a mark of my confidence in 
him, and perfect conviction of the friendly inclinations 
of the Viceroy. Previous to this amicable termination 
of a disagreement, which at first bore an inauspicious 

The letters of the Governor General to the Emperor and the 
Viceroy, were written in Birman, Persian, and English. I always 
wrote in Persian, and in English. 

appearance, 1 had conjectured what were the real mo- 
tives of their distrust, and my conclusions afterwards 
proved to be rightly founded. Pride, the natural char- 
acteristic of the Birmans, was inflamed by the arts of 
designing men, and suspicion was awakened by mis- 
representation. The Birmans, sensible of the advan- 
tages of commerce, but Inexpert in the practice, desir- 
ous to improve, but unacquainted with the principles 
of trade, had of late years given toleration to all sects, 
and invited strangers of every nation to resort to their 
ports; and being; themselves free from those preju- 
dices of cast, which shackle their Indian neighbours, 
they permitted foreigners to intermarry, and settle 
amongst them. But their country had been so much 
harassed by wars with neighbouring nations, and torn 
by revolts and domestic dissensions, that trade was 
frequently interrupted, and sometimes entirely 
stopped; property rendered insecure, and even the 
personal safety of settlers endangered. 

During the short intervals of tranquillity, obscure 
adventurers, and outcasts from all countries of the 
east, had flocked to Rangoon, where they were re- 
ceived with hospitality by a Uberal nation: among 
"these, the industrious few soon acquired wealth by 
means of their superior knowledge. The Parsees, the 
Armenians, and a small proportion of Mussulmen, 
engrossed the largest share of the trade of Rangoon; 
and individuals from their number were frequently 
selected by government to fill employments of trust 
that related to trade, and transactions with foreigners, 
the duties of which the Birmans supposed that such 
persons could perform better than themselves. Baba- 
Sheen, born in the Birman country, of Armenian par- 
ents, had obtained the high office he held by his skill 
in business, and his general knowledge. The descen- 
dant of a Portuguese family, named Jaunsee, whose 
origin was very low, and who in the early part of his 
life had been accused as an accessary to a piratical sei- 
zure of an English vessel, was invested with the im- 
portant office of Shawbunder or intendant of the port, 
and receiver of the port customs. This man appeared 
to perform the duties of his station with diligence. The 
town of Rangoon was indebted to his activity for the 
pavement of its streets, for several well built wooden 
bridges, and a wharf, which, extending into the river, 
and raised on posts, enabled the ships to deliver and 
receive cargoes without the assistance of river craft: 
under his direction also, a spacious custom house had 
lately been erected. This is the only lay building in 
Rangoon that is not constructed of wood; it is com- 
posed of brick and mortar, and the roof covered with 
tiles; within, there are a number of wooden stages for 
the reception of bale goods. Notwithstanding the re- 
spect which the energy of Jaunsee' s character had ob- 
tained, the Birmans were by no means insensible of 
the meanness of his extraction: his want of education 
was a matter of derision among them: although an in- 

SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


habitant of the Birman country near forty years, and a 
great part of the time an officer of government, he 
could neither read nor write, and even spoke their 
language imperfectly. 

We were unfortunate in his happening to be at Ava 
at the time of our arrival, whither he had gone to ren- 
der up his annual accounts: had he been on the spot, it 
is probable he would have obviated several of the in- 
convenient circumstances attending our first introduc- 

The character of Baba-Sheen was strikingly con- 
trasted with that of the Shawbunder; he was a man of 
general knowledge, and deemed by the Birmans an 
accomplished scholar; he was better acquainted with 
the history, politics, and geography of Europe, than 
any Asiatic I ever conversed with: his learning was 
universal, being slightly versed in almost every sci- 
ence; but his information, extensive as it was, although 
it gained him employment, could not procure him 
confidence: he was said to be deficient in other essen- 
tial requisites. 

Several private merchants had also acquired influ- 
ence in Rangoon. Bawangee, a Parsee of considerable 
credit, had interest to procure a partial mitigation of 
duties on his merchandize, in consideration of sup- 
plying annually a certain number of firelocks for the 
royal arsenal. Jacob Aguizar, an Armenian, to whom 1 
had letters of credit, dealt largely in foreign com- 
modities. These people naturally behold with a jeal- 
ous eye, any advance of a commercial nature, that 
might tend to diminish their influence, and deprive 
them of that dictatorial power, which they assume 
and exercise over all merchants and mariners that re- 
sort to Rangoon; but of none are they so apprehensive 
as of the English; a connection with whom might 
teach the Birmans to transact foreign business with- 
out their assistance, and give them a more adequate 
sense of their own interests. 

Under these fears they had long been disseminat- 
ing the seeds of suspicion, and warning the Birmans 
to be on their guard against British fraud, as well as 
British force; but no sooner did they hear of the pre- 
sent deputation, than the alarm bell was sounded 
from all quarters. They represented (as 1 was credibly 
informed) our designs to be of the most mischievous 
tendency; and even endeavoured to work on the su- 
perstition of the people, by the solemn promulgation 
of a prophecy, that in less than twelve months the 
English colours would fly on the Rangoon flag-staff. 
These artifices, however, which were not now prac- 
tised for the first time, although they could not de- 
ceive the Birmans, still it is probable were not alto- 
gether void of effect; nor is it to be wondered at, that 
our reception, though respectful from the deputation 
that came down to meet us, was not perfectly cordial. 
There is also reason to conclude, that the provincial 
officers of Rangoon knew not in what manner they 

ought to act, not having received precise instructions 
for the regulation of their conduct towards us, in mat- 
ters of ceremony. 

Conformably to our recent arrangement, Mr. Wood 
left us on the preceding night, and, accompanied by 
Baba-Sheen, set out for Pegue in a commodious boat, 
well protected from the weather. This Jay the captains 
of the principal ships in the river dined with me on 
shore. The Raywoon, knowing that I was to have 
company, sent a whole antelope, with Indian vegeta- 
bles in abundance; and acquainted me, that boats 
would be in readiness for us on the following day at 
noon, as I had promised to leave Rangoon by the 
evening's tide. 

The morning of the following day was spent in 
preparation for our journey to Pegue. Having now 
come to a right understanding with persons in 
power, I did not scruple to send on shore part of my 
heavy baggage, which was deposited in the house, 
under charge of three soldiers, and some servants, 
whom we were obliged to leave behind on account of 
indisposition. The presents for his Majesty were not 
taken out of the ship, as many of the articles were of a 
brittle nature, and liable to injury from removal. I 
likewise drew up a short letter of instructions for 
Captain Thomas, leaving him in most cases a latitude 
to act from the dictates of his own discretion, on 
which 1 knew I might with safety rely; at the same 
time 1 pointed out the propriety of using every means 
to conciliate the inhabitants, and cautioned him to re- 
press, in his European crew, that thoughtless intem- 
perance which is the characteristic of British seamen 
when they get on shore. 

About noon three boats were in readiness at the 
creek near our dwelling. The one designed for my 
conveyance was comfortable, according to Birman no- 
tions of accommodation. It consisted of three small 
compartments, partitioned by fine mats, neatly fas- 
tened to slips of bamboo cane: the inner room was 
lined with Indian chintz; the roof, however, was so 
low as not to admit of a person standing upright; an 
inconvenience scarcely to be endured by an European, 
but not at all regarded by Asiatics. It was rowed by 
twelve Birman watermen, who used short oars, made 
in the English form, and who seemed to understand 
their business. 

A large heavy boat was provided for the soldiers 
and our domestics, and a small cutter attended as a 
kitchen: the boat destined for Dr. Buchanan did not 
arrive until it was dark, and being a very indifferent 
one, we imagined it was kept out of sight for that rea- 

The mouth of the Siriam or Pegue river, where it 
joins with that of Rangoon, is about three miles below 
the town; we therefore waited till the ebb tide was 
nearly spent, in order to drop down, and take the first 
of the flood to ascend the river of Pegue. 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

At eight o'clock at night we embarked, accompa- 
nied by two war-boats, in one of which was the Nak- 
haan of Rangoon, and in the other an inferior officer; a 
black Portugueze in the service of the provincial gov- 
ernment, who spoke the language of Hindostan, came 
as official interpreter: we had likewise another Portu- 
gueze, named Fauntchoo, who engaged in my service 
at the Andaman island, whither he had come from 
Bassien, as a trader in tobacco and small articles, for 
the supply of the colony. This man was a valuable ac- 
quisition to me during the mission; he spoke the Bir- 
man language fluently, and that of Hindostan intelU- 
gibly: the latter was the medium 1 commonly used in 
my conversations with Btrmans, and was seldom at a 
loss to find some person that understood it. On arriv- 
ing at the mouth of the Pegue river, we brought to, 
and waited an hour for the turn of tide, which, during 
the springs, runs with considerable violence. On the 
first of the flood, we weighed, and used our oars: neap 
tides prevailing, the boats made but slow progress, 
about four miles an hour, continuing at that rate for 
seven hours, when we again stopped, and fastened 
our boats to the bank. 

Early in the morning Dr. Buchanan and myself 
walked out with our guns, accompanied by half a 
dozen attendants, the country round, as far as our 
view could reach, displayed a level plain, with clumps 
of trees at distant intervals; a thick reedy grass had 
grown in some places very-high; in others, where it 
had been burnt, there appeared good pasturage for 
cattle: we saw the embanked divisions of a few rice 
plantations, and discovered the vestiges of former cul- 
ture and population; but during a walk of two hours 
the eye was not gratified with the sight of house or 
inhabitant: desolated by the contentions of the Bir- 
mans and Peguers, the country had not yet recovered 
from the ravages of war. In our walk we observed 
many tracks of wild elephants, the spots where hogs 
had rooted, and deer lain, and found the remains of 
two antelopes that had recently been killed, and were 
half devoured by tigers. The Doctor and myself fired 
at deer without success. The banks on each side the 
river are low, and the land seems adapted to produce 
excellent crops; but it is now quite deserted, and be- 
come the undisputed domain of the wild beasts of the 

Chapter IV 

At noon we got under way, and soon passed a village 
on the right, consisting of about twenty houses; the 
river gradually diminished in breadth, and at this 
place was not more than forty yards wide, the banks 
covered with coppice and long reeds: after passing 
another and larger village, where there was a chokey 
or watch-house, we proceeded through a cultivated 
country, and numerous villages appeared on each 

side. At seven in the evening we were in sight of 
Pegue, and judged the distance by water from Ran- 
goon to be about ninety miles, most part of the way in 
a northward direction; but the windings of the river 
are so great, that the road in a straight line must be 
much less. When we approached the landing place, 
Mr. Wood came down to meet us, and the favourable 
account he gave of his reception, added not a little to 
the satisfaction of having finished our journey: we also 
found Baba-Sheen on the bank waiting our arrival. 
This personage conducted us with great civility to our 
habitation, which we were pleased at finding far supe- 
rior to that we had left. It was situated on a plain, a 
few hundred yards without the principal gate of the 
present town, but within the fortified lines of the an- 
cient city. Like Birman houses in general, it was raised 
between three and four feet from the ground, com- 
posed wholly of bamboos and mats, and indifferently 
thatched; this is a defect that extends universally to 
their own dwellings, and affords matter of surprise, in 
a country where the coarse grass used for thatching, is 
so plentiful. We had each a small apartment, as a bed- 
chamber, with carpets spread over the mats, and a 
larger room to dine in, and to receive visitors: huts 
were also erected for our attendants; and a bamboo 
paUsade, inclosing a court sufficiently spacious, sur- 
rounded the whole. We altogether had reason to be 
satisfied with our dwelling; it was commodious, ac- 
cording to the ideas of the people themselves, and we 
had no right to complain of that which was well in- 
tended. Shortly after our arrival, two officers of gov- 
ernment waited on me, with compliments of congratu- 
lation from the Maywoon; they stayed but a short 
time, perceiving that we were busy in arranging con- 
veniences for the night. 

Our servants were occupied during the greater part 
of the next day, in bringing up our baggage from the 
boats to the house, a distance of nearly half a mile. In 
the afternoon an officer called Che-Key, second in 
rank to the Maywoon, and the Sere-dogee, or secretary 
of the provincial government, accompanied by Baba- 
Sheen, paid us a visit to tea. They informed me that 
the Maywoon, or Viceroy, who had been much en- 
gaged in directing the preparations for the ensuing 
festival, hoped that we would wave ceremony, and 
give him our company on the following morning at 
the great temple of Shoemadoo, to view the amuse- 
ments of the first day; an invitation that 1 gladly ac- 
cepted from motives of curiosity, as well as of respect. 

At eight o'clock in the morning Baba-Sheen arrived, 
in order to conduct us to the temple; he brought with 
him three small horses, equipped with saddles and 
bridles, resembling those used by the higher ranks of 
the inhabitants of Hindostan. After breakfast, Mr. 
Wood, Doctor Buchanan, and myself, mounted, and 
attended by Baba-Sheen, and an Ackedoo, an officer 
belonging to the Maywoon's household, also on 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


horseback, set out to view the ceremony. We entered 
the new town by the nearest gate, and proceeded up- 
wards of a quarter of a mile through the principal 
street till we came to where it was crossed at right an- 
gles by another, which led from the Maywoon's resi- 
dence to the temple: here our progress was stopped by 
a great concourse of people, and we perceived on each 
side of the way, troops marching by single files in 
slow time, towards the temple. By the advice of Baba- 
Sheen, we occupied a convenient spot to view the pro- 
cession. The troops that we saw, were the Maywoon's 
guard; five or six hundred men passed us in this man- 
ner, wretchedly armed, and equipped; many had 
muskets that appeared in a very unserviceable state, 
with accoutrements not in a more respectable condi- 
tion; some were provided with spears, others with sa- 
bres; whilst their dress was as motley as their weap- 
ons. Several were naked to the middle, having only a 
Kummerband, or waistcloth, rolled round their waist, 
and passed between their legs; some were dressed in 
old velvet, or cloth coats, which they put on regardless 
of size or fashion, although it scarce covered their na- 
kedness, or trailed on the ground: it was finery, and 
finery in any shape was welcome. Some wore Dutch 
broad brimmed hats, bound with gold lace, others the 
crowns of hats, without any brim at all: the officers of 
this martial band, who were for the most part Chris- 
tian descendants of Portuguese ancestors, exhibited a 
very grotesque appearance. The first personages of 
rank that passed by were three children of the 
Maywoon, borne astride upon men's shoulders; the 
eldest, a boy about eight years of age; the youngest, a 
girl not more than five; the latter only was legitimate, 
being the first born of his present wife; the two elder 
were, the offsprings of concubines. The Maywoon fol- 
lowed at a short distance, mounted on the neck of a 
very fine elephant, which he guided himself. His dress 
was handsome and becoming, he had on a dark velvet 
robe with long sleeves, trimmed with broad gold lace, 
and on his head he wore a conical cap of the same ma- 
terial, richly embroidered: a number of parade ele- 
phants in tawdry housings brought up the rear. As we 
had not been formally introduced, he passed by, with- 
out honouring us with any notice. Proceeding to the 
foot of the steps that lead to the pagoda, his elephant 
knelt down to suffer him to alight. Whilst he was in 
the performance of this act, the. Parade elephants 
knelt also, and the crowd that followed squatted on 
their heels. Having ascended the night of steps, he put 
off his shoes, and walked once round the temple 
without his umbrella, which was laid aside out of rev- 
erence to the sanctity of the place. When he had fin- 
ished this ceremony, he proceeded to the scene of 
amusement, a sort.of theatre erected at an angle of the 
area of the temple. Two saloons, or open haUs, sepa- 
rate from the great building, formed two sides of the 
theatre, which was about fifty feet square, covered by 

an awning of grass, spread on a flat roof of slender 
canes, supported by bamboo poles. Beneath the pro- 
jecting verge of the roof of one of the saloons, there 
was an elevated seat, with a handsome canopy of 
cloth, for the accommodation of the Maywoon and his 
three children; and on a bare bench beneath him sat 
the principal officers of his court. On the left side of 
the theatre, a similar canopy and chair were erected 
for the Maywoon of Martaban, who happened at this 
time to be passing by to take possession of his gov- 
ernment. Opposite to him, under the roof of the other 
saloon, seats were provided for the English gentle- 
men, covered with fine carpeting, but without any 
canopy. The diversions of this day consisted entirely 
of boxing and wrestling. In order to prevent injury to 
the champions, the ground had been prepared, and 
made soft with moistened sand. At the latter exercise 
they seemed to be very expert: a short, stout man was 
particularly distinguished for his superior skill and 
strength; we were told, that in former contests he had 
killed two of his antagonists. The first that encoun- 
tered him on the present occasion, though much supe- 
rior in size, was, after a short struggle, pitched on his 
head, and, as the bystanders said, severely hurt. Many 
others displayed great activity and address; but in the 
art of boxing they seemed very deficient, notwith- 
standing they used fists, knees, and elbows. The bat- 
tles were of short duration; blood drawn on either side 
terminated the contest; and even without it, the 
Maywoon would not suffer them to contend long. At 
the end of an engagement both combatants ap- 
proached the Maywoon's throne, and prostrated 
themselves before him, with their foreheads to the 
ground, whilst an attendant spread on the shoulders 
of each two pieces of cotton cloth, as the reward of 
their exertions, which they carried away in a crouch- 
ing position, until they mingled with the crowd. The 
places of those who retired were immediately filled by 
fresh pugilists. This amusement lasted for three hours, 
until we became quite weary of it; tea and sweetmeats 
in great profusion were afterwards served to us, in the 
name of the Maywoon. We departed without cere- 
mony, and got home about four o'clock, extremely 
oppressed by the intense heat of the weather. 

In the morning an early message came from the 
Maywoon, intimating that he hoped to see us that day 
at the government-house. Baba-Sheen also made a 
tender of his services to introduce us to the Praw, or 
lord; who being ready at the hour appointed, we set 
out on horseback to pay our visit of ceremony, pre- 
ceded by the soldiers of the guard, and our personal 
attendants. Six Birmans also walked in front, bearing 
the articles intended as a present, which consisted of 
silks, satins, velvets, gold, flowered and plain muslins, 
some broad cloth, and a handsome silver-mounted 
fowling piece. In this order we marched through the 
town, the objects of universal curiosity, till we reached 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

the gate of an inclosure surrounding the Maywoon's 
dwelling. It was made of boards nailed to posts twelve 
or thirteen feet high, and comprehended a spacious 
square, in the centre of which stood the governor's 
residence. There were Ukewise some smaller houses 
irregularly disposed, appropriated, as we understood, 
to the several members of the Maywoon's family. We 
pulled off our shoes at the bottom of the stairs, and 
were ushered into a saloon, from whence, turning to 
the right, we. ascended three steps into a hall, where a 
number of persons, ranged on each side, were sitting 
with their legs inverted, waiting the entrance of the 
Maywoon. Instructed by Baba-Sheen, we took our 
seats on small carpets spread in the middle of the 
room, in front of a narrow gallery, elevated about two 
feet from the floor, and railed in; with the presents 
placed before us on trays. In a few minutes the 
Maywoon entered by a door at one end of the gallery; 
we made no obeisance, as none was desired, but his 
attendants crouched to the ground. He sat down, and 
silence was kept for some time, which 1 first inter- 
rupted, by telling him, through Baba-Sheen, that the 
Governor-General of India, having received his 
friendly letter, and being well assured of the amicable 
disposition of the Birman government towards the 
English nation, had charged me with the deUvery of 
letters and presents to his Majesty at Ava, and had 
likewise requested his acceptance of a few articles 
which 1 had brought with me. 1 then rose, and pre- 
sented the Governor-General's letter; he laid it on the 
tray before him, talked of indifferent matters, and was 
extremely polite in his expressions and manner, but 
carefully avoided all discourse that had the least rela- 
tion to business, or the objects of the embassy. After 
half an hour's conversation, chiefly on uninteresting 
topics, he invited us to a grand display of fireworks, 
which was to take place on the following day, and 
soon after withdrew unceremoniously: tea and 
sweetmeats were then served up. Having tasted of 
what was set before us, we were conducted by Baba- 
Sheen to the outer balcony, to view the different com- 
panies pass by that intended to exhibit fireworks on 
the following day. 

It is the custom, on this occasion, for the several Mi- 
ous or districts, whose situation is not too remote, to 
select and send a number of men and women from 
their community to represent them at the general fes- 
tival: these companies vie with each other in the mag- 
nificence of their fire- works, and on the eve of cele- 
bration pass the government house in review before 
the Maywoon and his family, each company distinct. 
A small waggon, drawn by four buffaloes, profusely 
decorated with peacocks' feathers, and the tails of 
Thibet cows, led the procession, on which were laid 
the fireworks of that particular company; next ad- 
vanced the men belonging to it, dancing and shouting; 
the females, in a separate troop, came last, singing in 

full chorus, and clapping their hands in accurately 
measured time. They, for the most part, appeared to 
be girls from sixteen to twenty years of age, comely, 
and well made, but their features were without the 
delicacy of the damsels of Hindostan, or the bloom of 
the soft Circassian beauties. In every company of 
young women, there were a few aged matrons, proba- 
bly as a check on the vivacity of youth; the seniors, 
however, seemed to join in the festivity with juvenile 
sprighthness. Refreshments were again served up to 
us, and we returned home about two o'clock. 

At eight in the morning great crowds had assem- 
bled on the plain without the stockade of the present 
town., but within the walls of ancient Pegue; three 
temporary sheds were erected on the middle of the 
green, apart from each other, one for the reception of 
the Maywoon and his family, another for the Marta- 
ban governor, and a third for our accommodation. 
Common spectators, to the number of many thou- 
sands, were scattered in groups over the plain; each 
division or company exhibited in turn its own fire- 
works: the display of rockets was strikingly grand, but 
nothing else merited attention. The cylinders of the 
rockets were trunks of trees hollowed, many of them 
seven or eight feet long, and from two to three feet in 
circumference; these were bound by strong ligatures 
to thick bamboos, eighteen or twenty feet in length; 
they rose to a great height, and in descending emitted 
various appearances of fire that were very beautiful. 
The time appointed for the amusement considerably 
diminished the effect, but it was chosen from an hu- 
mane apprehension of injury to the people by the fall 
of extinguished rockets, which must have rendered 
the diversion, during the night, extremely dangerous. 
Not-withstanding this precaution, a man was unfor- 
tunate enough to be in the way of one that killed him 
on the spot. Each company, after contributing its share 
towards the general entertainment, marched past the 
Maywoon, to the sound of musical instruments; after 
which they proceeded to our shed with songs and 
dances, "the pipe and the tabor," manifesting every 
lively demonstration of joy. 

It was a spectacle not less pleasing than novel to an 
European, to witness such a concourse of people of all 
classes, brought together for the purposes of hilarity 
and sport, without their committing one act of intem- 
perance, or being disgraced by a single instance of in- 
toxication. What scenes of riot and debauchery would 
not a similar festival in the vicinity of any capital town 
of Great Britain inevitably produce! The reflection is 
humiliating to an Englishman, however proud he may 
feel of the national character. 

During the four following days we enjoyed a res- 
pite from public shows and ceremonials, and had lei- 
sure for observation; notwithstanding our hall, in a 
morning, was generally crowded, as every person of 
distinction in Pegue paid me the compliment of a visit. 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


except the Maywoon, who, within the precincts of his 
own government, where he represents the king, never 
returns a visit. Numbers, both of men and women, 
prompted by harmless curiosity, surrounded the pal- 
ing of the inclosure from morning till night; those of a 
better class usually came in, some previously asking 
permission, but many entered without it. Perfectly 
free from restraint among themselves, the Birmans 
scruple not to go into your house without ceremony, 
although you are an utter stranger. To do them justice, 
however, they are not at all displeased at your taking 
the same freedom with them. This intrusion is con- 
fined wholly to your public room; they do not attempt 
to open a door, and where a curtain dropped denotes 
privacy, they never offer to violate the barrier. On en- 
tering the room they immediately descend into the 
posture of respect. Of all our customs none seemed to 
surprise them more than the preparations for dining: 
the variety of utensils, and our manner of sitting at a 
table, excited their wonder: they never took any 
greater liberty than merely to come into the room, and 
sit down on the floor; they meddled with nothing, 
and asked for nothing, and when desired to go away 
always obeyed with cheerfulness. Had untold gold 
been placed before them, I am confident not a piece 
would have been purloined. Among the men of rank 
that visited us, an officer called Seree Dogee favoured 
us with his company more frequently than the rest; he 
held, by commission from the King, the place of chief 
provincial secretary, and junior judge of the criminal 
court; this gentleman often partook of our dinner, and 
seemed to relish our fare, but could not be prevailed 
on to taste wine or strong hquors; he was much 
pleased with the English mode of making tea, of 
which he drank copiously; indeed it is a beverage 
highly palatable to aU ranks of Birmans. 

Although, from the established forms of diplomatic 
etiquette, we had little personal intercourse with the 
Maywoon, yet he was not deficient in attention; he 
sent large supphes of rice, oil, gee, preserved tama- 
rinds, and spices, for our Indian attendants; presents 
also of fruit and flowers were daily brought to me in 
his name. As their religion forbids the slaughter of any 
but wild animals for the purposes of food, he did not 
offer any thing for the use of the table; but our ser- 
vants had liberty to purchase whatever they wanted. 
Fowls, kid, and venison constituted our principal 
dishes; the two first we procured in abundance, and of 
a good quality; the venison was meager, but well 
tasted, and made excellent soup; it was chiefly the 
wild antelope, with which the country abounds. Hav- 
ing among my people two bakers, and a person who 
understood making butter, we were seldom without 
these essential articles of a tolerable quality. Whatever 
we had occasion to kill was slain in the night, to avoid 
offending the prejudices of the people, who, so far 
from seeking cause of offence, were inclined to make 

every liberal allowance for the usage of foreigners. 
The Maywoon politely ordered a pair of horses of the 
Pegue breed, small, but handsome and spirited, to be 
selected, and sent to us, from his own stud, accompa- 
nied by two grooms, one to attend on each horse; a 
temporary stable was erected for them within the pal- 
ing of our court, where they continued whilst we re- 
mained at Pegue, and afforded us the means of exer- 
cise and pleasing recreation. Being now commodi- 
ously settled, 1 invited Captain Thomas from Ran- 
goon, to spend a few days with us; he accepted my 
invitation, and came up in a boat provided by the in- 
tendant of the port, having previously arranged the 
concerns of his ship, and the mode of supplying the 
crew during his absence. 

The solar year of the Birmans was now drawing to 
a close, and the three last days are usually spent by 
them in merriment and feasting; we were invited by 
the Majrwoon to be present on the evening of the 10* 
of April, at the exhibition of a dramatic representation. 

At a little before eight o'clock, the hour when the 
play was to commence, we proceeded to the house of 
the Maywoon, accompanied by Baba-Sheen, who, on 
all occasions, acted as master of the ceremonies. The 
theatre was the open court, splendidly illuminated by 
lamps and torches, the Maywoon and his lady sat in a 
projecting balcony of his house; we occupied seats be- 
low him, raised about two feet from the ground and 
covered with carpets; a crowd of spectators were 
seated in a circle round the stage. The performance 
began immediately on our arrival, and far excelled 
any Indian drama 1 had ever seen. The dialogue was 
spirited, without rant, and the action animated, with- 
out being extravagant: the dresses of the principal per- 
formers were showy and becoming. 1 was told that the 
best actors were natives of Siam, a nation which, 
though unable to contend with the Birmans and Pegu- 
ers in war, have cultivated with more success the re- 
fined arts of peace. By way of an interlude between 
the acts, a clownish buffoon entertained the audience 
with a recital of different passages, and by grimace, 
and frequent alterations of tone and countenance, ex- 
torted loud peals of laughter from the spectators. The 
Birmans seem to delight in mimickry, and are very 
expert in the practice, possessing uncommon versatil- 
ity of countenance. An eminent practitioner of this art 
amused us with a specimen of his skill, at our own 
house, and, to our no small astonishment, exhibited a 
masterly display of the passions, in pantomimic looks 
and gestures: the transitions he made from pain to 
pleasure, from joy to despair, from rage to mildness, 
from laughter to tears; his expression of terror, and, 
above all, his look of idiotism, were performances of 
first rate merit in their hne, and we agreed in opinion, 
that had his fates decreed him to have been a native of 
Great Britain, his. genius would have rivalled that of 
any modern comedian of the English stage. 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

The plot of the drama performed this evening, I un- 
derstood, was taken from the sacred text of the Rama- 
yan of Balmiec (called by Sir William Jones, Valmiec), 
a work of high authority amongst the Hindoos. It 
represented the battles of the holy Ram and the 
impious Rahwaan, chief of the Rakuss, or demons, to 
revenge the rape of Seeta, the wife of Ram, who was 
forcibly carried away by Rahwaan, and bound under 
the spells of enchantment. Vicissitudes of fortune took 
place during the performance, that seemed highly 
interesting to the audience. Ram was at length 
wounded by a poisoned arrow; the sages skilled in 
medicine consulted on his cure; they discovered, that 
on the mountain Indragurry grew a certain tree that 
produced a gum, which was a sovereign antidote 
against the deleterious effects of poison; but the 
distance was so great that none could be found to un- 
dertake the journey: at length HonymaaU'i™ leader of 
the army of apes, offered to go in quest of it. When he 
arrived at the place, being uncertain which was the 
tree, he took up half the mountain, and transported it 
with ease; thus was the cure of Ram happily effected, 
the enchantment was broken, and the piece ended 
with a dance, and songs of triumph. 

On the 12th of April, the last day of the Birman year, 
we were invited by the Maywoon to bear a part our- 
selves in a sport that is universally practised through- 
out the Birman dominions on the concluding day of 
their annual cycle. To wash away the impurities of the 
past, and commence the new year free from stain, 
women on this day are accustomed to throw water on 
every man they meet, which the men have the privi- 
lege of retorting; this licence gives rise to a great deal 
of harmless merriment, particularly amongst the 
young women, who, armed with large syringes and 
flaggons, endeavour to wet every man that goes along 
the street, and, in their turn, receive a wetting with 
perfect good humour; nor is the smallest indecency 
ever manifested in this or in any other of their sports. 
Dirty water is never cast; a man is not allowed to lay 
hold of a woman, but may fhng as much water over 
her as he pleases, provided she has been the aggres- 
sor; but if a woman warns a man that she does not 
mean to join in the diversion, it is considered as an 
avowal of pregnancy, and she passes without molesta- 

About an hour before sunset we went to the 
Maywoon' s, and found that his lady had provided 
plentifully to give us a wet reception. In the hall were 
placed three large china jars, full of water, with bowls 
and ladles to fling it. Each of us, on entering, had a 
bottle of rose-water presented to him, a little of which 

Honymaan is worshipped by the Hindoos under the form of an 
ape, and is one of the most frequent objects of their adoration: al- 
most every Hindoo pagoda has this figure delineated in some part 
of it. Honymaan is the term used by the Hindoos to denote a large 

we in turn poured into the pakn of the Maywoon's 
hand, who sprinkled it over his own vest of fine flow- 
ered muslin; the lady then made her appearance at the 
door, and gave us to understand that she did not 
mean to join in the sport herself, but made her eldest 
daughter, a pretty child, in the nurse's arms, pour 
from a golden cup some rose-water mixed with san- 
dal-wood, first over her father, and then over each of 
the English gentlemen; this was a signal for the sport 
to begin. We were prepared, being dressed in linen 
waistcoats. From ten to twenty women, young and 
middle aged, rushed into the hall from the inner 
apartments, who surrounded and deluged without 
mercy four men ill able to maintain so unequal a con- 
test. The Maywoon was soon driven from the field; 
but Mr. Wood having got possession of one of the jars, 
we were enabled to preserve our ground till the water 
was exhausted; it seemed to afford them great diver- 
sion, especially if we appeared at all distressed by the 
quantity of water flung in our faces. All parties being 
tired, and completely drenched, we went home to 
change our clothes, and in the way met many damsels 
who would willingly have renewed the sport; they, 
however, were afraid to begin without receiving en- 
couragement from us, not knowing how it might be 
taken by strangers; but they assailed Baba-Sheen and 
his Burman attendants with little ceremony. No in- 
convenient consequences were to be apprehended 
from the wetting; the weath was favourable, and we 
ran no risk of taking cold. Having put on dry clothes, 
we returned to the Maywoon's, and were entertained 
with a dance and puppet show that lasted till eleven. 

Chapter V 

Sports and festivities ceased with the departed year, a 
circumstance that gave us great pleasure, as, from at- 
tending them, we were frequently exposed to the in- 
fluence of a burning sun, which at this season is most 
powerful; but though the heat from noon till five in 
the evening was intense, yet the nights were cool, and 
the mornings pleasant and refreshing. 1 generally took 
advantage of two temperate hours, from the dawn of 
day till the sun became inconvenient, to walk or ride 
through the city and its environs; and in all my excur- 
sions I never once experienced insult or molestation, 
curiosity and astonishment were often expressed, but 
unaccompanied by personal incivility, or by the 
shghtest indication of contempt. 

The fate that befel this once flourishing city has al- 
ready been recounted in the preceding pages. The ex- 
tent of ancient Pegue may still be accurately traced by 
the ruins, of the ditch and wall that surrounded it; 
from these it appears to have been a quadrangle, each 
side measuring nearly a mile and a half: in several 
places the ditch is choked up by rubbish that has been 
cast into it, and the falling of its own banks; sufficient. 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


however, still remains to show- that it was once no 
contemptible defence; the breadth 1 judged to be about 
sixty yards, and the depth ten or twelve feet: in some 
parts of it there is water, but in no considerable quan- 

1 was informed, that when the ditch was in repair, 
the water seldom, in the hottest season, sunk below 
the depth of four feet. An injudicious faussebray, 
thirty feet wide, did not add to the security of the for- 
tress. The fragments of the wall likewise evince that 
this was a work of magnitude and labour; it is not 
easy to ascertain precisely what was its exact height, 
but we conjectured it at least thirty feet, and in 
breadth, at the base, not less that forty. It is composed 
of brick, badly cemented with clay mortar. Small 
equidistant bastions, about 300 yards asunder, are 
still, discoverable; there had been a parapet of ma- 
sonry, but the whole is in a state so ruinous, and so 
covered with weeds and briars, as to Leave very im- 
perfect vestiges of its former strength. In the centre of 
each face of the fort there is a gateway about thirty 
feet wide; these gateways were the principal en- 
trances. The passage across, the ditch is over a cause- 
way raised on a mound of earth, that serves as a 
bridge, and was formerly defended by a retrenchment, 
of which there are now no traces. 

It is impossible to conceive a more striking picture 
of fallen grandeur, and the desolating hand of war, 
than the inside of these walls displays. Alompra, 
when he got possession of the city in the year 1757, 
razed every dwelling to the ground, and dispersed or 
led into captivity all the inhabitants. The temples or 
praws, which are very numerous, were the only build- 
ings that escaped the fury of the conqueror; and of 
these the great pyramid of Shoemadoo has alone been 
reverenced and kept in repair. 

The present King of the Birmans, whose govern- 
ment has been less disturbed than that of any of his 
predecessors, early in his reign turned his thoughts to 
the population and improvement, as well as the exten- 
sion, of his dominions, and seemed desirous to con- 
ciliate his subjects by mildness, rather than govern 
them by terror. He has abrogated some severe penal 
laws imposed by his predecessors upon the Tahens, or 
native Peguers. Justice is new impartially distributed, 
and the only distinction at present between a Birman 
and a Talien, consists in the exclusion of the latter 
from places of public trust and power. 

No act of the Birman government is more likely to 
reconcile the Peguers to the Birman yoke, than the res- 
toration of their ancient place of abode, and the pres- 
ervation and embellishment of the temple of Shoema- 
doo. The King, sensible of this, as well as of the advan- 
tages that must arise to the state from an increase of 
culture and population, five years ago issued orders to 
rebuild Pegue, encouraged settlers by grants of 

ground, and invited the scattered families of former 
inhabitants to return and repeople their deserted city. 

His Birman Majesty, more effectually to accomplish 
this end, on the death of the late Maywoon, which 
happened about five years ago, directed his successor, 
the present governor, to quit Rangoon, and make 
Pegue his future residence, and the seat of provincial 
government of the thirty-two districts of Henzawuddy 
(The Shanscrit name given to the province of Pegue by 
the Birmans). 

These judicious measures have so far succeeded, 
that a new town has been built within the site of the 
ancient city; but Rangoon possesses so many advan- 
tages over Pegue, in a commercial point of view, that 
persons of property who are engaged in business will 
not easily be prevailed upon to leave one of the finest 
sea-ports in the world, to encounter the difficulties of 
a new settlement, where commerce, if any can subsist, 
must be very confined, from the want of a commodi- 
ous navigation. The present inhabitants, who have 
been induced to return, consist chiefly of Rhahaans, or 
priests, followers of the provincial court, and poor 
Talien families, who were glad to regain a settlement 
in their once magnificent metropolis. The number al- 
together perhaps does not exceed six or seven thou- 
sand; those who dwell in Pegue during its former 
days of splendor are now nearly extinct, and their de- 
scendants and relatives scattered over the provinces of 
Tongho, Martaban, and Talowmeou; many also live 
under the protection of the Siamese. There is httle 
doubt, however, that the respect paid to their favour- 
ite temple of worship, and the security and encour- 
agement held out to those who venture to return, will, 
in time, accomphsh the wise and humane intentions of 
the Birman monarch. 

Pegue, in its renovated and contracted state, seems 
to be built on the plan of the former city, and occupies 
about one half of its area. It is fenced round by a 
stockade from ten to twelve feet high; on the north 
and east sides it borders on the old wall. The plane of 
the town is not yet filled with houses, but a number of 
new ones are building. There is one main street run- 
ning east and west, crossed at right angles by two 
smaller streets not yet finished. At each extremity of 
the principal street, there is a gate in the stockade, 
which is shut early in the evening, after that hour en- 
trance during the night is confined to a wicket. Each of 
these gates is defended by a wretched piece of ord- 
nance, and a few musqueteers, who never post centi- 
nels, and are usually asleep in an adjoining shed. 
There are two inferior gates on the north and south 
side of the stockade. 

The streets of Pegue are spacious, as are those of aU 
the Birman towns that I have seen. The new town is 
well paved with brick, which the ruins of the old 
plentifully supply; on each side of the way there is a 
drain to carry off the water. Houses of the meanest 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

peasants of Pegue, and throughout the Birman em- 
pire, possess manifest advantage over Indian dwell- 
ings, by being raised from the ground either on 
wooden posts or bamboos, according to the size of 
the building. The kioums or monasteries of the Rha- 
haans, and the habitations of the higher ranks, are 
usually elevated six or eight, those of the lower 
classes from two to four feet. 

There are no brick buildings either in Pegue or 
Rangoon, except such as belong to the King, or are 
dedicated to their divinity Gaudma: his Majesty has 
prohibited the use of brick or stone in private build- 
ings, from the apprehension, 1 was informed, that if 
people got leave to build brick houses, they might 
erect brick fortifications, dangerous to the security of 
the state. The houses, therefore, are all made of mats, 
or sheathing boards, supported on bamboos or posts; 
but from their being composed of such combustible 
materials, the inhabitants are under continual dread 
of fire, against which they take every precaution. The 
roofs are lightly covered, and at each door stands a 
long bamboo, with an iron hook at the end, to puU 
down the thatch: there is also another pole, with a 
grating of iron at the extremity, about three feet 
square, to suppress flame by pressure. 

Almost every house has earthen pots, filled with 
water, on the roof; and a particular class of people,ioi 
whose business it is to prevent and extinguish fires, 
perambulate the streets during the night. 

The Maywoon's habitation, though not at all a 
magnificent mansion for the representative of royalty, 
is, notwithstanding, a building of much respectabil- 
ity, compared to the other houses of Pegue; from an 
outside view we judged it to be roomy, and to con- 
tain several apartments, exclusive of that in which he 
gives audience; it possesses, however, but few orna- 
ments. Gilding is forbidden to all subjects of the Bir- 
man empire; liberty even to lacker, and paint the pil- 
lars of their houses is granted to very few: the naked 
wood gave an unfinish'd appearance to the dwelling 
of the Maywoon, which, in other respects, seemed 
well adapted for the accommodation of a Birman 

The object in Pegue that most attracts, and most 
merits notice, is the noble edifice of Shoemadoo,io2 or 

"" These people are called Pagwaat; they are slaves of government- 
men who have been found guilty of theft, and, through mercy, had 
their lives spared; they arc distinguished by a black circle on each 
cheek, caused by gunpowder and punctuation; as well as by hav- 
ing on their breast, in Birman characters, the word thief, and the 
name of the article stolen, as, on one that I asked to be explained to 
me, Putchoo Khoo, cloth thief. These men patrole the stieets at 
night, to put out all fires and lights, after a certain hour. They act 
as constables, an the public executioners. 

Shoe or Shuoe, in the Birman tongue, signifies golden; and 
there can be no doubt that Madoo is a corruption of Mahadeva, or 
deo. 1 could not learn from the Birmans the origin or etymology of 
the term; it was explained to me as signifying a promontory that 
overlooked land and water. Praw^ imports lord, and is always an- 

the Golden Supreme. This extraordnary pile of build- 
ing is erected on a double terrace, one raised upon an- 
other: the lower and greater terrace is about ten feet 
above the natural level of the ground, forming an ex- 
act parallelogram: the upper and lesser terrace is simi- 
lar in shape, and rises about twenty feet above the 
lower terrace, or thirty above the level of the country. 1 
judged a side of the lower terrace to be 1391 feet; of 
the upper, 684. The walls that sustained the sides of 
the terrace, both upper and lower, are in a ruinous 
state; they were formerly covered with plaster, 
wrought into various figures; the area of the lower is 
strewed with the fragments of small decayed build- 
ings, but the upper is kept free from filth, and is in tol- 
erably good order. There is reason to conclude that 
this building and the fortress are coeval; as the earth 
of which the terraces are composed, appears to have 
been taken from the ditch; there being no other exca- 
vation in the city, or in its neighbourhood, that could 
have afforded a tenth part of the quantity. 

The terraces are ascended by flights of stone steps, 
which are now broken and neglected; on each side are 
dwellings of the Rhahaans, raised on timbers four or 
five feet from the ground; these houses consist only of 
a large hall; the wooden pillars that support them are 
turned with neatness; the roofs are covered with tiles, 
and the sides are made of boards; there are a number 
of bare benches in every house, on which the Rha- 
haans sleep; we saw no other furniture. 

Shoemadoo is a pyramidical building, composed of 
brick and mortar, without excavation or aperture of 
any sort; octagonal at the base, and spiral at top; each 
side of the base measures 162 feet; this immense 
breadth diminishes abruptly, and a similar building 
has not unaptly been compared in shape to a large 
speaking-trumpet (See Mr. Hunter's Account of Pegue 
[in SOAS Bulletin of Burma Research 3.1, Spring 2005]). 

Six feet from the ground there is a wide projection 
that surrounds the base, on the plane of which are 
fifty-seven small spires of equal size, and equi-distant; 
one of them measured twenty-seven feet in height, 
and forty in circumference, at the bottom. On a higher 
ledge there is another row, consisting of fifty-three 
spires of similar shape and measurement. 

A great variety of mouldings encircle the building, 
and ornaments somewhat resembling the fleur-de-lys 
surround the lower part of the spire: circular mould- 
ings likewise girt it to a considerable height, above 
which there are ornaments in stucco not unlike the 
leaves of a Corinthian capital, and the whole is 
crowned by a Tee, or umbrella, of open iron- work, 
from which rises a rod with a gilded pennant. 

The tee or umbrella is to be seen on every sacred 
building that is of a spiral form: the raising and conse- 

nexed to the name of a sacred building it is likewise a sovereign 
and a sacerdotal title, and is frequently used by an inferior when 
addressing his superior... 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


cration of this last and indispensable appendage, is an 
act of high religious solemnity, and a season of festiv- 
ity and relaxation. The present king bestowed the tee 
that covers Shoemadoo. It was made at the capital: 
many of the principal nobility came down from Um- 
merapoora to be present at the ceremony of its eleva- 

The circumference of the tee is fifty six feet; it rests 
on an iron axis fixed in the building, and is farther se- 
cured by large chains strongly rivetted to the spire. 
Round the lower rim of the tee are appended a num- 
ber of bells, which, agitated by the wind, make a con- 
tinual jingling. 

The tee is gilt, and it is said to be the intention of 
the King to gild the whole of the spire. All the lesser 
pagodas are ornamented with proportionable umbrel- 
las of similar workmanship, which are likewise encir- 
cled by small bells. 

The extreme height of the edifice, from the level of 
the country, is 361 feet, and above the interior terrace, 
331 feet. 

On the south-east angle of the upper terrace there 
are two handsome saloons, or kioums, lately erected, 
the roofs composed of different stages, supported by 
pillars; we judged the length of each to be about sixty 
feet, and the breadth thirty: the ceiling of one is al- 
ready embellished with gold leaf, and the pillars are 
lackered; the decoration of the other is not yet com- 
pleted. They are made entirely of wood; the carving 
on the outside is laborious and minute: we saw several 
unfinished figures of animals and men in grotesque 
attitudes, which were designed as ornaments for dif- 
ferent parts of the building. Some images of Gaudma, 
the supreme object of Birman adoration, lay scattered 

At each angle of the interior and higher terrace 
there is a temple sixty- seven feet high, resembling, in 
miniature, the great temple; in front of that, in the 
south-west corner, are four gigantic representations, in 
masonry, of Palloo, or the evil genius, half beast, half 
human, seated on their hams, each with a large club 
on the right shoulder. The Pundit, who accompanied 
me, said that they resembled the Rakuss of the Hin- 
doos. These are guardians of the temple. 

Nearly in the centre of the east face of the area are 
two human figures in stucco, beneath a gilded um- 
brella; one, standing, represents a man with a book 
before him, and a pen in his hand; he is called Tha- 
siamee, the recorder of mortal merits and mortal mis- 
deeds; the other, a female figure kneeling, is Ma- 
hasumdera, the protectress of the universe, so long as 
the universe is doomed to last; but when the time of 
general dissolution arrives, by her hand the world is 
to be overwhelmed and everlastingly destroyed. 

A small brick building near the north-east angle 
contains an upright marble slab, four feet high, and 
three feet wide: there is a long legible inscription on it. 

1 was told it was an account of the donations of pil- 
grims of only a recent date. 

Along the whole extent of the north face of the up- 
per terrace there is a wooden shed for the convenience 
of devotees who come from a distant part of the coun- 
try. On the north side of the temple are three large 
bells of good workmanship, suspended nigh the 
ground, between pillars; several deers horns he 
strewed around; those who come to pay their devo- 
tions first take up one of the horns, and strike the bell 
three times, giving an alternate stroke to the ground: 
this act, I was told, is to announce to the spirit of 
Gaudma the approach of a supphant. There are sev- 
eral low benches near the foot of the temple, on which 
the person who comes to pray, places his offering, 
commonly consisting of boiled rice, a plate of sweet- 
meats, or cocoa nut fried in oil; when it is given, the 
devotee cares not what becomes of it; the crows and 
wild dogs often devour it in presence of the donor, 
who never attempts to disturb the animals. 1 saw sev- 
eral plates of victuals disposed of in this manner, and 
understood it was the case with all that was brought. 

There are many small temples on the areas of both 
terraces, which are neglected, and suffered to fall into 
decay. Numberless images of Gaudma lie indiscrimi- 
nately scattered. A pious Birman,who purchases an 
idol, first procures the ceremony of consecration to be 
performed by the Rhahaans; he then takes his pur- 
chase to whatever sacred building is most convenient, 
and there places it within the shelter of a kioum, or on 
the open ground before the temple; nor does he ever 
again seem to have any anxiety about its preservation, 
but leaves the divinity to shift for itself. Some of those 
idols are made of marble that is found in the neigh- 
bourhood of the capital of the Birman dominions, and 
admits of a very fine polish; many are formed of 
wood, and gilded, and a few are of silver; the latter, 
however, are not usually exposed and neglected like 
the others. Silver and gold is rarely used, except in the 
composition of household gods. 

On both the terraces are a number of white cylin- 
drical flags, raised on bamboo poles; these flags are 
peculiar to the Rhahaans, and are considered as em- 
blematic of purity, and of their sacred function. On 
the top of the staff there, is a henza, or goose, the 
symbol both of the Birman and Pegue nations. 

From the upper projection that surrounds the base 
of Shoemadoo, the prospect of the circumjacent coun- 
try is extensive and picturesque; but it is a prospect of 
nature in her rudest state; there are few inhabitants, 
and scarcely any cultivation. The hills of Martaban 
rise to the eastward, and the Sitang river, winding 
along the plains, gives an interrupted view of its wa- 
ters. To the north-west, about forty miles, are the Gal- 
ladzet hiUs, whence the Pegue river takes its rise; hills 
remarkable only for the noisome effects of their at- 
mosphere. In every other direction the eye looks over 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

a boundless plain, checquered by a wild intermixture 

of wood and water. 

Not being able to procure any satisfactory informa- 
tion respecting the antiquity of Shoemadoo, 1 paid a 
visit to the Siredaw, or superior Rhahaan of the coun- 
try; his abode was situated in a shady grove of tama- 
rind trees, about five miles south-east of the city; every 
abject seemed to correspond with the years and dig- 
nity of the possessor. The trees were lofty, a bamboo 
railing protected his dwelling from the attack of wild 
beasts; a neat reservoir contained clear water, a httle 
garden supplied roots, and his retreat was well 
stocked with fruit trees: some young Rhahaans hved 
with him, and administered to his wants with pious 
respect. Though much emaciated, he seemed lively, 
and in fuU possession of his mental faculties; he said 
his age was eighty-seven. The Rhahaans, although 
subsisting on charity, never solicit alms, or accept of 
money; 1 therefore presented this venerable prelate of 
the order with a piece of cloth, which was repaid by a 
grateful benediction. He told me, that in the convul- 
sions of the Pegue empire, most of their valuable re- 
cords had been destroyed, but it was traditionally be- 
lieved that the temple of Shoemadoo was founded 
2300 years ago, by two merchants, brothers, who came 
to Pegue from Tallowmeou, a district one day's jour- 
ney east of Martaban. These pious traders at first 
raised a temple one Birman cubit (twenty-two inches) 
in height; Sigeamee, or the spirit that presides over the 
elements, and directs the thunder and lightning, in the 
space of one night increased the size of the temple to 
two cubits; the merchants then added another cubit, 
which Sigeamee doubled in the same short time; the 
building thus attained the magnitude of twelve cubits, 
when the merchants desisted; that the temple was af- 
terwards gradually increased by successive monarchs 
of Pegue, the registers of whose names, with the 
amount of their contributions, had been lost in the 
general ruin; nor could he inform me of any authentic 
archives that escaped the wreck. 

In the afternoon Dr. Buchanan accompanied me in 
a ride about a mile and a half to the eastward of the 
fort; thorns and wild bamboos grew in this direction 
close to the ditch, and the road lay through woods, 
intersected by frequent pathways. We saw no other 
habitation, than here and there a poor Peguer's hut, 
beneath the shelter of a clump of bamboos; but the 
memorials of former populousness were thickly 
strewed: hillocks of decayed masonry, covered with 
the light mould which time generates upon a heap of 
rubbish, and the ruins of numerous temples, met the 
eye in every quarter. From these melancholy monu- 
ments we could trace the extent of the suburbs, which 
retained scarce any vestiges of former grandeur; they 
merely served to point out "campos ubi Troja fuit." 
We saw no gardens or inclosures, nor any cultivation 
on that side of the fort, but the pathways being trod by 

cattle indicated that the country farther on was better 
inhabited, and probably in a state of higher improve- 

Returning from our excursion, we met Mr. Wood, 
who, early in the morning, attended by his own ser- 
vants, and some Birman guides, had crossed to the 
west side of the river, to amuse himself with a day's 
shooting; he found an inconsiderable village on the 
opposite bank, in the neighbourhood of which there 
were rice plantations that extended a mile westward; 
beyond these he entered a thick wood, consisting 
chiefly of the bamboo and pipal trees. Through this 
wilderness he penetrated nine or ten miles, without 
meeting an inhabitant, or seeing a single dwelling. 
Some water-fowls and wood-pigeons were the reward 
of his toil. 

South of Pegue, about a mile beyond the city walls, 
there is a plain of great extent, for the most part over- 
grown with wild grass and low brushwood, and bare 
of timber trees, except where .a sacred grove main- 
tains its venerable shade. A few wretched villages are 
to he seen, containing not more than twenty or thirty 
poor habitations. Small spots of land have been pre- 
pared by the peasants for tillage, who seem to live in 
extreme poverty, notwithstanding they possess in 
their cattle the means of comfortable subsistence; but 
they do not eat the flesh, and 1 was told what is re- 
markable enough, that they seldom drink the milk. 
Rice, gnapee, a species of sprat which, when halfputri- 
fied, is made into a pickle, and used as a seasoning for 
their rice, oil expressed from a small grain, with salt, 
are almost their only articles of food. Their cows are 
diminutive, resembling the breed on the coast of 
Coromandel; but the buffaloes are noble animals, 
much superior to those of India. 1 saw here, for the 
first time, some of a light-cream colour; they are used 
for draft and agriculture, and draw heavy loads on 
carts or small waggons, constructed with considerable 
neatness and ingenuity- 

The groves beforementioned are objects of no un- 
pleasmg contemplation; they are the retreats of such 
Rhahaans or priests as devote themselves to religious 
seclusion, and prefer the tranquillity of rural retire- 
ment to the noise and tumults of a town. In their 
choice of a residence they commonly select the most 
retired spots they can nod, where shady trees, particu- 
larly the tamarind and banyan, protect them from the 
noon-day sun. 

In these groves they build their kioums, and here 
they pass their solitary lives. All kioums or monaster- 
ies, whether in town or country, are seminaries for the 
education of youth, in which boys of a certain age, are 
taught their letters, and instructed in moral and rehg- 
ious duties. To these schools the neighbouring villag- 
ers send their children, where they are educated 
gratis, no distinction being made between the son of 
the peasant and him who wears the tsaloe, or string of 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


nobility. A piece of ground contiguous to the grove is 
inclosed for a garden, where they sow vegetables and 
plant fruit trees; the Indian sweet potatoe, and the 
plantain, being the most nutritious, are principally 
cultivated; the charity of the country people supply 
them abundantly with rice, and the few necessaries 
which their narrow wants require. Abstracted from all 
worldly considerations, they do not occupy them- 
selves in the common concerns of life. They never buy, 
sell, or accept of money. 

The only article of consequence manufactured at 
Pegue, is silk and cotton cloth, which the women 
weave for their own and then husbands' use. It is 
wrought with considerable dexterity; the thread is 
well spun, and the texture of the web is close and 
strong; it is mostly checquered like the Scotch tartan. 
They make no more than what suffices, for their own 

In the town of Pegue there are only three persons, 
besides the Maywoon or viceroy, whose rank entitles 
them to distinction: these are, the Raywoon, Chekey, 
and the Sere-dogee. The first is an old man turned of 
seventy, still vigorous and active, who, it seems, had 
distinguished himself by his prowess in former wars, 
and obtained his present post as the reward of valour: 
he is also invested with high military insignia, and has 
the privilege of wearing on his head a gilded helmet, 
or bason, which is never used except on state occa- 
sions, when he exhibits a formidable representation of 
the meager knight adorned with Mambrino's helmet. 
The Chekey is a middle aged man, dull and plethoric; 
and, last in office, our acquaintance, the Sere-dogee, 
about forty, sadly afflicted with the rheumatism. 

The assiduous attentions of this good natured man, 
though perhaps dictated by policy: were both pleasing 
and useful, and, to appearance at least, perfectly disin- 
terested. 1 had presented him with some trifles, a piece 
of muslin, one of silk, and a few yards of broad cloth, 
which he accepted, he said, not for their value, but as a 
token of my good opinion. He one day brought his 
daughter, a child of six years old, with him, to pay me 
a visit; after taking notice of her 1 spread a piece of 
Bengal silk over her shoulders, as is the custom when 
one makes a present to an inferior. The father thanked 
me with great cordiality, but returned the piece, say- 
ing, he feared 1 might think he brought the child with 
a view to extract a present; and that 1 should have oc- 
casion for all the articles 1 had got to give away, if 1 
expected to satisfy every body who would look for a 
gratification; 1 disclaimed the first supposition, but 
could not overcome the delicacy of his scruples. 

These officers exercise the function of magistrates, 
and hold separate courts at their own houses, for the 
determination of petty suits; each has his distinct de- 
partment; but this private jurisdiction is very limited; 
all causes of importance relating to property, and mat- 
ters of an high criminal nature, are solemnly tried in 

open court. The three before mentioned officers unite, 
and form a tribunal, which sits at the Rhoom (called 
Roundaye by Europeans), or public hall of justice, 
where they hear the parties, examine witnesses, and 
take depositions in writing: these depositions are sent 
to the Maywoon, who represents the king, and the 
judges transmit their opinions along with the evi- 
dence, which the Maywoon either confirms or rejects, 
as he thinks proper; and in cases of capital conviction, 
orders execution, or pardons the culprit. From his 
judgment there lies no appeal, except whe it happens 
that an offender, who holds an office under a royal 
commission, is brought to trial; in that case the min- 
utes of the evidence taken in court, must be forwarded 
to the council of state, to be by them submitted to the 
king, who himself applies the law, and awards the 

We had now spent nearly three weeks at Pegue, and 
seen every thing worthy of notice, which, in a place so 
lately rescued from a desert, could not be very inter- 
esting or various. Gathering clouds, and a gloomy ho- 
rizon foretold the approach of the south-west mon- 
soon; and we had reason shortly to expect the arrival 
of a royal messenger, to notify his Majesty's pleasure 
in regard to our further progress. Having also several 
arrangements to make at Rangoon, preparatory to our 
departure, it became expedient to appoint a day for 
quitting Pegue; 1 therefore intimated to the 
Maywoonmy intention, and fixed on the 25th to take 
my leave, on which day 1 visited him in form. After 
half an hour's cheerful conversation, he [the 
Maywoonmy] asked me with much earnestness, 
whether we were pleased with the reception and 
treatment we had received; in return, 1 gave him the 
most ample assurances of our entire satisfaction, ex- 
pressed my sense of his past kindness, and my reli- 
ance on his future friendship; he seemed happy to find 
that we were contented, and handsomely apologized 
for the restraint and apparent rudeness we had sus- 
tained on our first coming to Rangoon, which, he said, 
originated in misconception. Thus we parted with per- 
fect complacency on both sides. 

Nor was this acknowledgment, on my part, mere 
matter of empty compliment; although 1 thought, that 
on certain occasions, he might have relaxed from the 
ostentatious dignity which he cautiously preserved; 
yet he never was deficient in pohteness. His attentions 
to our accomodation and convenience were unremit- 
ting; and we experienced during the term of our resi- 
dence, uniform civiUty from his dependents, which, in 
fact comprise the whole of the inhabitants of Pegue. 

Chapter VI 

Captain Thomas and Dr. Buchanan, with a proportion 
of the baggage and servants, left Pegue on the 21=', to 
return to Rangoon; Mr. Wood and myself were ready 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

to embark on the 26*. We went on board in the after- 
noon, attended by the Nakhaan, two interior officers 
of government, and the pubUc intepreter; the remain- 
der of our domestics followed in a separate boat. The 
heavy rains that fell during the night incommoded the 
rowers, and retarded our progress; next morning the 
weather cleared up, but towards noon the sky again 
became overcast, and seemed to promise a stormy 
night. About two o'clock we reached a village on the 
east bank, called Deesa; at this place we found two 
commodious houses unoccupied, close to the river. 
Our boatmen being fatigued, and there appearing no 
probability of being able to reach Rangoon by the 
night's tide, 1 judged it most advisable to take up our 
quarters here until the morning. 

Shortly after our arrival had been announced, the 
Miou-gee, or chief person of the village, came to pay 
his respects; he informed me, that at this season of the 
year his village, and those adjacent, were nearly de- 
serted by men, who were all sent on the service of 
government, to make salt by the sea side, leaving then- 
wives, children, and aged parents at home. The article 
of salt produces a considerable revenue to the state: 
the peasantry are employed in preparing it during the 
hot season: as soon as the monsoon sets in, they return 
to their habitations, and till their lands until the time 
comes round for a renewal of their annual labour on 
the coast, which does not occupy more than four 
months in the year. 

Making enquiries respecting what game the country 
produced, the Miou-gee told me that it abounded in 
various kinds, particularly deer; and that if 1 chose to 
walk out with my gun, he would be my guide, and 
undertake to shew me a herd of antelopes at no great 
distance. 1 accepted the offer with pleasure: we went 
through the village, which did not contain more than 
fifty houses, comfortable in appearance, and well 
raised from the ground: the women and children 
flocked to their doors, and screamed with astonish- 
ment at seeing such a phenomenon as an English offi- 
cer dressed in his uniform. Proceeding to the east- 
ward, about a mile from the town, we came on an ex- 
tensive plain, where the tall rank grass had been con- 
sumed by fire, to allow the growth of the more deU- 
cate shoots, as pasturage for the cattle. Here we soon 
discovered a herd of deer, but so watchful and wild, 
that 1 could only get near enough to fire a random shot 
from a rifle, which did not take effect. In endeavour- 
ing to approach them unperceived, 1 left my servants 
and guide at a considerable distance, and took a cir- 
cuit by myself, out of sight of my companions. A 
drove of buffaloes belonging to the villagers happened 
to be nigh at the time that 1 discharged my gun; 
alarmed at the noise, the whole troop raised their 
heads, and, instead of running away, seemed to stand 
on the defensive. 1 walked leisurely from them, when 
two came out of the herd and, with their tails and 

heads erect, trotted towards me, not in a strait line, but 
making a half circle, as if afraid to advance; they were 
too nigh for me to think of escaping by flight, 1 there- 
fore kept on at a moderate pace, in an obhque direc- 
tion, stopping at times, with my face towards them, on 
which they also stood still, and looked at me; but 
when 1 resumed my way, they immediately advanced; 
in this circuitous manner one of them came so close 
that 1 felt my situation extremely awkward. 1 had re- 
loaded my rifle whilst 1 walked, but reserved it for an 
extremity. As the beast approached, 1 stopped more 
frequently, which always checked his progress for a 
time; but he had now drawn so nigh, that 1 expected 
every instant to have a direct charge made at me: for- 
tunately the Miou-gee from a distance discovered my 
situation; he hallooed out, and made signs by taking 
off his blue cotton jacket, holding it up in the air, and 
then throwing it down. 1 immediately comprehended 
his meaning, and, whilst 1 edged away, sHpped off my 
scarlet coat, which 1 flung, together with my hat, into 
some long grass, where they lay concealed; the buffalo 
instantly desisted from the pursuit, and returned to- 
wards the herd, quietly grazing as he retired. This cir- 
cumstance proves that the buffalo entertains the same 
antipathy to the colour of red or scarlet that some 
other animals are known to do. The Miou-gee, when 1 
joined him, seemed quite as much alarmed as 1 was; 
he said, that if 1 had sustained any injury, his head 
would have paid the forfeit of the accident. 

The country inland appeared to be cleared of trees 
and brushwood, to a considerable distance; but on the 
banks of the river to the north and south, the thickets 
bordered on the village, and, 1 was told, abounded in 
jungleio3 fowl, and peacocks; but my guide requested 1 
would not venture in, for fear of tigers, which, he said, 
frequently came prowling round the village at night, 
and sometimes carried away their dogs, but durst not 
attack their buffaloes, who, to all appearance, were a 
match for any tiger, and almost as fierce. The inhabi- 
tants also complained of being much molested in the 
wet season by wild elephants, that occupy, in great 
numbers, a forest twelve miles to the north-east. These 
powerful animals, allured by the early crops of rice 
and sugar cane, make predatory excursions in large 
troops, and do a great deal of mischief, devastating 
more than they devour. The poor peasantry have often 
to lament the destruction of their most exposed plan- 

Next morning before dayhght we left Deesa with 
the first of the ebb; at ten o'clock we reached Rangoon, 
and landed at our former dwelling below the town. 
B aba-Sheen, who had travelled all night, arrived about 
the same hour from Pegue. 

This is a bird well known to sportsmen in India, it differs little 
from the common barn-door fowl, except that the wild sort are all 
of one colour— a dark red, with black breast and legs. The flesh is 
very delicate. 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


How much it is to be lamented, that the country we 
had just left, one of the fairest and most healthful on 
the globe, should remain, for the greater part, a soli- 
tary desert, whilst so many of the human race are 
condemned to languish away life in noxious regions, 
or extract, by incessant labour, a scanty subsistence 
from a barren soil. The natives of the adjacent islands 
of Nicobar, whose swollen limbs and diseased bodies 
evince the pestilential atmosphere they breathe, might 
here prove useful members of general society, live in 
the enjoyment of a salubrious climate, supply their 
own, and contribute to reheve the wants of others. But 
it must require a long and uninterrupted term of peace 
to renew the population of Pegue. Should it ever be so 
fortunate, there can be little doubt that Pegue will be 
numbered amongst the most nourishing and delight- 
ful countries of the East. 

The authorities on which the geography of the city 
and river of Pegue has been laid down, though doubt- 
less the best that could be procured, are nevertheless 
far from being accurate. The Pegue river is called by 
the natives, Bagoo Kioup, or Pegue rivulet, to distin- 
guish it from Mioup, or rive. It is navigable but a very 
few miles to the northward of the city of Pegue, and 
for this it is indebted wholly to the action of the tide. 
It has no communication with the sea, except by the 
Rangoon river, and in the fair season, at low water, is 
almost dry. There seems to have been a mistake of 
this stream for the Sitang river, about fifteen miles 
east of Pegue, which is a great and independent body 
of water, that partly describes the course that is given 
in the map, to what is called the Pegue river. 

Nor does the meridian measurement of the city of 
Pegue, as reported by former travellers, at all corre- 
spond with later observations. Mr. Wood, an accurate 
astronomer, and furnished with excellent instru- 
ments, places Pegue in 17° 40' north latitude, above 
forty geographical miles south of the position as- 
signed to it in the map. The difference in longitude is 
less than that of latitude. Mr. Wood, from a mean of 
observations of the immersion and emersion of Jupi- 
ter's sateUites, determines Pegue to be in 96° 11' 15", 
about thirty-two miles west of its supposed situation. 
This eastward error may have given occasion to the 
mistake of the Sitang river for that of Pegue. Indeed 
the authorities for the geography of this country are, 
in most places imperfect, and in some altogether er- 

The ruinous state, and the uncomfortable situation 
of the dwelling assigned to us on our first arrival, ren- 
dered it desirable to remove into the town; and, as a 
proper understanding was now established with the 
Rangoon government, no objection whatever was 
made to taking up our abode wherever we thought 
proper. 1 accordingly hired two large houses, one for 
the gentlemen of the deputation, the other for our at- 
tendants these were made of timber, sufficiently spa- 

cious, but ill adapted to the climate, being close, and 
covered with tiles, which retained and transmitted the 
heat long after the sun had set: they were, however, 
the best that could be procured, and we felt ourselves 
more at ease from residing within the Inclosure of 
what is called the Fort of Rangoon. 

Being freed from the restraint imposed on us before 
we went to Pegue, we now enjoyed the fuU liberty of 
collecting information, and seeing whatever was 
worth notice. Although a liberal licence was thus 
granted to us, 1 still found, on the part of those per- 
sons who were best capable of communicating knowl- 
edge, a mistrustful unwillingness to reply to my ques- 
tions, which they evaded, rather than declined an- 
swering; a conduct that created in me more regret 
than surprise; it was a natural jealousy, which at this 
time 1 did not think it prudent to increase by minute 
enquiries into the internal state of the country, and the 
political economy of their government. 

Increasing trade, and consequent population, have 
extended the present town far beyond the limits that 
formerly comprehended Rangoon, as it was originally 
founded by Alompra. It stretches along the bank of 
the river about a mile, and is not more than a third of 
a mile in breadth. The city or miou (Miou is a term 
applied either to a city or a district) is a square, sur- 
rounded by a high stockade, and on the north side it is 
further strengthened by an indifferent fosse, across 
which a wooden bridge is thrown; in this face there 
are two gates, in each of the others only one. Wooden 
stages are erected in several places within the stock- 
ade, for musqueteers to stand on in case of an attack. 
On the south side, towards the river, which is about 
twenty or thirty yards from the palisade, there are a 
number of huts, and three wharfs, with cranes for 
landing goods. A battery of twelve cannon, six and 
nine-pounders, raised on the bank, commands the 
river, but the guns and carriages are in such a 
wretched condition, that they could do little execution. 
Close to the principal wharf are two commodious 
wooden houses, used by the merchants as an ex- 
change, where they usually meet in the cool of the 
morning and evening to converse, and transact busi- 
ness. The streets of the town are narrow, and much 
inferior to those of Pegue, but clean, and well paved; 
there are numerous channels to carry off the rain, over 
which strong planks are laid, to prevent an interrup- 
tion of intercourse. The houses are raised on posts 
from the ground; the smaller supported by bamboos, 
the larger by strong timbers. All the officers of gov- 
ernment, the most opulent merchants, and persons of 
consideration, live within the fort; shipwrights, and 
people of inferior rank, inhabit the suburbs; and one 
entire street, called Tackally, is exclusively assigned to 
common prostitutes, who are not permitted to dwell 
within the precincts of the fortification. 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

Swine are suffered to roam about the town at large: 
these animals, which are with reason held unclean, do 
not belong to any particular owners; they are servants 
of the public, common scavengers; they go under the 
houses, and devour the filth. The Birmans are also 
fond of dogs, numbers of which infest the streets; the 
breed is small, and extremely noisy; whenever we 
walked out, the inhabitants were apprized of our ap- 
proach by the loud barking of these troublesome curs. 

1 was now honoured occasionally with visits from 
all the men of official consequence in Rangoon; but 
although they paid me this comphment, the greatest 
formality and caution were still preserved in their de- 
portment and language. Baba-Sheen was the only per- 
son with whom we held familiar intercourse, and 
through him every attention was paid to our wants. 
From this conduct, however, 1 judged it prudent to 
suspend the astronomical observations which Mr. 
Wood was desirous to make, and not to employ my 
draftsman until a longer acquaintance had removed 
their suspicions. 

Amongst the foreigners who came to pay their re- 
spects to the English gentlemen, was an Italian mis- 
sionary, named Vincentius Sangermano, who had 
been deputed to this country about twenty years be- 
fore, by the Society de propaganda: he seemed a very 
respectable and intelhgent man, spoke and wrote the 
Birman language fluently, and was held in high esti- 
mation by the natives for his exemplary life and inof- 
fensive manners. His congregation consisted of the 
descendants of former Portugueze colonists, who, 
though numerous, are in general very poor; they, 
however, had erected a neat chapel, and purchased for 
their pastor a piece of ground a mile from the town, 
on which a neat comfortable dwelling was built, and a 
garden inclosed. He is indebted for his subsistence to 
voluntary contributions of his Hock; in return for their 
charity he educates their children, instructs them in 
the tenets of the Romish faith, and performs mass 
twice a day at the chapel. 

From this reverend father 1 received much useful in- 
formation; he told me of a singular description of peo- 
ple called Carayners, or Carianers, that inhabit differ- 
ent parts of the country, particularly the western prov- 
inces of Dalla and Bassien, several societies of whom 
also dwell in the districts adjacent to Rangoon. He 
represented them as a simple, innocent race, speaking 
a language distinct from that of the Birmans, and en- 
tertaining rude notions of religion. They lead quite a 
pastoral life, and are the most industrious subjects of 
the state: their villages form a select community, from 
which they exclude all other sects, and never reside in 
a city, intermingle, or marry with strangers. They pro- 
fess, and strictly observe, universal peace, not engag- 
ing in war, or taking part in contests for dominion, a 
system that necessarily places them in a state of sub- 
jection to the ruling power of the day. Agriculture, the 

care of cattle, and rearing poultry, is almost their only 
occupation. A great part of the provisions used in the 
country is raised by the Carianers, and they particu- 
larly excel in gardening. They have of late years been 
heavily taxed and oppressed by the great Birman 
landholders, in consequence of which numbers have 
withdrawn into the mountains of Arracan. They have 
traditional maxims of jurisprudence for their internal 
government, but are without any written laws: cus- 
tom, with them, constitutes the law. Some learn to 
speak the Birman tongue, and a few can read and 
write it imperfectly. They are timorous, honest, mild 
in their manners, and exceedingly hospitable to 

The temple of Shoedagon (The name of this tem- 
ple... signifies Golden Dagon), or Dagoung, about 
two miles and a half north of Rangoon, is a very 
grand building, although not so high, by twenty- 
five or thirty feet, as that of Shoemadoo at Pegue. It 
is much more ornamented; the terrace on which it 
stands is raised on a rocky eminence, considerably 
higher than the circumjacent country. It is ascended 
by above an hundred stone steps, that have been 
suffered to fall into decay. 

The situation renders Shoedagon a conspicuous 
object at the distance of many miles. The tee and the 
whole of the spire are richly gilded, which, when 
the sun shines, exhibit a singularly splendid ap- 

The small auxiliary buildings are yet more nu- 
merous than those that surround the base of the 
Pegue temple. Perceiving that several of these were 
in a ruinous state, whilst the foundations of others 
were just laid, and some half finished, 1 asked, why 
they did not repair the damages of the old before 
they erected new ones, and was told, that to mend a 
decayed praw or temple, though an act of piety, 
was not so meritorious as to erect a new one; that 
sometimes the old ones were repaired by those who 
were unwilling or unable to be at the expence of a 
complete building; but this entirely depended on 
the means and inclination of the donor. 

The borders of the terrace on which the temple is 
raised, are planted with shady trees in regular rows; 
from this eminence there is a beautiful and extensive 
prospect; the Pegue and Rangoon rivers are seen 
winding through a level woody country, and the tem- 
ple of Syriam, little inferior to those that have been 
described, stands near the junction of the streams. 

The rainy monsoon had now set in, and inundations 
were formed in several places. It would have been a 
more pleasing, though perhaps less picturesque scene, 
had the plains been cleared, and the fields laid out for 
cultivation: we could observe few marks of improve- 
ment: woods, lakes, and rivers, presented themselves 
on every side. 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


The road leading from the city to the temple is 
formed with care; a wide causeway in the centre pre- 
vents the rain from lodging, and throws it off to the 
sides: numberless little spires are ranged along the 
edge of the road, in which are niches to receive small 
images of their divinity Gaudma. Several kioums or 
monasteries lay in this direction, generally removed a 
short distance from the pubhc way, under the shade of 
pipal or tamarind trees. 

The Birmans, like all the natives of the East, are fond 
of processions; scarce a week passes that there is not a 
religious display in Rangoon; either a funeral of some 
person who leaves sufficient to defray the expence of a 
pompous public burning, or the ceremony of admit- 
ting youths into the convents of the Rhahaans; on the 
latter occasion parents vie with each other, and spare 
no cost: the principal charge consists in entertain- 
ments, and the customary presents to the Rhahaans. 
The age of induction is generally from eight to twelve 
years. When a boy is to be introduced into a convent, 
either as a temporary resident, or with a view to fu- 
ture consecration, his friends prepare their offerings of 
cloth, rice, preserves, fruity fans, cushions, mats, and 
household utensils. On an appointed day he parades 
the streets, dressed in yellow, and mounted on a horse 
richly caparisoned, led by two servants: a band of mu- 
sic goes before, and a party of Rhahaans encircle him: 
his male friends follow in a troop, and the females of 
their families bring up the rear, the latter carrying on 
their heads the offerings meant for the Rhahaans. 
Thus they proceed to the convent of which the novice 
is to become a member, where he is presented in form 
to the senior of the brotherhood. This ceremony is re- 
peated three times, and at each perambulation fresh 
presents are to be provided. The kioums or convents 
of the Rhahaans are different in their structure from 
common houses, and much resemble the architecture 
of the Chinese; they are made entirely of wood; the 
roof is composed of different stages, supported by 
strong pillars; the inside comprehends one large hall; 
the whole house is open at the sides: some are curi- 
ously carved with various symbolic representations of 
the divinity. There are no apartments for the private 
recreation of the Rhahaans; publicity is the prevailing 
system of Birman conduct, they admit of no secrets 
either in church or state. 

From the many convents in the neighbourhood of 
Rangoon, the number of Rhahaans and Phonghis (the 
inferior order of priests, vulgarly called TaUapoins) 
must be very considerable; 1 was told it exceeded 1500. 
This estimate must include those in their novitiate. 
Like the Carmehtes, they go barefooted, and have 
their heads close shaven, on which they never wear 
any covering. 

Yellow is the only colour worn by the priesthood; 
they have a long loose cloke, which they wrap roiuid 
them so as to cover most part of the body: they profess 

celibacy, and abstain from every sensual indulgence. 
The prescribed punishment for a Rhahaan detected in 
an act of incontinence, is expulsion, and public dis- 
grace; the delinquent is seated on an ass, and his face 
daubed with black paint, interspersed with spots of 
white; he is thus led through the streets, with a drum 
beating before him, and afterwards turned out of the 
city; but such instances of degradation are very rare. 
The juniors are restricted from wandering about licen- 
tiously, either by day or night. There is a prior in 
every convent, who has a discretionary power to grant 
permission to go abroad. 

The Rhahaans never dress their own victuals, hold- 
ing it an abuse of time to perform any of the common 
functions of life, which, so long as they occupy, must 
divert them from the abstract contemplation of the 
divine essence. They receive the contributions of the 
laity, ready cooked, and prefer cold food to hot. At the 
dawn of the morning they begin to perambulate the 
town, to collect supphes for the day: each convent 
sends forth a certain number of its members, who 
walk at a quick pace through the streets, supporting 
with the right arm a blue lackered box, in which the 
donations are deposited; these usually consist of 
boiled rice mixed with oil, dried and pickled fish, 
sweetmeats, fruit, &c. During their walk they never 
cast their eyes to the right or to the left, but keep them 
fixed on the ground; they do not stop to soUcit, and 
seldom even look at the donors, who appear more de- 
sirous to bestow, than the others to receive. The Rha- 
haans eat but once a day, at the hour of noon. A much 
larger quantity of provision being commonly pro- 
cured than suffices for the members of the convent, 
the surplus is disposed of as charitably as it was given, 
to the needy stranger, or the poor scholars who daily 
attend them, to be instructed in letters, and taught 
their moral and religious duties. 

In the various commotions of the empire, 1 never 
heard that the Rhahaans had taken any active share, 
or publicly interfered in politics, or engaged in war: by 
this prudent conduct they excited no resentment: the 
Birmans and Peguers professing the same religion, 
who ever were conquerors, equally respected the min- 
isters of their faith. 

1 had heard much of the veneration paid to the 
Seredaw, or head of the Rhahaans at Rangoon, and by 
chance had an opportunity of seeing him; he hved in a 
very handsome monastery, half a mile from town, on 
the road leading to Shoedagon. 

One evening, taking my customary walk, 1 met him 
returning from the pagoda; there was nothing to dis- 
tinguish him from the common Rhahaans; he wore the 
same yellow dress, and his head and feet were bare; 
his years and abstracted appearance induced me to 
ask who he was; on being told, 1 turned and joined 
company with him, for he would not have stopped or 
gone out of his way had a monarch accosted him. He 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

entered freely into conversation, but kept his eyes 
fixed invariably on the ground before him; he was a 
little old man, of seventy-five, and still walked with 
firm step on even ground, but when he ascended the 
stairs of his dwelling, he required support. He goes 
every day, at the same hour, to the temple, to offer his 
devotions, and performs the journey, which, going 
and returning, cannot be less than four miles, on foot. 
Approaching his grove, he civilly asked me to come in 
and rest myself; 1 followed him, and we took our seats 
on mats spread on the floor, in the centre of a large 
and lofty hall. Several younger Rhahaans who had 
attended him in his walk, ranged themselves at a 
small distance. 1 was, however, disappointed in the 
expectations 1 had formed; he betrayed a worldly 
pride inconsistent with his years and sacred function; 
he announced, with much pomp, that he was the head 
of the church at Rangoon, and ostentatiously dis- 
played his sacerdotal titles, engraven on iron plates, 
that had been conferred on him by the present and the 
late king. He seemed to possess little of the humility 
which distinguished the aged prelate of Pegue, and 1 
left him impressed with much less reverence than 1 
had entertained for his character before our interview. 
1 was told, that formerly there were nunneries of 
virgin priestesses, who, like the Rhahaans, wore yel- 
low garments, cut off their hair, and devoted them- 
selves to chastity and religion; but these societies were 
long ago abolished, as being injurious to the popula- 
tion of the state. At present there are a few old women 
who shave their heads, wear a white dress, follow fu- 
nerals, and carry water to the convents. These vener- 
able dames have some portion of respect paid to them. 

Chapter Vll 

The population of Rangoon is very considerable; there 
are five thousand registered taxable houses in the city 
and the suburbs; if each house is supposed to contain 
six people, the estimate will amount to thirty thou- 
sand. Rangoon, having long been the asylum of insol- 
vent debtors from the different settlements of India, is 
crowded with foreigners of desperate fortunes, who 
find from the Birmans a friendly reception, and, for 
the most part, support themselves by carrying on a 
petty trade, which affords a decent subsistence to 
those who act prudently. Here are to be met fugitives 
from all countries of the East, and of all complexions: 
the exchange, if 1 may so call the common place of 
their meeting, exhibits a motley assemblage of mer- 
chants, such as few towns of much greater magnitude 
can produce; Malabars, Moguls, Persians, Parsees, 
Armenians, Portugueze, French, and English, all min- 
gle here, and are engaged in various branches of 
commerce. The members of this discordant multitude 
are not only permitted to reside under the protection 
of government, but likewise enjoy the most liberal tol- 

eration in matters of religion; they celebrate their sev- 
eral rites and festivals, totally disregarded by the Bir- 
mans, who have no inclination to make proselytes. In 
the same street may be heard the solemn voice of the 
Muezzin, calling pious Islamites to early prayers, and 
the bell of the Portugueze chapel tinkling a summons 
to Romish Christians. Processions meet and pass each 
other without giving or receiving cause of offence. The 
Birmans never trouble themselves about the religious 
opinions of any sect, or disturb their ritual ceremonies, 
provided they do not break the peace, or meddle with 
their own divinity Gaudma; but if any person commit 
an outrage, which the Mussulmen, in their zeal for the 
true faith, will sometimes do, the offender is sure to be 
put into the stocks, and if that does not calm his turbu- 
lent enthusiasm, they bastinado him into tranquilhty. 

The violence of the rainy monsoon prevented our 
making distant excursions, which, in the present stage 
of the mission, 1 should perhaps have avoided, had 
the weather been favourable. Our morning rides and 
evening walks seldom extended beyond the great 
temple, that being the best road. 

Dr. Buchanan one morning went across to the west 
side of the river, on the bank of which, opposite to 
Rangoon, is a considerable town, called Maindu, the 
residence of the governor of the province of Dalla, 
who has already been mentioned as having come 
down to meet the deputation on its first arrival. This 
government is entirely distinct from Rangoon, on the 
east side: the rank of the governor is much inferior to 
that of the Maywoon of Pegue, notwithstanding 
which, the latter cannot apprehend a criminal within 
the jurisdiction of Dalla, by his own authority. The city 
of Dalla, from whence the province takes its name, is 
said to be on the west side of the China Buckler river, 
and was formerly a place of considerable importance. 
The town of Maindu is composed of one long street, at 
the east end is a creek, which goes all the way to Bas- 
sien, and has twelve feet depth of water, at high tide; 
on the west side is a smaller creek, on the bank of 
which stands a village called Mima-Shun-Rua, or the 
village of prostitutes, being inhabited wholly by 
women of that description. 

Prostitution in this, as in all other countries, is the 
ultimate resort of female wretchedness, but here it is 
often attended with circumstances of peculiar and 
unmerited misery. Many who follow this course of hfe 
are not at their own disposal, or receive the earnings 
of their unhappy profession; they are slaves sold by 
creditors to a hcensed pander, for debts more fre- 
quently contracted by others, than by themselves. Ac- 
cording to the laws of Pegue, he who incurs a debt 
which he cannot pay, becomes, the property of his 
creditor, who may claim the insolvent debtor as his 
slave, and oblige him to perform menial service until 
he hquidates the debt; nor does the unhappy man al- 
ways suffer in his own person alone, his immediate 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


relatives are often included in the bond, and when 
that is the case, are liable to be attached and sold, to 
discharge the obligation. 

The wretchedness into which this inhuman law 
plunges whole families is not to be described. Inno- 
cent women are often dragged from domestic comfort 
and happiness, and from the folly or misfortune of the 
master of the house, in which they perhaps have no 
blame, are sold to the licensed superintendent of the 
Tackally, who, if they possess attractions, pays a high 
price for them, and reimburses himself by the wages 
of their prostitution. 

In their treatment of the softer sex the Birmans are 
destitute both of delicacy and humanity, they consider 
women as little superior to the brute stock of their 
farms. The lower class of Birmans make no scruple of 
selling their daughters, and even their wives, to for- 
eigners who come to pass a temporary residence 
amongst them. It reflects no disgrace on any of the 
parties, and the woman is not dishonoured by the 
connection. Respecting the trade of Rangoon, the 
commodities which the country is capable of produc- 
ing, the present state of its commerce, and the obsta- 
cles that check its growth, 1 shall have occasion to 
speak more at length in another part of this work; it is 
sufficient here to observe, that teak, the most durable 
wood that is known, and best adapted for the con- 
struction of ships, is produced in the forests of the 
Birman and Pcgue empires in inexhaustible abun- 
dance. The river of Rangoon is equally commodious 
for the construction of ships; the spring tides rise 
twenty feet in perpendicular height; the banks are soft, 
and so flat that there is little need of labour for the 
formation of docks: vessels of any burden may be 
built. Nature has liberally done her part to render 
Rangoon the most flourishing seaport of the eastern 

There were at this time several ships from six hun- 
dred to one thousand tons burden on the stocks; one 
belonging to the Maywoon of Pegue, about nine hun- 
dred tons, was considered by professional men as a 
specimen of excellent workmanship; it was entirely 
wrought by Birman carpenters, and formed on a 
French model, as are most of the ships built in this 
river, the Birmans having received their first rudi- 
ments of the art from that nation. Three or four vessels 
of burden were likewise in a state of forwardness, be- 
longing to Enghsh adventurers, and one still larger 
than the rest, almost ready to be launched, the prop- 
erty of the Governor of Maindu, the town on the op- 
posite side. If this ship was not composed of prime 
materials, the building at least was well attended to; 
every morning the governor's wife crossed the river in 
her husband's barge, attended by two or three female 
servants; after landing she commonly took her seat on 
one of the timbers in the yard, and overlooked the 
workmen for some hours, after which she returned 

home, and seldom missed coming back in the evening, 
to see that the day's task had been completed. The slip 
on which the ship was built happened to be contigu- 
ous to our first habitation, a circumstance that caused 
us to remark her constant visits: curiosity, however, 
did not prompt her, or any other attendants, to come 
within our precincts, whilst decorum deterred us from 
making advances towards an acquaintance. Her hus- 
band never accompanied her, and she did not seem to 
require his aid. Women in the Birman country are not 
only good housewives, but likewise manage the more 
important mercantile concerns of their husbands, and 
attend to their interests in all outdoor transactions: 
they are industrious to the greatest degree, and are 
said to be good mothers, and seldom, from inclination, 
UTvfaithful wives. If this be a true character, they meet 
with a most ungenerous return, for the men treat them 
as beings of a very subordinate order. 

Whilst we admired the structure and materials of 
these ships, we could not overlook the mode in which 
the work was executed, and the obvious merit of the 
artificers. In Bengal a native carpenter, though his 
business is commonly well done, yet in his manner of 
performing it, he excites the surprise and ridicule of 
Europeans; he cuts his wood with a diminutive adze, 
in a feeble and slow manner, and when he wants to 
turn a piece of timber, has recourse to a coolee, or la- 
bourer, that attends him; numbers there compensate 
for the want of individual energy; notwithstanding 
this, they finish what they undertake in a masterly 
manner. The Birman shipwrights are athletic men, and 
possess, in an eminent degree, that vigour which dis- 
tinguishes Europeans, and gives them pre-eminence 
over the enervated natives of the East; nor do 1 imag- 
ine that the inhabitants of any country are capable of 
greater bodily exertion than the Birmans. The month 
of May was now far advanced, and we became a little 
impatient at remaining so long in a state of uncer- 
tainty, especially' as the officers of government did not 
at all relax in the formality and coldness of their de- 
portment, nor were we yet assured what might be the 
nature of our reception at court. From this unpleasant 
state of suspense we were agreeably relieved by the 
arrival of a letter from the Maywoon of Pegue, to the 
council of Rangoon, acquainting them that he had re- 
ceived the imperial mandate to make preparations for 
our conveyance by water to the capital; and that it was 
his Majesty's farther pleasure that he should accom- 
pany the deputation in person. Baba-Sheen lost no 
time in imparting to me the intelligence, which was 
soon after communicated by an official message from 
the Raywoon, inviting me to the Rhoom, or pubUc 
hall, to hear the order formally announced in council. 
This was a ceremony which 1 begged leave to decline, 
but 1 sent my Moonshee, or Persian secretary, to at- 
tend the meeting. 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

Our visit to Ummerapoora being now a measure 
decided on by the highest authority, it became requi- 
site to make some enquiries respecting our accommo- 
dations for the voyage. Being well aware that no steps 
could be taken except through the regular channels of 
authority, 1 apphed to the Raywoon to obtain permis- 
sion to purchase suitable boats for the use of the depu- 
tation: an inferior officer waited on me, to represent 
on the part of the Raywoon, that it was inconsistent 
with the usage of their government to admit of a pub- 
lic minister being at any expence for his conveyance; 
and that the superintendant of the port had received 
instructions to prepare as many boats as 1 thought 
necessary. This, 1 understood, was an established 
point of etiquette from which they could not possibly 
recede. 1 expressed regret at putting the government 
to so great an expence, but requested, as the season 
was boisterous, and the voyage not a short one, that 
the vessels might be examined by an English ship- 
wright, and such alterations made as would render 
them commodious to Europeans, which the boats of 
the natives, both from their structure and insufficient 
covering, are far from being. My desire met a cheerful 

Conformably to the imperial mandate, the 
Maywoon left Pegue, and arrived at Rangoon on the 
25th of May; his retinue was numerous, and as no per- 
son of high official consequence, when summoned to 
attend the Golden Feet, can assure himself of return- 
ing to his government, or office, in order to be pre- 
pared for whatever might occur, he brought with him 
his wife and family, as the companions of his voyage. 
On the day after his [the Maywoon's] arrival 1 paid 
him a visit, he was extremely civil, and assured me of 
his ready services on every occasion. 

About this time an order came from court to the 
provincial government of Pegue, which furnished a 
subject of much conversation. 1 was told that the Em- 
peror of China, having never seen a rhinoceros or an 
alligator, entertained an ardent desire to view those 
formidable animals before his death, and had inti- 
mated his wish, through a provincial legate from Yu- 
nan, who had lately arrived at Ummerapoora for the 
purpose of settling some mercantile arrangements. 
The King of Ava, solicitous to gratify his august 
brother of China, had signified his pleasure to his 
chief minister, who sent the order beforementioned, 
the purport of which, 1 understood, was to catch 
twenty alligators, and as many of the rhinoceros tribe, 
and convey them to the metropolis, whence they were 
to be transported to the imperial city of Pee-Kien. 
Those who made elephant hunting their profession, 
were dispatched to the forests, and strong nets were 
thrown across the Pegue river, on the sands of which, 
when the tide ebbed, 1 had seen, in the course of my 
journey to Pegue, a much greater number than his 
majesty required. The fishermen began successfully; 

several alligators were taken in two or three days, and 
put into boats, in the bottom of which wells were con- 
structed. The crocodile and alligator, although they 
are accounted amphibious animals, cannot long sup- 
port life out of the water. The rhinoceros hunters, 1 
afterwards learned, were not equally fortunate. 

In a former part of this work it has been mentioned, 
that the Birmans, notwithstanding they are Hindoos of 
the sect of Boodh, and not disciples of Brahma, never- 
theless reverence the Bralimins, and acknowledge 
their superiority in science over their own priests or 
Rhahaans. The partiality which the King, who is 
guided in every movement by astrological advice, 
manifests in their favour, has given celebrity to their 
predictions, and brought them so much into fashion, 
that there is not a viceroy or Maywoon who has not in 
his household some of these domestic sages, whom he 
consults on all important occasions, and sometimes on 
occasions of no importance whatever. The Maywoon 
of Pegue, whose viceroyalty, though not the most ex- 
tensive, is the most lucrative in the empire, maintains 
a number of Brahmins, whose counsel he desired on 
the most fortunate day and hour to commence the 
journey. After due deliberation, the 28th of May, at 
eight o'clock in the morning, was pronounced the 
most propitious for departure, and that time was ac- 
cordingly appointed. Unluckily our boats could not be 
got in readiness quite so soon, but as there was no re- 
sisting the stars, the Maywoon declared his regret at 
the supernatural necessity that compelled him to pre- 
cede us, promising, however, to wait at the head of the 
Rangoon river, where it branched from the great 
stream of the Irrawaddy., until we should join him, 
the distance being not more than a two day's journey. 
1 acquiesced in the propriety of submitting every tem- 
poral concern to the disposal of fate, and hoped that 
he would not suffer any consideration for us, to inter- 
fere with his own arrangements. 

On the day fixed, at seven in the morning, he 
passed our habitation, and proceeded with much 
pomp to the water-side, himself on horseback, his lady 
in a palanquin, and his children carried astride on 
men's shoulders. His own barge was very handsome, 
and of the structure appertaining to nobihty; it was 
attended by several war boats ready manned, with a 
number of common vessels; some belonging to his 
retinue, others to merchants, who took the opportu- 
nity of his protection to transport their merchandize 
duty free. The Maywoon reposed for a short time in 
the house that is used as an exchange, and when the 
great drum that proclaimed the hour struck the first 
stroke, he stepped on board, and was followed by his 
family; in an instant every boat pushed from the shore 
with a loud shout; the oars were vigorously plied, and 
the flood tide setting strong, the fleet was soon carried 
to the northward of the city. 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


The boats, six in number, that had been provided 
for our accommodation, were now ready to receive us; 
Dr. Buchanan, Mr. Wood, and myself, had each a 
separate vessel; the Hindoo Pundit, whose religious 
prejudices rendered it irksome to him to mingle with 
Mussulmen, had likewise a small boat to himself. The 
guard, and such attendants as we did not immediately 
require, occupied another of a larger size, in which our 
heavy baggage, field equipage, &c. were stowed: a 
kind of cutter was equipped as a kitchen, which was 
seldom wanted, as our own barges were sufficiently 
spacious to admit of all culinary purposes, without 
inconvenience to the inhabitants. Those barges were of 
a very different construction from the flat-bottomed 
vessels called budgerows, that are used on the 
Ganges; ours were long and narrow, and required a 
good deal of ballast to keep them steady; even with 
ballast they would have been in constant danger of 
oversetting, had they not been provided with outrig- 
gers, which, composed of thin boards, or oftener of 
buoyant bamboos, make a platform that extends hori- 
zontally six or seven feet on the outside of the boat, 
from stem to stem. Thus secured, the vessel can incline 
no farther than until the platform touches the surface 
of the water, when she immediately rights; on this 
stage the boatmen ply their oars, or impel the boat 
forward by poles; such an addition affords a conven- 
ience unknown to the navigation of the Ganges; it is 
the place exclusively appropriated to the crew, who 
sleep on it at night, and, by putting up mats, or 
spreading a sail from the roof of the boat to the out- 
side edge, shelter themselves from the weather. My 
barge was sixty feet in length, and not more than 
twelve in the widest part; by taking away one thwart 
beam near the stern, laying a floor two feet below the 
gunwale, and raising an arched roof about seven feet 
above the floor, a commodious room was formed, 
fourteen feet long, and ten wide, with a closet behind 
it; at the stern there was a stage, on which the Leede- 
gee, or steersman, stood, and a vacant space of seven 
or eight feet, where a kettle might be boiled, or dinner 
provided. On each side of the cabin a small door 
opened on the platform, and there were three win- 
dows which, when raised, admitted a free circulation 
of air. The roof was made of bamboos, covered with 
mats, and over all was extended a painted canvass 
that effectually secured us from the heaviest rain. The 
inside was neatly lined with matting. The conveyances 
of the other gentlemen were nearly of the same size 
and construction. Twenty-six boatmen composed the 
crew of my vessel, exclusive of the Leedegee, who is 
the chief or captain. 

Chapter Vlll 

On the 29"^ of May we were ready to depart; our bag- 
gage and attendants had been previouslu sent on 
board, and the boats containing the royal presents had 
received their lading from the Sea-Horse. We em- 
barked in the evening, slept on board, and at 10 
o'clock next morning, when the tide served, pushed 
off, accompanied by our civil acquaintance, the Sere- 
dogee of Pegue, Baba-Sheen, Jacob Aguizar, the Ar- 
menian merchant, and the chief interpreter of Ran- 
goon; these personages had boats of their own. 
Pauntchoo, my Portugueze servant, being with me, 
and three or four of the boatmen speaking a little of 
the Hindostan language, 1 was at no loss to make my- 
self understood. An under Seree,or inferior clerk, was 
stationed in my boat, professedly to attend to my 
wants, and receive my orders, and probably with a 
view to observe and report my actions. It was, how- 
ever, an ostensible comphment, and accepted by me in 
that hght. 

We rowed without intermission until three in the af- 
ternoon. A short way from Rangoon the river becomes 
narrower, with a winding course, owing to which we 
did not advance more than three leagues in a direct 
line. We passed a small village on the left: the banks 
on each side were shaded with trees. The fleet brought 
to on the north side of the river, when Doctor Bu- 
chanan went on shore, and found an extensive plain 
covered with short grass, beyond which there was a 
large village. We experienced a pleasing alteration in 
the temperature of the air on the water, from what we 
had felt on shore. The day before our departure, at 
two o'clock in the afternoon, the thermometer in the 
house stood at 98°; next day, at the same hour, the 
quicksilver only reached 90° on the river. When the 
flood made, we got under way, rowed hard all night, 
and anchored in the morning near a town called Pan- 
lang, which, the Seree informed me, had once been a 
city of considerable magnitude, and from which the 
Rangoon river is frequently called the Panlang-mioup. 
The number of boats that were moored near it, indi- 
cated that it was still a place of some importance. The 
soil is rich, but there appeared to be little cultivation in 
its neighbourhood: here a branch of the river shapes 
its course to the south. At two in the afternoon we 
pursued our voyage, and continued rowing till seven 
in the evening, when we brought to, having passed 
three small villages in the way, one of which was sur- 
rounded by thick groves of plantain trees. At this 
place we spent a very comfortless night; it is a part of 
the river remarkable for being infested by mosquitoes 
of an unusual size, and venomous beyond what 1 ever 
felt in any other country: two pair of thick stockings 
were insufficient to defend my legs from their attacks; 
when in bed the curtains afforded some protection, 
but the servants, and even the boatmen, got no rest all 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

night. A kind of reed that grows on the bank, breeds 
and harbours these insects in the utmost abundance; 
fortunately the colony does not extend many miles; a 
war boat that rows quick can escape them, but a heavy 
vessel must lie for one tide within their action. 

On the first of June, at daybreak, we left Panlang, 
and stopped about nine o'clock at a hamlet on the 
right, where we saw a few gardens, and several travel- 
lers passing along a road at some distance on the 
plain. The river here contracts greatly, and does not 
appear to be more than two hundred yards across. 
Our people having taken refreshment, we continued 
our voyage. After leaving Panlang the influence of the 
tide becomes much weaker, and the water, during the 
ebb, is fresh. Our progress was but slow, having nei- 
ther wind nor stream to befriend us. In three hours we 
reached Kettoree-Rua, or Parroquet village; and in two 
hours more came to Yangain-Chain-Yah. Here we en- 
tered the great river, and stopped for the night, our 
boats being fastened with hawsers to the bank. The 
course of the stream was nearly north and south, and 
about a mile wide. 

Next morning, at the dawn of day, we pushed off, 
and at one o'clock, joined the Maywoon, who with his 
suite, and a vast concourse of boats, was waiting our 
arrival; he sent a polite message, with a present of 
some milk, fine rice, and fruit. Heavy rains falling, we 
remained here all day; the banks were steep, and there 
was nothing to attract notice. At a distance on the op- 
posite shore we could perceive the temple of Denoo- 

At eight o'clock in the morning of the 3d of June the 
whole fleet got under way. Being now in the great 
river, and no longer sheltered by high and close 
banks, we spread our canvass, and favoured by a 
strong southerly wind, sailed against the stream. At 
nine we passed Denoobew, an extensive town, orna- 
mented with a lofty temple, resembling Shoedagon in 
form, but of a less size. The adjacent fields appeared 
cultivated; several large mercantile boats were lying 
here, and more at a small village on the opposite side; 
the river was still low; the rains, although set in, had 
not yet materially affected it. We passed, in the course 
of our day's journey, many islands of sand formed by 
different streams of the river, in the dry season, but 
which are entirely covered when the waters swell; on 
some of these islands there are trees and verdure. We 
left the towns of Segahghee on the east, and Summe- 
ingtoh on the west. Our journey this day was very de- 
lightful; the weather turned out fine, and the wind 
was so favourable, that though the stream was strong, 
we passed the banks at the rate of three miles an hour: 
there were not less than an hundred sail of boats of 
different sorts in company; the whole was a cheerful 
and pleasing sight. The Maywoon being considered as 
commodore of the fleet, his movements regulated the 
rest. We stopped at sunset near the town of Yeoung- 

benzah, where 1 missed the Sere-dogee of Pegue, who 
seldom failed making an evening visit to drink tea, 
and ask questions about England. B aba-Sheen told me 
that he was left behind at the head of the Rangoon 
river, where he was bargaining for another boat, his 
own being rather crazy, and so deeply laden with 
merchandize, that he durst not venture it on the great 

We left Yeoungbenzah at daybreak, and passed in 
our course several islands of sand. In one place we 
perceived the roots and stump of a tree growing close 
to the water's edge, under a high bank, about fourteen 
feet beneath the surface of the soil: this singular ap- 
pearance is to be accounted for by supposing, that 
where the bank was now raised, there had formerly 
been a sand level with the water, on which a tree took 
root, and had been covered by annual accumulations 
from the river during the season of inundation. It is 
probable that the tall reeds and coarse grass, which 
every year rot and incorporate with the sand of the 
river, form the fine soil of the plains; thus aquatic exu- 
viae are to be discovered every where deep in the 
earth: the stream, however, washes away on one side 
as much as it deposits on the other, and as is the case 
with all rivers flowing through champaign countries, 
is continually changing its channel. In the morning we 
passed Taykyatt,a long and straggling town on the 
west side; also Terriato, or Mango village, small, but 
beautifully situated on a high commanding bank that 
overlooks the country on the opposite side to a great 
distance; it is surrounded by groves of mango trees, 
from which it takes the name. Taambooterra, on the 
same side, is a long town. The country, in this journey, 
did not appear so well inhabited as that we passed 
through the day before. At half past four we came to 
for the night at Kioumzeik, or Convent Stairs; a long 
sand intervened between us and the town; at this sea- 
son the convex side of the windings of the river al- 
ways terminates in a level sand. Two temples, not 
large, but gilded on the outside from top to bottom, 
made a very brilliant appearance. There were here 
many monasteries, the Rhahaans belonging to them 
were strolling up and down the banks, as curiosity led 
them. Near the river side were some fields planted 
with indigo, which throve in full luxuriance, and was 
nearly ripe; the natives prepare it without any skill: a 
large quantity of the weed was steeping in an old boat 
sunk in the river, which was substituted in the room 
of a vat. They do not take the trouble, or perhaps do 
not know how, to purify and reduce it to a hard re- 
fined consistence, but are satisfied with it in a liquid 
state; they use it to colour a coarse kind of cotton 
cloth, which is manufactured here in great quantities. 
The indigo is very cheap, and doubtless might, by 
proper management, be cultivated in this country to 
the highest advantage. 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


The town of Kioumzeik is well built, and seems to 
be in a state of improvement: there are several inter- 
ruptions in it, caused by water-courses, over which 
good wooden bridges are built. The manufacture of 
cotton cloth is the source of its prosperity. A town 
called Henzadah, near to Kioumzeik, is of much 
greater antiquity. Numerous cart-roads and pathways 
evince that there is an extensive communication main- 
tained with the interior country, but we saw httle cul- 
tivation of grain, and only a few gardens. Buffaloes 
and other cattle were grazing in large herds on the 
neighbouring plain. 

On the next day, June 5th, we put off at the first 
dawn, and passed in the course of our journey several 
small villages, none of which presented any thing 
worth notice; Sekayebeeim, on the east, was the most 
considerable. The bank on one side was high, arid the 
sands extensive on the other. The course of the river 
runs deep beneath an overhanging bank, at a sluggish 
rate, not exceeding a mile in the hour. The southerly 
wind was not so strong as usual, and the temperature 
of the air had become much hotter; the thermometer, 
which on the preceding day stood at 78°, on this rose 
to 86°; still the heat was not oppressive. We brought to 
in the afternoon, south of a town called Ackeo; the 
evening was cloudy and threatened a thunder storm; a 
long and low strand lay between the boats and the 
town; 1 did not go on shore: Dr. Buchanan, however, 
ventured, and met with nothing to repay the trouble 
he took in traversing a plain of heavy sand. 

We set off the following morning at the usual 
hour, and saw a few villages, but none remarkable; 
one on the east bank was situated in a large garden of 
plantain trees. At noon our boatmen tracked the boats 
along the sands, and made greater progress thus than 
they could either by rowing or setting with poles. 
Notwithstanding the general name of the river is Ir- 
rawaddy, I learned that different parts of it are distin- 
guished by different appellations, taken from places of 
note on its banks, as though we should call the 
Thames, at appropriate places, the Gravesend river, 
the London river, &c. At two o'clock the' sky lowered, 
and black clouds in the north-west quarter threatened 
one of those violent gusts which are frequent at this 
season; the Ledeegee, of his own accord, brought to on 
the west side, under the shelter of an high bank. As 
soon as the boat was made fast, the Doctor and 1 
clambered up the steep; the country round was cov- 
ered with reeds as tall as a man's head; there were 
many pathways leading through them, but we were 
dissuaded by the Birmans from entering, for fear of 
tigers, which are numerous here, and particularly fre- 
quent that kind of cover. The storm broke before it 
readied us, and, after a delay of two hours, we set sail 
with a southerly wind: passing a large village on the 
west, the Seree told me it was named Shwaye-Gaim, 
and that the inhabitants sometimes, during the rainy 

season, found gold dust in the sand of the river, which 
is washed down by the periodical rains. 

A town nearly opposite, on the east side, is called 
Sabbaymeoun. It was eight o'clock in the evening 
when we stopped close to the town of Gnapeezeik. 
Gnapee, or Napee, a sort of sprat half pickled and half 
putrid, has already been described as a favourite and 
universal sauce used by the Birmans, to give a rehsh 
to their rice; Zeik signifies a landing place, whence we 
concluded that this town is an emporium for that 
commodity, which, in itself, forms an extensive branch 
of traffic. 

Early in the morning we left Gnapee, and had to 
contend against a strong current, with very little assis- 
tance from the wind; the western bank was planted 
with pipal and mango trees. Yeagaim, on the right, 
and Kanounglay, or Little Kanoung, on the left, were 
the most remarkable places; near the latter we saw 
several plantations of fruit trees, the mango, plantain, 
jack-fruit, and custard apple. The fields near it were 
regularly laid down, and well fenced; many boats, 
some of them of a large size, were building on the 
banks, and the general aspect of things denoted peace 
and plenty. A little time brought us to Kanoungghe, or 
Great Kanoung, a long town, with a good quay, and 
well constructed wooden stairs, consisting of one 
hundred steps, descending to the water's edge. The 
population of this part of the country must be consid- 
erable. In getting round a bluff point we found much 
difficulty, owing to the rapidity of the current; the 
fleet was, in consequence, widely scattered, some 
surmounting the stream with more ease than others; 
the wind was but faint, and the weather exceedingly 
sultry. At two o'clock the thermometer rose to 94°. 
Our boatmen being harassed, 1 brought to early in the 
evening, under a pleasant bank; the Maywoon had got 
far a-head. Before tea I walked out with my gun, but 
had no success, seeing only a few quails and some 
wild pigeons. The country was tolerably well cleared, 
and though there was not much cultivation, it seemed 
in a state of preparation for the husbandman. 

Our progress on the following day was more expe- 
ditious; we soon reached the neighbourhood of Meya- 
houn, formerly Loonzay, rendered memorable in the 
wars between the Birmans and Peguers. It is a very 
ancient city, stretching two miles along the margin of 
the river. Houses in cities or in villages differ very Ht- 
tle; but this town was distinguished by numerous 
gilded temples, and spacious convents: a great variety 
of tall wide-spreading trees gave the place an air of 
venerable grandeur; under the shade of these several 
Rhahaans were luxuriously reposing. We saw not less 
than two hundred large boats at the different quays, 
which, on an average might be reckoned each at sixty 
tons burthen, all provided with good roofs, and 
masted after the country manner. They seemed much 
better constructed than the unwieldy wullocks (A 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

heavy boat used on the river Ganges) of Bengal. I was 
informed that the neighbourhood of Mayahoun is un- 
commonly fruitful in rice, and that a large quantity is 
exported annually to the capital. 

Here also were capacious granaries belonging to the 
King, built of wood, and covered with thatch; these 
are always kept filled with grain ready to be trans- 
ported to any part of the empire in which there hap- 
pens to be a scarcity, a misfortune that sometimes oc- 
curs to the higher provinces, where the annual rains 
are neither so certain nor so copious as in the southern 
districts: this wise and humane institution strongly 
evinces the solicitude of the monarch for the welfare 
of his people. Leaving Mayahoun, we passed 
Pasheem, whence a nullah, or water-course, leads to 
the south-west, also Kianggain; at both these places 
there were a number of trading boats. At half past two 
o'clock we were assailed by a violent north-west gust 
of wind, that, acting with the current, drove us back 
nearly two miles before we could reach the shore. The 
river here was more than a mile wide, although it had 
not yet attained its full monsoon height. At four we 
again got under way, and saw, on the east side, Tir- 
roup-miou, or Chinese Town. During our journey this 
day we plainly discerned the Anoupectoumiou, or 
great western hills that divide this country from Arra- 
can; the particular mountains in sight, the boatmen 
said, were named Taungzo. The districts we passed 
through this day were exceedingly populous, and in 
most parts cultivated. We brought to late in the eve- 
ning, under a steep bank, near the inconsiderable vil- 
lage of Tzeezau. 

We left, before dayhght, a very uncomfortable situa- 
tion: the night was sultry, and the high bank that hung 
over us prevented a free circulation of air; added to 
this, we were annoyed with myriads of stinking in- 
sects that issued from the reeds and coarse grass. The 
pleasantness of the day compensated for the incon- 
veniences of the night. As we advanced, the western 
range of hills closed upon the river, and in some 
places displayed very beautiful scenery. Approaching 
the town of Peeing-ghee, on the west side, the rocky 
banks rose abruptly to the height of two or three hun- 
dred feet, the sides of which were richly clothed with 
hanging trees of variegated foliage. The confinement 
of the water in this place increased its rapidity, and 1 
could not but admire the exertions made by the boat- 
men in stemming so violent a stream: oars were use- 
less, and the perpendicular banks afforded no foot- 
path to track; it therefore became necessary to impel 
the boat forward by bamboo poles, a labour at which 
the Birmans are uncommonly expert. When the pole is 
firm in the ground, they place the top of it against the 
muscles of the shoulder, just above the collar bone, 
then raising that shoulder, and bending forward, they 
bring the whole weight of the body to bear upon the 
end of the pole; in this manner they traverse the plat- 

form from stem to stem, following each other in quick 
succession on both sides of the boat, having small 
thwart bamboos fastened on the platform, a yard 
asunder, to prevent their feet from slipping. Owing to 
this mode of fixing the end of the pole against the 
muscles that reach from the back of the neck to the 
shoulder, a callosity is formed, and a Birman boatman 
always appears to be high shouldered. 1 could not dis- 
cover why they preferred that method to the more ob- 
vious and easy one of pushing with the flat of the 
shoulder; they, however, performed what 1 am per- 
suaded none but Birmans could effect. We were an 
hour in passing the extreme force of the current, 
which did not exceed four hundred yards. 

The town of Peing-ghee, and that of Sahlahdan, a 
little above it, export a great part of the teak timber 
that is carried to Rangoon. The forests extend along on 
the western mountains, and were in sight from the 
boats. The trees are felled in the dry season, and when 
the monsoon sets in, are borne by the torrents to these 
towns. There was a ship on the stocks close to Pee- 
ingghee, of four hundred tons burthen; a Mussulman 
merchant from Surat, out of economy, chose this place 
for building at, in preference to Rangoon; he meant, as 
soon as the hull should be finished, to float it down 
the stream. 1 was told that there was a good deal of 
hazard in the navigation, the distance of which, in- 
cluding the windings of the river, probably exceeds 
150 miles; but he calculated the difference of expence 
to be adequate to the risk. This adventurer furnished a 
proof of the confidence that might be placed in the 
Birman government, and the security that a stranger 
has for his property. The teak tree, although it will 
grow on the plains, is a native of the mountains. The 
forests, like most of the woody and uncultivated parts 
of India, are extremely pestiferous; an inhabitant of 
the champaign country considers a journey thither as 
going to inevitable destruction. The woodcutters are a 
particular class of men, bom and bred in the hiUs; 
even they are said to be unhealthy, and seldom attain 

The difficulty of this day's journey had dispersed 
the fleet; the lightest and best manned boats of course 
got a-head of the rest, and several were obliged to join 
their crews, and carry up each vessel singly by their 
united strength. Half a mile above Sahlahdan 1 over- 
took the Maywoon, who had arrived some time before 
me, and was waiting for us. The boatmen being 
greatly harassed, he recommended us to pass the 
night here. In the evening we took a walk together: the 
Maywoon was attended by eight or ten servants 
armed with spears and musquets: we both Bred at 
game without success. 

The Birmans, even the common boatmen, are fond 
of fowling to a degree of childish delight; sooner than 
not shoot they will fire at sparrows. 1 never was more 
importuned than by them for shot, which they do not 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


know how to fabricate. No schoolboy could be more 
pleased than the Leedegee of my boat, when I one 
evening lent him a gun to shoot wild pigeons. In this, 
as well as many other particulars, their disposition is 
strikingly contrasted with the habits of apathy and 
indolence that characterize the natives of Asia in gen- 
eral. My companions. Dr. Buchanan and Mr. Wood, 
not joining the party before dark, 1 expressed my ap- 
prehensions about them to the Maywoon, who was so 
good as to dispatch a war-boat to their assistance; the 
Doctor came about ten o'clock, but Mr. Wood's people 
being quite exhausted, he was obliged to stop three 
miles short of us, and the baggage-boat did not arrive 
at all. A little after midnight 1 was awakened to re- 
ceive the unpleasant intelligence that she was 
wrecked: the boatmen, it seems, had nearly sur- 
mounted the difficult passage below Peeing-ghee, 
when, either from a remission of their efforts, or a 
more impetuous gush of water than usual, the boat 
suddenly got stern-way, and when once she lost 
ground there was no recovering it; the boatmen re- 
signed her to the current, which swept her back with 
irresistible violence; fortunately she set towards the 
side, where a landing was practicable, and taking the 
ground on a rocky bottom, she bulged, and filled with 
water. The people got on shore safe, and it was ex- 
pected that most of the articles on board would be re- 
covered, but such as were liable to injury from the wa- 
ter were irretrievably spoiled. 

Early the next morning, June 10th, Mr. Wood 
joined company, and the Maywoon sent an officer to 
Peeing-ghee with directions to procure a proper con- 
veyance for my people, and render them every possi- 
ble assistance; he likewise intimated to me his desire 
to remain three or four days at Meeayday, a town and 
district two days journey north of Prome, which he 
holds in jaghire by a grant from the king. This inten- 
tion was far from being disagreeable to me or to any 
of the party, as our boatmen were fatigued, and the 
servants and the guard required a short time to adjust 
their conveniences for the remainder of the voyage. 

The country contiguous to the river in this day's 
journey, was pleasingly diversified with hill and val- 
ley, and with spots of cleared ground and hanging 
woods: the range of mountains retired in a westerly 
direction as we advanced to the north, but smaller 
hiUs still skirted the river. We sailed before a fine 
southerly breeze, and enjoyed a climate far more 
temperate than 1 ever experienced in Hindostan at the 
same season of the year. 

We left, a-stern on the west, Podangmew, a large 
and populous city, and on the right Shwaye-do-mew 
was the most important town. About noon we 
stopped to avoid a squall from the north-west: in the 
evening, my boat being a-head, 1 reached the city of 
Peeaye-mew, or Prome, on the east side; the other 
gentlemen did not cross the river till next morning. 

Chapter IX 

Prompted by curiosity to view a place so renowned as 
Prome is in Birman history, for having been the scene 
of many long sieges and bloody conflicts, as soon as 
my boat was made fast 1 hastened on shore, and a 
short way from the bank entered a long strait street, in 
which 1 walked for near a mile. The buildings were 
not remarkable; but though 1 saw little to notice, 1 
found that 1 was myself an object of universal won- 
der: the singular appearance of an Enghsh officer 
dressed in uniform was a phenomenon perhaps never 
before seen in this part of the world. My attendants 
also created no little surprise; the dogs, numbers of 
which infested the streets, set up a horrid barking; the 
men gaped, the children followed me, and the 
women, as usual, expressed their astonishment by 
loud laughter, and clapping their hands; yet not the 
least indication of contempt was manifested, nor any 
thing done that could be construed into an intention 
to offend. Whichever way 1 turned, the crowd respect- 
fully opened, and the most forward were restrained 
by others. The notice 1 took of a little girl, who was 
alarmed at our appearance, seemed to be very gratify- 
ing to the parents, and the mother encouraging her 
child, brought her close to me. Had 1 entered a house, 
1 have no doubt but the owners would have offered 
me the best of what it contained. Kindness to strang- 
ers is equally the precept and the practice of Birmans. 

At the upper end of the present city are to be seen 
the ruins of the ancient fort of Prome; it had been a 
small pentagon, built of brick, and from its situation 
must have been very strong. The modern fort is noth- 
ing more than a pahsaded inclosure, with earth 
thrown up behind it. Low hills, on the eastern side 
approach the town, in which the rains have formed 
channels down to the river, that are crossed by 
wooden bridges. 1 passed some stone-cutters' yards, 
where artificers were manufacturing flags for pave- 
ments, and slabs and vases for the use of temples, out 
of a fine freestone which is found in that neighbour- 
hood. Adjacent to the town there is a royal menagery 
of elephants, consisting of two rows of lofty well built 
stables, in which these animals are lodged during the 
rains. 1 saw some that had been lately caught, under 
the discipline necessary to render them docile. 

The city of Prome, and the province in which it 
stands, are the jaghire, or estate, of the second son of 
the king; they likewise give him his title. Prome is 
sometimes called Terreketteree, or single skin; the 
Birmans have an old legendary tale respecting the ori- 
gin of this name: it is related that a favourite female 
slave of Tutebong-mangee, or the mighty sovereign 
with three eyes, importuned her lord for a gift of some 
ground, and being asked of what extent, replied in 
similar terms with the crafty and amorous Eliza, when 
she projected the site of ancient Carthage. Her request 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

was granted, and she used the same artifice. The re- 
semblance of the stories is curious. I had not leisure to 
go through the whole of the town, but was informed 
that it contained more inhabitants than Rangoon, and 
had a better supplied market. The Seree told me that 
the ruins of a large fort and city, much surpassing the 
present, stood about a league eastward of the town: 
the lateness of the hour prevented me from continuing 
my researches. 

We departed from Prome at an early hour on the 
Uth of June, and sailed before a strong southerly gale 
till we came to Pouoodang, a small village built on the 
western bank of the river. A high hill of a conical form 
rises abruptly behind it, on the top of which there is a 
temple of peculiar sanctity, having once been the 
abode of Gaudma; the impression made by the foot of 
the divinity is shewn indented on a slab of marble. 
The Maywoon had gone before us to perform his de- 
votions at this place of worship. The hill seemed diffi- 
cult of ascent; several of our people went up, but the 
day being wet and stormy 1 declined the undertaking. 
We afterwards made head against a violent current by 
the aid of a tempestuous wind: there was, for a long 
way, little improvement close to the river; obscure 
hamlets at distant intervals just served to shew that 
the country was not without inhabitants. Zeeain, on 
the west, appeared a pretty village. Towards evening 
we reached Kammah, on the east side: it is the chief 
town of a district that bears the same name, and 
makes large exports of teak timber for the Rangoon 
market. We did not stop here, but continued our 
course as far as Neoungbenzeik, where we arrived too 
late to make many observations: this also is a town of 
some respectability. We were here on a lee shore, un- 
der a high and rocky bank. The Maywoon not liking 
the appearance of the weather, and thinking it unsafe 
to remain in such a situation all night, ordered the 
boatmen to row across to a long sand, where we might 
be secure from danger in the event of a storm; nor was 
this precaution ill timed; about midnight it blew a 
hurricane; we, however, ran no risk; our boats touched 
the soft sand, and were moored by strong hawsers 
reaching from the stem and stem to the shore. Mr. 
Wood and Dr. Buchanan, who had not come up, 
found shelter in a creek, where they passed the night. 
As soon as the storm commenced, the Maywoon de- 
tached a war-boat to their assistance. 

Our associates joined the fleet betimes in the morn- 
ing, and we sailed immediately. Our journey this day 
was disagreeable, from the violence of the southerly 
wind, which, meeting the stream, caused a heavy 
swell: the boats pitched deep, and were very uneasy. 
We passed a small village on the left bank, whence, 1 
was told, a road leads through the mountains to Arra- 
can. Yeoungbenzeik, or Indian fig-tree stairs, on the 
east side, is a fine village, situated in a romantic coun- 
try; so also is Pelon, a place remarkable for boat build- 

ing; and Samban, famed for its iron manufactory. At a 
particular part the river was divided into two distinct 
branches, separated by a sand; each branch we judged 
to be a mile wide; and when the water rises so as to 
overflow the sands, the breadth cannot be less than 
four miles from bank to bank. Every village we saw 
was ornamented with one or more small temples. In 
the evening we brought to, at a town called Sirraip- 
mew. The country around was pleasingly diversified 
with swelling grounds covered with stately trees, par- 
ticularly with the tamarind and mango; Dr. Buchanan 
measured one of the latter, and found it, at the height 
of his shoulder from the ground, twelve feet in cir- 
cumference: some of the tamarind and pipal trees 
seemed still larger. 

Many of the rising grounds were planted 
withindigo, but the natives suffer the hills, for the 
most part, to remain uncultivated, and only plough 
the rich levels: they everywhere burn the rank grass 
once a year to improve the pasture. We saw many 
people at labour. The soil is a fine mould, and would 
produce abundant crops in proper hands; but the 
Birmans will not take much pains; they leave half the 
work to nature, which has been very bountiful to 
them. Their thirst for conquest does not seem to have 
enriched their country. 

In the morning, when we left Sirraipmew, the wind 
blew as usual from the southward with great violence. 
At noon we reached Meeaday, the personal estate of 
the Maywoon of Pegue, who is oftener called, from 
this place, Meeaday Praw, or Lord of Meeaday, than 
by his viceroy al titles. Here, in compliance with the 
wishes of the Maywoon, we proposed staying a few 

It is a mark of respect, and a distinction of rank, for 
a person journeying on the water to have houses built 
for his accommodation on the banks, at the places 
where he means to stop. When the king goes on the 
river, or travels by land, buildings of the royal order of 
architecture are erected wherever he is to halt. In the 
manner of constructing houses, whether temporary or 
lasting, strict observance is paid to the form, which is 
indicative of the rank of the occupant; nor dare any 
subject assume a mode of structure to which he is not 
legally entitled- the distinction consists chiefly in the 
number of stages of which the roof is composed. The 
subordination of rank is maintained and marked by 
the Birmans with the most tenacious strictness, and 
not only houses, but even domestic implements, such 
as the beetle box, water flaggon, drinking cup, and 
horse furniture, all express and manifest, by shape 
and quaUty, the precise station of the owner; nor can 
one person intrude upon the rights of another, under 
penalty of Incurring a most severe punishment, which 
is never remitted. The Maywoon had obligingly given 
directions to have a house constructed on the bank for 
us, of the order appertaining to nobility, but of what 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


particular class 1 could not easily ascertain, and re- 
frained from minute inquiries, as it might appear fas- 
tidious, and give an unfavourable impression to those 
whom it was my inclination to conciliate. 

The materials of which these houses are made, are 
always easy to be procured; and the structure is so 
simple, that a spacious, and by no means uncomfort- 
able dwelling, suited to the climate, may be erected in 
one day. Our habitation, consisting of three small 
rooms, and a hall open to the north, in little more than 
four hours was in readiness for our reception: fifty or 
sixty labourers completed it in that time, and, on 
emergency, could perform the work in much less. 
Bamboos, grass for thatching, and the ground rattan, 
are all the materials requisite; not a nail is used in the 
whole edifice: a row of strong bamboos, from eight to 
ten feet high, are fixed firm in the ground, which de- 
scribe the outline, and are the supporters of the build- 
ing; smaller bamboos are then tied horizontally by 
strips of the ground rattan, to these upright posts; the 
walls, composed of bamboo mats, are fastened to the 
sides, with similar ligatures; bamboo rafters are 
quickly raised, and a roof formed, over which thatch is 
spread in regular layers, and bound to the roof by 
filaments of rattan; a floor of bamboo grating is next 
laid in the inside, elevated two or three feet above the 
ground; this grating is supported on bamboos, and 
covered with mats and carpets: thus ends the process, 
which is not more simple than effectual. When the 
workmen take pains, a house of this sort is proof 
against very inclement weather. We experienced, dur- 
ing our stay at Meeaday, a severe storm of wind and 
rain, but no water penetrated, or thatch escaped, and 
if the tempest should blow down the house, the in- 
habitants would run no risk of having their brains 
knocked out, or their bones broken: the fall of the 
whole fabric would not crush a lady's lap-dog. 

Having got possession of our dwelling, Mr. Wood, 
Dr. Buchanan, and myself, took a walk to view the 
town and adjacent country: our boats had brought to 
at the southern extremity of Meeaday. It is a place of 
no great magnitude, but extremely neat: there are two 
principal streets, and at the north end of the present 
town are to be seen the ruins of a brick fort, which, 
like all other forts of masonry in the Birman empire, is 
in a state of dilapidation. At a short distance there is a 
pleasant river which flows through a fertile plain af- 
fording some rich pasture-ground; and interspersed 
with plantations of tobacco. On the south and south- 
east sides, the town is inclosed by a deep ravine, the 
banks of which are cut perpendicular, and the remains 
of an old brick wall were discoverable, which was 
probably a defence to the former suburb. We observed 
many small temples and convents apart from the 
town, situated in groves of mango, tamarind, and pi- 
pal trees of uncommon statehness and beauty. The 
Maywoon had a residence here, also a pleasure house 

and beetle garden at some distance. Notwithstanding 
his manners were still very formal, and evidently de- 
sirous of little personal intercourse, he continued in- 
variably attentive, and daily sent me such presents as 
he thought would be acceptable, such as fruit, fish, 
and milk. Although it is sinful, according to the Bir- 
man tenets, to deprive any being of life to satisfy a 
carnivorous appetite, yet the inhabitants do not scru- 
ple to kill game of all kinds, and abstain only from 
domestic animals; even in this they often relax, and 
always grant a most liberal indulgence to strangers. I 
was allowed to send my Portugueze servant to the 
neighbouring villages to purchase fowls, which we got 
very good, and sometimes were able to procure kids. 
The Birman farmers do not breed sheep, goats giving 
so much more milk. It was privately intimated to me, 
that there would be no crime if a servant of mine 
should shoot a fat bullock when he met one; that it 
would be ascribed to accident, and 1 might make repa- 
ration to the owner, who would think himself amply 
recompensed for his loss by two tackals, about six shil- 
lings; and the beast being dead, there could be no sin 
in eating it; but that a public sanction could not previ- 
ously be given to slaughter one. I declined supplying 
our table by this evasive logic, and preferred the want 
of beef to the risk of giving offence, and wounding the 
feelings of people who omitted no opportunity to 
manifest towards us hospitality and kindness. 

North of the town about a mile, there is a good deal 
of cultivation, chiefly of rice; the fields were well laid 
down, and fenced. This quarter is beautifully wooded, 
and diversified with rising grounds. We observed 
many cart-roads and pathways leading into the coun- 
try in various directions. The soil is composed of clay 
and sand, and in some places is very stony, particu- 
larly near the river. 

Early on the 14th the Maywoon politely sent us an 
invitation to accompany him on the same evening to 
his garden-house; 1 was not well, and excused myself; 
Mr. Wood was otherwise engaged, but the Doctor un- 
dertook to represent us. The Maywoon supplied him 
with a horse for his conveyance, and rode himself, 
they crossed the small river beforementloned, and 
traversed a country partly cultivated, and partly 
wooded: the road was indifferent, and led through 
two very neat villages. They also passed several strag- 
gling houses, which, considered as country cottages, 
were extremely comfortable. In their way they saw a 
caravan of waggons, which had come from a great dis- 
tance, loaded with goods of different sorts for traffic. 
The inhabitants in many places were employed in 
clearing the ground, and burning the long grass and 
brushwood. On arriving at the garden, about five 
miles distant, the Maywoon and his company, among 
whom the Doctor was the most distinguished, were 
regaled with tea and sweetmeats, and returned late in 
the evening nearly by the same road. 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

In the course of our walks, not the least curious ob- 
ject that presented itself was a flat stone, of a coarse 
gray granite, laid horizontally on a pedestal of ma- 
sonry, six feet in length, and three wide, protected 
from the weather by a wooden shed. This stone, like 
that at Pouoodang, was said to bear the genuine print 
of the foot of Gaudma; and we were informed that a 
similar impression is to be seen on a large rock situ- 
ated between two hills, one day's journey west of 
Memboo. On the plane of the foot upwards of one 
hundred emblematical figures are engraven in sepa- 
rate compartments: two convoluted serpents are 
pressed beneath the heel, and five conch shells, with 
the involutions to the right, form the toes: it was ex- 
plained to me as a type of the creation, and was held 
in profound reverence. There is said to be a similar 
impression on a rock (See Baldaeus; also Knox's His- 
torical Relation of Ceylon) on Adam's Peak, in the island 
of Ceylon; and it is traditionally believed, both by the 
Birmans, the Siamese, and the Cingaleze, that Gaudma 
or Boodh, placed one foot on the continent, and the 
other on the island of Ceylon. The neighbouring Rha- 
haans had no objection to my painter's taking a copy 
of it, a task that he performed with great exactness. i"* 

On our return, we met a caravan of waggons travel- 
ling from the southern country towards the capital, 
eighteen in number; these vehicles were well con- 
structed, and more commodious and neat than the 
clumsy gawries or carts of India. Each waggon was 
drawn by six bullocks, and several spare ones fol- 
lowed, to supply the place of any that might fall sick 
or lame. A good tilted roof of bamboo, covered with 
painted cloth, threw off the rain. They contained not 
only merchandize, but also entire families, the wives, 
children, monkies, cats, parroquets, and all the 
worldly substance of the waggoner. Each bullock had 
a bell under his throat. The wheels not being greased, 
a horrid noise announced the approach of the caravan 
long before it could be seen. They travel slowly, from 
ten to fifteen miles a day. At night the waggons are 
disposed in a circle, and form a barrier, within which, 
the carriers feed their cattle, hght fires, and dress their 
victuals, secure from the attacks of tigers, which much 
infest the less populous parts of the empire. 

We remained at Meeaday until the 22"'' of June. 
During our stay 1 made short excursions to different 
parts of the country, and found Uttle variation in its 
appearance; it was very beautiful, though but half cul- 
tivated, and 1 was everywhere treated with respect. 
The news of the mission had reached the place before 
we arrived, and excited a general curiosity to see the 
Boomien of the Golars, or the general of the strangers, 
as they were pleased to denominate me. Not only the 

Original footnote: Annexed is a plate of the impression, to 
enable the learned antiquary to compare this curious symbolic 
representation, with the sacred hieroglyphics of the ancient Egyp- 
tians, [refers to original text-M.W.C.]. 

better class of the inhabitants of Meeaday came to visit 
us, but likewise people of condition from all the towns 
and villages twenty miles round: I have sometimes 
received eight or ten different companies in a morn- 
ing. When a party wished to be introduced, a message 
was sent to ask permission, which being obtained, 
they entered the room in a crouching position, and sat 
down on their heels, men and women aUke; they al- 
ways brought a gift of something, whatever they sup- 
posed might be acceptable; tobacco, onions, fine rice, 
&c.: no company presented themselves empty 
handed; it would not have been respectful; of course 
their offerings drew from me a suitable return, such as 
fillets of Indian muslin to the women, and a Cossem- 
buzar silk handkerchief to the men. Several parties of 
women came unaccompanied by their husbands, or 
any of their male friends; and according to the notions 
entertained by them, there was nothing indecorous in 
it; they were unconscious of any thing but an innocent 
desire to gratify curiosity, and manifest respect; 
women of a better class were always accompanied by 
a train of female attendants, and, like the sex every 
where, were more hvely, good humoured, and in- 
quisitive than the men. 

Early on the 22d of June matters were arranged for 
the prosecution of our journey, and the fleet was in 
readiness to depart. The articles saved from the boat 
that had been wrecked below Peeing-ghee, were 
dried, our attendants, however, had suffered a mate- 
rial loss: but a serviceable boat had been provided for 
them in lieu of the one that was lost. At eleven o'clock 
we pushed off, the Maywoon leading the van: the day 
turned out tempestuous and gloomy, and the wind 
blew hard from the south. In a short time we passed 
Meealsah-gain, on the west, a large village at the foot 
of a fine swelling wooded lawn, ornamented with 
some neat temples. Our way through the water was 
very rapid, not less than five miles an hour, and at one 
time it blew so violently that we were obliged to make 
for the shore. The range of hills, which in our course 
this day approached nearest to the river, were covered 
with a blue mist. We passed some villages of no note: 
the country seemed populous, and herds of cattle 
were grazing on the banks. About seven o'clock we 
brought to for the night on the west side. 

At seven in the morning, after a night of unremit- 
ting rain, we left an uncomfortable situation, and 
sailed till we came to an extensive island, which di- 
vided the river into two branches; we took the eastern 
side, and on account of the inclemency of the weather, 
brought to at the lower town of Loonghee, opposite 
the south extremity of the island. The width of the 
stream between the main land and the island is about 
five hundred yards. In the afternoon the rain ceased, 
but the wind continued. Dr. Buchanan and 1 walked to 
a convent of Rhahaans, that seemed to be of more than 
ordinary note: we found it a good building, and as- 

SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


cending a night of steps took the liberty of entering 
without ceremony. The neatness of the inside corre- 
sponded with the external appearance: a number of 
Gaudmas, richly gilt, and of various sizes, were 
ranged on a bench to receive the adorations of the pi- 
ous. It was the eighth day of the moon, which is the 
Birman sabbath, and several persons were sauntering 
up and down, waiting for the hour of prayer. The su- 
perior, a man advanced in years, was sitting on his 
elevated seat when we went in: he expressed much 
surprise at our appearance and dress, but was ex- 
tremely civil: he presented me with a scroll, written 
with a stylus on a papyrus leaf, which, he said, con- 
tained a sacred exhortation, and requested I would 
preserve it in remembrance of Shoedagonga Seredaw, 
which, it seems, was his title. He asked why the Doc- 
tor did not wear a scarlet dress like mine, and being 
informed of his profession, begged a prescription for a 
sore throat, which almost hindered him from articulat- 
ing. The Doctor promised to send him a gargle, and 
we took our leave. 

The infant son of the Maywoon had been unwell for 
some time, and his illness had now increased to a 
dangerous height: the anxious parent sent Baba-Sheen 
to me to intimate his desire of remaining where we 
were until his child grew better, the tempestuousness 
of the weather agitating the boat so much, that he was 
afraid it might increase the fever. I had no scruple in 
indulging so natural a wish, and as the spot we were 
in was much exposed, and had many disadvantages, 
we moved to a more commodious situation, two miles 
higher up, opposite the north end of the island. A war- 
boat was dispatched express to the capital to bring 
down medicine, and a celebrated professor of physic; 
in the mean time all the physicians of the country, to 
the number of twenty, were assembled, to consult and 
prescribe for the sick infant. 

Loonghee, or Great Cable, takes its name from the 
following circumstance: a curious ligament of stone 
unites a pointed rock, which rises in the middle of the 
stream, with the opposite bank; it has the appearance 
of a petrified cable, and the natives relate, that one 
hundred years ago a large rope, floating down the 
river, ceased its course at this place, and that one end 
adhering to the rock, and the other to the bank, the 
rope was changed into stone. They also say that the 
opposite island formerly constituted a part of one, 
situated fifteen miles higher up, but was severed from 
it by an earthquake, and carried down to the place 
where it now rests. The quality which the waters of 
the Irrawaddy possess of changing wood into stone, of 
which we afterwards saw innumerable instances, ren- 
ders the transmutation of the cable by no means an 
impossible circumstance. The Birmans, however, are 
deeply tainted with that creduhty which ignorance is 
ever disposed to pay, to tales of faction and to miracu- 
lous events. 

Whether removed by an extraordinary convulsion 
of nature, and by a still more extraordinary transpor- 
tation, or whether encircled by the river from the dis- 
position that all large streams flowing through a level 
country have to change their channel; whatever may 
have been the cause, the island now constitutes a prin- 
cipal object in one of the finest sylvan scenes 1 ever 
beheld. From a temple above Loonghee, that stands by 
the river side, on a commanding cliff whose summit 
overhangs its base, the eye is gratified by a most de- 
lightful combination of natural beauties: a fine sheet of 
water three miles in breadth, broken by an Island 
about a mile long, and half a mile wide, covered with 
trees of luxuriant fohage; eminences on the opposite 
shore, that rise from gently swelling grounds clothed 
in wood, to brown and rugged mountains, which, re- 
ceding in an oblique direction, leave to the view a long 
and level plain: these altogether form a landscape 
which 1 never saw equalled, and, perhaps, is not to be 

How much I regretted that my draftsman, though 
skilful in copying figures and making botanical draw- 
ings, was unacquainted with landscape painting and 
perspective, and that not one of ourselves possessed 
any knowledge of that dehghtful art. Had Mr. Daniel, 
in his Oriental Travels, visited this part of the world, 
the view from Loonghee would have stood conspicu- 
ous among those faithful and excellent representations 
by which he has locally introduced India into Eng- 
land, and familiarized the European eye to the rich 
scenery of the East. We continued at this charming 
place [Longhee] until the 2d of July, when the child of 
the Maywoon, notwithstanding the prescriptions of 
twenty doctors, was declared out of danger. So long as 
recovery continued doubtful, 1 sent the Hindoo Pundit 
every morning to enquire after his health: this atten- 
tion was taken in good part, and the Pundit obtained 
the honour of being introduced into the sick chamber, 
where he witnessed the most amiable demonstrations 
of parental tenderness: both the father and mother 
were kneeling by the side of the infant's bed, and at- 
tended on him themselves day and night. The disor- 
der proved to be an inflammatory fever, and their 
treatment of it was perfectly simple: tea made of wild 
thyme, and decoctions of several vegetable produc- 
tions, were the only medicines administered; the rest 
was left to nature, who accomplished her part. They 
did not, however, neglect to call in the aid of super- 
natural remedies; incantations were used, and amulets 
applied, to the efficacy of which much was attributed. 
Whatever might have been the cause, the recovery of 
the child afforded very general satisfaction; every 
body seemed to feel an interest in his fate. 

We made several short excursions during our con- 
tinuance at Loonghee; the country to the southward 
was well cultivated, and the fields inclosed by strong 
hedges of thorn: the soil is hght and sandy, with many 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

loose stones; the ground, for the most part, uneven, 
and rising into gentle acclivities. There were several 
neat villages, within the distance of two or three miles; 
a deep ravine, formed by the monsoon rains, extended 
inland from the river, the banks of which were cov- 
ered with stunted trees. Dr. Buchanan, in following its 
course, perceived in the sand the fresh tracks of a ti- 
ger, and prudently returned. On enquiring I under- 
stood that the adjacent woods contained many of 
these destructive beasts, who frequently at night come 
down the bed of the water-course to quench their 
thirst at the river. 1 went the next day with the Doctor 
and an armed party to the place, and plainly traced in 
the sand the footsteps of two tigers, a large and a 
small one; this discovery rendered us cautious of pur- 
suing game into the forests. We found partridges, 
hares, quails, and wood pigeons, in the open fields, 
but the jungle-fowl, or wild poultry, kept close in the 
thick coverts, where we heard the cocks crow, but did 
not dare to venture after them. We saw on the island, 
which is a very romantic spot, a few deer, and three 
buffaloes; the former were extremely wild; we fired at 
them without success, but were more fortunate in kill- 
ing a number of pigeons of a beautiful plumage, and 
excellent to eat. 

The cattle used for tillage and draft in this part of 
the country are remarkably good; they put only a pair 
in the plough, which differs little from the plough of 
India, and turns up the soil very superficially. In their 
large carts they yoke four, and often six: walking out 
one day 1 met a waggon drawn by four stout oxen, 
going at a hand gallop, and driven by a country girl 
standing up in her vehicle, who seemed to manage the 
reins and a long whip with equal ease and dexterity: 
this was a novel sight to a person accustomed to the 
slow moving machines of India, in which the women 
are almost too timorous to ride, much less to attempt 
to guide. 

The soil in the neighbourhood of Loonghee is very 
favourable for the cultivation of cotton; we saw many 
fields planted with it, in which the shrub was growing 
strong and healthy. In one field a man was sowing 
sesamum: the light dry grains answer here better than 
rice, which thrives only in low and moist grounds. 

My Portugueze servant Pauntchoo, whom 1 had 
dispatched along with a Birman, in quest of fowls and 
kids, was absent for three days, a circumstance that 
gave rise to some uneasiness on his account, from the 
fear of his having been devoured by tigers: he, how- 
ever, returned safe, and informed me that he had been 
to a town nine leagues distant, and in his way passed 
through several villages, and a country thickly inhab- 
ited. When he had concluded his bargain, he procured 
a small cart to carry his purchase to Loonghee, and 
could not prevail on the owner to accept of any thing 
more than a Cossembuzar silk handkerchief. AU the 
manufactures of India are highly prized by the Bir- 

mans, although many articles are not at all superior to 
what they make themselves. Pauntchoo also reported, 
that there was a well frequented road leading to the 
city of Tongho, which was distant fifteen days jour- 
ney, the capital of a rich and populous province that 
bears the same name, and is governed by one of the 
King's sons, who takes his title from it, being called 
Tongho Teekien, or Prince of Tongho; he added that 
its inhabitants excelled in the manufacture of cotton 
cloth, and their country produced the best beetle nut 
in the empire, a luxury in which Birmans of all ranks 
indulge so freely, that it is become with them almost a 
necessary of Ufe. In one of Pauntchoo's expeditions 
across the river he met with a village inhabited by 
Kayns, a race of mountaineers perfectly distinct from 
the Carianers, and speaking a language differing radi- 
cally both from theirs and that of the Birmans. They 
were originally inhabitants of the Arracan mountains, 
whom the Birmans, since their conquest of that king- 
dom, have prevailed on, partly by force, and partly by 
mild treatment, to abandon their native hills, and set- 
tle on the plain. There are several small societies of 
these people established near the foot of the moun- 
tains farther north. The Carianers are not to be found 
higher up than the city of Prome. 

Every thing was now in readiness for us to take our 
next departure, and the first of July was fixed upon to 
leave Loonghee. On the morning of the 29th of June 
we were surprised by an unexpected visit from the 
Portugueze Shawbunder of Rangoon, who has already 
been mentioned as having been at Ummerapoora, the 
capital, at the time of our first arrival. He had been 
ordered down from court to meet the deputation, and 
came with all the pomp that his station would allow 
him to display; his barge was profusely decorated 
with colours, and his boatmen were dressed in uni- 
form. On landing, he first paid his comphments to the 
Maywoon, and afterwards waited on me at my boat. 

The appearance of this naturalized Portugueze was 
calculated rather to excite laughter than respect: he 
wore a long tunic of old velvet, decorated with tar- 
nished gold lace, and on his head a broad brimmed 
hat flapped, bound also with gold. He spoke the lan- 
guage of Hindostan imperfectly, but well enough to 
make himself understood. After an awkward saluta- 
tion, half in the Birman, half in the European manner, 
he informed me that he had been sent by an order 
from the Lotoo, or Grand Council, to meet the English 
deputation, and to acquaint me that his Majesty had 
been pleased to direct that three officers of distin- 
guished rank should proceed to Pagahm-mew, a city 
seven days journey below Ummerapoora, to wait our 
arrival, and escort us to the capital. The King, he ob- 
served, had done me the extraordinary honour to send 
a royal barge for my personal accommodation, with 
two war-boats to tow it: this was considered as a nat- 
tering mark of his Majesty's good inclination, and we 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


drew from it a favourable omen. To have our barge 
drawn by war-boats was an honorary privilege 
granted only to persons of the first consequence; it is 
grounded on the idea, that it is inconsistent with the 
dignity of a man of high rank to be in the same boat 
with people of such mean condition as common wa- 
termen; it is a singular refinement, and furnishes an 
additional instance of the characteristic pride of the 
nation. The Shawbunder displayed great shrewdness 
in his conversation. He asked me several questions 
respecting the powers with which 1 was invested; and 
as the visit might in some degree be considered as of- 
ficial, I in part gratified his curiosity, by explaining in 
general terms the nature of the mission, and the capac- 
ity in which I expected to be received, with at aU dis- 
closing the specific objects I had in view. 

Chapter X 

The Shawbunder left Loonghee on the first of July, to 
announce our approach to the Burmese officers, who 
were already arrived at Pagahm: we postponed our 
departure until the following day, and at seven in the 
morning quitted this pleasing and rural place. In our 
journey we passed many towns and villages; some- 
times we went swiftly through the water, at others we 
were stationary, and even lost ground, as the wind 
frequently subsided, and the stream was very rapid. 
The range of Aracan mountains appeared to recede 
westward, and about three o'clock we came to a large 
island formed by separate arms of the river; there was 
a pyramidical temple on it, called Keendoo Praw, and 
several smaller ones raised on a high terrace. 1 esti- 
mated the extent of the island to be two miles: at the 
upper end we crossed the river, and stopped a mile 
above Meegheoung-yay, at past seven in the evening. 

Meegheoung-yay, or Crocodile Town, is a place of 
much trade and importance; there were not less than 
one hundred large boats, and several smaller ones, 
lying at different stairs, which, my people said, were 
taking on board rice. Onions, garUc, and oil, for the 
consumption of the capital. It stands on a very high 
bank, and has fewer rehgious buildings than any town 
we had seen of equal magnitude. Dr. Buchanan went 
on shore at daybreak, and observed in his walk some 
neat farms, each of them containing four or five cot- 
tages, better built than houses in towns usually are: 
they were fenced round with wide inclosures to re- 
ceive the cattle, of which there was great abundance. 
The fields were divided by thorn hedges; the low 
grounds prepared for rice, and the higher planted 
with leguminous shrubs, or left for pasture. 

Early on the 3d we passed Meeinyah: between that 
and Patanagoh, on the eastern shore, there was a slop- 
ing bank planted with indigo, which was then ripe, 
and the villagers were cutting it. Melloon, on the west 
side, seemed rich in temples, but the town was no way 

distinguished. Patanagoh had only one temple, which 
was splendidly gilded; it is a long straggling village, 
and every house had a comfortable garden, enclosed 
by a bamboo railing, with orchards of palmyra, plan- 
tain, and mango trees; here, likewise, were many boats 
of burthen waiting to receive a cargo. Numerous vil- 
lages were scattered along the banks, which, as the 
wind blew strong, and we were obliged to keep in the 
middle of the river, there was no opportunity of exam- 
ining. This day we passed some sandy islands, and 
brought to early in the evening, on the eastern side, 
between the towns of Magway and Spanzeik. I took a 
walk before tea, and could discover little cultivation in 
the vicinity of the river: the land was stony, and cov- 
ered with low thorn trees, in which we saw jungle- 
fowl, and other game. Herds of young cattle were 
grazing among the thickets: we crossed some cart 
roads, and met several peasants. 

At daybreak next morning, we set sail with a fair 
and steady wind, by the force of which the fleet 
stemmed a strong current. Low woody hills skirted 
the river, particularly on the eastern side; on the 
summits of some of these hiUs temples were raised, 
and one on the western bank, called Maynbu, ap- 
peared to be considerable. The river, except where it 
was interrupted by islands, could not be less than two 
miles across. We passed a village named Shoe-Lee- 
Rua, or Golden-boat Village, from its being inhabited 
by watermen in the service of the King, whose boats, 
as well as every tiling else belonging to the Sovereign, 
have always the addition of shoe, or golden, annexed 
to them; even his Majesty's person is never mentioned 
but in conjunction with this precious metal. When a 
subject means to affirm that the King has heard any 
thing, he says, " It has reached the golden ears;" he 
who has obtained admission to the royal presence, has 
been at the golden feet; the perfume of otta of roses, a 
nobleman observed one day, "was an odour grateful 
to the golden nose." Gold, among the Birmans, is the 
type of excellence: although highly valued, it is not 
used for coin in the country; it is employed sometimes 
in ornaments for the women, and in utensils and ear- 
rings for the men; but the greatest quantity is ex- 
pended in gilding their temples, in which vast sums 
are continually lavished. 

The Birmans present the substance to their gods, 
and ascribe its qualities to their king. After passing 
various sands and villages, we got to Yaynangheoum, 
or Earth-oil (petroleum) Creek, about two hours past 
noon. The country now displayed an aspect differing 
from any we had yet seen; the surface was broken into 
small separate hills, entirely barren, and destitute of 
vegetation, except some stunted bushes that grew on 
the declivities, and in the dells, and a few unhealthy 
trees immediately in the neighbourhood of the vil- 
lages: the clay was discoloured, and had the appear- 
ance of red ochre. We were informed that the cele- 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

brated wells of petroleum, which supply the whole 
empire, and many parts of India, with that useful 
product, were five miles to the east of this place. The 
Seree brought me a piece of stone, which he assured 
me was petrified wood, and which certainly had much 
the appearance of it. In walking about, 1 picked up 
several lumps of the same, in which the grain of the 
wood was plainly discernible; it was hard, silicious, 
and seemed composed of different lamina. The Bir- 
mans said it was the nature of the soil that caused this 
transmutation, and added that the petrifying quality 
of the earth at this place was such, that leaves of trees 
shaken off by the wind, were not unfrequently 
changed into stone before they could be decayed by 
time. The face of the country was altered, and the 
banks of the river were totally barren; the ground was 
superficially covered with quartz gravel, and con- 
creted masses of the same material were thickly scat- 
tered. The mouth of the creek was crowded with large 
boats waiting to receive a lading of oil, and immense 
pyramids of earthen jars were raised within and 
round the village, disposed in the same manner as 
shot and shells are piled in an arsenal. This place is 
inhabited only by potters who carry on an extensive 
manufactory, and find full employment. The smell of 
the oil was extremely offensive; we saw several thou- 
sand jars filled with it ranged along the bank; some of 
these were continually breaking, and the contents, 
mingling with the sand, formed a very filthy consis- 
tence. Mr. Wood had the curiosity to walk to the wells, 
but though 1 felt the same desire, 1 thought it prudent 
to postpone visiting them until my return, when 1 was 
likely to have more leisure, and to be less the object of 

At seven in the morning, on the 5th of July, we left 
the neighbourhood of Earth-oil Wells. .After passing 
Pengkloum, where a small river unites with the Ir- 
rawaddy, the face of the country resumed its verdant 
appearance, and the trees shot up with their usual 
vigour. The bed of the river, from bank to bank, was 
very wide; we judged it to be four miles, but the 
stream being divided into different channels, formed 
low intermediate islands of sand, which are covered 
when the waters attain their utmost height. On the left 
we saw the town of Sembewghewn, from whence 
there is a road that leads through the western hills into 
Arracan, which is accounted much the least difficult 
passage: this is the place to which all Bengal articles of 
merchandize imported by way of Arracan are 
brought, and are here embarked on the Irrawaddy. 
Shortly after, we saw a large town on the eastern side, 
with several neat temples; it was called Pakang-yay: 
lofty palmyra, the tamarind, and banyan trees, spread 
a pleasant shade around it; here also were some heavy 
trading boats. The western shore seemed rich and 
level; we brought to about six in the afternoon, a little 
below SUlah-mew, a large town remarkable for its 

manufactories of silk. The fleet had not long been 
moored when the retail merchants nocked down to 
the water side to dispose of their wares; they carried 
in lackered boxes pieces of silken cloth, and of silk and 
cotton mixed, which they offered for sale at what 1 
considered a very high price. 1 was asked fifteen 
tackal, about £2. sterling, for a piece, of moderate fine- 
ness, five yards long, and barely one yard wide: they 
were mostly woven in patterns adapted to the Birman 
dress. The silk, of which these goods are made, comes 
from Yunan, the south-west province of China: it is 
brought from Ummerapoora to this place in a raw 
state, and is returned in the web. The colours are 
bright and beautiful, but do not appear to be durable; 
the texture is close and strong; it wears, 1 was in- 
formed, much longer than any China or Indian manu- 

Sillah-mew is a handsome town, shaded by wide 
spreading trees, and embellished with several tem- 
ples. A smooth bank sloping to the river, and clothed 
with the finest verdure, adds much to its beauty. The 
soil in general is but poor; some fields were regularly 
fenced, and cattle in large herds were grazing in the 
neighbourhood. Dr. Buchanan informed me that he 
saw the crotalaria juncea growing spontaneously, 
which would yield good hemp or flax. 

On the sixth of July we made but little way, the cur- 
rent was violent, and the wind not strong enough to 
enable us to stem it; we were obliged to have recourse 
to poles, and were pushed forward with excessive la- 
bour by the boatmen; in one place where an island 
contracted the stream, we sent out an anchor a-head in 
a small cutter, and hauled on it by a hawser. The Ar- 
racan mountains appeared to the west, and a con- 
spicuous hiU, lofty, and of a conical form, called 
Poupa, was in sight to the eastward: a few villages, 
and many temples., skirted the banks. In the afternoon 
the fleet made fast to the eastern shore; there was nei- 
ther town nor village nigh; it was about four miles be- 
low Seenghoo, and though we saw httle cultivation 
there were several herds of cattle. Dr. Buchanan, 
whose ardour for botanical researches often made me 
apprehensive for his safety, in wandering through the 
thickets in quest of plants, heard the report of a mus- 
ket at a distance; on his approach to the spot, he found 
some peasants about to skin a bullock that had just 
been killed by a tiger: the shot had caused the animal 
to abandon his prey, and in its retreat it most fortu- 
nately took another way from that which the Doctor 
came. This was not the only time that his thirst after 
knowledge, and reliance upon his gun, led him into 
danger. A musket is a very precarious defence against 
the sudden assault of the most ferocious and terrible 
of all animals. 

Whilst we were at tea, the Seree informed us, that 
further on there is a small river which enters the Ir- 
rawaddy at a place called Yoo-wa, and that two days 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


journey up this river is a large town called Yoo-miou; 
he observed also, that an extensive tract of country is 
inhabited by a people called Yoo,whom he repre- 
sented as exceedingly ugly, having protuberant bel- 
lies, and white teeth. The Birmans, both men and 
women, colour their teeth, their eyelashes, and the 
edges of their eyehds, with black. ^^^ The Yoos are sub- 
jects of the Birman state, and observe the same relig- 
ious worship; they speak the language of Tavay, 
which is nothing more than a provincial dialect of the 
Birman tongue. 

We left our nightly station at the customary hour, 
and favoured by a fair breeze, sailed through a coun- 
try diversified by small barren hiUs, on which there 
was little vegetation, and by green fertile valleys, cul- 
tivated, and laid out in farms. The petrifactions, like 
those we found at Yaynangheoum, were frequent 
here: indigo was growing in one of the valleys. About 
twelve o'clock we came to a rocky point that projected 
far into the river, round which the current set with 
such excessive rapidity, that our boats were a long 
time in getting past, and did not at length effect it 
without difficulty and some danger. The Maywoon 
obligingly sent his war-boats to our assistance. After 
we had surmounted this impediment, we came to a 
green level bank, where there was a wide range of 
pasturage, and many cattle feeding. Seenghoo is a 
large town; in its neighbourhood, and for a great dis- 
tance along the eastern bank, small temples were built 
close to the river. We did not make much way in this 
day's journey, although our labour was great. In the 
evening we brought to near Keahoh, a poor village, 
where the inhabitants get their hvelihood by extract- 
ing molasses from the palmyra tree, of which they 
make tolerably good sugar. 

Although the soil near the river is in most places 
unproductive and barren, yet, as we advanced north- 
wards on the following day, population increased. 
Every little hill and rising ground was crowned with a 
temple; that of Logah-nunda is distinguished for its 
superior size; it is a clumsy inelegant mass of building, 
elevated on a semicircular terrace; the base is painted 
with different colours, and the cupola is richly gilded. 
Leaving the temple of Logah-nundah, we approached 
the once magnificent city of Pagahm. We could see 
little more from the river than a few straggling houses, 
which bore the appearance of having once been a con- 
nected street; in fact, scarcely any thing remains of an- 
cient Pagahm, except its numerous mouldering tem- 
ples, and the vestiges of an old brick fort, the ramparts 
of which are still to be traced. The town of Neoundah, 
about four miles to the north, which may be called a 

^ Original footnote: This custom is not confined to the Bir- 
mans, particularly the operation of colouring the eyelashes; the 
women of Hindostan and Persia commonly practice it; they deem 
it beneficial, as well as becoming. The coUyrium they use is called 
Surma, the Persian name of antimony. 

continuation of Pagahm, has flourished in proportion 
as the latter has decayed. We passed a small river 
named, in the days of splendour, Shoe-kiaung, or the 
Golden Stream: here we spent a night, rendered un- 
pleasant by the stormy- weather. 

We reached Neoundah early on the 9th of July. At 
this place the deputation from the capital, which 1 had 
been apprized of by the Shawbunder, was waiting my 
arrival. The Seree informed me that a temporary 
house, which 1 saw on a clear piece of ground about 
one hundred yards from the brink, had been erected 
as a compliment to me; it was much larger than that 
which the Maywoon had prepared at Meeaday. Early 
in the afternoon 1 left my boat, and was received at the 
house by the Birman officers with every formal testi- 
mony of respect; on a part of the floor, elevated a few 
inches, a carpet was spread, on which 1 took my seat. 
The principal person of the deputation was a Woon- 
dock, or junior counsellor of state; the others were, the 
governor of a district called Miengdong, north of Ava, 
the governor of Pein-keing, bordering on China, and 
the commandant of the Siamese guards. The Woon- 
dock was a hvely man, about forty-five years old; the 
rest appeared of more advanced age, not less than 
sixty-five or seventy: they all wore the tsaloe, or chain 
of nobility. The Woondock, though from his station he 
had precedence of the rest, yet was not of such high 
rank as the two governors. The utmost decorum was 
preserved at this meeting; the Woondock spoke in the 
name of the others, and Baba-Sheen interpreted in the 
language of Hindostan. After pompously expatiating 
upon the honour which his Birman Majesty had been 
pleased to confer on me, by sending a deputation to 
welcome me, and a barge with war-boats to tow it, he 
asked some trivial questions, and offered his services 
to procure whatever we stood in need of. Having dis- 
coursed for a short time, a band of music and a com- 
pany of dancing girls were introduced; drums, gongs, 
the Indian syrinda, or guitar, the Birman harp, and 
fiddle, with loud and harsh clarionets, almost deaf- 
ened us with their noise. Among the dancers, one girl 
much excelled her companions in symmetry of form 
and elegance of movement; she was richly dressed, 
and in shewing the modes of dancing practised in dif- 
ferent countries, displayed a fine person to great ad- 
vantage. The manner of Cassay is most consonant to 
the English taste, in which the time varies suddenly 
from quick to slow. The entertainment, however, 
seemed entirely lost upon the elders, who sat in sol- 
emn insensibility, chewing their beetle nut, and re- 
garding with profound gravity the voluptuous atti- 
tudes of a very beautiful woman. The amusement did 
not end till past nine o'clock. 1 directed a few pieces of 
silver to be distributed among the musicians and 
dancers. The Birman officers retired without cere- 
mony, and we passed the night on board our respec- 
tive boats. 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

The next morning I was again visited in form, with 
the additional honour of the company of the 
Maywoon of Pegue, a compUment which, either from 
pride or pohcy, he had never before condescended to 
pay; the Woondock, however, was here his superior. 
We conversed for an hour on indifferent subjects, and 
the Maywoon informed his friends that Dr. Buchanan 
was a botanist, and had made several drawings of 
plants. On a wish being expressed to see them, the 
Doctor obligingly gratified their curiosity with a sight 
of some that had been executed by the Bengal painter, 
under his own inspection; these were instantly recog- 
nized by the Birmans, who mentioned the names of 
the originals; they are themselves fond of vegetable 
productions, which they use very generally in medi- 
cine. About eleven o'clock the assembly broke up, and 
it was settled that we should pursue our journey on 
the following day. 

The remaining time was spent in viewing as much 
of this once flourishing city, as the shortness of our 
stay would admit. On entering the town, we came into 
a long, narrow, winding street, about thirty feet wide; 
the houses were built of bamboo, and raised from the 
ground; this street was full of shops, containing no 
other articles than lackered ware: boxes, trays, cups, 
kc. varnished in a very neat manner, were displayed 
in the front of the shops; they were of various colours, 
some had figures painted on them, others wreaths of 
flowers. Leaving this street we crossed a water-course 
on a good wooden bridge, and came to the bazar, or 
provision market: the green-stalls seemed to be well 
provided with rice, pulse, greens, garlic, onions, and 
fruit; there were also fresh-fish, Gnapee, and dead liz- 
ards, which latter the Birmans account a delicacy; but 
there was not any meat. In our progress, we passed 
over another bridge, and saw several streets running 
in parallel lines; some of these were inhabited by car- 
riers, whose cattle were feeding on rice straw, round 
their houses. Having reached the extremity of the 
town in this direction, we came upon a well paved 
road, that led to the great temple named Shoezeegoon, 
to which we proceeded. On each side of the road there 
was a range of small temples, neglected and in ruins: 
the kioums, or monasteries, were in good repair, and 
we saw some handsome houses for the accommoda- 
tion of strangers. Shoezeegoon is neither so large nor 
so well built as the temples at Rangoon or Pegue; the 
height does not exceed 150 feet: it is surrounded by a 
spacious area paved with broad flags, on which there 
are a number of lesser buildings, profusely gilded, and 
laboriously carved. A staircase on the outside leads up 
to a gallery, about a third of the height of the principal 
temple, from whence we had an extensive prospect of 
the country, which appeared to be exceedingly un- 
productive and barren: the ruins of innumerable rehg- 
ious buildings were to be seen in every direction, 
which cover a space of ground not less than six or 

seven miles along the river, and three miles inland. 
Pagahm is said to have been the residence of forty -five 
successive monarchs, and was abandoned five hun- 
dred years ago in consequence of a divine admonition: 
whatever may be its true history, it certainly was once 
a place of no ordinary splendour. Returning by a dif- 
ferent way, we walked through an alley occupied by 
blacksmiths' shops, furnished with biU-hooks, spike- 
nails, adzes, &c. A little farther on we saw the ruins of 
a street that had been consumed by fire only two days 
before; from seventy to eighty houses were destroyed 
by the conflagration. It was the Tackally, and the suf- 
ferers were the already wretched, the miserable pubhc 

In the afternoon 1 directed my walk southward, and 
was much surprised at the number of religious edi- 
fices 1 beheld. They differ in structure from those we 
had seen in the lower provinces; instead of a slender 
spire rising to a great height from an expanded base, 
the temples of Pagahm, in general, carry up a heavy 
breadth to very near the top, and then come abruptly 
to a point, which gives a clumsy appearance to the 
buildings. Many of the most ancient temples at this 
place are not solid at the bottom; a well arched dome 
supports a ponderous superstructure; within, an im- 
age of Gaudma sits enshrined; four gothic doorways 
open into the dome; in one of these 1 saw a human 
figure standing erect, which the Seree^os told me, was 
Gaudma; and another of the same personage, lying on 
his right side asleep, both of gigantic stature. The di- 
vinity, however, is rarely to be found in these atti- 
tudes; the posture in which he is generally depictured, 
is sitting cross-legged on a pedestal, adorned with 
representations of the leaf of the sacred lotus carved 
upon the base; the left hand of the image rests upon 
his lap, and the right is pendent. Passing through the 
suburbs, we came to a part where the inhabitants were 
employed in expressing oil from the sesamum seed: 
the grain is put into a deep wooden trough, in which it 
is pressed by an upright timber fixed in a frame; the 
force is increased by a long lever, on the extremity of 
which a man sits and guides a bullock that moves in a 
circle, thus turning and pressing the seed at the same 
time: the machine was simple, and answered the end 
effectually. There were not less than two hundred of 
those mills within a narrow compass. From the cir- 
cumstance of the cattle being in good order, we con- 
cluded that they are fed on the seed after the oil is ex- 
tracted. The land about Pagahm scarcely yields suffi- 
cient vegetation to nourish goats. 

I suspect the authenticity of my information on this point, 
which, I imagine, proceeded from ignorance in the Seree. Of these 
figures, which he called Gaudma, I conceive the one erect to be the 
Hindoo Ananda, the other, Na-ra-yan, sleeping on the waters. 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


Chapter XI 

At nine o'clock in the morning of the 11* of July 1 took 
possession of the royal barge with ceremonious for- 
mality, accompanied by the Woondock and Baba- 
sheen. The platform on the outside contained space for 
thirty two rowers, sixteen on each side; but on this oc- 
casion the oars were not fastened, as it was meant to 
be drawn by war-boats: the inside was divided into 
three small apartments, handsomely fitted up; the roof 
and sides were lined with white cotton, and the floor 
covered with carpets and fine mats. 1 proceeded in this 
barge till one o'clock, and then returned to my own 
boat, which was a much more convenient, though less 
dignified conveyance. 

After leaving Neoundah, the eastern bank of the 
river rises to a perpendicular height, eighty or one 
hundred feet above the river. In the side of the cliff, 
rather more than half way up, we saw some apertures 
resembling doorways, and were told that they were 
entrances into caves which had formerly been inhab- 
ited by hermits, who, desirous of withdrawing from 
the world, had excavated these abodes with their own 
hands, and dwelt in them for the remainder of then- 
lives, preserving no farther intercourse with their fel- 
low creatures, than what was necessary to receive 
their food, which was lowered down to them by a 
rope. The Birmans do not inflict on themselves dis- 
gustful tortures, after the manner of the Hindoos, but 
they deem it meritorious to mortify the flesh by the 
voluntary penance of abstemiousness and self-denial. 
Solitary seclusion has, at some period or other, been 
accounted praiseworthy in most countries: during the 
reign of monkish superstition, it prevailed very com- 
monly throughout Europe: our legendary tales are not 
wholly unfounded: the Hermit of Warkworth is said 
to have had its origin from a fact. Birmans, however, 
though bigotted, are not gloomy, and are in general 
blessed with a disposition too cheerful to retire from 
the world in hopeless despondency, or sullen discon- 

Our journey this day was slow, and we perceived 
little that differed from what has already been de- 
scribed: the islands formed by the river were long, and 
succeeded each other with such small intervals, that 
the full breadth of the river, from bank to bank, sel- 
dom could be seen; we judged it to be in most places 
three miles wide: our boats kept near the eastern 
shore, and passed, on that side, the towns of Sir- 
raykioum and Gnerroutoh. During the latter part of 
the day, the country seemed fertile, and the soil richer 
than in the neighbourhood of Pagahm: the number of 
inhabitants and cattle denoted a considerable popula- 
tion. In the evening we brought to near Shwayedong, 
a small but neat town, containing about 300 houses, 
ranged in a regular street; each dwelling had a small 
garden, fenced with a bamboo railing. Two monaster- 

ies and a few small temples, did not claim particular 
notice, but the tall and wide-spreading trees that over- 
shadowed them, were objects of pleasing contempla- 

On the next day, July 12th, we continued our jour- 
ney, sometimes going fast, at others slow, and with 
difficulty, as the wind favoured us, the reaches of the 
river winding so much, that we had it on aU quarters. 
Keozee, on the eastern side, was the place of most 
consequence, and was ornamented with several neat 
temples. At half past five in the evening 1 went on 
shore, and found the adjacent country divided into 
fields, which, at a proper season, are cultivated; the 
remains of a tobacco plantation that had produced a 
crop in the former year, were yet lying on the ground: 
detached hills appeared to the eastward. We brought 
to, and spent the night near a small village called 
Toucheec, to the north of Yebbay. Here the inhabitants 
get their livelihood by selling Laepac, or pickled tea- 
leaf, of which the Birmans are extremely fond. The 
plant, 1 was informed, grows at a place called Palong- 
miou, a district to the north-east of Ummerapoora; it is 
very inferior to the tea produced in China, and is sel- 
dom used but as a pickle. 

On the following day we kept close to the eastern 
shore, and the breadth of the river being in most 
places from three to five miles, it was not easy mi- 
nutely to distinguish objects on the western bank. The 
country, as we advanced north, increased in popula- 
tion and improved in agriculture; the land everywhere 
indicated a deficiency of rain, being parched, and bro- 
ken into deep fissures, owing to the want of moisture. 
We understood the season had been remarkably dry; 
rain, however, was shortly expected. The river, not- 
withstanding the failure of the monsoon, continued to 
rise. We passed, on the eastern side, Kiouptaan, or the 
Line of Rocks, Tanoumdain, a respectable town, with 
several other towns and villages. In the evening we 
brought to at an island opposite Tirroup-mew, or Chi- 
nese City; there is a small district that bears the same 
name, called so in commemoration of a victory gained 
here over an army of Chinese that invaded the Birman 
empire some centuries ago, at the period when Pa- 
gahm was the seat of government, whence it appears 
that the Chinese have long considered this kingdom as 
a desirable conquest, and have made more than one 
fruitless attempt to accomplish its subjection. 

The next day we stopped five miles above Tirroup- 
mew, where the Keenduem mingles its waters with 
those of the Irrawaddy; this great river comes from the 
north-west, and divides the country of Cassay from 
that of Ava. The Birmans say that it has its source in a 
lake three months journey to the northward: it is navi- 
gable, as far as the Birman territories extend, for ves- 
sels of burthen. An intelligent man belonging to Dr. 
Buchanan's boat, informed him, that the most distant 
town, in the possession of the Birmans, on the Keen- 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

duem, was named Nakioung, and the first Shaan 
townio^ was called Thangdat. The entrance of the 
Keenduem, seemed somewhat less than a mile wide: 
the Irrawaddy, immediately above the junction, be- 
came much narrower; but 1 imagine a stream was con- 
cealed, and that what appeared to be the limits of the 
river was the bank of an island formed by another 

In the men who rowed the war-boats that accom- 
panied the barge from Ummerapoora, 1 had remarked 
features differing much from the other boat-men, and 
a softness of countenance that resembled more the 
Bengal than the Birman character of face; on enquiry 1 
learned that they were Cassayers, or the sons of Cas- 
sayers, who had been brought away from their native 
country, at times when the Birmans carried their 
predatory incursions across the Keenduem. Eastern 
invaders, who do not intend to occupy the territories 
they over-run, usually adopt the policy of conveying 
away the inhabitants, particularly children, whom 
they establish within their own dominions, and thus 
acquire additional strength by augmenting the num- 
ber of their subjects. This has been a practice of Asiatic 
warfare from time immemorial: the last contest of the 
English with Hyder Ally depopulated the Carnatic. 
Children, until they attain a certain age, may be trans- 
planted with safety, and will assimilate to any soil, but 
after arriving at the years of maturity, the most lenient 
treatment will hardly reconcile the human mind to 
coercive detention in a foreign country. The spot 
where a person has passed the tender years of life, the 
long remembered and impressive interval between 
infancy and manhood, be it where it may, is ever dear 
to him. I should willingly have conversed with the 
Cassay boat people respecting their nation, but my 
situation forbad me, either to gratify my own curios- 
ity, or sanction the enquiries of others. 

At ten o'clock we reached the town of Yandaboo, 
remarkable for its manufactories of earthen ware; and 
in the course of the day we passed many towns and 
villages, on each side, agreeably shaded by trees, par- 
ticularly by the palmyra and the tamarind. Early in the 
evening we brought to in a creek which leads up to a 
large town named Summei-kioum: after dinner Dr. 
Buchanan and myself took a walk along the margin of 
the creek, which carried us to the town by a wide cir- 
cuit: we found the houses, though numerous, mean, 
and very irregularly built; the grounds in the neigh- 
bourhood were embanked for the cultivation of rice. 
The soil appeared to be good, but the inhabitants ex- 
pressed the utmost anxiety on the subject of rain; not a 
drop had yet fallen here, although, in the common 

Original footnote: Shaan, or Shan, is a very comprehensive term 
given to different nations, some independent, others the subjects 
of the greater states: thus the Birmans frequently mention the 
Melap-Shaan, or Shaan subject to the Birmans, the Yoodra-Shaan, 
subject to the Siamese, the Cassay-Shaan, to the Cassayers. 

course of seasons, the monsoon should have com- 
menced three weeks earlier. The poor people were 
carefully husbanding their rice straw, for the support 
of their cattle, large herds of which were endeavour- 
ing to pick up a subsistence from the parched blades 
of grass, in fields that were covered with dust instead 
of verdure. The appearance of these animals bespoke 
excessive poverty if not actual famine. 

At Summei-kioum there is the greatest manufac- 
tory of saltpetre and gunpowder in the kingdom: here 
also is prepared the gunpowder that is required for 
the royal magazines; it is the sole occupation of the 
inhabitants. Neither saltpetre nor gunpowder are suf- 
fered to be exported under any plea, nor can the 
smallest quantity be sold without a special license 
from some man in power. 

Early in the morning we left the neighbourhood of 
gunpowder and saltpetre: temples and villages lined 
the banks so thickly that it would be tedious to enu- 
merate them. At nine o'clock 'we stopped at 
Gnameaghee, celebrated for producing the best to- 
bacco in the Birman empire; many brick kilns were on 
fire, preparing materials for building temples, of 
which there appeared to be already a sufficient num- 
ber. Pursuing our journey, we passed numerous is- 
lands; some of them were cultivated, and had houses, 
inhabitants, and trees. Towards evening the wind 
suddenly rose to a storm; Mr. Wood and myself 
reached Sandaht, or Elephant Village; Dr. Buchanan's 
boat could not make head against wind and stream, 
and dropped an anchor; perceiving his situation, I 
dispatched one of the war-boats to his aid, when the 
united efforts of both crews soon brought him in 
safety to the fleet. Sandaht is a small town which, to- 
gether with the lands adjacent, is occupied entirely by 
the elephant-keepers belonging to the royal stables. 
The King is the sole proprietor of all the elephants in 
his dominions, and the privilege to ride on, or keep 
one of these animals, is an honour granted only to 
men of the very first rank and consequence: his Bir- 
man Majesty is said to possess six thousand. In India, 
female elephants are prized beyond males, on account 
of their being more tractable; but in Ava it is the re- 
verse; females are never used on state occasions, and 
seldom for ordinary riding, which causes the other sex 
to be of much higher value; it however rarely happens 
that either one or the other is to be purchased, the 
King's exclusive right, and the limited use that is 
made of them, prevent their becoming an article of 
common sale. 

We set out at an early hour next morning; Meah- 
moo, on the western side, appeared from the water to 
be a large town, shaded by groves of palmyra trees; it 
is remarkable for a manufactory of coarse checkered 
cotton cloth, such as is worn by the lower class of 
people. Yapadain, a town on the eastern side, distin- 
guished by several temples, and a handsome monas- 

SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


tery. About twelve o'clock the Shawbunder, who, after 
the interview at Loonghee, had returned to Ava, again 
met us; he had travelled with great expedition, having 
been at court, and made his report: the present visit 
was a spontaneous act of civility: he possessed a small 
jaghire, or personal estate, in the neighbourhood, 
where he had prepared some refreshments, of which 
he requested 1 would stop to partake. 1 comphed with 
his desire, and accompanied him to a bower formed in 
a clump of bamboos, on the bank of the river, and 
shaded from the sun by an artificial awning of grass: 
here we found a profusion of fruits, milk, butter, and 
preserves, in dishes laid out on carpets; a company of 
dancing girls and musicians from a neighbouring vil- 
lage entertained us with their music and graces. I re- 
mained as short a time as was consistent with civility, 
and then pursued my voyage. We passed in our pro- 
gress several populous villages pleasantly situated, 
and adorned with well enclosed gardens and orchards 
of plantain, guava, and other fruit trees. At night we 
brought to at Kioup-taloum, where a large temple, 
surrounded by several small buildings, was the only 
object that merited particular attention. 

Next day we got under way at the customary hour, 
and made but slow progress, the wind heading us so 
far, that the square sails of the Birman boats could not 
keep full; oars and poles were plyed with vigour. The 
river, which, though it had not yet risen to its utmost 
periodical height, had overflowed its banks, filled all 
the water-courses, and inundated the low grounds 
adjacent to its bed. As the force of the current lay in 
the middle of the stream, in order to avoid its influ- 
ence we frequently navigated through fields, in which 
the tall grass and reeds appeared above the surface of 
the water, and the trees had their stems immersed be- 
neath the flood. 

The swelling of the Irrawaddy is not influenced by 
the quantity of rain which falls in the valUes, but by 
the torrents that rush down from the mountains. 
Notwithstanding the drought in the champaign coun- 
try had been greater this year than usual, the river was 
swollen to its regular height, which, 1 was informed, it 
rarely fell short of, or exceeded: indeed this part of the 
country is seldom refreshed by copious rains, but, like 
Egypt, depends on the overflowing of its river to fer- 
tilize the soil. The Irrawaddy, during the monsoon 
months, rises and subsides three or four times. As our 
distance from Ummerapoora diminished, towns and 
villages on each side recurred at such short intervals, 
that it was in vain to enquire the name of each distinct 
assemblage of houses; each, however had its name, 
and was for the most part inhabited by one particular 
class of people, professing some separate trade, or fol- 
lowing some peculiar occupation. We were shewn a 
tomb erected to the memory of a person of high dis- 
tinction, who had been accidentally drowned near that 
place fifteen years before; it was an oblong brick 

building, one story high, with eight or nine doors 
opening towards the river. Many beautiful temples 
and kioums would have engaged our attention, had 
we not already seen such numbers, and been assured 
that all we had viewed fell far short of those, which 
we should have an opportunity of beholding at the 
capital. We brought to late in the evening, at the lower 
landing place of what was once the city of Ava, and 
the metropolis of all the Birman empire. 

In the morning 1 took a hasty view of Aungwa, or 
Ava; it is divided into an upper and lower city, both of 
which are fortified; the lower, which is the most exten- 
sive, I judged to be about four miles in circumference; 
it is protected by a wall thirty feet high, at the foot of 
which there is a deep and broad fosse. The communi- 
cation between the fort and the country is over a 
mound of earth crossing the ditch, that supports a 
causeway; an embankment of earth in the inside sus- 
tains the wall; the upper or smaller fort, which may be 
called the citadel, and does not exceed a mile in cir- 
cuit, was much stronger, and more compact than the 
lower, but neither the upper nor the lower had a ditch 
on the side of the river. The walls are now mouldering 
into decay; ivy clings to the sides, and bushes, suf- 
fered to grow at the bottom, undermine the founda- 
tion, and have already caused large chasms in the dif- 
ferent faces of the fort. The materials of the houses, 
consisting chiefly of wood, had, on the first order for 
removing, been transported to the new city of Um- 
merapoora: but the ground, unless where it is covered 
with bushes, or rank grass, stiU retains traces of former 
buildings and streets. The lines of the royal palace, of 
the Lotoo, or grand council hall, the apartments of the 
women, and the spot on which the Plasath, or imperial 
spire, had stood, were pointed out to us by our guide. 
Clumps of bamboos, a few plantain trees, and tall 
thorns, occupy the greater part of the area of this 
lately flourishing capital. We observed two dwelling 
houses of brick and mortar, the roofs of which had 
fallen in; these, our guide said, had belonged to Co- 
lars, or foreigners: on entering one, we found it inhab- 
ited only by bats, which flew in our faces, whilst our 
sense of smelling was offended by their filth, and by 
the noisome mildew that hung upon the walls. Nu- 
merous temples, on which the Birmans never lay sac- 
rilegious hands, were dilapidating, by time. It is im- 
possible to draw a more striking picture of desolation 
and ruin.. 

Among the religious buildings within the fort, one 
named Shoegunga Praw, no ways distinguished for 
size or splendour, was in former times held peculiarly 
sacred, and is still reverenced above the rest. At the 
present day, when an officer of rank is about to enter 
on a great pubhc trust, or a new commander is ap- 
pointed to the army, the oath of allegiance is adminis- 
tered in this temple with great solemnity, a breach of 
which is considered the most heinous crime a Birman 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

can be guilty of, and is invariably punished by the se- 
verest tortures. How Shoegunga obtained this distinc- 
tion 1 was not able to learn. We were informed that a 
temple of much greater magnitude, named Logather- 
poo Praw, stood a short distance to the westward of 
the fort, in which was a colossal figure of Gaudma, 
formed out of a soUd block of marble. This temple and 
image we had a better opportunity of viewing on our 

Leaving Ava in our rear, the river bends again to 
the northward, when the opposite city of Chagain, 
and the spires, the turrets, and the lofty Pia-sath of 
Ummerapoora, create an unexpected pleasure, and 
exhibit a fine contrast to the gloomy and deserted 
walls of Ava. Chagain, on the north side, once, too, 
the seat of imperial residence, is situated partly at the 
foot, and partly on the side, of a rugged hill that is 
broken into separate eminences, and on the summit of 
each stands a spiral temple; these temples, rising ir- 
regularly one above another to the top of the moun- 
tain, form a beautiful assemblage of objects, the effect 
of which is increased by their being carefully white- 
washed, and kept in repair. As we sailed near the op- 
posite shore, the sun shone full upon the hill, and its 
reflected rays displayed the scenery to the highest ad- 
vantage; in addition to this, the swollen state of the 
river gave to the waters, the semblance of a vast lake, 
interspersed with islands, in which the foundations of 
Ummerapoora seemed to be immersed. Numberless 
boats were passing up and down, and the houses on 
the western, or rather southern shore, appeared, from 
their uninterrupted succession, to be a continued 
town, or suburbs of a city. 

At twelve o'clock we came to the mouth of the 
channel that communicates with the lake of Toun- 
zemahn, through which it receives its waters from the 
river. The situation of Ummerapoora has already been 
described; the southern face of the fort is washed, 
during the rainy season, by the waves of the lake, and 
the houses of the city and suburbs extend along the 
bank as far as the extreme point of land. Across the 
lake, and opposite to the fort, stands the small village 
of Tounzemahn, near which, in a tall grove of mango, 
palmyra, and cocoa nut trees, a dwelling was pre- 
pared for the British deputation. On entering the lake, 
the number of boats that were moored, as in a har- 
bour, to avoid the influence of the sweeping flood, the 
singularity of their construction, the height of the wa- 
ters, which threaten inundation to the whole city, and 
the amphitheatre of lofty hills that nearly surrounded 
us, altogether presented a novel scene, exceedingly 
interesting to a stranger. We rowed towards the 
grove, whilst the greater part of the fleet went to the 
opposite side: on reaching the bank, 1 perceived a 
war-boat belonging to the Maywoon of Pegue, who, 1 
understood, was at the grove waiting our arrival. 1 
was received on landing by Baba-Sheen, and some in- 

ferior officers; they accompanied me to the house, 
which was situated about three hundred yards from 
the brink of the lake, overshadowed by lofty trees, 
that completely defended it from the meridian sun. 
When we came to the entrance of the virando, or bal- 
cony, the May-woon of Pegue, the Governor of 
Bamoo, a province bordering on China, and the 
Woondock beforementioned, welcomed me to the 
capital. Being seated on carpets spread along the 
floor, the conversation turned on general topics, and 
particularly on European geography, a subject on 
which the Governor of Bamoo appeared very desirous 
of information. After some time, the Woondock ad- 
dressing himself to me, said, that his Birman Majesty 
had been absent a few months, at a country residence 
named Meengoung, where he was erecting a magnifi- 
cent temple to their divinity Gaudma, but was ex- 
pected to return soon to Ummerapoora; that, in the 
mean time, instructions had been given to his minis- 
ters to provide every thing requisite for the accom- 
modation of the English gentlemen, and that Baba- 
Sheen was commanded to reside near us, in order to 
supply our wants, and to communicate our wishes: to 
this the Maywoon of Pegue added, that the two infe- 
rior Serees, or provincial under secretaries, who had 
accompanied us from Rangoon, were likewise di- 
rected to attend to our orders, and being persons to 
whom we were accustomed, would probably be more 
agreeable to us than entire strangers. 

These polite and hospitable attentions were re- 
ceived and acknowledged by me with real satisfac- 
tion; nor was it at all diminished by the freedom with 
which the Woondock informed me, that it was con- 
trary to the etiquette of the Birman court, for a pubhc 
minister from a foreign nation, to go abroad before his 
first audience. He therefore hoped 1 would not cross 
the lake in person, or suffer any of my people to do 
so, until the ceremonials were past; but as our cus- 
toms differed from theirs, and the Europeans habitu- 
ated themselves to take exercise, 1 was at full hberty to 
walk or ride into the country, or over the plains that 
lay between our dwelling and the hills, as far as 1 
thought proper; recommending to me at the same 
time, not to go to any great distance, as it would be 
considered by the common people in the hght of a 
derogation from my own consequence. 1 thanked him 
for his counsel, which was delivered with many ex- 
pressions of civility, and readily acquiesced in what 
he assured me was an established custom. 

This usage of debarring a public minister from en- 
tering the capital previous to his first formal presenta- 
tion, 1 understood was neither recent nor uncommon; 
it has long been the known practice of the Birman and 
Siamese governments; Monsieur Loubere makes men- 
tion of it in his Account of an Embassy to Siam, sent 
from the court of Louis the Fourteenth. It is founded 
on that cautions pohcy which governs all nations 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


eastward of India in their intercourse with foreign 

Chapter XII 

As soon as my visitors took their leave, I made a sur- 
vey of our new habitation; it was a spacious house of 
one story, raised from the ground somewhat more 
than two feet, and better covered than Birman houses 
usually are; it consisted of two good sized rooms, and 
a large virando, or balcony; the partitions and walls 
were made of cane mats, with latticed windows in the 
sides; the shape of the roof was such as distinguishes 
the houses of the nobles: it was altogether a comfort- 
able habitation, and well adapted to the chmate. Mr. 
Wood had a smaller houses erected behind mine, and 
parallel to it, and Dr. Buchanan another at right an- 
gles. Small separate huts were constructed for the 
guard, and for our attendants; the whole was sur- 
rounded by a strong bamboo paling, which inclosed a 
court yard. There were two entrances by gates, one in 
front of my house, the other backwards; at each of 
these, on the outside of the paling, was a shed, in 
which a Birman guard was posted to protect us from 
thieves, keep off the populace, and probably to watch 
and report our movements. 

On the skirts of the same grove, in a line with our 
dwelling, similar houses were erected for three Chi- 
nese deputies, who had arrived at Ummerapoora 
about two months before us; these personages were 
represented as composing a royal mission from the 
imperial city of Pekin, but circumstances early led me 
to suspect that their real character did not rise higher 
than that of a provincial deputation from Manchegee, 
of Yunan, the south-west province of China, which 
borders on the kingdom of Ava, a conjecture that was 
afterwards confirmed. They had accompanied the 
Governor of Bamoo, which is the frontier province, to 
the capital; and I understood that their business was to 
adjust some mercantile concerns relating to the jee, or 
mart, where the commodities of the two empires are 
brought and bartered. It was not at all improbable that 
the mission had been sanctioned by the authority of 
the Emperor of China, especially as the principal 
member of it was a native of Pekin, and had lately 
come from thence: but the false pride of the Birman 
court suggested the puerilei"^ expedient of represent- 
ing it to us as an imperial embassy, a distinction to 
which, 1 was privately informed from an authentic 

The Chinese seem to have been actuated by a pohcy equally 
absurd, when they informed Sir George Staunton, at the time of 
the formal introduction of Lord Macartney, that "Embassadors 
from Pegue" were present, and that " Siam, Ava, and Pegue were 
tributary to China;" such unworthy deceptions not being expected, 
could hardly be guarded against. The courts of Ava and Pekin 
appear to resemble each other in many points, but in none more 
than in their vanity, which often manifests itself in a manner not 
less ridiculous than contemptible. 

source, it possessed no pretensions whatever. The 
members, however, were treated apparently with 
much personal respect and attention. 

The building denominated Rhoom, has already 
been described as the official hall of justice, where the 
members of provincial governments, and all munici- 
pal officers, are accustomed to assemble for the trans- 
action of public business. Everyman of high rank in 
the Birman empire is a magistrate, and has a place of 
this description and name contiguous to his dwelling, 
but always on the outside of the enclosure of his court 
yard, and not surrounded by any fence or railing, in 
order to manifest publicity, and shew that it is the seat 
of majesty and justice, to which all mankind may have 
free access. An imperial mandate to a governor, or an 
order from a governor to a petty miougee, or chief of a 
small town or district, is invariably opened and read 
aloud in this sanctified hall. The Birman government, 
in the administration of public affairs, suffers no such 
thing as privacy or concealment. The rhoom is like- 
wise an appendage of dignity, as it denotes him to 
whose habitation it is annexed, to be a person of rank 
and consequence; a building of this sort was erected 
within a few yards of the front gate of our enclosure. 

For two days after our landing, the boatmen and 
servants were employed in transporting our baggage 
from the boats to the house, and our time was chiefly 
taken up in arranging the domestic economy of our 
new residence, in which we found a liberal provision 
of all such necessaries as the natives themselves re- 
quire; my rooms were carpeted, but the chairs, tables, 
&c. were my own. Rice, gee (clarified butter), fire- 
wood, and pots for dressing victuals, were supplied to 
our people in abundance. A few stalls, or petty 
shops, were established in the grove, to afford the 
smaller ingredients of cookery, such as greens, spices, 
salt, tamarinds, &c. Here also tobacco and beetle leaf 
were sold; and to enable our attendants to purchase 
such articles, one hundred tackal, about £12. sterling, 
were distributed amongst them: this was an act of 
munificence which I with great difficulty avoided the 
obligation of, in my own person, but no remonstrance 
could prevail on the Birman officer to dispense with it 
in the instance of our domestics. 

The delinquent refugees, of whom mention has 
been made in a former part of this work, as having 
been surrendered by order of the Governor-General, 
to the justice of their country, had reached Um- 
merapoora some weeks previous to our arrival. The 
Birman guard that escorted them had brought a letter 
directed to me from General Erskine, the English 
commander at Chittigong; this letter the Birman min- 
ister, as it was alleged, through mistake, but more 
probably by design, caused to be opened, and pro- 
cured a translation from an Armenian interpreter. The 
circumstance was reported to the King, who ordered 
that the letter should be safely deposited in the Lotoo, 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

and given to me on my arrival: the royal injunctions 
were punctually obeyed; an officer, in his dress of 
ceremony, brought it over. A proposal was first made, 
that 1 should go myself to the rhoom, solicit its restora- 
tion, receive it as an act of grace, and do homage to the 
King, by bowing with my face towards the palace. 
From this 1 entirely dissented, as the cause of com- 
plaint was with me, and confidence had in some 
measure been violated by their breaking the seal. 1 do 
not imagine that the proposition originated from any 
authority, as it was immediately given up, and the let- 
ter, in a silk wrapper, was formally presented to me 
on a tray, by the officer who conveyed it across the 

Being now comfortably lodged, we had leisure to 
take a view of the circumjacent country, and observe 
the objects that immediately surrounded us. Behind 
the grove in which we lived was a smooth extensive 
plain, intersected by the embankments of what, in the 
past year, had been fields of rice, but which promised, 
this season, to be an unproductive waste, owing to the 
uncommon drought: notwithstanding the spot we 
were on was elevated very Uttle above the present 
level of the lake, which had now nearly reached its 
utmost height, yet the ground was parched up, and 
divided into chasms from want of moisture. Dark and 
rugged mountains, about eight miles distant, bounded 
the prospect to the southwest: several small villages 
were scattered over the plain, and on the skirts of the 
grove, inhabited, as we were informed, by native Cas- 
sayers, or the descendants of Cassayers, who had been 
carried into captivity by the Birman invaders during 
their predatory expeditions across the Keenduem. 

The Seree who accompanied me said, that these 
people, whom he called Munniporeans, from Mun- 
nipore, the capital of Cassay, were in general become 
reconciled to their state of servitude, owing to their 
having been brought away very young from their own 
country: the superior industry and skill which they 
possess over the Birmans indifferent branches of 
handicraft, supplied them with a comfortable subsis- 
tence. Those in our neighbourhood were farmers and 
gardeners, who cultivated pulse, greens, onions, and 
such vegetables as Birmans use; these articles they 
transport at an early hour across the lake to the city, 
where they retail them in the market, and bring home 
the produce at night; this business is mostly per- 
formed by females; one man, commonly a person in 
years, accompanies each boat, in which, standing 
erect, he acts as steersman, whilst the women, usually 
from ten to fourteen in number, sitting with their legs 
across, row short oars, or use paddles, according to 
the size of the vessel: when they set out in a morning, 
they proceed in silence, but returning at night, they 
join in jocund chorus, and time the stroke of their oars 
to the bars of their song. We were serenaded every 
evening from dusk till ten o'clock by successive par- 

ties of these joyous females, whose strains, though 
unpolished, were always melodious and pleasing. The 
Birmans, both men and women, are fond of singing 
whilst at work; it lightens their labour: " song sweet- 
ens toil, how rude soe'er the sound." Unfortunately 
our music was not confined to these passing chant- 
resses; there were other performers, less agreeable, 
nearer to us. Our neighbours, the deputies from 
China, unluckily for the repose of those from Britain, 
happened to be amateurs in their way, and had 
amongst their dependants a select band of musicians, 
such as 1 certainly had never heard equalled; it is im- 
possible to describe the horrible noises that issued 
from gongs, drums, cymbals, an instrument with two 
strings, which may be called a fiddle, and something 
like a clarionet, that sent forth a sound more grating to 
the ear than all the rest. This was their constant noc- 
turnal amusement, which never ended before mid- 
night, and was not once remitted, till the principal 
personage of the embassy became so indisposed that 
he could endure it no longer. Whilst he lingered we 
enjoyed tranquillity, but after his decease the concert 
recommenced, and continued, to our great annoyance, 
till they quitted the grove to return to their native 

The opposite habits of different nations were here 
strikingly evinced in the dissimilarity between the 
manners of the Enghsh, and those of the Chinese; the 
latter never left the precincts of their habitation, or 
manifested a desire to leave it, except to loll in easy 
chairs, and smoke their long pipes in the cool of the 
evening on the margin of the lake, about two or three 
hundred yards in front of their house. The English 
gentlemen accustomed themselves either to walk or 
ride three or four miles in the morning before break- 
fast, and the same distance in the afternoon, a circum- 
stance that did not escape the notice of the Birmans. 
My customary route was in a southern direction, over 
pathways that led through rice fields, in my return 
making a circuit along the green border of the lake. 
Although there was not the least cause to apprehend 
either injury or insolence, 1 was always attended in my 
excursions by six or eight soldiers, and by as many of 
my private servants, armed with sabres, who seemed 
to attract no less notice than myself. When 1 met any 
of the natives, particularly women, they squatted 
down into the posture of respect. As soon as the nov- 
elty of my appearance had a little worn off, 1 was told 
that they were stiU anxious to know why a person 
consulting his own amusement, and master of his own 
time, should walk so fast; but on being informed that 1 
was "a Colar," or stranger, and that it was the custom 
of my country, they were reconciled to this as well as 
to every other act that did not coincide with their own 
prejudices and usage. In a few days the return of the 
King was announced by the discharge of rockets, and 
by the general bustle that so important an event 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


caused among all classes of people: we saw nothing of 
the display, which we understood, on this occasion, 
was not at all pompous. 

The period of our arrival occurred at a juncture that 
supplied the Birman court with a plausible excuse for 
postponing the consideration of public business, and 
delaying my formal reception, as well as the delivery 
of the letter from the Governor-General to the King. It 
so happened that in the ensuing month there was to 
be an eclipse of the moon, an operation of nature, 
which they ascribe to the interference of a malignant 
demon. On such an occasion affairs of state, and all 
important matters of business, that will admit of pro- 
crastination, are put off to the following month. The 
astrologers were assembled to consult on the first for- 
tunate day after the lapse of that inauspicious moon, 
when they discovered that the seventeenth of the 
month Touzelien, corresponding with the 30th of 
August, was the earliest that would occur, and that 
day was accordingly appointed for the public recep- 
tion of the English embassy. 

Caution and policy had, perhaps, as great a share 
with the Birmans as superstition, in thus retarding the 
ceremony of our introduction: it was to them a novel 
incident; they were desirous to penetrate thoroughly 
into the objects we had in view, before any part of the 
subject came into formal discussion. They might 
probably also wish to have an opportunity to judge of 
our national character, and to determine, from our 
conduct, in what manner to regulate their own; if such 
were their motives, they were consistent with that sa- 
gacity, which 1 found invariably displayed by the 
Birman government in all its resolutions and acts of a 
pubhc nature. 

But the prevailing characteristic of the Birman court 
is pride; like the sovereign of China, his Majesty of 
Ava acknowledges no equal; indeed it is the fixed 
principle of all nations eastward of Bengal, to consider 
foreign ministers as supphants come to solicit protec- 
tion, not as representatives who may demand redress; 
rather as vassals to render homage, than as persons 
vested with authority to treat on equal terms. Of this 
system 1 was early apprized, and felt no disappoint- 
ment at hearing of a general rumour current among 
the higher ranks of Birmans, that a deputy had arrived 
from the English government, bearing tribute for their 
King. Reports of this nature were no otherwise re- 
garded than as an admonition to regulate my actions 
with scrupulous circumspection. Amongst other regu- 
lations of this punctilious court, 1 was given to under- 
stand, that it was not customary for the King to re- 
ceive any letter in a formal manner without being pre- 
viously apprized of its contents. This created some 
difficulty in respect to the letter from the Governor- 
General, which was at length surmounted by an 
agreement on my part to admit of a copy being made 
in my presence, but it was stipulated by them that it 

should be transcribed in the rhoom adjacent to my 
house, and not in my private residence. In this pro- 
posal 1 acquiesced and accordingly a formal deputa- 
tion, consisting of seven or eight officers of state, was 
directed to proceed to the rhoom, where they were to 
open the letter, and see it properly transcribed: these 
personages came with much parade, apparelled in 
their robes of ceremony; on landing they walked di- 
rectly to the rhoom, and having taken their seats, sent 
a Terrezogee, or inferior officer, along with Baba- 
Sheen, to request 1 would come, and bring with me the 
Governor-General's letter; 1 obeyed this summons, 
accompanied by the other gentlemen and our usual 
attendants. On entering the rhoom 1 was civilly de- 
sired, as the occasion was a solemn one, to make obei- 
sance towards the piasath, or spire of the royal palace, 
which was more than two miles distant, a ceremony 1 
complied with by raising my right hand to my head, 
and making a shght inclination of my body, after the 
manner of the Mahomedan Salaam. Being seated, 1 
delivered the letter, which was written in English and 
in Persian, to the Woondock, or superior officer; it was 
immediately opened by a secretary: and an Armenian 
interpreter, named Muckatees, who spoke and wrote 
English fluently, was ordered to make a copy in Eng- 
lish, whilst a Mussulman moonshee made another in 
Persian. When the writing was finished, 1 delivered a 
paper, which 1 desired might be laid before his Maj- 
esty's council, declaratory, in general terms, of the 
friendly wishes and views of the Governor-General in 
deputing me to the Birman court, and expressing my 
desire to maintain a confidential intercourse with such 
persons as his Majesty, or his council, should think 
proper to authorize. 

The business being concluded 1 returned to my 
house, and received a ceremonious visit from the Bir- 
man officers, among whom there were some person- 
ages of high distinction; a Woondock, but not the one 
that met me at Pagahm, presided; the master of the 
elephants, the old governor of Peenkeing, two Sere- 
dogees, or secretaries of state, and some other officers, 
whose names and stations 1 did not learn, were pre- 
sent; their robes, which were very graceful, were made 
either of velvet or flowered satin, with wide bodies, 
and loose sleeves: they all were invested with the 
chain of nobility, and wore caps covered with light- 
green taffety. Three of higher rank than the rest, had a 
wreath of gold leaves encircling the bottom of their 
caps, not unlike the strawberry leaves in a ducal coro- 
net; their attendants, who were numerous, carried a 
variety of utensils, such as their beetle box, water flag- 
gon, drinking cup, and spitting pot, of which latter, 
from their filthy practice of chewing beetle, they stood 
in constant need. 1 regaled them with tea, and English 
raspberry jam spread on biscuits: although they 
praised, 1 do not think they much relished our pre- 
serve; they ate sparingly, and refreshed themselves 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

with copious bowls of tea, unadulterated either by 
cream or sugar. 

About this time the Chinese minister, who has al- 
ready been mentioned as labouring under severe in- 
disposition, sent me a polite message expressing his 
regret that he had it not in his power to visit me in 
person, but that his two colleagues would wait on me 
whenever 1 should be at leisure to receive them; 1 re- 
turned my acknowledgments, and appointed the fol- 
lowing day. 

It is customary among nations eastward of Bengal, 
when a public deputation is sent to a foreign court, to 
nominate three members, who constitute a council; 
although the president or chief of these is invested 
with all the power, and controls the proceedings of the 
rest, yet the distinction between them is not so wide as 
to preclude the juniors from a high degree of conse- 
quence being attached to their stations; and in case of 
the demise of the principal, the senior survivor exe- 
cutes all diplomatic functions, thus wisely guarding 
against any impediment which a casualty might throw 
in the way of negotiation. 

The two junior members of the Chinese deputation 
came at the appointed hour, accompanied by seven or 
eight attendants. There is no personage on earth so 
solemn and ceremonious as a Chinese officer of state; 
his dignity is preserved by profound silence, unless 
when occasion renders it necessary to exercise the fac- 
ulty of speech, which is always slow, monotonous, 
and dull; even gentlemen in the familiarity of private 
life, seldom depart from their gravity, or relax into a 
smile. On entering a room where there is company, 
good breeding is evinced by a modest but pertinacious 
refusal to sit down till the master of the house is first 
seated, which would be an equal violation of decorum 
on his part. This custom, 1 was told, sometimes pro- 
duces a very ludicrous scene, and the guests are not 
unfrequently obliged to be dragged to their chairs, 
and placed in them almost by compulsion. My house 
being about to undergo some alteration, 1 had caused 
a suite of tents, which 1 had brought with me, to be 
pitched for our temporary accommodation; in these 1 
made arrangements to receive my visitors, who were 
exact to their time. On entering the door of the mar- 
quee they both made an abrupt stop, and resisted all 
solicitation to advance to chairs that had been pre- 
pared for them, until 1 should first be seated; in this 
dilemma Dr. Buchanan, who had visited China, ad- 
vised me what was to be done; 1 immediately seized 
on the foremost, whilst the Doctor himself grappled 
with the second; thus we soon fixed them in their 
seats, both parties, during the struggle, repeating Chin 
Chin, Chin Chin, the Chinese term of salutation. The 
conversation was not at all lively or interesting, for 
though 1 sat between them, our words had to make a 
wide circuit before they reached each other's compre- 
hension. 1 spoke in the language of Hindostan to a 

Mussulman who understood Birman, he delivered it 
to a Birman who spoke Chinese, this Birman gave it to 
the first official domestic, who repeated it to his mas- 
ter in the Chinese tongue. Our wines, port, claret, and 
Madeira, all excellent of their kind, were served up; 
these, however, were too cold for Chinese palates; my 
visitants did not seem to rehsh them; but when cherry- 
brandy was introduced, their approbation was mani- 
fested by the satisfaction with which each of them 
swallowed a large glass full of the liquor: they tasted 
our tea, and, before they departed, pohtely presented 
me with some fans, two or three pieces of silk, two 
small boxes of tea, and three bottles of shouchou, a 
very fiery spirit distilled from rice, of which the Chi- 
nese are extremely fond. 1 returned the visit on the fol- 
lowing day, and was received with as much pomp 
and ostentation as circumstances would admit: in 
front of the house a silk ensign waved, on which was 
embroidered the imperial dragon of China, and at 
their gate were suspended whips and chains, import- 
ing the power which the owner possessed to inflict 
corporal punishment. The two junior members met 
me at the threshold of their habitation, apologized for 
the unavoidable absence of the chief personage, and 
introduced me into a hall, the walls of which were 
concealed by screens of silk, and the chairs covered 
with loose pieces of satin; this interview was rendered 
more interesting than the former, by a spontaneous 
question on the part of the senior Chinese, to know 
whether 1 had heard of the safe arrival of Lord 
Macartney in England. His lordship having left China 
only the preceding year, it was not possible to have 
had accounts of his reaching England, and the issue of 
his lordship's negotiations was at that time wholly 
unknown; consequently, being unacquainted both 
with the objects and event of that splendid mission, 1 
felt myself rather on delicate ground in regard to the 
enquiries which 1, on my part, wished to make. In or- 
der to draw some conclusion from their discourse, 1 
encouraged them to pursue the topic, by asking how 
his lordship's health had borne the vicissitudes of cli- 
mate; they replied that they only knew of the embassy 
from report, and seemed reluctant to enter into par- 
ticulars, with which, it is probable, they were entirely 
unacquainted; 1 did not, therefore, press the subject 
farther; but 1 was not suffered to remain long; in doubt 
what their sentiments were. Chinese vanity scarcely 
yields to that of the Birmans; here was an opportunity, 
by exaggeration and misrepresentation, of indulging 
their own pride at the expence of the English nation, 
which, in the accounts circulated by them at Um- 
merapoora respecting the embassy to China, they did 
not neglect. They treated us with tea and sweetmeats, 
and smoked their long pipes with unrelaxed solem- 
nity. 1 repaid their civilities by giving them some 
broad-cloth and brandy, and took my leave. 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


The alterations in my own dwelling, which 1 had 
suggested, were quickly carried into effect, and by an 
order from the Lotoo or grand council, a small addi- 
tional building, of a square form, and raised from the 
ground, was erected within the enclosure of our court, 
for the reception of the presents intended for his Maj- 
esty. 1 was given to understand that this building was 
meant as a compliment to what they thought proper 
to term, among themselves, "tribute from the King of 
England;" but as no such arrogant assumption was 
ever publicly professed, I could not take notice of 
mere rumour: it was, however, privately intimated to 
me, that keeping our tents pitched, would be consid- 
ered by the court in the light of a reflection upon its 
hospitality, and an inference would be drawn from it, 
that we were discontented with our habitation. I im- 
mediately ordered the marquees to be struck, nothing 
being farther from my intention than to give umbrage, 
or express dissatisfaction, for which indeed, in the 
present instance, there was certainly no ground. 

The interval that elapsed between the time of our 
arrival at Ummerapoora, and of our formal introduc- 
tion at court, afforded us leisure to acquire some in- 
sight into the customs, religious tenets, and moral 
economy of the Birman nation. Instead, therefore, of 
filling up the chasm by an unimportant journal, in 
which the acts of one day differed but little from those 
of the preceding, 1 shall dedicate a few pages to a 
more general account of the country, and endeavour, 
as far as our own circumscribed observation, and the 
information of others enabled us, to illustrate the 
character of this people from their manners, and their 
state of society from the progress which the arts had 
made, and from the usages of the inhabitants in com- 
mon life. 

Chapter XIII 

After what has been written, there can be Httle neces- 
sity to inform my readers that the Birmans are Hin- 
doos: not votaries of Brahma, but sectaries of Boodh, 
which latter is admitted by Hindoos of all descriptions 
to be the ninth Avatar (Sir William Jones, on the Gods 
of Greece, Italy, and India), or descent of the deity in 
his capacity of preserver. He reformed the doctrines 
contained in the Vedas, and severely censured the sac- 
rifice of cattle, or depriving any being of life: he is 
called the author of happiness; his place of residence 
was discovered at Gaya in Bengal, by the illustrious 
Amara,!''^ renowned amongst men, "who caused an 
image of the supreme Boodh to be made, and he wor- 

shipped it: reverence be unto thee in the form of 
Boodh; reverence be unto thee. Lord of the Earth; rev- 
erence be unto thee, an incarnation of the deity; and, 
eternal one, reverence be unto thee, O God in the form 
of Mercy." Gotma, or Goutum, according to the Hin- 
doos of India, or Gaudma, among the inhabitants of 
the more eastern parts, is said (Sir William Jones on 
the Gods of Greece, Italy, and India) to have been a 
philosopher, and is by the Birmans believed to have 
nourished above 2300 (This agrees with the account of 
the Siamese computation given by Kaempfer) years 
ago: he taught, in the Indian schools, the heterodox 
religion and philosophy of Boodh. The image that rep- 
resents Boodh is called Gaudma, or Goutum, which is 
now a commonly received appellation of Boodh him- 
self: this image is the primary object of worship in all 
countries situated between Bengal and China. The sec- 
taries of Boodh contend with those of Brahma for the 
honour of antiquity, and are certainly far more nu- 
merous. The Cingaleze in Ceylon are Bhoodhists of 
the purest source, and the Birmans acknowledge to 
have originally received their rehgion from that island 
(The Birmans call Ceylon, Zehoo). It was brought, say 
the Rhahaans, first from Zehoo (Ceylon) to Arracan, 
and thence was introduced into Ava, and probably 
into China; for the Birmans assert with confidence that 
the Chinese are Boodhists. 

This is a curious subject of investigation, and the 
concurrent testimony of circumstances, added to the 
opinions of the most intelligent writers, seem to leave 
little doubt of the fact. It cannot, however, be demon- 
strated beyond the possibility of dispute, till we shall 
have acquired a more perfect knowledge of Chinese 
letters, and a readier access to their repositories of 
learning. Little can at present be added to the lights 
cast on the subject by the late Sir William Jones, in his 
Discourse delivered to the Asiatic Society on the Chi- 
nese: that great man has expressed his conviction in 
positive terms, that "Boodh was unquestionably the 
Foe of China," and that he was also the god of Japan, 
and the Woden of the Goths, an opinion which corre- 
sponds with, and is perhaps grafted on, the informa- 
tion of the learned and laborious Kaempfer,!!" cor- 
roborated afterwards by his own researches. On what- 
ever grounds the latter inference rests, it will not tend 

109 See the translation of a Shanscrit inscription on a stone found 
in the temple of Boodh, at Gaya, by Mr. Wilkins. Asint. Research. 
Vol. I. I am indebted for the annexed representation of the image 
of Boodh, at Gaya, to the kindness of Lord Teignmouth. The 
reader will observe the close resemblance it bears to that of the 
Birman Gaudma. 

Speaking of the Budz, or Seaka, of the Japanese, Kaempfer says, 
"1 have strong reasons to believe, both from the affinity of the 
name, and the very nature of this religion, that its author and 
founder is the very same person whom the Bramins call Budha, 
and believe to be the essential spirit of Wishna, or their deity, who 
made his ninth appearance in the world under this name: the 
Peguers call him Samana Khutama." Hist. Japan, Book IV. ch.6. 
Treating on the introduction of Boodh into China, the same author 
says, " About the year of Christ 518, one Darma, a great saint, and 
twenty-third successor on the holy see of Seaka (Budha), came 
over into China from Seitenseku, as the Japanese writers explain 
it, that is, from that part of the world which lies westward with 
regard to Japan, and laid, properly speaking, the first firm founda- 
tion of the Budsdoism in that mighty empire." Book. IV. ch.6. 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

to weaken the belief of his first position, when I ob- 
serve that the Chinese deputies, on the occasion of our 
introduction to the Seredaw or high priest of the Bir- 
man empire, prostrated themselves before him, and 
afterwards adored an image of Gaudma with more 
religious fervour than mere politeness, or acquies- 
cence in the customs of another nation, would have 
excited: the Bonzes also of China, like the Rhahaans of 
Ava, wear yellow as the sacerdotal colour, and in 
many of their customs and ceremonies there may be 
traced a striking similitude. 

Whatever may be the antiquity of the worship of 
Boodh, the wide extent of its reception cannot be 
doubted. The most authentic writer (Loubere) on the 
eastern peninsula calls the image of Gaudma, as wor- 
shipped by the Siamese, Somona-codom: being unac- 
quainted with the language of Siam, which from so 
short a residence as four months, it was impossible he 
could have acquired, he confounds two distinct 
words, Somona, and Codom, signifying Codom, or 
Gaudma, in his incarnate state; the difference between 
the letters C and G may easily have arisen from the 
mode of pronunciation in different countries; even in 
the Birman manner of uttering the word, the distinc- 
tion between these letters is not very clear. The Boodh 
of the Indians and the Birmans, is pronounced by the 
Siamese Pooth, or Pood, by the vulgar. Poo; which, 
without any violence to probabiUty, might be con- 
verted by the Chinese into Foe (M. Gentil asserts that 
the Chinese admit, by their own accounts, that Foe, 
their object of worship, was originally brought from 
India); the Tamulic termination en, as Mr. Chambers 
remarks, creates a striking resemblance between 
Pooden and the Woden of the Goths; every person 
who has conversed with the natives of India knows 
that Boodh is the Dies Mercurii, the Wednesday, or 
Woden's day, of all Hindoos. Chronology, however, 
which must always be accepted as a surer guide to 
truth, than inferences drawn from the resemblance of 
words, and etymological reasoning, does not, to my 
mind, sufficiently establish that Boodh and Woden 
were the same. The period of the ninth incarnation of 
Vishnu was long antecedent to the existence of the 
deified hero of Scandinavia. Sir William Jones deter- 
mines the period when Boodh appeared on the earth 
to be 1014 years before the birth of Christ. Odin, or 
Woden, flourished at a period not very distant from 
our Saviour, and was, according to some, a contempo- 
rary of Pompey and of Julius Caesar. The author of the 
Northern Antiquities places him seventy years after 
the Christian era. Even the Birman Gaudma, con- 
formably to their account, must have lived above five 
hundred years before Woden. So immense a space can 
hardly be supposed to have been overlooked: but if 
the supposition refers, not to the warrior of the north, 
but to the original deity Odin, the attributes of the lat- 
ter are as widely opposed to those of Boodh, who was 

himself only an incarnation of Vishnu, as the dates are 
incongruous. The deity, whose doctrines were intro- 
duced into Scandinavia, was a god of terror, and his 
votaries carried desolation and the sword throughout 
whole regions; but the Ninth Avatar (See the account 
of the Ninth Avatar, by the Rev. Mr. Maurice, in his 
History of Hindostan, Vol. II. Part 3) brought the 
peaceful olive, and came into the world for the sole 
purpose of preventing sanguinary acts. These appar- 
ent inconsistencies will naturally lead us to hesitate in 
acknowledging Boodh and Woden to be the same per- 
son: their doctrines are opposite, and their eras are 
widely remote. 

Had that distinguished genius (1 need hardly ob- 
serve that I mean Sir William Jones), whose learning 
so lately illumined the East, been longer spared for the 
instruction and delight of mankind, he would proba- 
bly have elucidated this obscurity, and have removed 
the dusky veil that still hangs over the religious leg- 
ends of antiquity. The subject, ^ as it now stands, af- 
fords an ample field for indulging in pleasing theories, 
and fanciful speculations; and as the probabihty in- 
creases of being able to trace all forms of divine wor- 
ship to one sacred and primeval source, the inquiry in 
proportion becomes more interesting, and awakens a 
train of serious ideas in a reflecting mind. 

It would be as unsatisfactory as tedious, to attempt 
leading my reader through the mazes of mythological 
fable, and extravagant allegory, in which the Hindoo 
religion, both Braminical and Boodhic, is enveloped 
and obscured; it may be sufficient to observe, that the 
Birmans believe in the Metempsychosis, and that, after 
having undergone a certain number of transmigra- 
tions, their souls will at last either be received into 
their Olympus on the mountain Meru (Meru properly 
denotes the pole, and, according to the learned Cap- 
tain Wilford, it is the celestial north pole of the Hin- 
doos, round which they place the garden of Indra, and 
describe it as the seat of delights), or be sent to suffer 
torments in a place of divine punishments. Mercy they 
hold to be the first attribute of the divinity: "Rever- 
ence be to thee, O God, in the form of Mercy;" and 
they worship God by extending mercy unto all his 

The laws of the Birmans, like their religion, are 
Hindoo; in fact there is no separating their laws from 
their religion: divine authority revealed to Menu the 
sacred principles in a hundred thousand slocas, or 
verses; Menu promulgated the code; numerous com- 
mentariesii2 on Menu were composed by the Munis, 

General Vallancey, so justly celebrated for his knowledge of the 
antiquities of his country, has expressed his perfect conviction 
that the Hindoos have been in Britain and in Ireland. See Major 
Ouzeley's Oriental Collection, Vol. II. Much attention is certainly 
due to such respectable authority 

112 The code of Gentoo laws, translated by Mr. Halhed, 1 am in- 
formed, is a compilation from the different commentaries on 
Menu, who was "the grandson of Bramah, the first of created be- 

SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


or old philosophers, whose treatises constitute the 
Dherma Sastra, or body of law. 

The Birmans generally call their code Derma Sath, 
or Sastra; it is one among the many commentaries on 
Menu: I was so fortunate as to procure a translation of 
the most remarkable passages, which were rendered 
into Latin by Padre Vincentius Sangermano, and, to 
my great surprise, I found it to correspond closely 
with a Persian version of the Arracan code, which is 
now in my possession. From the inquiries, to which 
this circumstance gave rise, I learned that the laws, as 
well as the religion of the Birmans, had found their 
way into the Ava country from Arracan, and came 
originally from Ceylon. ii^ The Birman system of juris- 
prudence is replete with sound morahty, and, in my 
opinion, is distinguished above any other Hindoo 
commentary for perspicuity and good sense; it pro- 
vides specifically for almost every species of crime 
that can be committed, and adds a copious chapter of 
precedents, and decisions to guide the inexperienced, 
in cases where there is doubt and difficulty. Trial by 
ordeal and imprecation are the only absurd passages 
in the book; but on the subject of women it is, to an 
European, offensively indecent; like the immortal 
Menu, it tells the prince and the magistrate their duty, 
in language austere, manly, and energetic; and the 
exhortation at the close is at once noble and pious; the 
following extracts wiU serve as a specimen; 

A country may be said to resemble milk, in which 
oppression is hke to water; when water is mingled 
with milk, its sweetness immediately vanishes; in 
the same manner oppression destroys a fair and 
nourishing country. The royal Surkaab (Bittern. 
This is a Persian term, used by the Mahomedan 
translator) will only inhabit the clearest stream; so 
a prince can never prosper in a distracted empire. 
By drinking pure milk the body is strengthened 
and the palate is gratified, but when mingled with 
water, pleasure no longer is found, and the springs 
of health gradually decline. A wise prince resem- 
bles a sharp sword, which at a single stroke cuts 
through a pillar with such keenness that the fabric 
still remains unshaken; with equal keenness his 
discernment will penetrate advice. A wise prince is 
dear to his people, as the physician is to the sick 
man, as light to those that are in darkness, as un- 

ings," and whose work, as translated by Sir William Jones, is the 
ground of all Hindoo jurisprudence. 

113 As an incontestible proof that the Birmans acknowledge the 
superior antiquity of the Cingaleze, and the reception of their re- 
ligion and laws from that quarter, the King of Ava has sent, within 
these few years, at separate times, two messengers, persons of 
learning and respectability, to Ceylon, to procure the original 
books on which their tenets are founded; and, in one instance, the 
Birman minister made an official application to the Governor- 
General of India, to protect and assist the person charged with the 

expected sight to the eyes of the blind; as is the fuU 
moon on a wintery night, and milk to the infant 
from the breast of his mother. 

The commentator then proceeds to denounce tre- 
mendous judgments against an oppressive prince 
and a corrupt judge; the latter is thus curiously men- 

The punishment of his crimes, who judges iniqui- 
tously, and decides falsely, shall be greater than 
though he had slain one thousand women, one 
hundred priests, or one thousand horses. 

The book concludes as follows: 

Thus have the learned spoken, and thus have the 
wise decreed, that litigation may cease among men, 
and contention be banished the land and let all 
magistrates and judges expound the laws, as they 
are herein written; and to the extent of their under- 
standing, and according to the dictates of their con- 
science, pronounce judgment agreeably to the tenor 
of this book: let the welfare of their country, and 
the benefit of their fellow-creatures, be their con- 
tinual study, and the sole object of their attention: 
let them ever be mindful of the supreme dignity of 
the Roulah (the Arracan name for Rhahaan) and 
the Bramins, and pay them that reverence which is 
due to their sacred characters: let them observe be- 
coming respect towards all men, and they shall 
shield the weak from oppression, support the help- 
less, and, in particular cases, mitigate the severity 
of avenging justice. It shall be the duty of a prince, 
and the magistrates of a prince, wisely to regulate 
the internal police of the empire, to assist and be- 
friend the peasants, merchants, farmers, and those 
who follow trades, that they may daily increase in 
worldly wealth and happiness; they shall promote 
all works of charity, encourage the opulent to re- 
lieve the poor, and liberally contribute to pious 
and laudable purposes; and whatsoever good 
works shall be promoted by their influence and ex- 
ample, whatsoever shall be given in charity, and 
whatsoever benefit shall accrue to mankind from 
their endeavours, it shall all be preserved in the re- 
cords of heaven, one-sixth part of which, though 
the deeds be the deeds of others, yet shall it be as- 
cribed unto them; and at the last day, at the solemn 
and awful hour of judgment, the recording spirit 
shall produce them, inscribed on the adamantine 
tablet of human actions. But, on the other hand, if 
the prosperity of the nation be neglected, if justice 
be suffered to lie dormant, if tumults arise, and 
robberies are committed, if rapine and foul assassi- 
nation stalk along the plains, all crimes that shall be 
thus perpetrated through their remissness, one- 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

sixth part shall be brought to their account, and fall 
with weighty vengeance on their heads; the dread- 
ful consequences of which surpass the power of 
tongue to utter, or of pen to express. 

Laws, thus dictated by rehgion, are, I believe, in 
general, conscientiously administered. The criminal 
jurisprudence of the Birmans is lenient in particular 
cases, but rigorous in others; whoever is found guilty 
of an undue assumption of power, or of any crime that 
indicates a treasonable intent, is punished by the se- 
verest tortures. The first commission of theft does not 
incur the penalty of death, unless the amount stolen 
be above 800 kiat, or tackal, about £100. attended with 
circumstances of atrocity, such as murder, or mutila- 
tion. In the former case the culprit has a round mark 
imprinted on each cheek by gunpowder and punctua- 
tion, and on his breast the word thief, with the article 
stolen; for the second offence he is deprived of an arm, 
but the third inevitably produces capital punishment: 
decapitation is the mode by which criminals suffer, in 
the performance of which the Birman executioners are 
exceedingly skilful. 

The city of Ummerapoora is divided into four dis- 
tinct subordinate jurisdictions, in each of which a 
Maywoon presides. This officer, who, in the prov- 
inces, is a viceroy, in the metropolis resembles a 
mayor, and holds a civil and criminal court of justice; 
in capital cases he transmits the evidence in writing, 
with his opinion, to the Lotoo, or grand chamber of 
consultation, where the council of state assembles; the 
council, after close examination into the documents, 
reports upon them to the King, who either pardons 
the offender, or orders execution of the sentence: the 
Maywoon is obliged to attend in person, and see the 
punishment carried into effect. 

Civil suits may be transferred from the courts of the 
Maywoons to the Lotoo; this removal, however, is at- 
tended with a heavy expence. There are regular estab- 
lished lawyers, who conduct causes, and plead; eight 
only are licensed to plead in the Lotoo; they are called 
Ameendozaan: the usual fee is five tackal, equal to 
sixteen shillings, but the government has large profits 
on all suits that are brought into court. 

There is no country of the East in which the royal 
establishment is arranged with more minute attention 
than in the Birman court; it is splendid without being 
wasteful, and numerous without confusion; the most 
distinguished members, when 1 was at the capital, 
were: the Sovereign, his principal queen, entitled 
Nandoh Praw, by whom he has no sons; his second 
wife, Myack Nandoh, by whom he has two sons; the 
Engy Teekein (often called Engy Praw), or Prince 
Royal, and Pee Teekien, or Prince of Prome. The 
princes of Tongho, Bassien, and Pagahm, are by fa- 
vourite concubines. Meedah Praw is a princess of high 
dignity, and mother of the chief queen. The prince 

royal is married, and has a son and two daughters, all 
young; the son takes precedence of his uncles, the 
crown descending to the male heirs in a direct line. 
These were the principal personages of the Birman 
royal family. 

Next in rank to the princes of the blood royal are 
the Woongees (Woon signifies burthen, the compound 
word implies. Bearer of the Great Burthen), or chief 
ministers of state. The established number is four, but 
the place of one has long been vacant: these form the 
great ruling council of the nation; they sit in the Lotoo, 
or imperial hall of consultation, every day, except on 
the Birman sabbath, from twelve till three or four 
o'clock, or later, as there happens to be business; they 
issue mandates to the Maywoons, or viceroys of the 
different provinces; they control every department of 
the state, and, in fact, govern the empire, subject al- 
ways to the pleasure of the King, whose will is abso- 
lute, and power undefined. 

To assist in the administration of affairs, four offi- 
cers, called Woondocks, are associated with the 
Woongees, but of far inferior authority; they sit in the 
Lotoo, in a deliberative capacity, having no vote; they 
give their opinions, and may record their dissent from 
any measure that is proposed, but the Woongees de- 
cide: the Woondocks, however, are frequently em- 
ployed to carry into execution business of great public 

Four Attawoons, or ministers of the interior, pos- 
sess a degree of influence that sometimes counteracts 
with success the views and wishes of the Woongees; 
these the King selects to be his privy counsellors, from 
their talents, and the opinion he entertains of their in- 
tegrity: they have access to him at all times; a privilege 
which the principal Woongee does not enjoy. 

There are four chief secretaries, called Sere-dogees, 
who have numerous writers, or inferior Serees, under 
them. Four Nachaangee sit in the Lotoo, take notes, 
and report whatever is transacted. 

Four Sandohgaan regulate all ceremonials, intro- 
duce strangers of rank into the royal presence, and are 
the bearers of messages from the council of state to 
the King. 

There are nine Sandozains, or readers, whose busi- 
ness it is to read all official writings, petitions, &c. 
Every document, in which the pubhc is concerned, or 
that is brought before the council in the Lotoo, is read 

The four Maywoons, already mentioned, are re- 
stricted to the magisterial superintendance of their re- 
spective quarters of the city; they have nothing farther 
to do with the Lotoo, than to obey the commands they 
receive from thence. 

The Assaywoon, or paymaster-general, is also an 
officer of high importance; the place is at present held 
by one of the Woongees, who is called Assay Woon- 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


There are several other officers of distinction, .who 
bear no ostensible share in the administration of pub- 
lic affairs, such as the Daywoon, or King's armour- 
bearer; the Chaingeewoon, or master of the elephants; 
also the Woons of the Queen's household, and that of 
the prince royal. 

Each of the junior princes has a distinct estabUsh- 
ment. In the Birman government there are no heredi- 
tary dignities or-employments; all honours and of- 
fices, on the demise of the possessor, revert to the 

The tsaloe, or chain. Is the badge of the order of no- 
bility, of which there -are different degrees, distin- 
guished by the number of strings, or small chains, that 
compose the ornament; these strings are fastened by 
bosses where they unite: three of open chain work is 
the lowest rank; three of neatly twisted wire is the 
next; then of six, of nine, and of twelve, no subject is 
ever honoured with a higher degree than twelve; the 
King, alone wears twenty-four. 

It has already been noticed, that almost every article 
of use, as well as ornament, particularly in their dress, 
indicates the rank of the owner; the shape of the bee- 
tle-box, which is carried by an attendant after a Bir- 
man of distinction wherever he goes, his ear-rings, cap 
of ceremony, horse furniture, even the metal of which 
his spitting-pot and drinking-cup are made (which, if 
of gold, denote him to be a man of high considera- 
tion), all are indicative of the gradations of society; 
and woe be unto him that assumes, the insignia of a 
degree which is not his legitimate right. 

The court dress of the Birman nobility is very be- 
coming; it consists of a long robe either of flowered 
satin or velvet, reaching to the ankles, with an open 
collar and loose sleeves; over this there is a scarf, or 
flowing mantle, that hangs from the shoulders, and on 
their heads they wear high caps made of velvet, either 
plain, or of silk embroidered with flowers of gold, ac- 
cording to the rank of the wearer. Ear-rings are apart 
of male dress; persons of condition use tubes of gold 
about three inches long, and as thick as a large quill, 
which expands at one end like the mouth of a speak- 
ing-trumpet; others wear a heavy mass of gold beaten 
into a plate, and rolled up; this lump of metal forms a 
large orifice in the lobe of the ear, and drags it down 
by the weight to the extent sometimes of two inches. 

The women likewise have their distinguishing 
paraphernalia; their hair is tied in a bunch on the top 
of the head, and bound round with a fillet, the em- 
broidery and ornaments of which express their respec- 
tive ranks; a short shift reaches to the pit of the stom- 
ach, is drawn tight by strings, and supports the 
breasts; over that is a loose jacket with close sleeves; 
round their waist they roll a long piece of silk, or 
cloth, which, reaching to their feet, and sometimes 
trailing on the ground, encircles them twice, and is 
then tucked in. When women of condition go abroad. 

they put on a silk sash, resembling a long shawl, 
which crosses their bosom,, and is thrown over the 
shoulders, gracefully flowing on each side- The lowest 
class of females often wear only a single garment, in 
the form of a sheet, which, wrapped round the body, 
and tucked in under the arm, crosses their breasts, 
which it scarcely conceals, and descends to their an- 
kles; thus, when they walk, the bottom of the cloth, 
where it overlaps, is necessarily opened by the protru- 
sion of the leg, and displays to a side view as high as 
the middle of the thigh; such an exposure, in the opin- 
ion of an European, bears an indecent appearance, al- 
though it excites no such idea in themselves. There is 
an idle and disgusting story related by some writers, 
respecting the origin of this fashion, which, being 
wholly unfounded, does not deserve repetition; it has 
been the estabhshed national mode of dress from time 
immemorial, and every woman, when walking, must 
shew great part of her leg, as what may be called their 
petticoat is always open in front, instead of being 
closed by a seam. 

Women, in full dress, stain the palms of their hands, 
and their nails, of a red colour, for which they use a 
vegetable juice, and strew on their bosoms powder of 
sandal wood, or of a bark called Sunneka, with which 
some rub their faces. Both men and women tinge the 
edges of their eyelids, and their teeth with black; this 
latter operation gives to their mouths a very unseemly 
appearance in the eyes of an European, which is not 
diminished by their being constantly filled with beetle 
leaf. Men of rank wear, in common dress, a tight coat, 
with long sleeves made of muslin, or of extremely fine 
nankin, which is manufactured in the country, also a 
silk wrapper that encircles the waist: the working class 
are usually naked to the middle, but in the cold season 
a mantle or vest of European broad cloth is highly 

The Birmans in their features bear a nearer resem- 
blance to the Chinese than to the natives of Hindostan, 
The women, especially in the northern, part of the 
empire, are fairer than Hindoo females, but not so 
delicately formed; they are, however, well made, and 
in general inclined to corpulence; their hair is black, 
coarse, and long. The men are not tall in stature, but 
active and athletic; they have a very youthful appear- 
ance, from the custom of plucking their beards instead 
of using the razor: they tattoo their thighs and arms 
into various fantastic shapes and figures, which they 
believe operate as a charm against the weapons of 
their enemies. Neither the men nor women are so 
cleanly in their persons as the Hindoos of India, 
among whom diurnal ablution is a religious as well as 
a moral duty. Girls are taught at an early age to turn 
their arms in such a manner as to make them appear 
distorted: when the arm is extended the elbow is in- 
verted, the inside of the joint being protruded, and the 
external part bending inwards; from this cause the 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

pendent arm in the plates seems as though it were 
broken; the representation is nevertheless perfectly 

Marriages among the Birmans are not contracted 
until the parties attain the age of puberty: the contract 
is purely civil; the ecclesiastical jurisdiction having 
nothing to do with it. The law prohibits polygamy, 
and recognizes but one wife, who is denominated 
Mica; concubinage, however, is admitted to an unlim- 
ited extent. A man may repudiate his wife under par- 
ticular circumstances, but the process is attended with 
a heavy expence. 

Concubines, living in the same house with the le- 
gitimate wife, are, by law, obliged to perform menial 
services for her, and when she goes abroad they at- 
tend her, bearing her water-flaggun, beetle-box, fan, 
&c. When a husband dies, his concubines, if bound in 
servitude to him, become the property of the surviv- 
ing widow, unless he shall have emancipated them by 
a specific act, previous to his decease. When a young 
man is desirous to espouse a girl, his mother, or near- 
est female relation, first makes the proposal in private; 
if the suit be well received, a party of his friends pro- 
ceed to the house of the parents of the maiden, with 
whom they adjust the dotal portion. On the morning 
of the bridal day the bridegroom sends to the lady 
three loongees, or lower garments, three tubbecks, or 
sashes, and three pieces of white muslin; such jewels 
also, ear-rings, and bracelets, as his circumstances will 
admit: a feast is prepared by the parents of the bride, 
and formal writings are executed: the new-married 
couple eat out of the same dish, the bridegroom pre- 
sents the bride with some laepack, or pickled tea, 
which she accepts, and returns the compliment; thus 
ends the ceremony, without any of that subsequent 
riot (See Marsden's Account of Sumatra, page 230) 
and resistance on the part of the young lady and her 
female friends, with which the Sumatrian damsels op- 
pose the privileges of an ardent bridegroom. 

When a man dies intestate, three-fourths of his 
property go to his children born in wedlock, but not in 
equal proportions, and one-fourth to the widow, who 
is the guardian both of the property and the children, 
until the latter attain the age of maturity. A Birman 
funeral is solemnized with much religious parade, and 
external demonstration of grief"; the corpse is carried 
on a bier, on men's shoulders; the procession moves 
slowly; the relations attend in mourning, and women, 
hired for the occasion, precede the body, and chant a 
dirge-like air. The Birmans burn their dead, unless the 
deceased is a pauper, in which case he is either buried 
or cast into the river, as the ceremony of burning is 
very expensive. The bier is placed on a funeral pile six 
or eight feet high, made of billets of dried wood, laid 
across, with intervals to admit a circulation of air, and 
increase the flame. The Rhahaans walk round the pile, 
reciting prayers to Gaudma, until the fire reaches the 

body, when the whole is quickly reduced to ashes: the 
bones are afterwards gathered and deposited in a 
grave. Persons of high distinction, such as the 
Seredaw, or chief ecclesiastic of a province, a 
Maywoon, a Woongee, or a member of the royal fam- 
ily, are embalmed, and their remains preserved six 
weeks or two months after decease, before they are 
committed to the funeral pile: during this period the 
body is laid in state in some kloum or religious build- 
ing, but at the capital it is placed in a sacred saloon, 
beautifully ornamented with gilding, and exclusively 
appropriated to that pious purpose. 1 was told that 
honey is the principal ingredient made use of to pre- 
serve the body from putrefaction. 

Of the population of the Birman dominions I could 
only form a conclusion, from the information I re- 
ceived of the number of cities, towns, and villages, in 
the empire; these, 1 was assured by a person who 
might be supposed to know, and had no motive to de- 
ceive me, amount to eight thousand, not including the 
recent addition of Arracan. If this be true, which I 
have no reason to doubt, and we suppose each town, 
on an average, to contain three hundred houses, and 
each house six persons, the result will determine the 
population at fourteen millions four hundred thou- 
sand. Few of the inhabitants live in sohtary habita- 
tions; they mostly form themselves into small socie- 
ties, and their dwellings thus collected compose their 
Ruas, or villages; if, therefore, we reckon their num- 
bers, including Arracan, at seventeen millions, the cal- 
culation may not be widely erroneous; I believe it 
rather falls short of than exceeds the truth. After all, 
however, it is mere conjecture, as 1 have no better data 
for my guidance than what has been related. 

With regard to the revenue of the Birman state, 1 
confess myself to be without the means of forming 
even a rude estimate of the amount. According to the 
sacred law in the chapter which treats of the duties of 
a monarch, Dhasameda, or a tenth of aU produce, is 
the proportion which is to be exacted as the author- 
ized due of the government; and one-tenth is the 
amount of the King's duty on all foreign goods im- 
ported into his dominions. The revenue arising from 
the customs on imports, and from internal produce, is 
mostly taken in kind, a small part of which is con- 
verted into cash, the rest is distributed, as received, in 
lieu of salaries, to the various dependants of the court. 
Princes of the Mood, high officers of state, and provin- 
cial governors, receive grants of provinces, cities, vil- 
lages, and farms, to support their dignity, and as a 
remuneration of their services: the rents of these as- 
signments they collect for their own benefit. Money, 
except on pressing emergency, is never disbursed 
from the royal coffers; to one man the fees of an office 
are allotted; to another a station where certain Imposts 
are collected; a third has land; each in proportion to 
the importance of his respective employment; by these 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


donations, they are not only bound in their own per- 
sonal servitude, but likewise in that of all their de- 
pendants; they are called slaves of the King, and in 
turn their vassals are denominated slaves to them; the 
condition of these grants Include also services of war, 
as well as the duties of office. Thus the Birman gov- 
ernment exhibits almost a faithful picture of Europe in 
the darker ages, when, on the decline of the Roman 
empire, the principles of feodal dependance were es- 
tablished by barbarians from, the north. 

Although it seems difficult, and perhaps impossible, 
under such a system, to ascertain, in any standard cur- 
rency, the amount of the royal revenue, yet the riches 
which the Birman monarch is said to possess are im- 
mense, a supposition that may readily be admitted, 
when it is considered that a very small share of what 
enters his exchequer, returns into circulation. The 
hoarding of money is a favourite maxim of oriental 
state policy; an eastern potentate cannot be brought to 
comprehend that the diffusion of property among his 
subjects is a surer source of wealth to himself, and of 
security to his throne, than the possession of Lydian 
treasures, locked up in vaults, and concealed in secret 
recesses, contrived by sordid avarice and foolish cun- 

Chapter XIV 

The Birmans may be denominated a nation of soldiers, 
every man in the kingdom being liable to be called 
upon for his military services; and war is deemed the 
most honourable occupation; the regular military es- 
tablishment of the Birmans is nevertheless very incon- 
siderable, not exceeding the numbers of which the 
royal guard is composed, and such as are necessary to 
preserve the police of the capital. When an army is to 
be raised, a mandate issues from the golden palace, to 
all viceroys of provinces, and Miougees of districts, 
requiring a certain number of men to be at a general 
rendezvous, on an appointed day, under command, 
sometimes of the viceroy himself, but oftener that of 
an inferior officer: the levy is proportioned to the 
population of the province, or district, estimated from 
the number of registered houses it contains. The pro- 
vincial court determines the burthen which each 
house is to bear; commonly every two, three, or four 
houses are to furnish among them one recruit, or to 
pay three hundred tackal in money, about £40 or £45; 
this recruit is supplied with arms, ammunition, and, 1 
believe, with a certain daily allowance of grain from 
government, but is not entitled to pay. The families of 
these conscripts are carefully retained in the district 
which they inhabit, as hostages for the good conduct 
of their relation. In case of desertion or treachery, the 
innocent wife, children, and parents of the guilty per- 
son, are dragged to execution without the least re- 
morse or pity; even cowardice subjects the family of 

the delinquent to capital punishment. This barbarous 
law, which is rigorously enforced, must have a power- 
ful effect in securing the allegiance of the troops, and 
of impelling them to vigorous exertion, and it is, per- 
haps, the only sure mode of inciting to enterprises of 
danger, men who are not actuated by any innate sense 
of honour, and who do not feel any national pride. 

Infantry and cavalry compose the regular guards of 
the king; the former are armed with muskets and sa- 
bres, the latter are provided with a spear about seven 
or eight feet long, which they manage on horseback 
with great dexterity, seldom requiring or making use 
of any other weapon. The infantry are not uniformly 
clothed; 1 heard various accounts of their numbers: 
seven hundred do constant duty within the precincts, 
and at the several gates of the palace: 1 think that on 
the day of my public reception, 1 saw about two thou- 
sand, and have no doubt but all the troops in the city 
were paraded on that occasion. 1 was told that there 
were only three hundred cavalry in Ummerapoora, 
but that three thousand were scattered, in small de- 
tachments, throughout the neighbouring districts. All 
the troopers in the king's service are natives of Cassay, 
who are much better horsemen than the Birmans. Mr. 
Wood, who saw some of them at exercise, informed 
me that they nearly resembled those he had met with 
in Assam; they ride, like all orientals, with short stir- 
rups and a loose rein; their saddle is hard and high, 
and two large circular flaps of strong leather hang 
down on each side, painted or gilded, according to the 
quality of the rider. Their dress is not unbecoming; 
they wear a tight coat, with skirts reaching down to 
the middle of the thigh, and on their head a turban of 
cloth, hard rolled and plaited, that forms a high cone, 
which bends backward in a graceful manner. The 
breed of horses in Ava are small, but very hardy and 
active; contrary to the practice of other eastern coun- 
tries, they castrate their horses, and are thus enabled 
to maintain them with little trouble and expence, and 
can also turn a number loose in a field together, with- 
out any risk of their injuring one another. Horses are 
frequently exported in timber ships bound for Ma- 
dras, and other parts of the coast, where they are dis- 
posed of to considerable advantage. 

The government of Ava is extremely attentive to 
provide, in times of peace, for the contingencies of 
war; the royal magazines, 1 was-told, could furnish 
twenty thousand firelocks, which, if they resembled 
the specimens 1 saw, cannot be very formidable; these 
have been imported, at different periods, into the 
country, by ships trading to Rangoon and other parts 
of the empire, and are either of French manufacture, 
or condemned muskets from the English arsenals in 
India. The Birmans are very fond of their arms, of 
which they take great care; their gunsmiths, who are 
all natives of Cassay, keep them in repair, but they are 
in general so bad as to be out of the power of art, to 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

render them serviceable. I saw a tolerably good fowl- 
ing piece, which they said was entirely the work of a 
Cassay artificer; this, however, was allowed to be an 
extraordinary effort of genius; the person who shewed 
it to me, presented me, at the same time, with a bam- 
boo, which threw out a short spear of iron by means of 
a spring; it was executed by the maker of the gun, and 
seemed to be formed after a model of an Enghsh walk- 
ing stick, that contained a concealed spike; the imita- 
tion evinced much ingenuity, although the workman- 
ship was coarse, and the iron badly polished. 

By far the most respectable part of the Birman mili- 
tary force is their establishment of war-boats. Every 
town of note, in the vicinity of the river, is obliged to 
furnish a certain number of men, and one or more 
boats, in proportion to the magnitude of the place. 1 
was informed that the king can command, at a very 
short notice, five hundred of these vessels: they are 
constructed out of the sohd trunk of the teak tree, 
which is excavated partly by fire, and partly by cut- 
ting; the largest are from eighty to one hundred feet 
long, but the breadth seldom exceeds eight feet, and 
even this space is produced by artificially extending 
the sides after the trunk has been hollowed. They 
carry from fifty to sixty rowers, who use short oars 
that work on a spindle; the prow is solid, and has a 
flat surface, on which, when they go to war, a piece of 
ordnance is mounted, a six, a nine, or even a twelve 
pounder; the gun carriage is secured by lathings to 
strong bolts on each side, and swivels are frequently 
fixed on the curvature of the stern. 

The rowers are severally provided with a sword 
and a lance, which are placed by his side whilst he 
phes the oars. Besides the boatmen, there are usually 
thirty soldiers on board, who are armed with muskets: 
thus prepared, they go in fleets to meet the foe, and, 
when in sight, draw up in a line, presenting their 
prows to the enemy. Their attack is extremely impetu- 
ous; they advance with great rapidity, and sing a war- 
song, at once to encourage their people, daunt their 
adversaries, and regulate the strokes of their oars; they 
generally endeavour to grapple, and "when that is ef- 
fected, the action becomes very severe, as these people 
are endued with great courage, strength, and activity. 
In times of peace they are fond of exercising in their 
boats, and 1 have often been entertained with the dex- 
terity they display in the management of them. The 
vessels being low in the water, their greatest danger is 
that of being run down by a larger boat striking on 
their broadside, a misfortune which the steersman is 
taught to dread, and to avoid, above all others. It is 
surprising to see the facility with which they steer, 
and elude each other in their mock combats. The row- 
ers are also practised to row backwards, and impel the 
vessel with the stern foremost; this is the mode of re- 
treat, by means of which the artillery still bears upon 
their opponent. The largest of the war-boats do not 

draw more than three feet water. When a person of 
rank is on board, there is a sort of moving tilt or can- 
opy, for his particular accommodation, placed some- 
times in the centre, and sometimes on the prow. The 
sides of the boat are either gilt as far as the water's 
edge, or plain, according to the rank of the person it 
carries. Gilded boats are only permitted to princes of 
the blood, or to persons holding the highest stations, 
such as a Maywoon of a province, and a minister of 

It is by no means improbable that the use of gun- 
powder was well known in India before its effects 
were discovered in the west; yet there is not any rea- 
son to believe that the natives of Ava applied it to the 
purpose of musquetry, till Europeans instructed them 
in the art. According to Indian accounts, cannon were 
fabricated in the east long before the era of European 
conquest; their artillery, however, was not capable of 
being transported with facility, or at aU used in the 
field: they were made of iron bars beaten into a cylin- 
drical form, rudely put together, but of great strength, 
and enormous weight, from which, when raised on a 
rampart or tower, they threw huge stones to annoy the 
enemy. The musquet was first introduced into the 
Pegue and Ava countries by the Portugueze, and is an 
implement of war which the inhabitants unwisely pre- 
fer to their own native weapons, the spear and sabre, a 
partiality that is highly prejudicial to themselves, for 
nothing can be less formidable than such fire arms as 
they possess, or have the means of procuring. The 
proper indigenous weapons of the country are the 
spear, the javelin, which is thrown from the hand, the 
cross-bow, and the sabre; the latter is used by the Bir- 
mans not only as an implement of war, but is likewise 
applied to various purposes as an instrument of man- 
ual labour; with this the peasant fells trees, shapes 
timbers, cuts bamboos, or defends himself against an 
enemy, and wild beasts; he never travels without it, 
and generally, when on a journey, carries a shield on 
his left arm: they encumber themselves with less bag- 
gage than perhaps any other people; and are satisfied 
with a scanty portion of the hardest fare. 

In their food the Birmans, compared with the Indi- 
ans, are gross and uncleanly. Although their religion 
forbids the slaughter of animals in general, yet they 
apply the interdiction only to those that are domesti- 
cated; aU game is eagerly sought after, and in many 
places it is publicly sold; reptiles also, such as lizards, 
guanas, and snakes, constitute a part of the subsis- 
tence of the lower classes. During our voyage up the 
river, the boatmen, after we had brought to, used fre- 
quently to hunt for camehons and lizards among the 
thickets. They are extremely fond of vegetables; at 
those places where garden greens were not to be pro- 
cured, they gathered wild sorrel, and sometimes sub- 
stituted the tender leaves of trees; these, boiled with 
rice, and moistened with a little oil, or seasoned with 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


gnapee, or pickled sprat, compose a meal with which 
a Birman peasant or boatman is satisfied; the higher 
ranks, however, live with more delicacy, although 
their fare is never very sumptuous. 

The chmate of every part of the Birman empire, 
which 1 have visited, bore testimony to its salubrity, 
by the best possible criterion, the appearance and vig- 
our of the natives. The seasons are regular, and the 
extremes of heat and cold are seldom experienced, at 
least the duration of that intense heat, which immedi- 
ately precedes the commencement of the rainy season, 
is so short, that it incommodes but for a very little 
time. During our residence in the country we lost only 
one man by disease; another met an accidental death; 
in wandering through the woods he became the prey 
of a tiger (This unfortunate man belonged to the Sea- 

The soil of the southern provinces of the Birman 
empire is remarkably fertile, and produces as luxuri- 
ant crops of rice as are to be found in the finest parts 
of Bengal. Farther northward the country becomes ir- 
regular and mountainous; but the plains and vaUies, 
particularly near the river, are exceedingly fruitful; 
they yield good wheat, and the various kinds of small 
grain which grow in Hindostan; as likewise legumes, 
and most of the esculent vegetables of India. Sugar 
canes, tobacco of a superior quality, indigo, cotton, 
and the different tropical fruits, in perfection, are all 
indigenous products of this favoured land. 

Besides the teak tree, which grows in many parts of 
the Birman empire, as well to the north of Um- 
merapoora, as in the southern country, there is almost 
every description of timber that is known in India. Dr. 
Buchanan, in one of his afternoon excursions, per- 
ceived a large log of fir, which, his attendant informed 
him, had been washed down by the torrents from a 
mountainous part of the country, four days journey 
northward of the capital, where it grows in abun- 
dance, and of considerable magnitude: the natives call 
it Taenyo; they extract the turpentine, which they turn 
to use, but consider the wood of little value, on ac- 
count of its softness. If they could be prevailed upon 
to transport it to Rangoon, it might prove a beneficial 
material to the navigation of India. Top-gallant masts 
and yards made of teak are thought to be too heavy. 
European and American spars are often bought for 
these purposes at a very exorbitant price, an incon- 
venience which the fir of Ava, if conveyed to the mar- 
ket, would probably obviate. 

The kingdom of Ava abounds in minerals; six days 
journey from Bamoo, near the frontiers of China, there 
are mines of gold and silver, called Badouem: there 
are also mines of gold, silver, rubies, and sapphires at 
present open on a mountain near the Keenduem, 
called Wooboloo-taun; but the most valuable, and 
those which produce the finest jewels, are in the vicin- 
ity of the capital, nearly opposite to Keoum-meoum. 

Precious stones are found in several other parts of the 
empire. The inferior minerals, such as contain iron, tin, 
lead, antimony, arsenic, sulphur, &c. are met with in 
great abundance; amber, of a consistence unusually 
pure and pellucid, is dug up in large quantities near 
the river; gold, likewise, is discovered in the sandy 
beds of streams which descend from the mountains. 
Between the Keenduem and the Irrawaddy, to the 
northward, there is a small river called Shoe Lien 
Kioup, or the Stream of Golden Sand. 

Diamonds and emeralds are not produced in any 
part of the Ava empire, but it affords amethysts, gar- 
nets, very beautiful chrysohtes, jasper, loadstone, and 
marble; the quarries of the latter are only a few miles 
from Ummerapoora; it is equal in quality to the finest 
marble of Italy, and admits of a pohsh that renders it 
almost transparent. Blocks of any size that it is possi- 
ble to transport might be procured, but the sale is pro- 
hibited; nor is it allowed to be carried away without a 
special hcense. Images of Gaudma being chiefly com- 
posed of this material, it is on that account held sa- 
cred. Birmans may not purchase the marble in mass, 
but are suffered and indeed encouraged to buy figures 
of the deity ready made. Exportation of their gods out 
of the kingdom is strictly forbidden. The city of Cha- 
gain is the principal manufactory of these marble di- 

An extensive trade is carried on between the capital 
of the Birman dominions and Yunan in China. The 
principal article of export from Ava is cotton, of which 
1 was informed there are two kinds, one of a brown 
colour, of which nankeens are made, the other white, 
like the cotton of India; 1 did not see any of the former. 
This commodity is transported up the Irrawaddy in 
large boats, as far as Bamoo, where it is bartered at the 
common jee, or mart, with Chinese merchants, and 
conveyed by the latter, partly by land, and partly by 
water, into the Chinese dominions. Amber, ivory, pre- 
cious stones, beetle nut, and the edible nests brought 
from the eastern Archipelago, are also articles of 
commerce: in return, the Birmans procure raw and 
wrought silks, velvets, gold leaf, preserves, paper, and 
some utensils of hardware. 

The commerce between the capital and the southern 
parts of the empire is facilitated by the noble river that 
waters the country; its principal objects are the neces- 
saries of life: several thousand boats are annually em- 
ployed in transporting rice from the lower provinces 
to supply Ummerapoora, and the northern districts; 
salt and gnapee may likewise be reckoned under the 
same head. Articles of foreign importation are mostly 
conveyed up the Irrawaddy; a few are introduced by 
way of Arracan, and carried over the mountains on 
the heads of coolies, or labourers; European broad- 
cloth, a small quantity of hardware, coarse Bengal 
muslins, Cossembuzar silk handkerchiefs, China ware, 
which will not admit of land carriage, and glass, are 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

the principal commodities. Cocoa nuts also, brought 
from the Nicobar Islands, where they are of uncom- 
mon excellence, are looked upon as a delicacy, and 
bear a high price: merchants carry down silver, lac, 
precious stones, and some other articles, to no great 
amount. A considerable sum of money is annually laid 
out at the capital in the purchase of marble statues of 
Gaudma, which are all fabricated at Chagain, opposite 
Awa-haung, or ancient Ava: they are not permitted to 
be made at any other place. 

The Birmans, like the Chinese, have no coin; silver 
in bullion, and lead, are the current monies of the 
country; weight and purity are, of course, the stan- 
dard of value, and in the ascertainment of both, the 
natives are exceedingly scrupulous and expert. What 
foreigners call a tackal, properly kiat, is the most gen- 
eral piece of silver in circulation; it weighs ten penny- 
weights ten grains and three-fourths; its subdivisions 
are, the tubbee, two of which make one moo; two moo 
one math; four math one tackal, and one hundred 
tackal compose one viss. Money scales and weights 
are all fabricated at the capital, where they are 
stamped, and afterwards circulated throughout the 
empire; the use of any others is prohibited. 

Rice is sold by a measure called Tayndaung, or bas- 
ket; the weight is sixteen viss, about fifty-six pounds. 
There are many subdivisions of measurement. The 
average price of rice at the capital is one tackal, rather 
more than half-a-crown, for a basket and a half. At 
Rangoon and Martaban one tackal will purchase four 
or five baskets. 

The bankers, called by foreigners Pymon, are like- 
wise workers in silver, and assayers of metal: this is a 
class of people very numerous, and indispensably 
necessary, as no stranger can undertake either to pay 
or receive money without having it first examined. 
Every merchant has a banker of this description, with 
whom he lodges all his cash, and who, for receiving 
and paying, gets an established commission of one 
per cent.; in consideration of which he is responsible 
for the quality of what goes through his hands; and in 
no instance did 1 ever hear of a breach of trust com- 
mitted by one of these bankers. The quantity of alloy 
varies in the silver current in different parts of the 
empire: at Rangoon it is adulterated twenty-five per 
cent.; at Ummerapoora, pure, or what is called flow- 
ered silver, is most common; in this latter all royal 
dues are paid. The several modifications are as fol- 

Rouni, or pure silver. 
Rounika, 5 per cent, of alloy. 

Rounizee, 10 per cent. 

Rouassee, 20 per cent. 

Moowadzoo, 25 per cent. 

Woombo 30 per cent. 

Any person may have his silver either purified or 
depreciated to whatever standard he chuses; the near- 
est silversmith will be glad to perform the work, free 
from charge for his labour, as the bringer by the op- 
eration must lose a trifle, which the artist gains: the 
small quantity of metal that adheres to the crucible is 
his profit. 1 was informed that the silversmith can sell 
these crucibles afterwards to refiners for forty tackals 
a thousand, and that an adequate gain accrues to the 
purchaser from the metal extracted from the pot after 
it is broken. 

The Birman measures of length are, a Paul-gaut, or 
inch, eighteen of which compose the Taim, or cubit. 

The Saundaung, or royal cubit,114 equal to twenty- 
two inches. The Dha, or Bamboo, which consists of 
seven royal cubits; one thousand dha make one Bir- 
man league, or Dain, nearly equal to two British miles 
and two furlongs; the league is also subdivided into 
tenths. The Birmans keep their accounts in decimals, 
after the manner of the Chinese. 

It has already been noticed, that the general disposi- 
tion of the Birmans is strikingly contrasted with that of 
the natives of India, from whom they are separated 
only by a narrow range of mountains, in many places 
admitting of an easy intercourse. Notwithstanding the 
small extent of this barrier, the physical difference be- 
tween the nations could scarcely be greater, had they 
been situated at the opposite extremities of the globe. 

The Birmans are a lively, inquisitive race, active, 
irascible, and impatient; the character of their Bengal 
neighbours is too well known, as the reverse, to need 
any delineation; the unworthy passion of jealousy, 
which prompts most nations of the east to immure 
their women within the walls of an haram, and sur- 
round them with guards, seems to have scarcely any 
influence over the minds of this extraordinary and 
more liberal people, Birman wives and daughters are 
not concealed from the sight of men, and are suffered 
to have as free intercourse with each other as the rules 
of European society admit; but in other respects 
women have just reason to complain of their treat- 
ment; they are considered as not belonging to the 
same scale of the creation as men, and even the law 
stamps a degrading distinction between the sexes; the 
evidence of a woman is not received as of equal 
weight with that of a man, and a woman is not suf- 
fered to ascend the steps of a court of justice, but is 
obliged to deliver her testimony on the outside of the 
roof. The custom of selling their women to strangers, 
which has before been adverted to, is confined to the 
lowest classes of society, and is perhaps oftener the 
consequence of heavy pecuniary embarrassment, than 
an act of inclination; it is not, however, considered as 
shameful, nor is the female dishonoured; partly per- 
haps from this cause, and partly from their habits of 

' This cubit varies according to the will of the monarch. 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


education, women surrender themselves the victims 
of this barbarous custom with apparent resignation. It 
is also said that they are very seldom unfaithful to 
their foreign masters, indeed they are often essentially 
useful, particularly to those who trade, by keeping 
their accounts and transacting their business: but 
when a man departs from the country, he is not suf- 
fered to carry his temporary wife along with him; on 
that point the law is exceedingly rigorous: every ship, 
before she receives her clearance, is diligently 
searched by the officers of the customhouse: even if 
their vigilance were to be eluded, the woman would 
be quickly missed; and it would be soon discovered in 
what vessel she had gone, nor could that ship ever re- 
turn to a Birman port but under penalty of confisca- 
tion of the property, and the infliction of a heavy fine 
and imprisonment on the master: female children also, 
born of a Birman mother, are not suffered to be taken 
away. Men are permitted to emigrate; but they think 
that the expatriation of women would impoverish the 
state, by diminishing the sources of its population. 

One vice is usually the parent of another: the Bir- 
mans, being exempt from that of jealousy, do not re- 
sort to the diabolical practice of emasculating male 
children, to educate them as spies over their women. 
Chastity, they know, is more safely guarded by prin- 
ciples of honour and attachment than by moats or cas- 
tles. When Arracan was conquered by the Birmans, 
several eunuchs, were made prisoners, belonging to 
the prince of the country, who had adopted that de- 
generate custom of Mahomedan growth. 

These people are maintained by the Birman mon- 
arch rather as memorials of his conquest, than for any 
services they are required to perform. Infidelity is not 
a characteristic of Birman wives; in general they have 
too much employment to leave leisure for the corrup- 
tion of their minds. A woman of the highest rank sel- 
dom sits in idleness at home; her female servants, like 
those of Grecian dames of antiquity, ply "the various 
labours of the loom:" whilst the mistress superintends 
and directs their industry. On the occasion of a formal 
visit to the mother of the present Queen, we observed 
in one of the galleries of her palace, three or four 
looms at work, wrought by the damsels of her house- 
hold. Weaving is chiefly a female occupation. Most 
Birman families make all the cotton and silk cloth that 
is required for their domestic consumption. 

The Birmans, in some points of their disposition, 
display the ferocity of barbarians, and in others, all the 
humanity and tenderness of polished life: they inflict 
the most savage vengeance on their enemies; as in- 
vaders, desolation marks their track, for they spare 
neither sex nor age; but at home they assume a differ- 
ent character; there they manifest benevolence, by ex- 
tending aid to the infirm, the aged, and the sick: filial 
piety is inculcated as a sacred precept, and its duties 
are religiously observed. A common beggar is no 

where to be seen: every individual is certain of receiv- 
ing sustinence, which, if he cannot procure by his own 
labour, is provided for him by others. 

During the several excursions which we made into 
the country, we did not perceive any of the feathered 
tribe that were peculiar to this part of the world, or 
that were not to be met with in India, the ornithology 
of which is already well known. The Henza, the sym- 
bol of the Birman nation, as the eagle was of the Ro- 
man empire, is a species of wild fowl, called in India 
the Braminy goose; but the natives of Ava do not deify 
the bird. Of the beasts of Ava, the only one 1 saw, with 
which 1 was unacquainted, was the ichneumon, or the 
rat of Pharaoh, called by the natives Ounbaii. It is a 
singular circumstance that there should not be such an 
animal as the jackal in the Ava dominions, considering 
that they are so numerous in the adjoining country. 
Pegue abounds in elephants; for though they are to be 
met with in other parts of the empire, that seems to be 
their favourite abode. One of his Birman Majesty's ti- 
tles is. Lord of the White Elephant, and of all the Ele- 
phants in the World. 

The Birmans divide their time as follows: 
The space in which the finger can be raised 
and depressed is called charazi; ten charazi make one 
piaan; six piaan one bizana, (about a minute). The day, 
of twenty-four hours, commencing at noon, is divided 
into eight portions, or yettee, of three hours each, thus 

Moon Yettee, 

or noon. 

Loung Yettee, 

3 P.M. 

Lay Yettee, 

6 P.M. 

Gneah Yettee, 

9 P.M. 

Gneah Gnek Yettee, 


Gneah Laghee Loung Yettee, 3[A.M.]. 
Mioh Ling Yettee, 6 A. M. 

Gneah Tek Yettee, 9 A. M. 

These divisions of time are ascertained by a machine, 
resembling the hour-glass, and sometimes by a perfo- 
rated pan placed in a tub of water: they are announced 
by a stroke on an oblong drum, which is always kept 
near the dwelling of the chief magistrate of the city, 
town, or village; it is commonly raised on a high bam- 
boo stage, with a roof of mats to protect it from the 

The edifice at the royal palace for the reception of 
this instrument is of masonry, and very lofty, whence 
the sound is said to be distinctly conveyed to the re- 
motest extremes of the city. 

The Birman year is divided into twelve months, 
which, strictly speaking, cannot be called synodical, 
although they comprehend the same number of days. 
A revolution of the moon, in passing from one con- 
junction with the sun to another, is performed in 29 
days 12 hours and 44 minutes; but the Birman luna- 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

tions consist of 29 and 30 days, alternate, which causes 
a difference between the Newtonian and Birman lunar 
account of 8 hours and 48 minutes. The Birman 
months are as follow: 


Tagoo contains 


Nay Young 




Sandaing Guite 


Tazoung Moang 







In order to complete a solar revolution, they interca- 
late in every third year a month of 30 days, which is 
called Toodea Wazoo; in this third year the months of 
Tagoo and Nay Young have each 30 days instead of 
29; they likewise suppress or pass over a day, which, if 
reckoned, would either be the 31st Taboung or the 1st 
of Tagoo; by these means the number of days in three 
solar years is thus computed: 

Three lunar years, of 354 days each 

Intercalary month in the third year 

Two intercalary days in Tagoo 

and Nay Young 

Suppressed or passed over at the end of 

the year 





This computation corresponds, in the number of days, 
with three years; every fourth year however will occa- 
sion the difference of a day on account of our bissex- 
tile or leap year; of this the Birmans are fully sensible, 
as well as of many other defects in their manner of 
reckoning: to remedy the confusion likely to ensue 
from such erroneous calculations, their style or mode 
has frequently been altered by arbitrary authority. His 
present Birman Majesty, however, is so desirous to 
ascertain and establish, by accurate tables, a perma- 
nent and unvarying measurement of time, that he 
made an application to the late Governor General of 
India to send to his capital a Bramin well versed in 
astronomy, to assist the deliberations of his council of 
professors, among whom his Majesty always presides 
in person, and he is said to be no inconsiderable profi- 
cient in the science of astronomy. 

The manner in which the Birman month is subdi- 
vided, 1 imagine, is pecuUar to their nation; instead of 
reckoning the days progressively from the com- 
mencement to the close of the month, they advance no 
farther than the full moon, from which they recede by 
retrogressive enumeration until the month is finished. 

Thus the new moon is called, 

Lahzan terrait gnay, or first day of the 
increasing moon. 

Lahzan gnerait gnay, second day, &c. 
Lahzan loungrait gnay, third day, &c. 
Lahzan layrait gnay, fourth day, &c. 
Lahzan narait gnay, fifth day, &c. 
Lahzan kioukrait gnay, sixth day, &c. 
Lahzan koonrait gnay, seventh day, &c. 
Lahzan sheaseddainrait gnay, eighth day, &c. 
Lahzan karait gnay,. ninth day, &c. 
Lahzan sayrait gnay, tenth day, &c. 
Lahzan say terrait gnay, eleventh day, &c. 
Lahzan say-gnerrait gnay, twelfth day, &c.. 
Lahzan say soungrait gnay, thirteenth day, &c. 
Lahzan tassay sayrait gnay, fourteenth day, &c. 
Lah bee, fifteenth day, &c. 
Lah bee-goo terrait gnay, or the first day of the 
decreasing moon. 

The seventeenth, eighteenth, &c. correspond with 
the second and third of the increasing moon, substitut- 
ing Lah Bee-goo for Lahzan. The last day of the 
month, whether of twenty -nine or thirty days, is called 

The Birman month is divided into-four weeks of 
seven days each; the days are distinguished by the fol- 
lowing names: 

Tamaing nuaye, Sunday, the first day of the 

Birman week. 

Talain lah, - Monday. 

Aing gah, - Tuesday. 

Boodt-hoo, - Wednesday. 

Keah-subbeday, -Thursday. 

Zoup keah, - Friday. 

Sunnay, - Saturday. 

The eighth day of the increasing moon, the fifteenth 
or fuU moon, the eighth of the decreasing moon, and 
the last day of the moon, are religiously observed by 
Birmans as sacred festivals. On these hebdomadal 
holidays no public business is transacted in the 
Rhoom; mercantile dealings are suspended; handicraft 
is forbidden; and the strictly pious take no sustenance 
between the rising and the setting of the sun; but this 
latter instance of self-denial is not very common, and, 
as 1 understood, is rarely practised, except in the me- 
tropolis, where the appearance of sanctity is some- 
times assumed, as a ladder by which the crafty at- 

SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


tempt to climb to promotion. The Sovereign himself is 
a great favourer of the austerities of the Birman relig- 
ion; and his chief minister, or Woongee, has for many 
years on a Birman sabbath abstained from food so 
long as the sun continues above the horizon. 

The Birmans are extremely fond both of poetry and 
music; they call the former Yeddoo: when repeated by 
a scholar it flows soft and measured, to the ear; it is 
sometimes in successive, and often in alternate rhimes. 
A line is called Tageoung; a stanza, Tubbouk. They 
have epic as well as religious poems of high celebrity, 
and they are fond of reciting in heroic numbers the 
exploits of their kings and generals. 1 was informed 
that the prowess of Alompra is recorded in verses not 
unworthy of a monarch. 

Music is a science which is held in considerable es- 
timation throughout the Birman empire, and is culti- 
vated at the present day more generally than in India, 
notwithstanding it is there termed, as by the ancient 
Greeks, the language of the gods. The royal library of 
Ummerapoora is said to contain many valuable trea- 
tises on the art. Some of the professional musicians 
display considerable skill and execution, and the 
softer airs are pleasing even to an ear unaccustomed to 
such melody. The principal instruments are a Soum, 
or harp, made of light wood, hollowed and varnished, 
in shape somewhat like a canoe with a deck; at the ex- 
tremity a piece of hard wood is neatly fastened, which 
tapers to the end, and rising curves over the body of 
the harp; from this curvature, the strings, usually 
made of wire, are extended to a bridge on the belly of 
the instrument: there are two sounding holes, one on 
each side of the bridge. The size of the Soum varies 
from two to five feet in length. 

The Turr resembles our violin; it has only three 
strings, and is played on with a bow. 1 at first imag- 
ined it had been of European introduction, and 
brought to Pegue by the Portugueze, but 1 was as- 
sured it was an original instrument of the country. 

The PuUaway, is a common flagelet. 

The Kyezoup, is a collection of cymbals, which are 
suspended in a bamboo frame; these cymbals, varying 
in size, produce modulated gradations of sounds; 
there were eighteen in the Kyezoup that 1 saw. 

The Patola, or guitar, is a curious instrument; it is 
the exact form of a crocodile in miniature; the body of 
which is hollow, with sounding holes on the back; 
three strings of wire extend from the shoulder to the 
tail, and are supported on bridges at each extremity; 
the strings are tuned by means of pegs in the tail, to 
which they are fastened; it is played on by the finger, 
and is generally used to accompany the voice. 

The Boundaw is a collection of drums, oblong in 
form, and varying in size, which are suspended per- 
pendicularly in a wooden frame by leather thongs. 
The whole machine is about five feet in diameter and 
four feet high. The performer stands in the centre, and 

beats on the drums with a small stick. This instrument 
is always introduced when there is a fuU band, and is 
much used in processions, being carried by two men, 
whilst the performer shuffles along in the inside, play- 
ing as he goes. 

The Heem is the pipe of Pan, formed of several 
reeds neatly joined together, and sounded by a com- 
mon mouth-piece; when played with skill, it produces 
a very plaintive melody. These are the principal in- 
struments of music in use among the Birmans. Dr. Bu- 
chanan purchased a complete concert set, for fifty-four 
tackal, which is about five or six guineas. Melody has 
charms for all mankind: among the boatmen that 
rowed my barge, 1 doubt whether there was one who 
did not possess an instrument of some sort; he who 
could procure no better, had what we call a Jew's 
harp, with which he delighted to beguile half an hour 
of a cool evening, after a day of hard labour under a 
burning sun. 

Of the ancient Pallis,ii5 whose language constitutes 
at the present day the sacred text of Ava, Pegue, and 
Siam, as well as of several other countries eastward of 
the Ganges; and of their migration from India to the 
banks of the Call, the Nile of Ethiopia, we have but 
very imperfect information. As a nation they have 
long ago ceased to exist: they are said to have pos- 
sessed, in former times, a dominion stretching from 
the Indus as far as Siam, and to have been conquered 
by the Rajaputras, who changed the name of their 
country from PaUsthan to Rajaputra. In the old books 
of the Hindoos they are called Pahputras, and it may 1 
think be concluded that they were the Palibothri of the 

It has been the opinion of some of the most enlight- 
ened writers (Captain Wilford on Egypt and the Nile. 
Loubere's Account of Siam. Chambers on the Ruins of 
Mavalipuram. Asiat. Research. Vol. 1) on the languages 
of the East, that the Pah, the sacred language of the 
priests of Boodh, is nearly allied to the Shanscrit of the 
Bramins; and there certainly is much of that holy id- 
iom engrafted on the vulgar language of Ava, by the 
introduction of the Hindoo rehgion. The character in 
common use throughout Ava and Pegue is a round 
Nagari, derived from the square Pali, or religious text; 
it is formed of circles and segments of circles, vari- 
ously disposed and combined, whilst the Pali, which 

"' In Captain Wilford's elaborate and learned Dissertation on 
Egypt and the Nile, from the ancient books of the Hindoos, there is 
the following passage: 

"The history of the Pallis cannot fail to be interesting, especially as 
it will be found much connected with that of Europe; and I hope 
soon to be supplied with materials for a full account of them. Even 
their miserable remains in India must excite compassion, when we 
consider how great they once were, and from what height they 
fell, through the intolerant zeal and superstition of their neigh- 
bours. Their features are peculiar, and their language different, but 
perhaps not radically, from that of the other Hindoos. Their Vil- 
lages are still called Palli." Asiat. Research. Vol. 111. 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

is solely applied to the purposes of religion, is a 
square letter, chiefly consisting of right angles. 

The Birman language contains thirty-three simple 
sounds, to represent which, their alphabet, commonly 
called Kagye Kague, consists of an equal number of 
distinct characters, exclusive of various marks and 
contractions, that supply the place of long and short 
vowels, diphthongs, &c. These are explained and 
enumerated in separate series, in the Birman Spelling- 
book, entitled, Kaynboungie, in which every possible 
combination is given and exemplified. 

It should be observed here, that there is no rep- 
resentation of the vowel corresponding with our short 
a, as from the frequent occurrence of that sound in the 
middle and at the end of words, it was found conven- 
ient to omit it in writing; it is nevertheless to be pro- 
nounced after every simple sound or consonant not 
supplied with another vowel, unless it be forbidden 
by a mark of elision placed over the letter, or excluded 
by the junction of two or more consonants, in the form 
of a compound character. These singularities, 1 am in- 
formed by Mr. Wilkins, are common to all the alpha- 
bets of the Hindoo class. 

The Birmans write from left to right, and though 
they leave no distinguishing space between their 
words, they mark the pauses of a sentence and the full 
stops. Their letters are distinct, and their manuscripts 
are in general very beautiful. 

The common books of the Birmans, like those of 
the Hindoos, particularly of such as inhabit the south- 
ern parts of India, are composed of the palmyra leaf, 
on which the letters are engraved with a stylus; but 
the Birmans far excel the Braminical Hindoos in the 
neatness of the execution, and in the ornamental part 
of their volumes. In every Kioum, or monastery, there 
is a library or repository of books, usually kept in lac- 
quered chests. Books in the Pali text, are sometimes 
composed of thin stripes of bamboo, delicately plaited, 
and varnished over in such a manner, as to form a 
smooth and hard surface upon a leaf of any dimen- 
sions; this surface is afterwards gilded, and the sacred 
letters are traced upon it in black and shining japan. 
The margin is illumined by wreaths and figures of 
gold, on a red, green, or black ground. 

In the recitation of poetry, the language is exceed- 
ingly melodious; even the prose of common conversa- 
tion appears to be measured, and the concluding word 
of each sentence is lengthened by a musical cadence, 
that marks the period, to the ear of a person wholly 
unacquainted with the meaning. 

The annexed Plate exhibits the simple elementary 
characters, with the sound that each expresses, and the 
name in the Birman tongue: this name has an appro- 
priate meaning, such as "great ka," "spiral ka," "circu- 
lar za," &c. but some of these characters are very 
rarely used, such as No. 4, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 19, 23, 
and 32. 

To this alphabet is added the Shanscrit elementary 
character, analogous to each of the Birman characters; 
also the Birman cyphers, and a specimen of the an- 
cient Pah, taken from a very beautiful manuscript in 
my possession, which contains an account of the 
ceremony used in the consecration of Rhahaans (1 am 
indebted for the Shanscrit character, to the kindness 
of my friend Mr. Wilkins). 

It is difficult to ascertain with precision the exact 
hmits of the Birman empire. Dr. Buchanan, who ac- 
companied me, sought for geographical information 
with the most diligent inquiry; he procured, but not 
without considerable trouble and expence, sketches 
of every part of the Birman territories; and he has 
transmitted the materials which he thus collected to 
the East-India Company. Those sketches, however, 
being contained in various and detached pieces, not 
forming any connected body, nor yet reduced to a 
graduated scale, can hardly be brought into the shape 
of a regular map without the aid of some further 
communications; they are nevertheless documents of 
much intrinsic value and importance; it is therefore to 
be hoped that, with the aid of some additional lights, 
a vacuum on the terrestrial globe will, ere long, be 
filled up, and a portion of the earth delineated, which 
heretofore has been very imperfectly known. On a 
probable calculation from Dr. Buchanan's papers of 
the extent of the present Birman empire, it appears to 
include the space between the 9* and 26th degrees of 
north latitude, and between the 92d and 107th de- 
grees of longitude east of Greenwich, about 1050 
geographical miles in length, and 600 in breadth: 
these are the ascertainable limits, taken from the Bir- 
man accounts; but it is probable that their dominions 
stretch still farther to the north. It should, however, 
be remarked, that the breadth often varies, and is in 
many places very inconsiderable, on what is called 
the Eastern Peninsula. 

Dr. Buchanan, in the summary (Extract from the 
Bengal Political Letter, 11th of September, 1797) or 
general outline of the geographical materials which 
he collected, thus expresses himself on the subject of 
rivers; — It appears 

that the Arracan river is not so considerable as 
what has been supposed, but takes its rise in hills at 
no great distance to the north. That the river com- 
ing from Thibet, which is supposed to be that of 
Arracan, is in fact the Keenduem, or the great 
western branch of the Ava river. That what is sup- 
posed to be the western branch of the Irrawaddy, is 
in fact the eastern one, which passes by Ava, and 
runs to the north, keeping west from the province 
of Yunan, and leaving between it and that part of 
China a country subject to the Birmans. That the 
Loukiang, which is supposed to be the great branch 
of the Irrawaddy, has no communication with that 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


river; but on entering the Birman dominions as- 
sumes the name of Thaluayn, or Thanluayn, and 
falls into the sea at Martaban. That the river of 
Pegue, which is supposed to come from China, 
rises among hills about one hundred miles from the 
sea, and which form the boundary between the 
Birman and Pegue kingdoms. That between the 
Pegue and Martaban rivers there is a lake, from 
which two rivers proceed; the one runs north to 
Old Ava, where it joins the Myoungnya, or Little 
River of Ava, which comes from mountains on the 
frontiers of China; the other river runs south from 
the lake to the sea, and is the Sitang River in the 
map. That the rivers of China, which are supposed 
to be the heads of the Pegue river, are those of the 
river of Siam. That the rivers of Siam and Cambo- 
dia communicate by a very considerable branch, 
called the Annan. 

This disposition of the rivers gives an entire new face 
to the geography of India Extra Gangem; and from the 
diligence and abihty with which Dr. Buchanan col- 
lated the several accounts that he received, 1 am in- 
clined to believe that his statement is nearly correct. 

Chapter XV 

The occurrences that took place in the interval be- 
tween our arrival and the 30* of August, the day ap- 
pointed for our formal introduction, were not of suffi- 
cient importance to require minute relation. We en- 
joyed whatever personal convenience the country 
could supply; and 1 gladly embraced every opportu- 
nity to evince the most imphcit confidence; which 1 am 
induced to think was productive of beneficial conse- 
quences. To my public character, as will appear in the 
sequel, the conduct of the Birman court was punctili- 
ous and haughty, even to insufferable arrogance; but 
my accomodation and security as an individual were 
attended to with all the urbanity that could be ex- 
pected from the most polished state of Europe. 

Geography is the foundation of all historical 
knowledge, without which history becomes little bet- 
ter than romance. Having hitherto found the most 
authentic geographical information 1 could obtain re- 
specting countries eastward of the Ganges to be ex- 
tremely erroneous, 1 was on that account more par- 
ticularly desirous to determine the true situation of the 
capital of Ava; especially as 1 had now a favourable 
opportunity of profiting by the assistance of a gentle- 
man of high professional talents. It however seemed 
expedient to obtain the sanction of the Birman gov- 
ernment, before 1 authorized Mr. Wood to commence 
astronomical observations; and, in reply to an applica- 
tion 1 made through the Maywoon oi' Pegue, 1 re- 
ceived the most liberal acquiescence; a compliment 
that was afterwards enhanced by a gracious message 

from his Birman Majesty, desiring to know, according 
to our calculation, the exact time when the expected 
eclipse of the moon was to take place, and, as it was 
partial, what portion of the lunar body would be in 
shade? Mr. Wood satisfied him in both particulars, 
and we were informed that the King, on comparing 
Mr. Wood's account with his own predictions, (for he 
is said to be himself an adept in the science), discov- 
ered only a slight difference in the segment of the 
moon which was to be obscured. Mr. Wood's knowl- 
edge procured him considerable respect among the 
better informed natives, but it excited the terror of the 
vulgar. Being obliged at night to leave the grove and 
go out on the plain, in order to have a distinct view of 
the heavenly bodies, the peasants that inhabited the 
neighbouring villages believed him to be a necroman- 
cer, and his telescope and time-keeper instruments of 
magic: in their wonder they sometimes crowded about 
him so as to disturb his operations; but it was nothing 
more than harmless curiosity; they wanted to discover 
by what means he held communication with the 
Natts, the supernatural and invisible agents of the air. 

The river, which had now risen to its utmost height, 
had encroached so much on the grove, as to threaten a 
general inundation, and we began to think it not im- 
probable that we should be obliged some night hastily 
to change our residence from the house to the boats. 
The cause of the swelling of the waters was not appar- 
ent, as there had not fallen with us a sufficient quan- 
tity of rain to produce the smallest alteration in the 
body of the river: the Birmans, however, who knew 
the exact limit to which it would rise, laughed at our 
proposing to make arrangements for a sudden embar- 
kation, and assured us that, within the memory of 
man, the floods had never surpassed a certain bound- 

Although, from the nature of the grounds in the 
neighbourhood of our dwelling, rice was the only 
grain that could be cultivated, we understood that on 
the other side of the lake, near the city, there were ex- 
tensive fields of wheat, which, from the samples 
brought to us, seemed to be equal in quahty to the fin- 
est growth of England. The market price at Um- 
merapoora was one tackal, nearly half a crown, for a 
taindaung, or basket weighing about fifty-six pounds; 
but we had no occasion to purchase any, as the provi- 
sion made by the commissary of government, and the 
presents from those who visited us; kept our store- 
room full. Every person who came, brought some- 
thing, either fruit, flowers, a plate of fine rice, of 
wheat, or some similar mark of respect. In return, 1 
treated those of the higher order with tea and sweet- 
meats; of the former they were extremely fond; and 1 
can truly say that from ten in the morning until eve- 
ning, the tea equipage was never unemployed. An old 
man who acted as commissary, and lived in the rhoom 
adjacent to our dwelling, whose title was Kyewoon, 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

brought all the females of his family to see us; they 
produced as their offering, fresh honeycombs hanging 
from branches of the bamboo tree; the honey was 
dropping from the boughs into pans. 1 was told that 
the bees were wild in the woods, and in such plenty 
that wax formed a staple article of commerce. The na- 
tives have a mode of gathering the honey without de- 
stroying the insect. The soldiers of the guard and our 
domestics continued to receive two tackal, at stated 
periods, in addition to their allowance of rice; and bee- 
tle-leaf was to be had fresh from gardens belonging to 
the adjacent villages. In one of these plantations, 
which very much resembled an English hop-garden, 1 
saw a man watering his plants by means of a wheel, 
which raised water out of a well from a considerable 
depth. The machine was constructed with much inge- 

The reputation that my Bengal draughtsman had 
acquired by his botanical drawings, performed under 
the inspection of Dr. Buchanan, having come to the 
knowledge of his Birman Majesty, or, in the Birman 
phrase, having reached the Golden Ears, the King was 
pleased to desire a specimen of his skill, and sent over 
a painting on glass, executed by a Siamese artist in his 
own service, signifying his royal will that it should be 
copied upon paper. This picture, which was a toler- 
able performance, represented the mode of catching 
wild elephants in the forests. It was thus described to 
me: the hunters, mounted on tame elephants that are 
trained to the business, by lying flat on their backs, 
introduce themselves unnoticed into a wild herd, and 
take an opportunity to cast a running noose in the 
track of the one that is meant to be secured. The other 
end of the rope is fastened to the body of the tame 
elephant, who immediately throws the wild one 
down; a battle then ensues, in which the trained ele- 
phant, being assisted by its associates, soon overpow- 
ers the inhabitant of the woods, who is deserted by all 
the others; it is afterwards borne away a prisoner, fast 
bound to two of its captors, whilst another moves on 
at its head, and a fourth urges it behind. In a few 
weeks, by proper discipline, the animal becomes doc- 
ile, and submits to its fate. Those that are taken in the 
manner delineated in the Plate, 1 was told, are for the 
most part females. Male elephants are usually enticed 
by the blandishments of females,ii^ trained for the 
purpose, into an inclosure or Keddah, from whence 
they cannot extricate themselves, and are easily se- 
cured. My painter performed the task so much to his 
Majesty's satisfaction, that a request was made for his 
further services, in executing a drawing of a celebrated 
image of Gaudma, in which 1 willingly acquiesced. He 

For a more ample description of the manner of catching wild 
elephants in Tipura, near the mountains that divide Bengal from 
the Birman dominions, see a Paper by John Corse, Esq. in the third 
Volume of the Asiatic Researches. The practice of Pegue differs 
somewhat from that of the Bengal hunters. 

was employed on it a week, and when it was finished, 
his Majesty condescended to express his approbation 
of the performance, which was certainly much supe- 
rior to any thing that his own painter could produce. 

Among the articles of foreign trade, which had 
found their way into the Birman country, nothing was 
held in higher estimation than the European glass 
ware, imported into Rangoon from the British settle- 
ments in India. The art of vitrification has long been 
known and practised in most countries of the East; but 
no where can they make a pure transparent substance, 
Hke that which is brought from Europe. The Birman 
monarch, who is a great admirer of the manufacture, 
was particularly desirous to introduce it into his do- 
minions; and supposing that every Enghshman must 
be versed in the knowledge of making whatever 
comes from his own country, he sent a message to re- 
quest 1 would furnish his artificers with such instruc- 
tions, as might enable them to fabricate glass of a qual- 
ity equal to what was made in England. Unluckily, 
none of us happened to be skilled in the mystery of a 
glass-house; all, therefore, that we could do, was to 
explain the principles of the art, which Dr. Buchanan 
obligingly undertook; and in order to facilitate the ac- 
quirement, and guide them in the practice, 1 lent them 
the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and pointed out the article 
where the process is fully explained. Baba Sheen and 
the Armenian interpreter translated it into the Birman 
tongue; but 1 much fear that the theory alone, con- 
veyed in terms of science, will not, without practical 
experience, advance them very far in an art which his 
Birman Majesty is so laudably solicitous to bring to 
perfection among his subjects. 

It was a matter too remarkable to pass unnoticed, 
that of the numbers who did me the honour of a visit, 
there was not one that had any share in the admini- 
stration of public affairs, the Woondock.that met me at 
Pegahm excepted, who, though of distinguished rank, 
is but an inferior minister: none of the Woongees or 
Attawoons condescended to pay me the compliment. 
The Maywoon of Pegue sometimes honoured me with 
his company: his official consequence, however, was 
here diminished into insignificance, notwithstanding 
he was of the highest order, except one of nobility, 
wearing a tzaloe of nine strings. 

When a public minister is delegated from a foreign 
power to the Birman court, it is the established custom 
for the Maywoon, or governor of the frontier province 
which the minister first enters, to provide for his safe 
conveyance to the capital, and to attend to his conven- 
ience so long as he continues to reside in the country; 
a service which he is frequently obhged to perform in 
person, as in the present case of the English deputa- 
tion. The governor of Bamoo, the province bordering 
on Yunan, performed the office to our Chinese neigh- 
bours with the utmost kindness and urbanity, and in 
his frequent visits to them took the opportunity of 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


calling upon me. He was a sensible man, exceedingly 
courteous in his manners and address; he said he had 
been twice to Pekin in the capacity of legate before he 
obtained his present station: he described the journey 
as very fatiguing, but, at the proper season, not at all 
perilous; he was upwards of three months in perform- 
ing it. The road from the frontiers of the province of 
Bamoo, until he penetrated far into Manchegee, or 
Yunan, lay through mountains: during the last thirty 
days he travelled in a boat on canals and rivers. He 
informed me that there were two languages spoken in 
China, one the Tirroup, or native Chinese; the other 
the Tarrait, or Tartar tongue: the latter is the language 
of the conquerors. The Birmans have not liberty to 
pass at will into the Chinese territory, or the Chinese 
into that of the Birmans; but the Governor has power 
to grant passports. He gave me an impression of the 
Chop, or seal, which he was accustomed to affix to 
such papers, and likewise promised me a chart of his 
route to Pekin, which he afterwards presented to me. 
1 had various occasions to acknowledge the attentions 
and kindness of this truly well bred and intelUgent 
man, who seemed to have profited from his travels, 
and to have overcome that affected reserve which is 
the national characteristic of a Birman courtier. 

On the 15th of August, the arrival of a messenger 
from Rangoon, sent by Captain Thomas, as the bearer 
of letters and newspapers that had been brought from 
Calcutta, diffused among us that satisfaction which 
they only, who have been in remote countries, and 
long absent from their friends, can truly estimate; it 
was the first communication we had received since 
our departure from Bengal, and the situation of affairs 
in Europe was at that time extremely interesting. 

In addition to the comfort we experienced from hv- 
ing at ease, and having every want UberaUy suppUed, 
our gratitude was due to providence for the inestima- 
ble blessing of health, which we enjoyed to a degree 
that fuUy evinced the salubrity of the climate; not a 
symptom of sickness, in a single instance excepted, 
had manifested itself among our people; but this was 
not the case with our Chinese neighbours; they were 
less fortunate, a dysentery, which had early attacked 
the senior member of the embassy, began to spread 
among his domestics; and although they were not 
numerous, we heard of frequent deaths, and of gen- 
eral illness among them. As no doubt could be enter- 
tained of the healthiness of the situation we were in, 
their malady was to be ascribed to some other cause 
than the atmosphere. The Governor of Bamoo, how- 
ever, explained the matter very sensibly, by observing, 
that the sickness under which they alone laboured, 
entirely originated in their own indolence, and in the 
pernicious diet that they used. The Chinese are said to 
be nationally great lovers of swine's flesh, and these 
personages possessed all the partiality of their country 
for that unclean animal; they had erected a pigstye 

within the inclosure of their dwelling, where they fed 
pork for their own table, and, as a matter of comph- 
ment, sometimes sent a joint of the meat to me; but 
though it seemed to be good, we could not bring our- 
selves to use it. In addition to the ill effects of such 
gross food, they took no exercise, and drank immod- 
erately of shouchow, a fiery and deleterious spirit. The 
Governor of Bamoo, who accounted for the cause of 
their ailment, condemned their sensuality, which, he 
said, he had in vain endeavoured to correct by advice 
and persuasion. At length the principal legate became 
so seriously ill that his life was judged to be in danger: 
the governor, anxious for the preservation of a person 
whose safety was in some degree entrusted to his care, 
with a humanity that did him honour, applied to me 
for medical assistance. Dr. Buchanan willingly accom- 
panied him to the sick man's chamber, and on examin- 
ing his patient, immediately perceived that the case 
was desperate. He was an emaciated old man, re- 
duced by a disease of such long continuance, as to 
leave no prospect of recovery: medicines, however, 
were administered, which, though they afforded but a 
temporary relief, raised a fallacious hope in the breast 
of the sufferer, who expressed the utmost anxiety to 
be able to attend on the day appointed for our pubhc 
reception, at which time the Chinese deputies were 
likewise to be introduced: they had before been admit- 
ted to an informal audience of the King, when the 
court was at Meengoung, soon after their first arrival, 
where his Majesty met them as though by chance. It is 
not usual for the King to receive public ministers 
ceremoniously except in the metropolis. 

As the time approached that was appointed for our 
pubhc entry into Ummerapoora, which as yet we had 
only viewed from our residence on the opposite bank 
of the lake, 1 judged it proper to make some enquiry 
respecting the ceremonials usually observed on such 
occasions, and the exterior forms of homage that 
would be required. 1 wished also to ascertain the rela- 
tive degree of rank that would be granted to the agent 
of the Governor-General of India; and as 1 was offi- 
cially given to understand that the Chinese deputies 
were to be introduced on the same day, 1 urged my 
right to precedence, on the thorough persuasion that 
they did not constitute an imperial embassy, but were 
merely a provincial legation, although probably sanc- 
tioned by the monarch of China. 

The necessity of ascertaining these points became 
evident, from the scrupulous regard to external forms, 
which the Birmans manifested upon every occasion. 
The Maywoon of Pegue being the channel of my offi- 
cial communication, 1 received through him, in reply 
to my first application, a general assurance of due at- 
tention, but an equivocal answer with respect to the 
Chinese. Repeating the requisition for satisfactory par- 
ticulars, 1 was informed that 1 should be allowed par- 
ity of rank with the nobility of the court, and that 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

precedence over the Chinese deputies would be 
granted to me. With those assurances I remained satis- 

On the 29th of August, the day preceding that of 
our formal introduction, 1 received a message, desir- 
ing to know what number of attendants 1 meant to 
take with me, and to specify the rank they bore, par- 
ticularly that of the Pundit, the Moonshee, and 
painter. 1 was at the same time acquainted, that it was 
not customary to admit armed men into the palace, a 
form to which 1 readily assented. Late in the evening 
another message was brought to inform me, that the 
profession of Dr. Buchanan was held by the Birmans 
in a less dignified estimation than it bore among us; 
and that it was unusual, on such solemn occasions, to 
receive a person of his station into the Lotoo, or great 
council hall. 1 took some pains to vindicate the dignity 
of the liberal and enlightened profession of medicine, 
and explained to them, that there was no monarch of 
Europe who did not consider a physician as worthy to 
hold a place in the most distinguished ranks of soci- 
ety. This difficulty was at length conquered; they 
agreed to receive the Doctor, but stipulated that he 
should ride on horseback in the procession, and not be 
indulged with an elephant, a privilege which, they 
said, was granted only to persons of the highest con- 

Preparatory to our visit, the presents intended for 
his Majesty were carefully assorted, and put into sepa- 
rate boxes: they were both handsome and costly, con- 
sisting of various kinds of European and Indian arti- 
cles, such as mirrors, cut-glass, fire-arms, broad cloths, 
embroidered muslins, and Indian silks, all of the finest 
quality that could be procured; among other things 
there was a Shanscrit manuscript, superbly illumined, 
and written with beautiful minuteness; it was a copy 
of the Bagwaat Geeta inclosed in a case of gold, and 
designed as a personal compliment from Sir John 
Shore, the Governor-General, to his Birman Majesty: 
there was also an electrical machine, of the effects of 
which some of the Birmans were not ignorant (An 
electrifying machine had been introduced several 
years ago by a Frenchman). The boxes were covered 
with red satin, and fastened to poles, for the conven- 
ience of being carried on men's shoulders. Every mat- 
ter was arranged on the day before the ceremony was 
to take place. 

On the 30* of August we took an early breakfast, 
and about eight o'clock a Sere-dogee, or secretary of 
the Lotoo, came to acquaint us that boats were pre- 
pared to convey us across the lake. Our domestics had 
received orders to hold themselves in readiness., 
dressed in the livery of the embassy, and the guard 
was paraded without arms. The presents having been 
sent before, we walked to the water side, attended by 
Baba-Sheen, the Sere-dogee, and several inferior offi- 
cers, at the same time the two junior members of the 

Chinese mission, the senior being now at the point of 
death,came forth from the gate of their enclosure, at- 
tended by a retinue comparatively very small. 

We found three war-boats at the bank ready to re- 
ceive us; these boats were sufficiently capacious for 
the number they were destined to contain: the largest 
was of fifty oars, but they were not above one-third 
manned, probably with a view to our accommodation, 
as the vessels are so narrow, that persons unaccus- 
tomed to them cannot sit between the rowers without 
inconvenience: it did not, however, escape cur notice, 
that they were quite plain, without either gilding or 
paint. We were about twenty minutes in rowing to the 
opposite side of the lake, and found a crowd of people 
collected near the water's edge to see us land. The 
place where we landed appeared to be nearly a mile, 
in a direct line, below the fort, the southern walls of 
which are washed by the lake when the waters are 
swollen. Three elephants and several horses were 
waiting to convey us, and some Birman officers of in- 
ferior consequence attended at the bank, dressed in 
their robes and caps of ceremony. The furniture of the 
animals we were to ride was far from being superb. 
Men of rank in the Birman empire always guide their 
own elephants, and sit on the neck, in the same man- 
ner that the drivers, or mohaats do in India, owing to 
this custom they are unprovided with those commo- 
dious seats in which an Indian gentleman reposes at 
ease on the back of this noble beast, whilst the gov- 
ernment of it is entrusted to another person. 

A large wicker basket, somewhat resembling the 
body of an open carriage, but smaller, without any 
elevated seat, and covered with carpets at the bottom, 
was fastened on the back of the elephant by means of 
iron chains that passed under his belly, and were pre- 
vented from chafing him by tanned ox-hides. This eq- 
uipage was neither comfortable nor elegant; but as 1 
had not learned how to manage an elephant, and ride 
between his ears, there was no alternative; 1 was 
obliged either to take what was provided, or submit to 
a less dignified conveyance. The drivers, instead of 
making the beast kneel down to receive his rider, as is 
the custom in other countries, drove him up to a tem- 
porary stage that had been erected for the purpose of 
mounting. Each of the Chinese deputies was also hon- 
oured with an elephant. Mr. Wood and Dr. Buchanan 
rode on handsome spirited horses, of the small Pegue 
breed, which had been prepared for them, and were 
equipped with much better furniture than was as- 
signed to the elephants. The Birman saddles, however, 
not being well calculated for the ease of an European 
rider, two of English manufacture, which we had 
brought with us, were substituted in their stead. The 
moonshee, the pundit, and the painter were likewise 
permitted to ride on horseback. After we had adjusted 
the ceremonial of mounting, the procession was mar- 
shalled in the following order: 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


A Sandohgaan, or master of the ceremonies, on horse- 
An Oniroupseree, or register of strangers, on horse- 
A Letzounseree, or register of presents, on horseback; 
dressed in their official robes and caps. 
Soldiers that composed the escort. 
The elephant of the representative of the Gover- 
Mr. Wood and Dr. Buchanan, on horseback. 
Baba-Sheen, as chief interpreter. 
The Chinese deputies, on elephants, preceded by 
their servants, bearing flags. 
A Woondock, or second counsellor of state. 
Two Terrezogees, or officers who hold judiciary sta- 

The servants of the embassy walked on each side, two 
by two; and a number of constables attended, with 
long white rods, to keep off the populace. The proces- 
sion being thus arranged, we commenced our march, 
keeping a moderate pace, so as not to distress the 
bearers of the presents. After proceeding a short way, 
we entered a wide and handsome street, that was 
paved with brick: the houses on each side were low, 
built of wood, and covered with tiles; they had been 
evidently prepared for the occasion, being; fresh 
whitewashed, and decorated with boughs and flow- 
ers; the shops, which are usually open towards the 
street, displayed their best goods. In front of each 
house was a shght latticed railing of bamboo, ad- 
vanced into the street, to the distance of three or four 
feet; over this space was spread a shade of bamboo 
mats, that reached from the eaves of the houses to the 
railing, forming a sort of covered balcony, every one 
of which was crowded with spectators, men and 
women indiscriminately. Boys sat on the tops of the 
houses, and the streets were so thronged as to leave 
only a sufficient space for the procession to move 
without interruption; but what rendered the scene 
most remarkable was, the posture which the multi- 
tude preserved; every person, as soon as we came in 
sight, squatted on his hams, and continued in that atti- 
tude until we had passed by: this was an indication of 
high respect. Throughout the crowd there was no dis- 
turbance or any extraordinary noise; the populace 
looked up and gazed in silence, nor did they attempt 
to follow us, but were satisfied with a transient view. 
The Pagwaats, or constables, armed with long rods, 
sometimes affected to strike those who were most 
forward, in order to make them recede; but in this act 
they humanely avoided hurting any one, generally 
directing the blow to the ground close to those whom 
they intended to remove. Thus we passed through 
several wide streets, running in a strait direction, and 
often crossed by others at right angles. We perceived 

only two brick houses, and these we were, informed 
belonged to foreigners. Contiguous to the fort was a 
small street, entirely occupied by the shops of silver- 
smiths, who exhibited their wares in the open balcony, 
and displayed a great variety of Birman utensils in 
plate. The distance from the landing-place to this 
street we computed to be two miles. Immediately after 
we crossed the ditch of the fort, which was wide, 
deep, and faced with brick, but had httle water in it: 
the passage was over a causeway formed on a mound 
of earth, in which there was a chasm of about ten feet 
to carry off the rain, and across this a strong bridge of 
planks was laid. Between the bridge and the foot of 
the wall, there was a space, eighty or a hundred feet 
wide, on which two redoubts were raised to defend 
the passage of the ditch; the rampart, faced by a. wall 
of brick, was about twenty feet high, exclusive of the 
parapet, which had embrasures for cannon, and aper- 
tures for musquetry. Small demi-bastions projected at 
regular distances beyond the wall, but they did not 
appear to contain sufficient space to admit of heavy 
ordnance. The body of the rampart was composed of 
earth, sustained externally and within by strong walls: 
the gate was massive, with a wicket in it, and the fort 
altogether, considered as an eastern fortification, was 
respectable, but insufficient to resist the approaches of 
an enemy skilled in the science of war. The Birmans, 
however, believe it to be impregnable; they put their 
trust in the height and solidity of their wall, which 
they conceive to be strong enough to resist all assaults, 
independent of the cover of a glacis, or any other ad- 
vanced work than the ditch. 1 did not attempt to mor- 
tify their pride by telling them a disagreeable truth, 
that a battery of half a dozen cannon would, in a few 
hours, reduce their walls to a heap of ruins; and, in- 
deed, if 1 had told them so, it is probable they might 
not have credited the information. 

We entered by the western gate: there was httle dis- 
tinction between the houses in the fort and those of 
the city, except that the dwellings of persons of official 
consequence, and the members of the royal family, 
who resided within the walls, were surrounded by a 
wooden partition, that inclosed a court. We passed, 
making several angles in our way, through a market 
supplied with rice, pulse, and other vegetables, but 
saw neither meat nor fish. At the distance of two short 
streets from the palace, we came to a spot where bam- 
boo stages were erected for us to alight, similar to 
those at the landing-place; here we dismounted, and 
walked in the same order as we had rode. Coming to 
the top of a short street leading down to the palace, we 
were desired by the Sandohgaan, or master of the 
ceremonies, through Baba-Sheen, to stop and make 
obeisance to the residence of majesty, by a gentle in- 
clination of the body, and raising the hand to the head, 
as they did; a desire with which 1 complied, although 1 
conceived the distance so great as hardly to require 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

that mark of respect. When we had proceeded two or 
three hundred yards farther, the Sandohgaan repeated 
the ceremony of bowing, to which I offered no objec- 
tion, nor should I have felt the smallest reluctance in 
complying, had not the manner of the Sandohgaan 
been what I considered extremely disrespectful. Thus 
we proceeded, until we came to the rhoom, which was 
a lofty hall, raised four or five feet from the ground, 
and open on all sides; it was situated about a hundred 
yards from the gate of the palace court, on the left 
hand, and in the centre of a spacious area. Putting off 
our shoes we entered the saloon, and sat down on 
carpets that were spread for us, with our faces to- 
wards the palace gate: here the presents were depos- 
ited, whilst the Chinese deputies took their places on 
the other side. 

It was now about ten o'clock, and the Woondock in- 
timated that we must wait until all the princes of the 
royal family arrived, before it would be proper for us 
to enter: we had sat but a short time, when the Prince 
of Pegahm, the junior of the King's sons, in point of 
rank though not in years, being bom of a different 
mother, made his appearance. He was mounted on the 
neck of a very fine elephant, which he guided himself, 
sitting on a scarlet cloth embroidered with gold, 
whilst a servant behind, on the back of the animal, 
screened him from the sun with a gilded parasol. 
About fifty musqueteers led the way; these were fol- 
lowed by a number of halberdiers, carrying spears 
with gilded shafts, and decorated with gold tassels. 
Six or eight officers of his household (each of the 
King's sons have a separate establishment) came next, 
dressed in velvet robes with embroidered caps, and 
chains of gold depending from the left shoulder to the 
right side; these immediately preceded the prince's 
elephant: another body of spearmen, with his palan- 
quin of state, closed the procession. On entering the 
gate, he crave to one of his attendants a polished iron 
hook, with which he governed his elephant; as not any 
thing that can be used as a weapon is suffered to be 
brought within the precincts of the palace, not even by 
his Majesty's sons. The prince's escort halted without 
the gate, and the greater number of his attendants 
were stopped, those only being admitted who were of 
higher rank, together with the men who carried his 
large beetle-box of gold, and his flaggon of water, 
which are brought rather for state than for refresh- 
ment. When the prince had ahghted, his elephant re- 
turned, and all the attendants ranged themselves in 
the area between the rhoom and the palace gate. Soon 
after the Prince of Pegahm had entered, the Prince of 
Tongho, the next in precedence, appeared; he was at- 
tended by a suite nearly similar to that of his brother; 
and in succession came the Princes oi' Bassein and of 
Prome: the Engy Teekien, or heir apparent, came last; 
when he arrived it was twelve o'clock, which, the 

great drum, that proclaims the hours, sounded from a 
lofty tower near the palace. 

The state in which the latter personage made his 
pubhc entrance was highly superb, and becoming his 
elevated station. He was preceded by a numerous 
body guard of infantry, consisting of four or five hun- 
dred men, armed with musquets, who marched in 
regular files, and were uniformly clothed and accou- 
tred; next came a party of Cassay troopers, habited in 
their fanciful dress, with high conical caps bending 
backwards. We were told that through respect they 
had ahghted from their horses nearly at the same 
place where we had dismounted. Twenty or thirty 
men followed these, holding long gilded wands; then 
came eighteen or twenty mihtary officers of rank, with 
gilded helmets; next the civil officers of his household 
and his council, wearing the tzaloe, or chain of nobil- 
ity, and arrayed in their robes and caps of state, varied 
according to their respective ranks. The Prince, borne 
on men's shoulders, in a very rich palanquin, but 
without any canopy, followed; he was screened from 
the sun by a large gilded fan, supported by a noble- 
man, and on each side of his palanquin walked six 
Cassay astrologers, of the Braminical sect, dressed in 
white gowns and white caps, studded with stars of 
gold; close behind, his servants carried his water- 
flaggon, and a gold beetle-box, of a size which ap- 
peared to be no inconsiderable load for a man. Several 
elephants and led horses with rich housings came af- 
ter; some inferior officers, and a body of spearmen, 
with three companies of musqueteers,one clothed in 
blue, another in green, and a third in red, concluded 
the procession. 

In every part of this ostentatious parade perfect 
regularity was maintained, which considerably in- 
creased the effect. All things seemed to have been 
carefully predisposed and properly arranged. If it was 
less splendid than imperial Delhi, in the days of Mo- 
gul magnificence, it was far more decorous than any 
court of Hindostan at the present day. The rabble was 
not tumultuous, the attendants and soldiery were si- 
lent, and every man seemed to know his own place. 
No noisy heralds, as is the custom in India, ran before, 
vociferating titles, and overturning people in their 
way. The display of this day was solemn and digni- 
fied, and 1 doubt much whether, in any other capital, 
such multitudes could be brought together with so 
little confusion; as, besides the attendants and the 
military there were many thousands of spectators. 

Our delay in the rhoom had now been protracted to 
two hours, a circumstance which, though it gratified 
our curiosity with a novel and most interesting spec- 
tacle, yet could not be considered as a mark of respect, 
especially as we had not the company of any person of 
distinguished rank, the junior Woondock excepted, 
who staid with us but a very short time. The atten- 
dance of the Maywoon of Pegue, was, according to the 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


usage of the country, on this occasion our undoubted 
right; and the example of the Viceroy of Bamoo, who 
paid that comphment to the Chinese deputies, placed 
the omission in a more striking point of view, whilst 
the singular character of the people put it out of my 
power, to attribute the neglect to chance, or to casual 

A few minutes after the Engy Teekien, or Prince 
Royal, had entered, we received a summons, in com- 
phance with which we proceeded from the rhoom, 
observing the same order as before; the presents car- 
ried in front, and the members of the Chinese embassy 
following the English deputation. As we proceeded, 
the Sandohgaan was exceedingly troublesome, by call- 
ing on us to make frequent superfluous obeisances, 
whilst his manner of requiring them was conspicu- 
ously uncivil. 1 checked his insolence by observing, 
through Baba Sheen, that if he wished me to proceed, 
he must alter his tone and demeanour. This reproof, 
however, had only a momentary effect; he soon re- 
sumed his arrogant behaviour, which he repeated 
throughout the day, whenever opportunity offered. 

On approaching the gate, the greater part of our at- 
tendants were stopped, and not permitted to follow 
us; and we were desired to put off our shoes, with 
which we immediately comphed. 

The area we now entered was spacious, and con- 
tained the Lotoo, or grand hall of consultation and of 
audience, where the Woongees meet in council, and 
where affairs of state are discussed and determined. 
Within this inclosure there is an inner court, separated 
by a brick wall, which comprehends the palace, and 
all the buildings annexed to the royal residence within 
the gate a troop of tumblers were performing their 
feats, while dancing girls were exhibiting their graces 
in the open air, and on the bare ground, to the sound 
of no very harmonious music. We were next ushered 
up a flight of stairs into a very noble saloon, or open 
hall, called the Lotoo, where the court was assembled 
in all the pomp that Birman grandeur could display. 
On entering this hall, a stranger cannot fail to be sur- 
prised at the magnificence of its appearance; it is sup- 
ported by seventy-seven pillars, disposed in eleven 
rows, each consisting of seven. The space between the 
pillars 1 judged to be about twelve feet, except the cen- 
tral row, which was probably two feet wider. The roof 
of the building is composed of distinct stages, the 
highest in the centre. The row of pillars that supported 
the middle, or most lofty roof, we judged to be thirty- 
five or forty feet in height; the others gradually dimin- 
ish as they approach the extremities of the building, 
and those which sustain the balcony are not more than 
twelve or fourteen feet. At the farther part of the hall 
there is a high gilded lattice, extending quite across 
the building, and in the centre of the lattice is a gilded 
door, which, when opened, displays the throne; this 
door is elevated five or six feet from the floor, so that 

the throne must be ascended by means of steps at the 
back, which are not visible, nor is the seat of the 
throne to be seen, except when the King comes in per- 
son to the Lotoo. At the bottom of the lattice there is a 
gilt balustrade, three or four feet high, in which the 
umbrellas and several other insignia of state were de- 
posited. The royal colour is white, and the umbrellas 
were made of silk of that colour, richly bespangled 
with gold. Within this magnificent saloon were seated, 
on their inverted legs, all the princes and the principal 
nobility of the Birman empire, each person in the place 
appropriated to his particular rank and station: prox- 
imity to the throne is, of course, the most honourable 
situation; and this station was occupied by the princes 
of the blood, the Woongees, the Attawoons, and other 
great officers of state. The Engy Teekien (or heir ap- 
parent) sat on a small stool, about six inches high; the 
other princes on fine mats. The space between the cen- 
tral pillars that front the throne, is always left vacant, 
for tills curious reason, that his Majesty's eyes may not 
be obhged to behold those, whom he does not mean to 
honour with a look. The place allotted for us was next 
to this unoccupied part, but we afterwards discovered 
that the Chinese deputies had taken possession of 
those seats which, according to the etiquette that had 
been agreed upon, the Enghsh gentlemen were to 
have occupied. So trivial a circumstance would not 
have merited attention, had it not been followed by 
circumstances which left no room to suppose, that any 
act relating to external forms was either accidental or 
unpremeditated, on the part of those who regulated 
the ceremonials. 

After we had taken possession of mats that had 
been spread for us, it was civilly intimated that we 
ought not to protrude the soles of our feet towards the 
seat of majesty, but should endeavour to sit in the pos- 
ture that was observed by those around us. With this 
desire we would readily have complied, if it had been 
in our power, but we had not yet learned to sit upon 
our own legs: the flexibility of muscles which the Bir- 
mans, and indeed all the natives of India, possess, is 
such, as cannot be acquired by Europeans. A Birman, 
when he sits, seldom touches the seat with his posteri- 
ors, but is supported by his heels. It is scarcely practi- 
cable for an European, dressed in close garments, to 
place himself in such an attitude; and if he were able, 
it would be out of his power to continue long in it. We 
inverted our legs as much as possible, and the awk- 
wardness with which we did this excited a smile from 
some; not a word, however, was uttered, and our en- 
deavours, 1 thought, seemed to give satisfaction. In a 
few minutes eight Bramins, dressed in white sacerdo- 
tal gowns, and silk caps of the same colour, studded 
with gold, assembled round the foot of the throne, 
within the balustrade, and recited a long prayer in not 
unpleasing recitative; this ceremony lasted a quarter 
of an hour. When they had withdrawn, the letter from 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

the Governor-General, which I dehvered to a Woon- 
dock, was placed on a silver tray in front of the railing, 
and a Sandohgaan, or reader, advanced into the va- 
cant space, and made three prostrations, touching the 
ground each time with his forehead; he then read, or 
rather chanted, in a loud voice, what 1 understood was 
a Birman translation of the letter. When this was done, 
the reader repeated his prostrations, and next pro- 
claimed a list of the presents for the King. These sev- 
eral readings being finished, he repeated his obei- 
sances and retired: after an interval of a few minutes, 
an officer, entitled Nakhaangee, advanced, and pro- 
posed a question to me, as if from his Majesty; on re- 
ceiving my answer he withdrew, as it might be sup- 
posed, to communicate the reply; and returned in an 
adequate time to ask another: thus he put three sepa- 
rate questions to me, which were as follows: 

You come from a distant country; how long is it 
since you arrived? How were the King, Queen, 
and royal family of England, when the last ac- 
counts came from thence? Was England at peace 
or war with other nations? and was your country 
in a state of disturbance? 

The latter question alone contained more than 
words of compliment and ceremony, and coming in 
such a solemn manner, required a clear and determi- 
nate answer on my part. 1 replied in the Persian lan- 
guage - 

that Great Britain was at enmity with France; that 
the continent of Europe was the seat of war; but 
that the kingdom of England enjoyed perfect tran- 
quilhty, which it was not probable would be dis- 

This interrogation seemed to indicate that the Bir- 
mans had received impressions of our situation in 
Europe from no very favourable quarter; and 1 had 
afterwards occasion to know, that the unremitting and 
restless industry of French propagators had pervaded 
even this remote region, and though, in such a coun- 
try, they dare not avow their equalizing principles, 
they left no art unpractised, through the means of 
their emissaries, to insinuate doubts, excite fears, and 
create distrust of the English. 

These were all the questions that were proposed; 
neither the Chinese nor any other person being inter- 
rogated. In a few minutes after my last reply had been 
conveyed, a very handsome desert was brought in, 
and set before us; it consisted of a variety of sweet- 
meats, as well China as Birman; laepack, or pickled 
tea-leaf, and beetle, formed part of the entertainment, 
which was served up in silver, china, and glass-ware: 
there appeared to be not less than an hundred differ- 
ent small dishes: we tasted of a few, and found some 

of them very palatable; but none of the courtiers par- 
took, or moved from their places. About half an hour 
had elapsed, when we were informed by the San- 
dohgaan that there was no occasion for us to remain 
any longer. The non-appearance of his Majesty was a 
considerable disappointment, as 1 had been taught to 
expect that he would have received the Governor- 
General's letter in person: it was not, however, until 
some time afterwards, that 1 was made acquainted 
with the true reason of his absence. 

When we rose to leave the Lotoo, the Sandohgaan 
desired us to make three obeisances to the throne, by a 
sUght inclination of the body and raising the right 
hand to the head; we were then reconducted to the 
saloon, where we were informed it was necessary we 
should remain until the princes came forth from the 
palace, and had got upon their elephants, as their eti- 
quette did not allow any person, on such occasions, to 
mount before the members of the royal family; we ac- 
cordingly took our places in this hall as before: shortly 
afterwards the court broke up with as much form and 
parade as it had assembled. 

The ceremony of departure differed from that of en- 
trance: the Engy Teekien came out first, who went in 
last; next followed the other members of the royal 
family in rotation, and after them came the Chobwaas, 
or petty tributary princes: these are personages who, 
before the Birmans had extended their conquests over 
the vast territory they now possess, had held small 
independent sovereignties, which they were able to 
maintain so long as the balance of power continued 
doubtful between the Birmans, Peguers and Siamese; 
but the decided success that has attended the Binnan 
arms since the accession of the present family, having 
deprived them of their independence, their countries 
are now reduced to subordinate provinces of the Bir- 
man empire. As many of their governors as confidence 
could be placed in, and who were willing to take the 
oath of allegiance to their conquerors, were continued 
in the management of their former possessions, and 
are obliged to make an annual visit to the capital, to 
pay homage in person at the golden feet. The modera- 
tion, as well as the policy of this measure, is said to 
have fully answered the ends that were proposed. 

As soon as the royal family had departed, we re- 
turned to the place where we had left our elephants, 
and proceeded home, with this difference, that the 
Chinese deputies, who had followed us to the palace, 
preceded us in our return; a circumstance which, in 
addition to several others, gave me cause to attribute 
want of ingenuousness to those, who had the man- 
agement of the ceremonials. My claim of precedence 
had been unconditionally stipulated and admitted; a 
precedence, which the certainty that the Chinese 
deputies constituted only a provincial mission of very 
inferior consideration, gave me an undoubted title to 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


With a people less attentive to punctilio, or less re- 
gardful of the privileges and external indications of 
rank, 1 should certainly not have considered it neces- 
sary to controvert matters of no intrinsic moment in 
themselves, but which, when intended to produce an 
effect on the minds of those who can only judge from 
appearances, become to a person in a public capacity, 
of real importance. Every occurrence of this day, and 
every object that presented itself, evinced the previous 
care that had been bestowed on the minutest points of 
etiquette: the utmost splendour of the court had been 
displayed on the occasion; and 1 was credibly in- 
formed, that the non-appearance of his Majesty was 
neither customary when a foreign minister from a 
sovereign state was to be introduced, nor owing to 
any accidental prevention; but that it was a matter 
predetermined, in order to afford a pretext for spread- 
ing abroad that the representative of the English na- 
tion had delivered his dispatches, and tendered trib- 
ute (for so they denominated the presents), without 
being honoured by an interview of their King. These 
apparent indications of arrogance, which were not 
diminished by the unworthy artifice of making me 
believe, that his Majesty was to have received in per- 
son the letter from the Governor-General, as coming 
from a sovereign and an equal power, gave me rea- 
sonable grounds to be dissatisfied with the manner in 
which the ceremonials had been conducted, and made 
me suspect the real light in which it was the wish of 
the court that 1 should be considered. As nothing, 
however, degrading to my public character had yet 
been avowed, 1 refrained from any formal declaration 
of my sentiments till subsequent circumstances con- 
firmed my conjectures, and rendered an explanation 

We did not arrive at our dwelling in the grove, till 
past three o'clock. In our way home the spectators 
were few, in comparison with the numbers collected 
to gaze at us when we went. The day had been op- 
pressively hot, we were nevertheless highly gratified 
by the scene which we had beheld, which was un- 
commonly splendid, and in every respect suited to the 
dignity of an imperial court. The evening, however, 
proved cool, and refreshing breezes recompensed us 
for the sultriness of the days, the transactions of which 
supplied an interesting topic of conversation until the 
hour of repose. 

The next morning, August 31st, the Shawbunder of 
Rangoon, and Baba Sheen, waited on use with infor- 
mation, that as our formal introduction was now past, 
1 might command elephants and horses to go wher- 
esoever 1 pleased; and that they had received an order 
to attend, and to shew me whatever was most worthy 
the notice of a stranger. They intimated also that the 
Engy Teekien, or heir apparent, was to hold a court on 
the following day for the purpose of our introduction, 
and that our attendance would be expected about the 

hour of noon. These instructions they had received 
from the Maywoon of Pegue, to whom 1 wrote in re- 
ply, that as the stipulated formalities, which had been 
agreed to by all parties, had been infringed on the pre- 
ceding day, it became necessary, before 1 could accept 
of the prince's invitation, to receive a positive assur- 
ance, that they would be better observed on this occa- 
sion. 1 likewise represented the conduct of the San- 
dohgaan as obviously disrespectful, and hoped that he 
would not be allowed to officiate again on our intro- 
duction; but, above all, 1 desired to be exphcitly in- 
formed, whether or not, the Engy Teekien purposed to 
appear in person, without which 1 could not possibly 
think of attending his court. 

To this letter 1 received a civil reply, in the Persian 
language, assuring me that some part of what to me 
seemed objectionable, originated in mistake; that the 
Sandohgaan should be confined for his improper con- 
duct; and that the prince intended to receive me in 
person: these assurances, coming from such a quarter, 
were perfectly satisfactory. 

Since my arrival 1 had been apprized of a circum- 
stance, of which 1 was before unaware, that it was cus- 
tomary for a person in a public capacity, to present 
something of the manufacture of his country, or some 
rarity, to each member of the royal family to whom he 
is introduced; it was likewise usual, though not indis- 
pensably necessary, to pay the same compliment to 
the chief ministers and the principal officers of the 
court. This present being no more than a piece or two 
of muslin, or silk, was too trifling to be regarded by 
the individuals, for its value; it was, nevertheless, ex- 
pected, and the omission would be considered as un- 
handsome: in addition, therefore, to the things that 1 
had brought with me, 1 gave directions to purchase 
such articles of European and Indian manufacture, as 
were most esteemed, and could be procured; these 1 
allotted agreeably to the instruction of B aba-Sheen and 
the Shawbunder, who were so good as to acquaint me 
with the established forms, and the proportion to be 
presented to each person. 

At nine o'clock on the first of September we crossed 
the river, nearly with the same attendance as on the 
former day. In consequence of an application 1 had 
made to the Maywoon of Pegue, elephants were now 
provided for Mr. Wood and Dr. Buchanan. This was a 
circumstance which neither the gentlemen themselves, 
nor 1 should have deemed of sufficient importance to 
deserve any attention, had not the junior members of 
the Chinese embassy been supplied with them; but as 
these people paid such strict attention to the minutest 
article, expressive of relative rank, 1 did not think it 
right, that the gentlemen with me, should be consid- 
ered in a degree inferior to the subordinate members 
of a provincial delegation, of which, an acquiescence 
in a less dignified mode of conveyance than the Chi- 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

nese were allowed, would, on my part, have been a 
tacit admission. 

We proceeded through the city by the route we 
pursued before, with the presents carried in front, and 
observing the same order of procession. Many of the 
houses were decorated with flower-pots and garlands, 
but the spectators were by no means so numerous as 
when we made our first entrance. 

We dismounted at the top of a street within a few 
hundred yards of the surrounding wall of the prince's 
palace, where stages had been erected for our conven- 
ience; from thence we were conducted to the Rhoom, 
which was situated a httle to the right hand of the 
principal gate; there was another building of a similar 
kind opposite to us, which we were informed was 
used only for trials, and the transaction of public busi- 
ness; but the one that we occupied, was appropriated 
to ceremony and state. In the formalities of this day, a 
much more respectful demeanour was preserved to- 
wards us, than on the former occasion, and we sat in 
the Rhoom with better company. Two Woondocks, the 
master of the elephants, and some other officers, bear- 
ing emblems of rank, attended us; another San- 
dohgaan also officiated in the ceremonials, and be- 
haved very differently from the person, whose man- 
ners had been so offensive, and whom 1 did not ob- 
serve at court on this day. This conduct fully compen- 
sated for the former incivility, though perhaps the 
Sandohgaan did not receive any severe reprehension 
for what he had done. 

The King of the Birmans, who seems to have a pa- 
rental fondness for all his children, is said to be par- 
ticularly attached to the Engy Teekien, or eldest 
prince; and with a liberal policy has granted him a 
share in the government, almost equal to what he 
himself exercises. The establishment of the heir appar- 
ent is becoming his high station and future expecta- 
tions; and his Woon or chief minister stands among 
the foremost of the Birman nobles, in reputation for 
wisdom and integrity. 

There was little in the etiquette of this day, different 
from that of the visit to his Majesty: we waited in the 
Rhoom until all the younger princes had arrived, 
which they did as before, in rotation, beginning with 
the junior. The members of the royal family went 
within the gate, before they ahghted from their ele- 
phants and palanquins, but the ministers and the no- 
bility dismounted on the outside, and proceeded on 
foot. After each person had entered, the gate was im- 
mediately closed, and opened as soon as another visi- 
tant presented himself. When we advanced to the gate 
we expected it would have been instantly thrown 
open to admit us; a delay, however, occurred, which 
at first 1 was inclined to attribute to some accidental 
circumstance; but after 1 had waited some minutes 
under a burning sun, finding that there was an unnec- 
essary and apparently a studied protraction, 1 turned 

round and walked towards the Rhoom; on this, the 
door was immediately opened, and the interior court, 
on the right hand of the gate, as we entered, displayed 
several men dancing in masquerade, and on the left 
was a band of musicians, and a set of dancing girls 
without masks. A httle farther on, there were two 
handsome houses; one of masonry, with doors and 
windows closely resembling Gothic structure, flat 
roofed, and of a peculiar, but far from inelegant, con- 
struction; the other was of wood. We were conducted 
to the latter, and ascended into a capacious saloon, 
open on three sides. Here we found the court assem- 
bled, nearly in the same manner as at the Lotoo. The 
hall consisted of six rows of pillars, seven in each row: 
there was neither gilding nor paint bestowed on them, 
such ornaments being strictly confined to the sover- 
eign and the priesthood. The naked pillars gave a very 
rude appearance to the apartment, which was disad- 
vantageously contrasted, with the brilliant dresses of 
the courtiers. We occupied the same relative position 
to the rest of the assembly, as at the Lotoo, with this 
difference, that the gentlemen of the English mission 
had the place assigned to them, which the Chinese 
deputies, either through mistake, or design, possessed 
on the former day. At one end of the saloon, against a 
wainscot, stood the prince's sofa of state, covered with 
embroidered cloth, and on each side were ranged sev- 
eral utensils of gold of a very large size; such as his 
beetle-box, cup, spitting-pot, and water-flaggon: 
above the sofa there was a window in the wainscot, 
six or eight feet from the ground, with folding shut- 
ters, that were closed when we entered the hall. Soon 
after we had taken our seats, four Bramins dressed in 
white sacerdotal garments, chanted a prayer that 
lasted a quarter of an hour; their devotions being fin- 
ished, the window beforementioned suddenly 
opened, and discovered the Engy Teekien seated be- 
hind it. The courtiers immediately bent their bodies, 
and sat in a crouching attitude, with their hands 
joined: the Enghsh gentlemen joined their hands like 
the rest of the company. The prince seemed to be 
about twenty-eight or thirty years of age, of an open 
countenance, and rather inclined to corpulency; but of 
his person we could not judge, as his head and shoul- 
ders only were visible. His habit, as much as could be 
seen of it, shone with gold, and he wore on his head, a 
pyramidical cap that glistened exceedingly, but of its 
real richness we could not form any estimate, being at 
too great a distance. A hst of the presents was then 
recited in a loud voice by a reader, kneeling in front of 
the sofa; after which total silence prevailed throughout 
the assembly; not a word was spoken by the prince; he 
noticed no one, but sat erect and motionless, without 
appearing to look either to the right or the left. About 
a quarter of an hour elapsed in this dumb interview, 
when on a sudden, by some agency invisible to us, the 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


window-shutters were closed, and we saw him no 

A very handsome desert was then served up, on 
dishes spread on gilded trays. We tasted of several 
things, and, when the repast was ended, returned to 
the Rhoom, in which we remained until the royal fam- 
ily passed by. As much form was observed this day, as 
when the court assembled at the Lotoo; and the dem- 
onstrations of respect manifested towards the Engy 
Teekien, as well by his brothers, as by inferior sub- 
jects, fell httle short of what is offered to the sovereign 
himself, a circumstance that strikingly evinces, the 
wisdom and policy of the government. The Chobwas, 
or petty princes, who followed the royal family, were 
on this day very numerous; we were told that there 
were all together fifty-six Chobwas dependent on the 
Birman state; if it be true, their territories must be very 
inconsiderable. On the present occasion the Governor 
of Bamoo walked amongst them in procession, from 
which we concluded that he is a temporary regent; a 
station to which the King occasionally appoints Bir- 
man officers, when the hereditary prince of the coun- 
try happens to be a minor, or incapable of the admini- 
stration of public affairs. 

The mother of the principal Queen, named 
Meedaw Praw, has already been mentioned, as a prin- 
cess of high dignity, venerable from her years, and 
illustrious from the affinity that she bears to the royal 
family; her sister had been the wife of the famous 
Alompra, the dehverer of his country, and her daugh- 
ter being espoused to the reigning monarch, she 
stands in the double relation of aunt and mother-in- 
law to the king. 1 had been apprized that a visit to this 
lady would be an acceptable mark of respect to his 
majesty, and as the rank she bore, gave her precedence 
over all the sons of the king, except the heir apparent, 
it was proper that 1 should wait upon her before 1 paid 
my respects to the junior princes. 1 gladly embraced 
the opportunity, which this offer gave me, to attend 
the drawing-room of an Asiatic princess, and prom- 
ised myself much gratification from a sight so un- 
common, among the jealous nations of the East. 

When the ceremony at the palace of the Engy 
Teekien had ended, it was not more than two o'clock, 
and there was yet sufficient time to wait upon the 
Meedaw Praw, who, we were informed, had made 
preparations to receive us. Mounting our elephants, 
we went in form to attend her, and found her pos- 
sessed of a very handsome mansion in the neighbour- 
hood of the imperial palace; it was situated in the cen- 
tre of a court, surrounded by a pahsade, at the gate of 
which there was a stage erected for our convenience in 
alighting. We entered the inclosure without any of the 
parade observed in our former visits: at the bottom of 
the stairs we put off our shoes, and ascended into a 
handsome hall, supported by several lofty pillars; at 
the farther end a portion of the floor was elevated six 

or eight inches, and separated by a neat balustrade 
from the rest of the room; within this space, under a 
white canopy, was placed a large cushion of blue vel- 
vet fringed with gold, on a carpet covered with mus- 
lin. There was a numerous assemblage of both sexes, 
but particularly women, sitting round the balustrade. 
As soon as we entered, a space was immediately va- 
cated for us to occupy, in front of the door and oppo- 
site to the cushion. After we had been seated a few 
minutes, the old lady came forth from an inner apart- 
ment, and walked slowly towards the elevated seat, 
supported by two female servants, whilst another held 
up her train; her long white hair hung loose upon her 
shoulders, but she wore neither covering nor orna- 
ment upon her head; her dress, which was extremely 
fine, without being gaudy, became her advanced years 
and high dignity; it consisted of a long robe of white 
muslin, and over her shoulders was thrown a sash of 
gauze, embroidered with sprigs of gold. She advanced 
to where the cushion was placed, and took her seat on 
the carpet, supporting her head on her arm that rested 
on the pillow, whilst the two female attendants, neatly 
dressed, kneeling, one on each side, fanned her with 
long gilded fans. Every person seemed to pay her pro- 
found respect, and when she entered, both men and 
women bent their bodies in the attitude of submission. 
1 had brought, as a token of my veneration, a string of 
pearl and some fine muslin. The Sandohgaan an- 
nounced the offering, and enumerated the articles 
with a loud voice, entreating, in my name, her gra- 
cious acceptance of them.. She looked at the English 
gentlemen with earnestness, but seemed entirely to 
disregard the Chinese, although their dress was much 
more showy than ours: her manner was on this occa- 
sion extremely complaisant, and she asked several 
questions, such as, what were our names? how we 
were in health? what were our ages? on being in- 
formed, she obligingly said she would pray that we 
might attain as great longevity as herself; adding, that 
she had reached her seventy-second year. 1 did not 
perceive, amongst the numerous company that at- 
tended, any of the junior princes, or of the principal 
ministers, although there were several personages of 
distinction. After she had retired, a very handsome 
desert was served up: the fruits and preserves were 
delicious: whatever China could yield, was united 
with the produce of their own country. Having tasted 
of various dishes, we withdrew without any cere- 
mony; and as none of the royal family were present, 
there was no necessity to delay our departure: we ac- 
cordingly returned home, a good deal oppressed by 
the heat of the weather, and wearied by the repetition 
of tedious formalities. 

On the two following days we visited the princes of 
Prome, of Bassien, of Tongho, and of Pegahm, titles 
taken from the provinces over which they respectively 
preside. These brothers are not all by the same mother; 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

the prince of Prome alone, being full brother to the 
Engy Teekien, or heir apparent. In the course of our 
visits we had a better opportunity than before, of 
viewing the streets and buildings; the former were 
invariably laid out in strait lines, crossing each other at 
right angles. The houses in general differed little from 
those of Rangoon; they were all covered with tiles, 
and on the ridge of the roofs was a long range of 
earthen pots, filled with water, in readiness to be bro- 
ken in case of fire. The few houses of brick and mortar 
which we saw, were said to belong to the members of 
the royal family. Rows of trees were planted in several 
streets, five or six feet in front of the houses, forming a 
shady walk for foot passengers. As the younger 
princes do not assume the state of royalty, our recep- 
tion was much more gay and less ceremonious at their 
palaces, than at that of the Engy Teekien. At the palace 
of the prince of Prome, or, as he is termed, the Pee 
Teekien, the preparations made for our entertainment 
were extremely splendid. When the gate of the inclo- 
sure was thrown open to admit us, we were surprised 
with a view of a lane of elephants on one side, and of 
horses on the other; there were fifteen of the former, 
some of which surpassed in size and beauty any I had 
ever seen: the horses were more numerous, and sev- 
eral of them were richly caparisoned. Passing through 
these, we came to an open space, where rope-dancers 
and tumblers were performing in the open air. We 
stopped to look at them, but observed nothing re- 
markable in their feats; they were much inferior in 
agility to the tumblers of Southern India. One man, 
however, surprised us a good deal, by applying the 
point of a spear to his shoulder and resting the other 
end against a pillar, thus pushing on it, apparently 
with great force, until he bent and broke a thick shaft; 
this he effected without piercing his own skin, which, 
though the spear was not very sharp, must have been 
wonderfully firm to have resisted such evident vio- 

While we were viewing the sports, a message was 
brought from the prince, to acquaint us that these 
people had been procured for our amusement; and 
after we had satisfied our curiosity, he would be glad 
to see us. We immediately proceeded to the hall of re- 
ception, which was a handsome wooden building, but 
not so large as that of the elder brother. At the upper 
end there was a sofa, curiously gilded, and decorated 
with pieces of mirror, disposed in such a manner as to 
produce a pleasing effect. None of the royal family 
were present, and we did not observe any of the 
Woongees or Attawoons. A few minutes after we had 
taken our seats, the prince entered, splendidly 
dressed; he proceeded to his sofa with much solem- 
nity, and spoke only a few words. We were, as usual, 
entertained with a handsome desert, of which the 
prince himself sohcited us to eat. As soon as he with- 
drew, our attention was called to a select company of 

figure-dancers, who had commenced their perform- 
ance in the virando, or balcony of the hall. This band 
of females did not at all discredit the festival of a 
prince; three of the number were beautiful, and 
moved with graceful ease, in perfect harmony to the 
music: their outer dress was a flowing robe, made of 
transparent gauze delicately embroidered with flow- 
ers of gold and silver, and a profusion of gold chains 
encircled their necks and arms. We remained a quarter 
of an hour beholding this elegant spectacle, and then 
returned to the place where our elephants were wait- 
ing. The prince of Prome is in person rather above the 
middle size; his age does not exceed twenty-seven or 
twenty-eight years; and, like his elder brother, his ap- 
pearance promises future corpulency: his countenance 
is naturally cheerful and pleasing, which we were told 
was the true index of his mind: he bears an excellent 
character, and is said to be much esteemed in the 
province, over which he immediately presides. 

Our next visit was to the prince of Tongho, by 
whom we were received with every mark of attention. 
His dwelling was much inferior to those of his elder 
brothers, and the attendance was comparatively small; 
there were, however, a number of state elephants pa- 
raded in the court-yard and we passed through a line 
of musqueteers, drawn up in single tiles on each side. 
This military array had a very singular appearance; 
hardly any two were dressed alike, and some of them 
were without any other clothing, than a fillet that en- 
circled their head, and a cloth rolled round their waist: 
through respect, they were aU seated on their heels, 
some with their firelocks shouldered, and others with 
the butts resting on the ground. 

Here also we found tumblers, musicians, and danc- 
ers; and there were two carriages in waiting, hand- 
somely gilded, with a pair of horses harnessed to each: 
these vehicles were of a light construction, on four 
wheels, open at the sides, and covered with a convex 
canopy. The prince sat on a gilded chair; he was a 
slender man, and appeared to be older than the prince 
of Prome, whom he is said not to resemble in any par- 
ticular. The power which this prince possesses must 
be considerable, as his government, formerly the in- 
dependent kingdom of Tongho, is rich, extensive, and 
populous; and the fort of Tongho is, at the present 
day, deemed the Strongest in the empire. Persons of 
rank, we observed, were here permitted to introduce 
their beetle-boxes and spitting-pots, which was not the 
case at any of the other courts. Our visit being con- 
cluded, we returned home. The heat during the early 
part of this day had been very intense, but a refreshing 
shower towards evening cooled the air, and rendered 
the night pleasant. We were not surprised when we 
came back, to learn that the senior of the Chinese em- 
bassy had died during our absence, as he had been so 
ill in the morning, that his colleagues declined taking a 
share in the ceremonials of the day. 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


On the following day, at the customary hour, we 
crossed the lake, and proceeded with the same atten- 
dants as before, to the house of the prince of Bassien. 
His dwelling was very handsome, and the pillars of 
his haU, which the law prohibits him either to gild or 
paint, were covered with flowered satin. Many men of 
rank graced the assembly, and some who wore high 
military insignia; but none of the royal family or the 
principal ministers were present. The prince seemed a 
very awkward, bashful youth, about seventeen years 
of age. The situation of his government, which extends 
along the sea coast, as far south as Cape Negrais, gives 
him the power either to obstruct or assist, in a material 
degree, the merchants who trade to Bassien; and ships 
being sometimes obliged to take shelter in the Negrais 
river, during the adverse monsoon, his people have 
frequent opportunities of affording aid to the dis- 
tressed. After sitting some minutes, and finding he 
was not inclined to begin a discourse, 1 broke through 
the general silence, by addressing him in a compU- 
mentary manner, expressing acknowledgment of the 
kindness, which had been extended by the officers of 
his government, to British merchants and mariners, as 
well as my rehance on his future influence in their fa- 
vour. 1 spoke in the language of Hindostan, and each 
sentence was translated by B aba-Sheen. The prince 
was embarrassed; he twice attempted to reply, but 
had not the power; two of his courtiers crept towards 
him, and, in a prostrate attitude near the foot of his 
seat, suggested what they conceived he ought to say: 
their aid, however, was ineffectual; his Highness 
could not utter a connected sentence. At length his 
Woon, or chief minister, relieved him, by making an 
apposite reply in his name. Our entertainment was 
nearly the same as at the other princes. From hence we 
went to the palace of the junior prince, entitled 
Pegahm Teekien; a title derived from the ancient city 
of that name, which is the seat of his government. He 
seemed liveUer than his brother, whom we had just 
left; and his Woon was a very venerable personage. 
On this occasion the repast differed in one particular 
from any we had yet received; a roast fowl was intro- 
duced, no doubt in compUment to us; and as their re- 
ligion does not forbid them to eat meat, but only pro- 
hibits the slaughter of animals for the purposes of 
food, there was no crime in the act of serving it up to 
us, or partaking of it themselves: the only question 
was, how the bird came to be deprived of life? to 
which, no doubt, an exculpatory answer could have 
been given. This, however, was a matter which it did 
not become us to discuss; it was certainly a handsome 
and liberal testimony of their desire to provide what 
they thought would be agreeable to their guests. In 
addition to the band of dancing girls that performed 
here for our amusement, there were two comedians, 
who recited passages, and exhibited various distor- 

tions of countenance; but they were far inferior to the 
inimitable performer we had seen at Pegue. 

Having finished our introductory visits to the dif- 
ferent members of the royal family, we had now lei- 
sure to gratify curiosity, by viewing whatever the 
capital contained, that was most deserving the notice 
of strangers. The day not being far advanced, we 
walked from the palace of the prince of Pegahm, to see 
the Piedigaut Tiek, or royal library: it is situated at the 
north-west angle of the fort, in the centre of a court, 
paved with broad flags, and close to a very handsome 
Kioum, or monastery. Before we entered the library 
we ascended the Kioum, and found the inside corre- 
spond with the external appearance; the building was 
spacious and richly gilded; the pillars, the ceiling, and 
the pannels were entirely covered with gold leaf; and 
the image of Gaudma shone with brilliant lustre. A 
balustrade of wood, minutely and beautifully carved, 
protected the image from intruders. 

On the pannels of the walls, were represented fig- 
ures of inferior agents of the divinity, and of prostrate 
Rhahaans in the act of devotion: these were all shaped 
in fret-work in the wood, and were of no contemptible 
workmanship; a well wrought fohage of the same, 
bordered the pannels. The image of Gaudma, in this 
Kioum, was large, and made of marble; it was seated 
on a broad pedestal, entirely gilded; in front of which, 
within the balustrade, stood a handsome girandole of 
cut glass, of European manufacture: near the image, 
was a gilded couch, which, we were informed, was the 
customary bed of the principal Rhahaan, or head of aU 
the Birman priesthood, when he chose to pass the 
night in the fort, which rarely happened. It was splen- 
didly gilt; the bottom, however, was only a bare 
board; pillows were not wanting; there were two, but 
they were made of wood. A mat spread on the floor, is 
the highest luxury of repose, in which the Rhahaans 

From the kioum we proceeded to visit the adjacent 
library; it is a large brick building, raised on a terrace, 
and covered by a roof of very compound structure. It 
consists of one square room, with an enclosed vi- 
rando, or gallery, surrounding it: this room was 
locked, and as we had not brought a special order for 
seeing it, the person who had the care of the Hbrary 
said that he was not at liberty to open the doors, but 
assured us that there was nothing in the inside differ- 
ent from what we might see in the virando, where a 
number of large chests, curiously ornamented with 
gilding and japan, were ranged in regular order, 
against the wall. 1 counted fifty, but there were many 
more, probably not less than a hundred. The books 
were regularly classed, and the contents of each chest, 
were written in gold letters on the lid. The librarian 
opened two, and shewed me some very beautiful writ- 
ing on thin leaves of ivory, the margins of which were 
ornamented with flowers of gold, neatly executed. 1 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

saw also some books written in the ancient Palli, the 
reUgious text. Every tiling seemed to be arranged with 
perfect regularity, and 1 was informed that there were 
books upon divers subjects; more on divinity than on 
any other; but history, music, medicine, painting, and 
romance, had their separate treatises. The volumes 
were disposed under distinct heads, regularly num- 
bered; and if all the other chests were as. well filled, as 
those that were submitted to our inspection, it is not 
improbable, that his Birman Majesty may possess a 
more numerous library, than any potentate from the 
banks, of the Danube, to the borders of China. 

It was late when we returned home, and our repose 
was disturbed by a renewal of the noises which the 
Chinese were accustomed to make; they sounded all 
night on loud gongs, the funeral knell of the departed 
embassador, uttering at intervals horrible cries and 
lamentations. One of the mourners imitated with his 
voice, the howling of a dog so naturally, that all the 
oars belonging to the boat people, and the Cassay huts 
in our neighbourhood, joined in the chorus. Our prox- 
imity to these personages proved to us a source of 
great molestation. 

About this time a ludicrous circumstance hap- 
pened, which only deserves notice, as it tends to illus- 
trate the character of the people, and shew to what an 
abject state, despotic tyranny can debase the human 
mind. The Engy Teekien, or prince royal, took a pleas- 
ure in collecting foreign beasts; among others, he had 
procured male goats from almost every country of the 
east. A Hock of these, consisting of more than thirty, 
were sent to feed on the borders of the lake, near our 
dwelling: we happened to have three or four she- 
goats, that had been brought from Bengal, for the sake 
of their milk. Allured by the bleat of the females, the 
whole flock of males one night broke through the pal- 
ing, and made a forcible irruption into our court; the 
suddenness of the attack, at such an hour, surprised 
us not a Uttle; 1 got up, and ordered the Birman guards 
that were posted at the gates, to drive them away, 
which they attempted to do by shouting at them, but 
without any effect, as the animals, some of which were 
very large, had now become furious, and after fighting 
with each other, began to rush through our houses. 1 
then desired the Birmans to make use of sticks, but 
this they positively refused, saying that the goats were 
"praws," or lords, meaning that they were ennobled 
by belonging to the Prince, and that no person dared, 
on any account, offer injury to to them; having no 
other alternative, we armed our servants and the sol- 
diers with large bamboos, who subdued these trouble- 
some invaders, though not without much difficulty, 
and some risk, whilst the Birmans lifted up their 
hands and eyes in astonishment at our temerity: the 
Praws, however, were severely beaten. Having at 
length got rid of them, 1 returned to rest, and heard no 
more of the matter. 

The intense heat of the three days, spent in the for- 
malities of visiting the princes, made me postpone any 
further ceremonials until the 6th of the month (Sep- 
tember), which day was appointed to pay our respects 
to the Seredaw Poundagee Praw, or the arch priest of 
the Birman empire: in the intermediate time a differ- 
ence of opinion arose, in regard to the etiquette of 
compliments, in which 1 did not think myself at liberty 
to depart from what 1 considered an attention due to 
my public character. 

The grand ruling council of the Birman nation has 
already been described as consisting of four chief 
members, entitled Woongees, and four junior mem- 
bers, called Woondocks, between whom there is a 
wide disparity of rank. The place of third Woongee 
was vacant, and the junior bears very small compara- 
tive importance with the two seniors, who, in fact, 
govern the empire. These personages, whose power is 
so great, possess a corresponding degree of pride; the 
governors of provinces are in their esteem men of Uttle 
consequence, and are often treated by these ministers 
with excessive arrogance, which is not solely confined 
to those, whose situation and expectations place them 
in a state of dependence, but is indiscriminately ex- 
tended to all; nor could 1 hope to be exempted from 
receiving a share in common with others. 1 was in- 
formed, that after paying my respects to the royal fam- 
ily and the Seredaw, it was expected that 1 should wait 
on the two senior Woongees, and offer them in person 
the customary presents. 1 observed in answer, that 1 
had no objection to paying these ministers a mark of 
attention by the trifling present which usage had es- 
tablished; but to wait on them at their houses, unless 1 
received an assurance that my visit would be re- 
turned, was a ceremony 1 begged leave to decline. This 
intimation 1 imagine was rather a disappointment to 
them, as much pains were taken to induce me to alter 
my resolution. 1 however refused to concede, but 1 of- 
fered to meet them at the house of the Maywoon of 
Pegue, a proposal from which they dissented, remark- 
ing, that to visit me, would be more eligible than to go 
to the Maywoon's house. 1 replied that our formalities 
were not less strict than theirs, and that 1 could no 
more relinquish my claim to the respect due to my 
pubhc station, than they could descend from their ele- 
vation, and saw no remedy unless they themselves 
chose to apply that, which was in their own power, 
and which they must be sensible 1 had a right to re- 
quire. Finding that 1 was not inclined to yield, they 
requested, if 1 could not visit them in person, that 1 
would allow the other gentlemen to pay them the 
compliment; a desire to which 1 readily acceded, as 
well from a wish to open a channel of communication, 
as to manifest on my part a conciliatory disposition. 
Mr. Wood and Doctor Buchanan obligingly made no 
objection; 1 therefore answered that the gentlemen 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


would wait on them, and expressed my regret that I 
was deprived of the same pleasure. 

During this interval of rest the Governor of Bamoo 
frequently favoured me with a visit, his business 
bringing him almost daily to the residence of the Chi- 
nese. By his desire, 1 sent them compliments of condo- 
lence, with a piece of coarse white muslin, which, it 
seems, is the etiquette on such occasions. On one of 
these days the Bamoo Governor brought with him the 
chart of his journey to Pekin, as he had formerly 
promised; it was delineated in a curious manner on a 
sort of black paper commonly used by the Birmans, on 
which they write with a pencil, made of steatite, or 
soapstone. The places were distinctly marked, but not 
having any scale, the measurement was extremely 
confused, and so disproportionate, that it was impos- 
sible to judge of distances with any degree of preci- 
sion. We could however trace his progress through the 
Chinese dominions in the Jesuits map that is prefixed 
to du Halde's account of China. 

On the day appointed for our visit to the Seredaw, 
we look boat at seven in the morning, and, attended 
by our usual retinue, crossed the lake; one of the sur- 
viving Chinese also accompanied us. Baba-Sheen, the 
Shawbunder of Rangoon, and some Birman officers, 
met us on the opposite bank, where our elephants 
were waiting. When we approached the causeway or 
bridge, instead of crossing it, we turned to the left, and 
proceeded close to the ditch, parallel with the west 
face of the fort, till we came to the north-west angle. 
At this place the river approaches so near to the walls 
as to render a continuation of the ditch impracticable; 
we then went along the north side, passing on our left 
a handsome kioum, crowned with a gilded piasath or 
spire, which we were told had been erected by 
Meedaw Praw, the venerable lady whom we had vis- 
ited. On arriving at the north-east comer, we observed 
at some distance on the plain, another religious edifice 
of distinguished splendor, it was dignified by the title 
of Kioumdogee, or royal convent, where we were in- 
formed that the Seredaw or chief priest intended to 
receive us, and not at his usual residence, which was 
at a Kioum about two miles farther. The articles 1 de- 
signed to present to him, having been sent forward to 
his customary abode, we were obliged to wait in an 
adjoining house until they could be brought back. Be- 
ing prepared, we were conducted into a spacious 
court, surrounded by a high brick wall, in the centre of 
which stood the kioum, an edifice not less extraordi- 
nary from the stile of its architecture, than magnificent 
from its ornaments, and from the gold that was pro- 
fusely bestowed on every part. It was composed en- 
tirely of wood, and the roofs, rising one above another 
in five distinct stories, diminished in size as they ad- 
vanced in height, each roof being surrounded by a 
cornice, curiously carved and richly gilded. The body 
of the building, elevated twelve feet from the ground. 

was supported on large timbers driven into the earth 
after the manner of piles, of which there were proba- 
bly 150 to sustain the immense weight of the super- 
structure. On ascending the stairs, we were not less 
pleased than surprised, at the splendid appearance 
which the inside displayed; a gilded balustrade, fan- 
tastically carved into various shapes and figures, en- 
compassed the outside of the platform. Within this, 
there was a wide gallery that comprehended the entire 
circuit of the building, in which many devotees were 
stretched prostrate on the floor. An inner railing 
opened into a noble hall, supported by colonnades of 
lofty pillars; the centre row was at least fifty feet high, 
and gilded from the summit to within four feet of the 
base, which was lackered red. In the middle of the hall 
there was a gilded partition of open latticed work, fif- 
teen or twenty feet high, which divided it into two 
parts, from north to south. The space between the pil- 
lars varied from twelve to sixteen feet, and the num- 
ber, including those that supported the galleries, ap- 
peared to be not fewer than one hundred, which, as 
they approached the extremities, diminished in height; 
the outermost row not exceeding fifteen feet. The bot- 
tom of these was cased with sheet lead as a defence 
against the weather. A marble image of Gaudma, 
gilded, and sitting on a golden throne, was placed in 
the centre of the partition; and in front of the idol, 
leaning against one of the pillars, we beheld the 
Seredaw sitting on a satin carpet. He was encom- 
passed by a circle of Rhahaans, from whom he could 
be no other ways distinguished, than by his preserv- 
ing an erect position; whilst the others bent their bod- 
ies in an attitude of respect, with their hands joined in 
a supplicating manner. On entering the hall, the Bir- 
mans and the Chinese, who accompanied us, pros- 
trated themselves before the figure of Gaudma, after 
which they kneeled down and made their reverence to 
the Seredaw, touching the ground with their fore- 
heads, whilst we took our seats on fine mats, that were 
spread at a little distance from him. He received us 
with much pohteness, and in his looks and demean- 
our affected more liveliness and complaisance, than 
any of the fraternity 1 had hitherto seen. His appear- 
ance denoted him to be about forty years of age; not 
meagre and austere as they generally are, but fat and 
jocular. 1 presented to him my offering, which con- 
sisted of a piece of yellow cloth, the sacerdotal colour; 
some sandal wood, and a few wax candles covered 
with gold leaf. He asked several questions respecting 
England, such as how long the voyage usually was 
from thence to India: being told this, he observed that 
we were an extraordinary people to wander so far 
from home. 1 noticed the magnificence of the kioum: 
he replied, that such sublunary matters did not attract 
his attention; he was on earth but as a hermit. 1 de- 
sired his prayers; he said they were daily offered up 
for the happiness of all mankind, but that he would 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

recommend us, to the particular protection of 
Gaudma. He made some observations on our appear- 
ance, which I did not understand, and he even smiled; 
a relaxation very unusual in a Rhahaan. We retired 
without ceremony, and mounting our elephants, pro- 
ceeded along a wide road leading to the northward, 
which soon brought us to an extensive plain, that 
seemed to stretch in an uninterrupted level, to the foot 
of a range of mountains, ten or twelve miles distant. 
The soil was a poor clay, and the pasturage indiffer- 
ent. We saw at a distance some fields of grain, and 
understood that capacious reservoirs had been con- 
structed with great labour and expence, by order of 
the king, in the vicinity of the mountains, which en- 
abled the inhabitants of the low countries to water 
their grounds, and render the earth productive in a 
season of drought. Several kioums and villages were 
scattered over the plain; but when we had advanced 
about two miles, religious edifices increased, beyond 
our power to calculate the number. The first that we 
entered was called Knebang Kioum, or the Kioum of 
Immortality, from the centre of which rose a royal Pi- 
asath, to the height of a hundred and fifty feet: the 
roofs were of the customary complicated structure, 
one above another. This was the place where the em- 
balmed bodies of deceased Seredaws are laid in state: 
the building rested on a terrace of brick, and was not 
elevated on pillars, as Kioums and dwelling-houses 
usually are. The hall was very handsome, about sev- 
enty feet square, surrounded by a wide gallery: the 
roof was sustained by thirty-six, gilded pillars, the 
central forty feet in height. Mats were spread in differ- 
ent parts for the repose of the Rhahaans, and on each 
was placed a hard pillow; there was also a tray con- 
taining books on the duties of Rhahaans, on rehgion, 
and the forms of religious worship. 

Having rested here for a short time, we next visited 
the Kioum, which was the ordinary residence of the 
Seredaw. This building far exceeded, in size and 
splendour, any we had before seen, and is perhaps the 
most magnificent of its kind in the universe; it is con- 
structed entirely of wood, and resembled in the style 
of its structure and ornaments, that in which we had 
an interview with the Seredaw, but was much more 
spacious and lofty. The numerous rows of pillars, 
some of them sixty feet high, all of which were cov- 
ered with burnished gilding, had a wonderfully 
splendid effect: it would be difficult to convey, either 
in language or by pencil, an adequate description of 
this extraordinary edifice. The boundless expenditure 
of gilding on parts exposed to the weather, as well as 
in the inside, cannot fail to impress a stranger with 
astonishment, at the richness of the decoration, al- 
though he may not approve of the taste with which it 
is disposed: I could not have formed in my imagina- 
tion a display more strikingly magnificent. This 
Kioum was also divided by a partition, which sepa- 

rated it in the middle from north to south. There was a 
small room on one side, made of gilded boards, which 
we were told was the bedchamber of the Seredaw. 
Mats were spread on the outside for the attendant 
Rhahaans. The figure of Gaudma was made of copper, 
and an European girandole of cut-glass stood before 
his throne. 

Leaving this building, we passed through many 
courts crowded with smaller temples and Kioums. 
Several gigantic images of Rakuss, the Hindoo demon, 
half beast, half human, made of brass, were shewed to 
us, as composing a part of the spoils of Arracan. From 
these we were conducted to a magnificent temple 
which is erecting for the image of Gaudma, that was 
brought from the same country. The idol is made of 
polished brass, about ten feet high, and sitting in the 
usual posture, on a pedestal within an arched recess, 
the walls are gilded, and adorned with bits of different 
coloured mirrors, disposed with much taste. Peculiar 
sanctity is ascribed to this image, and devotees resort 
from every part of the empire, to adore the Arracan 
Gaudma, which is not exposed at all hours, to the 
view of the vulgar. The doors of the recess are only 
opened when persons of particular consequence come 
to visit it, or at stated times, to indulge the populace. 
As we approached, a crowd of people thronged after 
us with tumultuous enthusiasm, striving for admit- 
tance to offer up a prayer to this brazen representative 
of the divinity. We soon turned from these wretched 
fanatics, and the object of their stupid adoration, to 
view the noble Piasath, or royal spire, that crowned 
the building, and attracted much more of our attention 
and respect, than an image, from which even the 
statuary could claim no praise. 

The spire rose in seven separate stages, above the 
roof of the Kioum, and the gold leaf, which had re- 
cently been applied, glistening in the sun-beams, re- 
flected a brilhant lustre. This temple, with its auxiliary 
buildings, which are yet in an unfinished state, will, 
when completed, be the most elegant in the empire, 
though perhaps not so spacious as that which is the 
present residence of the Seredaw. From hence we 
were conducted to what is called the Chounda, or 
place for the reception and repose of strangers, who 
come from a distance to offer up their devotions. It 
communicates on the north side with the great temple, 
and is also a very beautiful specimen of Birman archi- 
tecture; it comprehends five long galleries separated 
by colonnades, each consisting of thirty-four pillars, or 
two hundred and four aU together; the two central 
rows were about twenty-five feet high, but the exter- 
nal ones did not exceed fourteen; they were painted of 
a deep crimson ground, enlivened by festoons of gold 
leaf, encircling them in a very fanciful and pleasing 
manner, and in a style much more conformable to 
European taste, than an unvaried surface of gold. The 
ceiling likewise was embellished with a profusion of 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


carved work, executed with great labour and minute- 
ness. Measuring by our steps, we judged the length to 
be five hundred and seventy-six feet, and the breadth 
of each distinct gallery about twelve; the central rather 
wider than those on either side. A low railing ex- 
tended along the outer pillars, to prevent improper 
persons and dogs, from defiling the place. It is built 
upon a terrace of brick, elevated three feet from the 
ground; the floor is made of Chunam, or fine stucco, 
composed of lime, pounded steatites, and oil, the co- 
hesion of which forms a hard and smooth surface, that 
shines like marble. Our conductor informed us that 
this edifice had been lately erected at the sole expence 
of the senior Woongee. It certainly reflects credit on 
the projector, and is an ornament to the country. 

The heat of the day, which had now attained its 
greatest force, and our having been in constant exer- 
cise from seven in the morning till two o'clock in the 
afternoon, rendered a place of repose extremely ac- 
ceptable; and here we not only rested ourselves, but 
likewise found a plentiful collation prepared for us. 
Our conductors, aware that the attention of strangers 
could not fail to be engaged for some hours, by such a 
multitude of new and striking objects, thought it 
would be more prudent for us to wait under the shade 
of this hospitable roof till the afternoon, than expose 
ourselves unnecessarily, to a burning sun. We had 
brought with us, at the instance of our friends, wine, 
bread and butter, and cold fowl, to which the Shaw- 
bunder had added a turene of excellent vermicelh 
soup, and a tolerable good pillaw. We sat down to our 
repast about two o'clock, and after it was finished, 
continued to recline upon our mats until evening, 
fanned by a cool and refreshing breeze from the west, 
whilst we conversed, and contemplated the scene 
around. The crowd of people, whom the novelty of 
our appearance had collected, were neither intrusive 
nor troublesome. On such an occasion, in most other 
countries of the East, it is probable that, from the 
prejudices of bigotry, we should not have been suf- 
fered to depart without receiving some insult, or re- 
marking some indication of contempt; but here, not- 
withstanding we entered their most sanctified re- 
cesses, we were every where treated with uniform ci- 
vility. The presence of those who accompanied us had 
doubtless some influence in commanding the awe of 
the multitude; and if their respect was owing to this 
motive, it speaks highly for the state of their police; 
but 1 am inclined also to give them credit for a disposi- 
tion naturally kind and benevolent. 

In the afternoon we returned home by the same 
road that we came, and our attention being less en- 
gaged than in the morning, we had a better opportu- 
nity to judge of the form and extent of the fortress, as 
we passed along the north side, from one end to the 

The fort of Ummerapoora is an exact square: there 
are four principal gates, one in the centre of each face; 
there is also a smaller gate on each side of the great 
gate, equidistant between it and the angle of the fort, 
comprizing twelve gates in all. At each angle of the 
fort there is a large quadrangular bastion, that projects 
considerably. There are also eleven smaller bastions 
on each side, including those that are over the gate- 
ways. Between each of these bastions is extended a 
curtain about two hundred yards long. From this cal- 
culation, a side of the fort occupies two thousand four 
hundred yards; the Birmans, however, called it four 
thousand nine hundred royal cubits, which 1 conceive 
to be an exaggerated account. Every bastion and 
gateway is covered by a tiled roof, supported on four 
pillars of wood, to prevent injury from the lodgment 
of rain. 

At each corner of the fort there is a gilded temple, 
nearly one hundred feet in height, but so insignificant, 
comparatively, with those we had just seen, as not to 
attract particular notice. 

We could perceive, from our elephants, the roof of a 
range of buildings in the inside, parallel to the walls, 
and extending along one entire side of the fort, which 
our conductors said was the public granary and store- 

We arrived at our grove half an hour after dark, 
wearied from the heat of the weather and the exercise 
of the day, but gratified to the highest degree, with the 
multiplicity and extraordinary splendour of the ob- 
jects we had seen. Much as we had heard of the mag- 
nificence of their religious buildings, our expectations 
had been more than fulfilled. The unbounded expen- 
diture of gilding which they bestow on the outside of 
the roofs, as well as within, must exhaust immense 
sums. 1 was informed that the gold leaf is exceedingly 
pure, and bears exposure to the air for a long time, 
without suffering injury. The size or glue used to 
make it adhere is called Seesee: it is the juice of the 
croton sebiferum, after undergoing a certain prepara- 
tion. This is the only manner in which a people, natu- 
rally frugal and disinclined to luxury, seem to apply 
their superfluous wealth. It is to be lamented that their 
edifices are in general composed of such a perishable 
material as wood, which, though of the most durable 
kind perhaps in the world, cannot last for many gen- 
erations, or leave to posterity a monumental proof, of 
the taste and magnificence of the national architecture. 

Chapter XVll 

Whilst we were thus passing our time in amusement, 
and the indulgence of our curiosity, the more impor- 
tant interests of the mission were not forgotten. The 
council, 1 was informed, had held frequent delibera- 
tions on some general propositions, which 1 had sub- 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

mitted with a view to assist the mercantile interests of 
the two countries, and place commerce on a liberal 
and secure basis. I had reason given me to conclude, 
that my suggestions had met with a favourable recep- 
tion, and 1 was likewise informed by an authority 
which I conceived to be competent, that it was in- 
tended to depute a Birman officer of distinction in an 
official capacity to Bengal, there to confirm, on the 
part of his Birman Majesty, the good understanding 
that was henceforth to subsist between the Court of 
Ummerapoora, and the Government General of India. 
Assurances of this nature, together with the attention 
paid to our private accommodation, induced me to 
hope for a favourable termination of the mission with 
which I was entrusted. 

1 however soon found, that the attainment of these 
objects, which were obviously calculated to be of re- 
ciprocal advantage to British India and the Birman 
empire, was opposed by the indirect artifices of indi- 
viduals possessing weight, whose interests might 
eventually be affected by any innovation, and who on 
that account sedulously fomented jealousy and dis- 
trust. 1 likewise learned that the pride of the court had 
been early awakened, by a representation that the 
government of Bengal being provincial, and the Gov- 
ernor-General, from whom I derived my commission, 
only the subject of a king, it would therefore be de- 
rogatory to the Birman monarch, to treat on terms of 
equality with an administration that was subordinate, 
or to correspond with any person beneath the dignity 
of a crowned head. It is however doubtful whether 
the Birman court would have manifested its senti- 
ments so unequivocally, as to draw from me a formal 
explanation, had not circumstances subsequently oc- 
curred, which served to strengthen its arrogance, and 
which gave plausibility to the representations that 
had been fabricated to mislead. 

Matters were in this state, when advice came of the 
arrival of a small vessel at Rangoon, from the isle of 
France, under Birman colours, which brought an un- 
favourable account of the situation of affairs in 
Europe; exaggerating the disappointment of the allies 
on the continent to a total defeat; and adding, that the 
Dutch and Spaniards having joined the republicans, 
the utter ruin of the English was not far distant. An 
obscure agent, maintained at Rangoon by the French, 
transmitted this information to a person of some offi- 
cial importance at the Birman capital, who immedi- 
ately promulgated it with an addition, that a powerful 
fleet was on its voyage from France to India; and, that 
four French ships of war were triumphantly cruizing 
in the Indian seas. 

This intelligence, which was asserted with confi- 
dence, was diligently improved by the Armenian and 
Mussulman merchants, who insinuated that, if our 
present overtures sprung not from treachery, they 
originated in fear; at the same time renewing a report. 

which has more than once been current, of a combina- 
tion of all the powers of India to deprive Great Britain 
other possessions in the East, and to expel all Europe- 
ans from those shores, which they were represented to 
have first visited as merchants, and afterwards in- 
vaded as usurpers. Although the Birmans probably 
did not give implicit credit to the last mentioned ru- 
mour, yet the news from Europe, co-operating with 
their own pride, determined them to persist in that 
arrogant assumption of superiority, which had hith- 
erto been manifested, rather in their actions, than by 
their words. 

On the 7th of September, Mr. Wood, in con- 
formity with the instructions he received, waited on 
the two senior Woongees, accompanied by Doctor Bu- 
chanan, and attended by a proportion of the pubhc 
servants. On his return, he addressed an official letter 
to me, [below] by which it appears, that in his recep- 
tion, no part of the respect due to his public character 
was omitted; whilst in the solicitude expressed for our 
personal welfare, there was displayed the refined po- 
liteness of a polished court. The conversation that he 
held with the Woongees, was nevertheless marked by 
a circumstance, which served to indicate more point- 
edly the precise line that was intended to be drawn. 

To Captain Michael Symes, Agent to the Court of 


AGREEABLY to your desire, I proceeded this fore- 
noon to the opposite side, to visit the two princi- 
pal Woongees. Some time after my arrival at the 
house of the first in rank, he made his appear- 
ance without any display of grandeur or parade, 
further than being in his court dress. His recep- 
tion was polite, as was his behaviour during the 
time 1 remained; and, so far as I recollect, the fol- 
lowing is the purport of our conversation, which 
was carried on through the medium of Baba- 
Sheen: he first asked me what kind of a passage 
we had from Bengal to Rangoon; whether since 
our arrival we had been comfortably situated, or 
otherwise? To these 1 rephed, that our passage 
had been pleasant, and that we had experienced 
since our arrival every attention and comfort we 
could desire. His next question was, what period 
had elapsed since we left Bengal? which having 
answered, he then inquired how the King and 
Queen were when the last accounts left England? 
On receiving my answer to this, he asked how 
the Governor General was when we left Bengal, 
and what was his age? 

These, I believe, are the only questions pro- 
posed: he then desired Baba-Sheen to inform me, 
that he would use his best endeavours with the 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


King to promote the objects for which we had 
come; likewise that he was very anxious for our 
welfare on hearing of the sickness and mortahty 
that prevailed amongst the Chinese, and on that 
account would recommend to his Majesty to al- 
low us to depart as soon as the season was fa- 
vourable; adding, that we should carry with us 
his good wishes for our safe return to Bengal. I 
desired B aba-Sheen to intimate the high sense we 
entertained of his sohcitude for, and good inten- 
tion towards, us; but requested he might not give 
himself any uneasiness on our account, as we 
had every comfort we could possibly desire, and 
during the time of our residence here, had found 
the climate to be a very healthy one. Having in- 
quired who the Moonshee, &c. were, he desired 
Baba-Sheen to request our acceptance of some 
sweetmeats, &c. winch he had provided for us, 
and then withdrew. 

From his house I went to that of the second 
Woongee, where, after 1 had been seated for a lit- 
tle while, he made his appearance, dressed, as 1 
was told, in the proper war dress of the Birmans. 
His reception was polite, but more ostentatious 
than that of the first minister, having assembled a 
great number of people (in their various dresses 
used on occasions of ceremony) in the hall into 
which we were conducted; at each end of which 
were several racks full of muskets, spears, and 
swords; the different insignia of his office, were 
likewise displayed to the best advantage. 

A httle after he came in, a Nakhaan desired 
Baba-Sheen to inquire, whether our passage from 
Bengal had been favourable, and how we had 
been, with respect to convenience, since our arri- 
val? These 1 answered in the Same terms I had 
done before. I was then asked, what time a ship 
commonly took to perform the voyage from 
Bengal to England; to which having replied, 1 
was again asked how the King and Queen were, 
likewise whether the Governor General was in 
good health when we left Bengal? Having re- 
ceived my answers to these, they next inquired 
whether the Governor General's authority ex- 
tended over all our possessions in India? This 1 
answered in the affirmative, and here ended our 

These several questions were put by the 
Nakhaan, no doubt by the Woongee's desire; but 
he did not speak a word himself till towards the 
conclusion, when he gave orders, I believe, to 
bring tea, sweetmeats, &c. which being placed 
before us, he soon after retired. 1 remained in his 
house till 1 was told by the Shawbunder and 
Baba-Sheen, that it was not necessary to stay any 

Soon after we had set out on our return, I was 
informed that the King's eldest son was ap- 
proaching on his way to the palace, and 1 was 
desired at the same time to withdraw into a bye 
street, which 1 complied with; but as not one of 
the public officers, who were with me, paid any 
compliment to the Prince, or desired me to do so, 
1 remained where I was conducted without salut- 
ing him, concluding it was not customary, or that 
if it had, they would have informed me. 

1 am, &c. 


7th September 1795. 

On the day of my public introduction at the Lotoo, it 
was an omission too remarkable to escape notice, that 
no enquiry whatever had been made respecting the 
Governor-General of India, nor in the conversations 
which I afterwards held with the several princes, was 
the name of the Governor-General once mentioned by 
them. Such however was not the case at the interview 
between Mr. Wood and the Woongees; these ministers 
enquired particularly concerning Sir John Shore, and 
the younger Woongee desired to be informed of the 
extent of the Governor-General's authority, which im- 
pUed, on his part, either real or assumed ignorance. 
These questions also, as appears from Mr. Wood's re- 
port, did not arise from the casual suggestion of the 
moment, but were all preconcerted and methodically 
arranged; the inferences therefore to be deduced from 
them, were grounds on which 1 might form a judg- 
ment; they conveyed something more than a pre- 
sumption, of the real sentiments entertained, respect- 
ing the delegating authority under which 1 acted. 

There being no plausible pretext for any longer de- 
lay., I pressed the Woongees to inform me what his 
Majesty's pleasure was, regarding the several points 
which 1 had submitted to his council, and intimated 
the necessity I was under of obeying the orders of my 
own government, by returning as speedily, as was 
consistent with the objects for which 1 had been de- 
puted. In reply to this apphcation, 1 was apprized that 
the presents, which his Birman Majesty designed to 
send to Bengal in return for those he had received, 
would be prepared on the 19th of September, on 
which day, if 1 would come to the Lotoo, they should 
be dehvered to me; matters of business might be dis- 
cussed, and I might fix on whatever day I thought 
proper to depart. 

With this desire 1 willingly acquiesced, as affording 
me an opportunity of requiring to know his Majesty's 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

real sentiments, as well as the motives that on their 
part gave rise to a conduct of so mysterious a nature. 

Nothing passed in the interval, except that I re- 
ceived intimation through a private and respectable 
channel, that the court, although no objection would 
be formally stated, had come to a decided resolution 
of considering me as a person deputed from a provin- 
cial and subordinate power, and not as the representa- 
tive of an equal and sovereign state; and that in pur- 
suance of this estimation his Majesty did not intend to 
honour me with a personal audience of leave. Of the 
truth of this information 1 had no reason to doubt; but 
before 1 took any measures to undeceive the court in a 
pubhc manner, 1 deemed it expedient to have an as- 
sumption so haughty and imperious, verified by the 
highest authority. 

On the 19th of September, 1 proceeded to the 
Lotoo, where 1 arrived about twelve o'clock, and 
found the council of state already assembled; the min- 
isters and the attendant officers being all dressed in 
their robes, and caps of ceremony. A few minutes after 
we had taken our seats, the presents were brought, 
consisting of three large boxes, covered with red cloth, 
and two elephant's teeth of considerable size. These 1 
was desired to receive in the name of the Birman king, 
for the English government; at the same time, two 
large rings were presented to me; one a single ruby set 
in gold, the other a sapphire, which 1 was requested to 
accept as a personal token of his Majesty's favour: a 
ring was also given to Mr. Wood, and another to Doc- 
tor Buchanan. When this ceremony was ended, 1 ad- 
dressed myself in the Birman language to the Woon- 
gees, and desired to know whether there were any 
reasons that applied to my situation, which had in- 
duced his Majesty to decline honouring me with a 
personal audience, which compliment, 1 understood, 
was usually paid by their court to the deputies of all 
sovereign states. To this interrogation 1 received an 
equivocal reply; and on repeating it, they persisted in 
returning an evasive answer. 1 then desired to be in- 
formed, whether or not it was his Majesty's intention 
to receive me in person, before my departure, as the 
representative of the Governor-General. This question 
they said they could not answer, not knowing his 
Majesty's pleasure. 1 afterwards asked whether the 
king preserved his intention of sending an authorized 
person from his court to Bengal, as had been intimated 
to me, by what 1 conceived to be competent authority, 
and whether the suggestions, which 1 had submitted 
for the advancement and protection of commerce, had 
been taken into consideration. These several points, 
they said, were then under discussion, and would be 
speedily determined; they acquainted me at the same 
time, that if 1 would fix on any precise period for my 
departure, the necessary papers and letters should be 
prepared, and delivered to me two days previous to 
my setting out. 1 mentioned the 3d of October; they 

replied that the letters should be in readiness by what 
1 understood to be the 1st of October; but by some 
misapprehension was the 30* of September; adding 
their hope that 1 would come to town on the 28th of 
September, the anniversary of Sandaing-guite, a day 
on which all the nobility pay homage to his Majesty. 
To their invitation 1 answered, that my having that 
honour, must depend on circumstances not yet ascer- 

This interview left me httle room to doubt of the 
estimation in which the Birman court held my public 
character, notwithstanding it was judged advisable, 
from motives of policy, to avoid making any direct 
avowal of such sentiments. Proceeding upon this plan, 
they concealed all their acts and determinations with a 
veil of ambiguity, which it sometimes was extremely 
difficult to penetrate. 

Pride, the chief actuating principle of this arrogant 
court, was the source to which its conduct, in every 
transaction of a public nature, might ultimately be 
traced. The first object of their government is to im- 
press on the minds of the people, the most reverential 
awe of their own sovereign, whose greatness they do 
not admit to be equalled by that of any monarch upon 
earth. Without attempting to diminish their veneration 
for their own prince, it became my duty, from the 
mode that was adopted in the display of his conse- 
quence, to acquaint the ministers in terms which could 
not be misconstrued, that there was another power, at 
no great distance, which would not readily subscribe 
to its own inferiority, or admit of any act in its nego- 
tiations with other states, which might either express 
or imply an assumption of superiority. It became nec- 
essary to inform them, that the Governor-General of 
India was not, in his relation to their court, or to that 
of any other eastern potentate, a subordinate provin- 
cial officer, but a personage in whom sovereign 
authority, over a widely extended empire was effi- 
ciently vested; that, as the representative of such 
authority, 1 held an indisputable claim to whatever 
consideration was granted to the ministers of other 
nations; and that the withholding it, would be ac- 
counted an incivility so great, as probably to prevent 
the English government from making any future ad- 
vances, for the estabhshment of a friendly and confi- 
dential intercourse. 

To convey a truth not less important for them to 
know, than incumbent on me to declare, 1 determined 
to address a letter to the principal Woongee and the 
council of state, expressing my dissatisfaction at the 
conduct which the Birman court had thought proper 
to observe in regard to my public character, to require 
an explanation of those points, which comprehended 
the objects of the embassy, and to demand that 1 
should be received and acknowledged by the King in 
person, as the representative of an equal and sover- 
eign state. 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


Had there even been room left for me to hesitate 
upon the adoption of this step, the following circum- 
stances, which occurred immediately after my inter- 
view with the Woongees at the Lotoo, would have de- 
cided me, in making a public declaration of my senti- 
ments on a mode of behaviour which exceeded even 
their usual extent of official arrogance, and fell little 
short of personal indignity. 

The custom, which imposes an obligation on a for- 
eign minister, to pay a mark of respect by a trifling 
present to each member of the royal family to whom 
he is introduced, has already been noticed: this com- 
pUment 1 offered in person to the several princes on 
the days of my presentation, and, in order to manifest 
that it was not my desire to withhold any attention, 
consistent with my situation to grant, soon after the 
visits of ceremony were ended, 1 had directed my 
Moonshee, or Persian secretary, to wait on each of the 
ministers and the principal officers of the court, and 
request in my name their acceptance of some rarity, 
the produce of Europe or of India. The gift to each in- 
dividual was very trifling, a few yards of European 
broad cloth, an article of cut-glass, a piece of Bengal 
muslin or of silk, was received as a polite and hand- 
some testimonial of a friendly disposition. 

These civilities, 1 was informed, were, by a special 
mandate, ordered to be returned by every person, to 
whom the attention had been shewn, in some produc- 
tion of the Birman country, and of value equal to what 
had been bestowed. 

It being expected that 1 should wait on the royal 
princes to receive in person the remuneration they de- 
signed to make, for the presents they had obtained, 1 
sent, on the 21st of September, a message to the Engy 
Teekien, to acquaint him that, if it suited his conven- 
ience, 1 would pay my respects to him the following 
day, or postpone my visit to any other, he might think 
proper to appoint: 1 likewise dispatched a messenger 
with a similar notification to the Prince of Prome. 
From the first 1 received a civil reply, excusing himself 
from seeing me on account of the indisposition of the 
princess, who had lately been brought to bed; but ac- 
quainting me, that if 1 chose to attend, the presents for 
the English government would be delivered to me in 
the Rhoom of his palace, or to any person whom 1 
might appoint to receive them. 1 replied, that being 
debarred of the honour of seeing him, 1 would depute 
Mr. Wood to accept his presents in the name of the 
Governor-General of India: from the Prince of Prome 1 
had not the honour of an answer. 

On the 22d, Mr. Wood waited on the Engy Teekien, 
and was received with much civility at the Rhoom by 
his ministers; the presents were formally produced, 
and conveyed to our residence by the prince's ser- 

As the Prince of Prome had not returned an answer 
to my message, 1 imagined that some misapprehen- 

sion had occurred. Being desirous of appearing to put 
the most favourable construction on every part of their 
conduct, 1 requested Mr. Wood to send a messenger, 
when he went to the house of the Engy Teekien, to 
apprize the Prince of Prome that he meant afterwards 
to pay his respects to him. To this intimation was re- 
turned what Mr. Wood considered a satisfactory re- 
ply; and as soon as the first visit was ended, he pro- 
ceeded to the Prince of Prome's palace, where the 
treatment he received, was extremely rude; after 
standing for some time at the outer gate, exposed to 
the sun, he was informed that the prince was not at 

However deficient the members of the royal family 
might be in politeness to me, 1 determined not to suf- 
fer their example to influence my conduct towards 
them, or to neglect any mark of deference, that was 
due to their illustrious rank. Meedaw Praw, the 
mother of the Queen, being a personage venerable 
from her age, and dignified from her high connec- 
tions; her behaviour also on our introduction having 
been distinguished by affability and politeness, 1 was, 
for these reasons, desirous of paying such a character 
particular respect; and with that view sent a compli- 
mentary message to her, similar to that which had 
been delivered to the two princes: she returned, in an- 
swer, that the next day would be perfectly convenient 
to her for my reception. 1 likewise intimated to the 
younger princes my intention of paying them a visit, 
to which they replied by a verbal compliment. 

On the next day, the 23d, 1 proceeded in form to the 
house of Meedaw Praw at the appointed hour, and 
was received with sufficient politeness by her Woon, 
or principal officer: there were several persons of rank 
assembled in the hall when 1 entered. After we had 
been seated about a quarter of an hour, a person came 
forth from the inner apartment, and informed us that 
the princess had gone to the palace to see the Queen 
her daughter, but would return in a few minutes. This 
1 thought rather an extraordinary step, as she herself 
had determined the precise time when 1 was to come. 
These minutes, however, were protracted to an hour; 
in the interval, pawn, fruit and sweetmeats were 
served up. At length, when her ministers perceived 
that my patience was exhausted, and 1 would wait no 
longer, a message was delivered to me from the prin- 
cess, excusing her appearance, on a plea of indisposi- 
tion; at the same time three gold rings, set with rubies 
and sapphires, and several boxes, handsomely ja- 
panned and painted, were laid before me, and my ac- 
ceptance of them desired. A conduct marked by such 
deliberate impoliteness would have justified retaha- 
tion on my part, by a contemptuous rejection of her 
presents; 1 however refrained from any farther indica- 
tion of displeasure; than withdrawing unceremoni- 
ously, without taking any notice of the boxes or rings, 
which were immediately conveyed to my residence by 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

her servants. Having reason to apprehend that the 
junior princes meant to observe a similar line of con- 
duct, 1 declined visiting them, but sent Mr. Wood to 
go through the ceremony of calling at their separate 
houses. As was expected, he saw not one of the 
princes, but was received by their Woons, who, 
though they carefully refrained from absolute rude- 
ness, yet evinced in their conduct the utmost arro- 
gance, under the cloak of supercilious civility. 

Such strange and unwarrantable insolence could 
not be measured by any scale of true policy, and was 
hardly to be reconciled to reason or common sense; 
nor could any part of their conduct be laid to the ac- 
count of ignorance; for no people on earth better un- 
derstand, or more pointedly observe, the minute 
punctiUos of official form. No candid and determinate 
reply could be extorted from them on any point in 
which their vanity was concerned; what their court 
intended to concede, I understood, was to be granted, 
not as an equivalent for reciprocal privileges on our 
part, but as a boon, as an act of gratuitous condescen- 
sion to me, in the character of a petitioner, bearing the 
tribute of homage from an inferior state. 

Without the hardiness to avow these principles, 
which a sense of British power, and the proximity of 
the country, probably suppressed, they nevertheless 
acted upon them as an assumed fact, with a view to 
gratify their own pride, elude disagreeable explana- 
tions, and reap all the advantages derivable from an 
intercourse with British India, to which they certainly 
were far from being averse, provided the correspon- 
dence could be maintained upon their own terms. 

In pursuance of my determination, I addressed the 
letter [see below] to the chief Woongee and council of 
state; and to give it aU the publicity that such a decla- 
ration ought to have, 1 sent Mr. Wood to deliver it in 
person to the minister, directing him afterwards to 
wait on the two junior Woongees, and apprize them 
formally of my having written a letter of such a 

To the Chief Woongee and Council of State 

The day being fixed for my departure, it becomes 
a duty incumbent on me freely to declare to you, 
as his Majesty's chief Minister, my sentiments on 
the conduct which the court of Ummerapoora has 
thought fit to observe towards me in my official 
character, that nothing may hereafter be attributed 
to misapprehension, or the want of a clear repre- 
sentation on my part, on subjects which may, at 
some future period, eventually involve the general 
interest and happiness. There appears to have ex- 
isted, from the time of my arrival, although not an 
avowed yet a real inclination, to consider me in 
the capacity of an agent, from a subordinate and 
commercial settlement, rather than the delegate of 

a great and sovereign state; as a person come in 
the character of a petitioner to sohcit a favour, in- 
stead of the representative of a nation, which of- 
fers at least as much as it desires, and in the pro- 
posal can be actuated by no view, except what 
must tend to the mutual advantage of both coun- 

Of the purity of the intentions of the English 
government, if any doubts ever did exist, those 
doubts must long since have been obliterated; you 
have had, in every transaction, the most une- 
quivocal proofs of the conciliatory disposition of 
the Governor General; and latterly such an in- 
stance, as is not often paralleled. 

Violence on one part, was repressed by mod- 
eration on the other; menaces were combated by 
reason, and that which was denied to intemperate 
demands, was afterwards granted as an act of cool 
and deliberate justice. 

I have already clearly stated to his Majesty, in 
the memorial 1 had the honour to present shortly 
after my arrival, that the Governor General's prin- 
cipal view, in deputing me, was to promote confi- 
dence, and give to his Majesty authorized assur- 
ances of the Governor General's personal regard; 
and, 1 now repeat, that these were his motives, 
rather than the expectation of any great national 
benefit to arise to the English, from such an alli- 
ance. The individuals who prosecute trade to this 
country, are far from being merchants of the high- 
est commercial consideration. 

Of the power and resources of the British in 
India, you cannot be so misinformed as to sup- 
pose, that they are under the necessity of soUciting 
the friendship of any nation on earth, out of a 
prudential regard to their own security, or from 
an inability to maintain a cause of justice and their 
national honour, in opposition to all the force that 
could combine against them. It is not from a petty 
island, which may send out two or three piratical 
privateers, that a government, whose dominions 
extend from Ceylon to the mountains of Tibet, 
from the gulf of Bengal to the Western Sea, can 
have any thing to dread; apprehension, therefore, 
had no share in the present mission; and, I desire 
to have it clearly understood, that 1 come not to 
seek a favour, but to cement friendship; not to 
supplicate, but to propose. It is, however, but too 
evident, that His Majesty has not been pleased to 
consider me in the light of an agent from a sover- 
eign state; and from his total silence with regard 
to the Governor General of India, and his not 
honouring me with a personal audience, it is rea- 
sonable to conclude, that very erroneous estima- 
tions have been attempted to be held out, both of 
the importance of the Governor General individu- 
ally, and of the nation at large. Permit me, there- 

SB br VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


fore, now to acquaint you, that the authority of the 
Governor General is supreme over all the territo- 
ries of the Company in the East; and the limits of 
the British possessions best explain their national 
consequence. 1 was at one time taught to believe, 
by those with whom 1 officially communicated, 
that the non-appearance of his Majesty, when I 
made my first visit to the palace, was a circum- 
stance merely accidental, and that, on the day of 
my dismission, 1 should be honoured with a for- 
mal interview; also, that the arrangement which 1 
submitted to his Majesty's ministers, would be ac- 
ceded to, and that a deputation would be sent to 
Bengal, to obtain a counterpart of the articles, rati- 
fied in due form. How far it may be intended to 
fulfil these assurances, the tenor of the language, 
held by his Majesty's ministers yesterday at the 
Lotoo, gives me sufficient room to doubt, and they 
best can tell what his Majesty's resolutions are on 
that head; but if it should not be meant to per- 
form, what 1 had such grounds given me to ex- 
pect, 1 shall certainly have just cause to complain 
of being egregiously misled. 

He who undeceives has the best title to confi- 
dence, and 1 have, in this address, the fairest pre- 
tensions to yours; were 1 to depart from Um- 
merapoora, dissembling the dissatisfaction 1 feel 
at the manner of my reception, and professing 
myself contented when 1 really was the reverse, 1 
might, perhaps, be justified by prudent policy, but 
1 should swerve from that candour which 1 have 
been instructed by the Governor General to ob- 
serve, in all my communications with this court. 
In conformity with the spirit of those instructions, 
1 can, with great certainty, assure you, that unless 
1 am honoured with an audience of his Majesty, in 
the capacity of agent from the Governor General, 
it will be the Last time an agent from the Gover- 
nor General, will ever be subjected to a similar 
mortification. The Governor General of India is ac- 
tuated by far different principles, than to make a 
matter of inciviUty, in a point of form, grounds for 
a serious dispute, or suffer it to affect his general 
line of conduct; but should any cause of umbrage 
arise in future between the nations, it cannot be 
expected that advances will be again made, on the 
part of the EngUsh government, for an amicable 
explanation, however desirous it might be, unless 
the proposals originate here, and are couched in a 
style different from the language which is com- 
monly held: it will otherwise be totally impossible 
to discuss any points that may occur, which, like 
the late business at Chittagong, would probably 
only require communication to end satisfactorily. 
To whom then can the blame be imputed? surely 
not to the English government, which has gone 

every honourable length to establish concord and 

They alone who are the advisers must be re- 
sponsible for the consequences. It is from the pre- 
sumption, that his Majesty has no design to hon- 
our me with a personal interview, in the character 
of agent from the Governor General of India, that 1 
write thus, a conclusion fairly drawn from the 
equivocal replies which you, and your coadjutors, 
gave to my questions yesterday at the Lotoo. 
Whilst the matter is yet undetermined, it is right 
you should know my opinion, as being apprized 
of the light in which it will be taken, you will have 
the means of forming a right judgment, and regu- 
lating your conduct accordingly. 1 will, with great 
pleasure, accept of an invitation to attend on the 
day of your festival, and join with the nobility in 
compliments to the throne, provided 1 receive as- 
surances that on the 1st of October, when a reply 
is to be given to the Governor General's letter, 1 
shall be received by His Majesty in person, as 
agent from the Governor General, and be hon- 
oured with a formal interview. Without such an 
assurance, specified in writing, it will be impossi- 
ble for me to have the honour of joining in the 
general festivity. 

Having thus delivered my sentiments with 
explicit freedom, 1 now close my correspondence, 
earnestly exhorting you, as a friend to your coun- 
try and your king, to advise his Majesty with pru- 
dence and moderation, as many events to come 
may depend on the resolution of the present day, 
and an act which is to determine, whether or not 
any intercourse is in future to be held with a 
neighbouring and powerful state, is a matter of 
sufficient magnitude, at least to demand your 
most serious consideration. 


Agent to the Court of Ava. 
Ummerapoora. 20th Sept. 1795. 

Nor did 1 resolve on this measure without maturely 
considering the effect it was likely to produce, as well 
as the necessity in which it originated. The court had 
evidently been embarrassed in the first stages of the 
business, and was undetermined in what manner to 
act; to this irresolution 1 ascribe the petty artifice of 
misinforming me in matters of fact. The accounts from 
Europe certainly had great weight in influencing their 
conduct, and those could only be discredited by my 
holding higher language than before: to have acqui- 
esced in silence would have been construed into at 
least a presumptive evidence of our weakness, whilst 
the shght that was attempted to be cast on the author- 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

ity delegated to me, left no alternative but to endeav- 
our to remove it by a temperate remonstrance, such as 
my letter was intended to convey, or to decline any 
further communication, and withdraw without cere- 
mony. This latter step was not to be taken under any 
provocation short of personal injury, than which I be- 
lieve nothing was farther from their intention. To en- 
hance their own importance by the unworthy mode of 
lessening that of others, seemed to be the sole motive 
that actuated them, and which, as far as related to the 
government that I represented, it was clearly my duty 
to oppose. 

My letter was written in the English and the Persian 
languages: 117 the intervention of holidays prevented 
the delivery of it before the 26th, when Mr. Wood 
waited on the principal Woongee, and presented it in 
form; he afterwards called upon the junior Woongees, 
and acquainted them of his having laid before the sen- 
ior an address, which required their serious considera- 

I imagine that if this explicit avowal of my senti- 
ments, had been made previously to our last- 
mentioned visits to the members of the royal family, 
we should have had less cause to complain of incivil- 
ity. Such language I believe was not expected; the 
court had assured itself that the state of our affairs in 
Europe and in India was so critical, that we would tol- 
erate yet greater arrogance of manner, rather than 
hazard the interruption of intercourse, and give our 
enemies the advantage of an alliance, which the native 
vanity of the Birmans, rendered the not unwilling to 

Information was conveyed to me, from a respect- 
able quarter, that the fermentation which my remon- 
strance excited in the council of the Lotoo, was by no 
means moderate; the Woongees, I was told, were di- 
vided in their opinions; the discussion continued till 
twelve o'clock on the night of the 27th, when the re- 
sult of their deliberations was laid before the king. 

Whatever might have been their separate senti- 
ments, the ultimate decision was temperate and wise. 
1 was apprized, late on the evening of the 28th, by a 
verbal communication from the Maywoon of Pegue, 

"^ It afforded me particular satisfaction to know, that the full pur- 
port and expression of my letter could not fail to be conveyed, 
through the channel of either of these languages, to the Birman 
court. The Armenian interpreter of English, who had spent the 
greater part of his life in the Birman country, was a man eminently 
qualified for the task: he spoke, read, and wrote English, superior 
to any person 1 ever knew, who had not been in Great Britain. It is 
a singular fact that the first version of the late Sir William Jones's 
Translation of the Institutes of Hindoo Law, should be made in the 
Birman language. When 1 arrived at Ummerapoora, the Armenian 
had just completed the work, by command of his Birman Majesty. 
This circumstance offers no mean proof of the liberal and enlight- 
ened policy of a prince, who, superior to general prejudice, was 
willing to seek for information through a medium, by which few 
other nations of the East will condescend to accept of knowledge, 
however beneficial the attainment might prove to themselves. 

that on the day appointed for the delivery of the reply 
to the Governor-General's letter, 1 should be formally 
received at the palace of the King, who would grant 
me a personal audience in the character to which I laid 
claim, and that the propositions which 1 had sug- 
gested, for the regulation and encouragement of 
commerce, had for the most part received his Maj- 
esty's approbation. 

1 expressed in answer, the satisfaction 1 felt from 
hearing a resolution so creditable to themselves, but 
added, that as the letter I had written, was a public 
and solemn declaration, I should require more than a 
verbal assurance, before 1 could consistently subject 
myself, to a repetition of former disappointments, and 
requested that he would take the trouble to reduce his 
obliging message to writing; with this he readily com- 
phed by a short note written in the Birman language. 

The form of receiving the presents, which were 
brought to me as a return for those that had been 
given, occupied a considerable portion of the last 
days. One of the three boxes, that had been sent by the 
King, contained amber in large pieces, uncommonly 
pure; another, a mass of stone of considerable size, in 
appearance resembling the chrysoprase; and the third, 
a large and beautiful group of crystals, rising from a 
matrix of amethyst, in the form of prisms, mostly hex- 
agonal or pentagonal, slightly striated on the surface, 
and terminated at one end by a pyramid composed of 
three rhomboidal planes. It was a very curious pro- 
duction of nature, and doubtless, coming from such a 
quarter, must have been accounted of great value. The 
present from the Engy Teekien, consisted of six ruby 
and sapphire rings, two elephants teeth, several ja- 
panned boxes, and three horses, small, like all those 
which the country produces, but extremely well 
formed: two were piebald, to match in a carriage, and 
the other was a bright bay. The principal queen also, 
whose title is Nandoh Praw, and the second Queen, 
called Myack Nandoh, sent their separate offerings, 
and added to several rings and specimens of japanned 
ware,some handsome articles of plate, two large beetle 
boxes, of embossed silver, two trays and two drinking 
cups of the same metal, the workmanship of which 
did not afford a favourable proof of the skiU of their 
artists. Retributory donations were now brought in 
troublesome abundance, from every individual, to 
whom the smallest gratification had been given; and 
in some instances the return far exceeded in value 
what had been received: my house was encumbered 
with aU sorts of Birman utensils in painted and ja- 
panned ware, several of which were by no means of a 
portable size. 1 was also presented with pieces of silk 
and cotton cloth, of different dimensions and quaUty, 
in number not less than eighty or a hundred; also ele- 
phants teeth, amber wrought into beads, fifty or sixty 
pieces of plate formed into beetle boxes, mugs, spit- 
ting pots and cups; precious stones too constituted a 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


very general gift, chiefly rubies and sapphires in their 
native state, rudely set in gold. I received from various 
persons, nearly a hundred of these stones, few of 
which were valuable, though some of the sapphires, 
on being polished by a lapidary, proved to have a very 
fine water. I must not, however, omit mentioning a 
beautiful specimen of filagree, in a large silver beetle- 
box, which was presented to me by one of the Atta- 
woons; the workmanship was minutely delicate, and 
exquisitely finished, and in order to enhance the value 
of the gift, the donor, with a pohteness that could not 
be surpassed in any court, had his title engraven in 
English letters on the side of the box: a comphment so 
handsomely conveyed, demanded my best acknowl- 
edgments, and I regretted exceedingly, that the official 
character which 1 held, denied me the personal ac- 
quaintance of this minister, as well as of some others, 
whom 1 should have been happy, under any other cir- 
cumstances, to have cultivated. 

On the 30th of September, the day appointed by his 
Birman Majesty to receive the Enghsh gentlemen in 
the character of an imperial deputation, we crossed 
the lake at ten o'clock in the morning, attended by our 
customary suite, and accompanied by Baba-Sheen and 
several Birman officers. We entered the fort, as usual, 
by the western gate, when instead of passing, as on 
former occasions, along the north side of the enclosure 
of the palace, to reach the street leading down to the 
Lotoo, we now proceeded round by the south, and in 
this new direction observed many more houses of dis- 
tinguished structure, than by the other route. In our 
way we passed through a short street, entirely com- 
posed of saddlers and harness makers shops. On 
alighting, we were conducted into the Rhoom, to wait 
there until the Engy Teekien should arrive, which he 
did precisely at the hour of twelve. Several Chobwas, 
who were to be introduced on this day, had taken 
their seats in the Rhoom before we entered; each of 
them held a piece of silk or cotton cloth in his lap, de- 
signed, according to the established etiquette, as a 
propitiatory offering to his Majesty; and on the cloth 
was placed a saucer, containing a small quantity of 
unboiled rice, which it seems is an indispensable part 
of the ceremony. The Birman custom differs in this 
particular from the usage of Hindostan: a person, on 
his presentation at the imperial court of Delhi, offers 
to the sovereign an odd number of the gold coin 
commonly called Mohurs,iis an even number being 
considered as inauspicious; but the court of Um- 
merapoora, with a more dehcate refinement, never 
permits an offering in money, but requires from a for- 
eigner something of the produce of his country, and 
from a subject, some article of manufacture. The dona- 

Mohur is a corrupt name given by Europeans to this coin. 
Ashurfi is its proper term; Pagoda likewise, as applied to a coin, is 
an illegitimate word, of which the natives know nothing, except on 
the authority of their conquerors. 

tion of rice is not, as in India, when presented by 
Brahmins to the incarnations of Vishnu, meant as an 
acknowledgment of divine attributes, but is merely 
designed as a recognition of the power of the mon- 
arch, and an acknowledgment of the property of the 
soil being vested in him; a truth which is expressively 
declared, by offering him its most useful production. 
During our continuance in the Rhoom, tea was served 
to us, and when we advanced to the outer gate, we 
were not obliged to put off our shoes, but were per- 
mitted to wear them, until we had reached the inner 
inclosure, that separates the court of the Lotoo from 
that of the royal palace, within which, not any noble- 
man of the court is allowed to go with his feet cov- 
ered. There is a double partition wall, dividing the 
two courts, with an intervening space of ten or twelve 
feet, through which a gallery leads that is appropri- 
ated exclusively to the use of the King when he chuses 
to preside in person in the Lotoo. 

On entering the gate, we perceived the royal saloon 
of ceremony in front of us, and the court assembled in 
all the parade of pomp and decoration. It was an open 
hall, supported by colonnades of pillars twenty in 
length, and only four in depth: we were conducted 
into it by a flight of steps, and advancing, took our 
places next the space opposite to the throne, which is 
always left vacant, as being in full view of his Majesty. 
On our entrance, the basement of the throne, as at the 
Lotoo, was alone visible, which we judged to be about 
five feet high; folding doors screened the seat from 
our view. The throne, called Yazapalay, was richly 
gilded and carved; on each side a small gallery, in- 
closed by a gilt balustrade, extended a few feet to the 
right and left, containing four umbrellas of state; and 
on two tables, at the foot of the throne, were placed 
several large vessels of gold, of various forms and for 
different purposes: immediately over the throne, a 
splendid piasath rose in seven stages above the roofs 
of the building, crowned by a tee, or umbrella, from 
which a spiral rod was elevated above the whole. 

We had been seated a httle more than a quarter of 
an hour, when the folding doors that concealed the 
seat, opened with a loud noise, and discovered his 
Majesty ascending a flight of steps, that led up to the 
throne from the inner apartment; he advanced but 
slowly, and seemed not to possess a free use of his 
limbs, being obliged to support himself with his hands 
on the balustrade. I was informed, however, that this 
appearance of weakness, did not proceed from any 
bodily infirmity, but from the weight of the regal ha- 
biliments in which he was clad; and if what we were 
told was true, that he carried on his dress fifteen viss, 
upwards of fifty pounds avoirdupois of gold, his diffi- 
culty of ascent was not surprising. On reaching the top 
he stood for a minute, as though to take breath, and 
then sat down on an embroidered cushion with his 
legs inverted. His crown was a high conical cap, richly 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

studded with precious stones; his fingers were cov- 
ered with rings, and in his dress he bore the appear- 
ance of a man, cased in golden armour, whilst a 
gilded, or probably a golden, wing on each shoulder, 
did not add much lightness to his figure. His looks 
denoted him to be between fifty and sixty years old, of 
a strong make, in stature rather beneath a middle 
height, with hard features and of a dark complexion; 
yet the expression of his countenance was not un- 
pleasing and seemed, 1 thought, to indicate an intelli- 
gent and inquiring mind. 

On the first appearance of his Majesty, all the 
courtiers bent their bodies, and held their hands 
joined in an attitude of supplication. Nothing farther 
was required of us, than to lean a little forward, and to 
turn in our legs as much as we could; not any act be- 
ing so unpolite, or contrary to etiquette, as to present 
the soles of the feet towards the face of a dignified 
person. Four Bramins dressed in white caps and 
gowns, chanted the usual prayer at the foot of the 
throne: a Nakhaan then advanced into the vacant 
space before the King, and recited in a musical ca- 
dence, the name of each person who was to be intro- 
duced on that day, and the present of which, in the 
character of a suppliant, he entreated his Majesty's 
acceptance. My offering consisted of two pieces of 
Benares gold brocade; Doctor Buchanan and Mr. 
Wood each presented one. When our names were 
mentioned, we were separately desired to take a few 
grains of rice in our hands, and joining them, to bow 
to the King as low as we conveniently could, with 
which we immediately complied. When this ceremony 
was finished, the King uttered a few indistinct words, 
to convey, as I was informed, an order for investing 
some persons present, with the Insignia of a certain 
degree of nobility; the imperial mandate was instantly 
proclaimed aloud by heralds in the court. His Majesty 
remained only a few minutes longer, and during that 
time he looked at us attentively, but did not honour us 
with any verbal notice, or speak at aU, except to give 
the order before mentioned. When he rose to depart 
he manifested the same signs of infirmity as on his 
entrance; after he had withdrawn, the folding doors 
were closed, and the court broke up. 

In descending, we took notice of two pieces of 
cannon, apparently nine pounders, which were placed 
in the court, on either side of the stairs, to defend the 
entrance of the palace. Sheds protected them from the 
weather, and they were gilded all over: a royal car- 
riage also was in waiting, of curious workmanship, 
and ornamented with a royal spire; there was a a pair 
of horses harnessed to it, whose trappings glistened in 
the sun. 

We returned as usual to the Rhoom, where I under- 
stood that the letter from the King to the Governor 
General of India was to be presented to me, together 
with some other documents that comprehended the 

objects of the embassy. Soon after the members of the 
royal family had ascended their elephants, the ex- 
pected letter was brought from the Lotoo on a tray, 
borne by a Nakhaan, inclosed in a case of wood ja- 
panned and covered with a scarlet cloth. The mode of 
offering it, was not, I conceived, quite so ceremonious 
as the occasion seemed to require, and the officer who 
was charged with the dehvery, indicated a reluctance 
to say, that it was a letter from the King, to the Gover- 
nor General of India. This circumstance produced 
some difficulty, as without being distinctly informed 
to whom the letter was directed, 1 declined accepting 
it. At length the interpreter, finding 1 would not re- 
ceive it on other terms, dehvered it in a suitable man- 
ner, with a declaration that it was a reply from his 
Birman Majesty to the letter of the British Governor 
General of India, and that a copy of a royal mandate 
was annexed to it, granting to the Enghsh nation, cer- 
tain valuable immunities and privileges of trade. 

Whilst we were in the outer court, or that in which 
the Lotoo is situated, we had an opportunity of view- 
ing the immense piece of ordnance found in the for- 
tress of Arracan, when captured by the Engy Teekien, 
which was afterwards conveyed by water to adorn the 
capital of the conqueror, where it is now preserved as 
a trophy, and is highly honoured, being gilded, and 
covered by a roof of a dignified order. It is formed of 
brass, rudely manufactured; the length is thirty feet, 
the diameter at the muzzle two and a half, and the 
calibre measured ten inches; it is mounted on a low 
truck carriage supported by six wheels; near it lay a 
long rammer and sponge staff, and we perceived sev- 
eral shot made of hewn stone fitted to the calibre. It is 
remarkable, that most of the spoils which had been 
brought from Arracan were made of brass; the image 
of Gaudma, the lions, the demons, and the gun, all 
transported from thence, are composed of that metal. 

The discussion, on the ceremony of dehvering the 
letter, being ended, we returned home, proceeded by a 
Miouseree, or inferior secretary, on horse-back, bear- 
ing in due form the royal letter, and dressed in his cap 
and gown of office. When we had reached our resi- 
dence, 1 immediately addressed the chief minister, to 
request an official translation of the letter in the Per- 
sian language, also of the paper annexed to it, observ- 
ing that as public interpreters of that tongue, were ap- 
pointed by the court, and it being well understood by 
several persons resident at Ummerapoora, a medium 
of intercourse could never be wanting, which would 
be equally intelligible and convenient to their gov- 
ernment and to mine. Within two days I received a 
notification, that his Majesty had given orders to sup- 
ply me with the translation 1 required. 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


Chapter XVIII 

The intervention of holidays, together with the un- 
avoidable delays of office, protracted the delivery of 
the Persian translations until the 14'^ of October; on 
which day the papers, properly authenticated, were 
brought fom the Lotoo, and deUvered to me, by an 
officer of government. In translating these documents, 
I carefully collated the Persian version with the Bir- 
man original, which I was enabled to do by the assis- 
tance of persons on the spot, who understood both 
languages, and found the Persian to be as literal a 
translation, as the different idioms would admit. 

The letter of his Birman Majesty to the Governor- 
General [see below] is a curious, specimen of the ex- 
travagant phraseology of oriental composition: a great 
part of it is the diction of the minister, which may be 
considered as the preamble of the letter. In this por- 
tion are enumerated the royal titles, the honours con- 
ferred on. the British representative, and the presents 
that were dehvered; it next details the heads of certain 
propositions, which I had made with a view to ad- 
vance the commercial interests of both nations; his 
Majesty then speaks in his own person, and in the 
pompous style of an order, ratifies immunities of con- 
siderable importance to British merchants and mari- 

Translation of a Letter from the King of Ava 

to Sir John Shore, 

Governor General, &c. &C. 

THE Lord of Earth and Air, the Monarch of exten- 
sive Countries, the Sovereign of the kingdoms of 
Sonahparinda, Tombadeva, Seawuttena, Zanieng- 
nia, Soonaboomy, in the district of Hurry Mounza, 
in the country of Zemee, Hamaratta, Dzodinagara, 
Sovereign of all these wide extended regions. Lord 
of the great cities of Poucka Yama, Sirykettera, 
Sygnie, Leboo, Bamoo, Magone, Momeik, Momien, 
Neoum, Shoe Mona, Mobree, Quantong, of aU wh- 
ich countries and cities the governors and poten- 
tates send presents of respect and submission to the 
Royal Presence; also Henzawuddy, commonly 
called Pegue, the port of Rangoon, the port of Bas- 
sien, Arracan, the port of Deniawuddy, Sandoway, 
the port of Dwarawuddy, Maoung, the port of 
Mickawuddy, Ramrie, the port of Ramawuddy, 
Mondema, or Martaban, Tavoy, Brieck, or Mergui, 
and Tenasserem; ports belonging to Ins Majesty, 
where merchants trade and the inhabitants are pro- 
tected; Proprietor of all kinds of precious stones, of 
the mines of Rubies, Agate, Lasni,ii5 Sapphires, 

Opal; also the mines of Gold, Silver, Amber, Lead, 
Tin, Iron, and Petroleum; whence every tiling de- 
sirable that the earth yields can be extracted, as the 
Trees, Leaves, and Fruit of excellence are produced 
in Paradise; Possessor of Elephants, Horses, Car- 
riages, Fire Arms, Bows, Spears, Shields, and all 
manner of warlike weapons; Sovereign of vahant 
Generals and victorious Armies, invulnerable as 
the rock Mahakonda. Mahanuggera, Um- 
merapoora, the great and flourishing Golden City, 
illumined and illuminating, as the Habitation of 
Angels, lasting as the firmament, and embelhshed 
with Gold, Silver, Pearls, Agate, and the nine origi- 
naP2o Stones; the Golden Throne, the seat of splen- 
dour, whence the royal mandate issues and pro- 
tects mankind; the King who performs the ten du- 
ties, incumbent on all kings, called Mangianterra, 
aU of which this great King duly performeth; whose 
understanding, by divine aid, is enlightened to 
guide his people in the right way, and preserve 
them in pious obedience and the road of true relig- 
ion; the ease and happiness of whom daily in- 
crease, under the auspices of such a Monarch; Mas- 
ter of the white, red, and mottled Elephants; may 
His praise be repeated, far as the influence of the 
sun and moon, of him whose servants place the for- 
tunate foot of favour and confidence, like the 
blooming Lotos, on their obedient heads: — Such are 
the high Ministers, the Guardians of the State, from 
among whom the principal Woongee thus an- 

The illustrious Governor General, the Repre- 
sentative of the King of England, the Governor of 
the Company at Calcutta in Bengal, having de- 
puted Captain Michael Symes, with letters and pre- 
sents to the Golden Feet, who happily arrived at 
the port of Rangoon on the eleventh of the month 
of Taroo, in the Birman year one thousand one 
hundred and fifty-seven, and te Mohammedan 
year one thousand two hundred and nine, on the 
twenty-eighth of the month of Shabaan, of which 
the Governor of Henzawuddy transmitted regular 
information to the Golden Feet, together with a list 
of presents, as follows: two pieces of gold muslin, 
two pieces of silver muslin, four pieces of white 
flowered muslin, four pieces of silk, ten pieces of 
variegated silk, six pieces of plain satin, two pieces 
of flowered satin, two pieces of velvet, six cora- 
bahsi2i of rose water, one fine crystal stand with 
appendages, six crystal water cups bordered, two 
pair of candle shades, two crystal cups with silver 
feet, two large crystal bowls, two large mirrors, one 
double-barrel, one rifle-barrel, and one plain gun, 
one pair of pistols, six pair of golden slippers. 

'" Original footnote: I could not discover to what class of precious 
stones Lasni belonged. 

Original footnote: What these were I could not learn. 
'^' Original footnote: A jar in which rose water is usually kept. 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

twenty-five pieces of broad cloth, an electric ma- 
chine, and the Bagwaat Geeta.122 When this intelli- 
gence reached the Presence, orders were sent to the 
before-mentioned Governor, to expedite the jour- 
ney of Captain Symes, with his attendants and 
baggage, also to provide suitable boats, and every 
thing requisite for his conveyance, and conforma- 
bly to these orders, the Governor acted. 

When the deputation arrived near the great 
city of Pegham, officers of rank were sent from the 
Presence to meet Captain Symes, also a boat, such 
as is used by nobility, with two war-boats to tow it, 
likewise guards and attendants to do him honour, 
as is consistent with the duties of friendship. After 
his arrival, all necessaries and a suitable house, in 
an eligible place, were provided for his accommo- 

From the east, from the city of Oudeherit^-^ in the 
empire of Gondala Sirry Taing, comprehending 
Tartary, all the Nobles and Potentates whereof are 
dependant on the Sovereignty of China, the sub- 
hme Oudeboa, or Emperor, has sent to his Majesty 
three virtuous daughters;i24 intercourse and confi- 
dence subsist with his kingdom, presents are ex- 
changed, and ambassadors pass between the mon- 
archs. This year, according to custom, the illustri- 
ous messengers Intaloree, Kelloree, and Inloree, ar- 
rived at the Golden City with presents and rarities; 
near to the habitation of these a house was erected 
for the members of the English Deputation, neither 
far distant, nor very close, every thing they stood in 
need of was provided, and guards were stationed 
to protect them. 

In the Birman year one thousand one hundred 
and fifty-seven, or year of the Higera one thousand 
two hundred and ten, and the sixteenth of the Bir- 
man month Toozalien, or fourteenth of the Mus- 
sulman month, Suffir, the Chinese Deputies and the 
Minister from Calcutta, Captain Michael Symes, 
bearing letters and presents, were attended to the 
Presence by officers of rank and dignity; and as on 
the mountain Meru, in the lofty Soudma, the Deu- 
tas resort to make obeisance to the divine Saggiami, 
so in the Golden Lotoo, where were seated the 
Engy Mien, or heir apparent, Meedaw, Lord of 
Chagaing, the eldest son of the Engy Mien,i25 pie 
Mien, Lord of Prome, Bassein Mien, Lord of 
Bassein, and all the Royal Family, Ministers and 
Nobility, the English Gentlemen, together with the 

Original footnote: A Shanscreet poem of high celebrity. See Mr. 
Wilkins's elegant translation. 

'^' Original footnote: 1 apprehend Oudeherit to be Jehol, the Tar- 
tarian residence of the Emperor of China. 

124 Original footnote: The King of Ava boasts of having three Chi- 
nese ladies, who, his courtiers say, were sent to him by the Em- 
peror of China. Of the truth of this there seems room to doubt. 
^^^ Original footnote: The Prince Royal is called by various titles, 
Engy Praw, Engy Mien, Engy Tee Kien. 

Deputies from China, were received with ceremo- 
nious attention, and the letters and the presents 
were there presented. In that splendid assembly 
they were honourably feasted, and at the same time 
was opened the friendly letter, which was read by 
the Reader of Government, and the contents, ex- 
pressive of a desire to cement friendship, open a 
free intercourse, and encourage trade, were ex- 
plained, and they gave to his Majesty the highest 
satisfaction. It was likewise mentioned that further 
particulars would be communicated by Captain 
Michael Symes, who accordingly addressed a Me- 
morial to his Majesty, at which his Majesty was ex- 
ceedingly pleased. 

Captain Michael Symes in his Memorial states, 
that in the Birman year one thousand one hundred 
and fifty-six, and the Mohammedan year one thou- 
sand two hundred and nine, certain murderers and 
robbers of merchants and travellers having fled 
from Arracan into the district of Chittagong, the 
troops of this Government, and their leaders, en- 
tered the territories of the Company in quest of the 
offenders; but the English Government, being at 
that time unacquainted with the circumstances of 
the case, and uninformed what were the designs of 
those troops, did not think proper to dehver up the 
fugitives; and that, after a deliberate inquiry into 
the facts alledged against them, and a thorough 
knowledge of the matter, the criminals were ap- 
prehended and delivered up; and that, hereafter, 
upon apphcation, (by letter) delinquents of this de- 
scription will be surrendered, which will promote 
the welfare of both countries, and contribute to the 
satisfaction of their respective Sovereigns. 
Captain Symes also desires, that from the Enghsh 
merchants and traders who come to the ports of 
this kingdom, only such duties, customs, and 
charges be exacted as are duly authorized, and es- 
tablished by ancient usage; and that merchants be 
allowed to carry their merchandize wheresoever 
they may think proper, and not be molested or 
prevented by any officer or subject under this Gov- 
ernment; and after having disposed of their goods, 
they may be permitted to purchase, either person- 
ally or by agent, the produce of the country; and 
that no person at Rangoon be suffered to exact 
from merchants more than what is authorized; and 
that if the Government of Bengal should think fit 
hereafter to appoint a person to reside at Rangoon, 
on the part of the Company, to superintend mer- 
cantile concerns, and forward letters and presents 
to the Golden Feet, a right of residence be granted 
to such person; and that merchants or traders who 
think themselves aggrieved, shall have liberty to 
prefer their complaints at the Golden Feet, in any 
manner they may think most eligible; and that Eng- 
hsh merchants unacquainted with the Birman lan- 

SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


guage, be permitted to employ whatever interpret- 
ers they choose, in the management of their affairs; 
and that Enghsh ships, when dismasted, and 
obhged to put into Birman ports by stress of 
weather, in want of repair and assistance, be aided 
by the officers of Government, and provided with 
necessaries to refit at the current prices of the coun- 
try; and that on the frontiers of Arracan, on the 
borders of the river Naaf, a Chokey, or guard- 
house, and a village be established. Moreover, Cap- 
tain Michael Symes notifies, that whatever Birman 
merchants shall resort to English ports, they shall 
be allowed, on paying the established duties, to 
buy and sell, and none shall molest or hinder them, 
and they shall have liberty to go and come, and 
barter at their pleasure; and that if any person op- 
press or act unjustly towards them, the law will 
take cognizance thereof, and punish the offender; 
and that if his Birman Majesty shall think fit to send 
any person to Calcutta or Bengal, or to any other 
English port, there to reside, for the purpose of su- 
perintending mercantile concerns, all representa- 
tions made by such person to the English Govern- 
ment will be duly attended to, and justice done ac- 
cording to law; and that if any Birman ships put 
into English ports, through stress of weather, dis- 
masted, and in want of repair, every assistance 
shall be given to such ships, on paying the equita- 
ble and accustomed rates; and that the enemies of 
the Birman nation shall not be assisted by the Eng- 
hsh with guns and weapons, powder, ball, or war- 
like stores; and in like manner, that the enemies of 
the English, as well European as Indian, shall not 
be aided by the Birmans, with stores, provisions, or 
timber, in any manner; and that if his Birman Maj- 
esty shall think fit to send any person to ratify these 
proposals, such person will be received with due 
regard, and meet with adequate attention. 

These desires of Captain Michael Symes, and 
the contents of his Memorial, the tenor of which 
has been detailed, were conveyed to the golden 
ears of the Sovereign of Nobles and Potentates: 
therefore, seeing that the illustrious Governor Gen- 
eral, the Representative of the King of England, has 
thus manifested his desire to cement friendship and 
amity, 1, the King Immortal, whose philanthropy is 
universal, whose anxiety for the benefit and wel- 
fare of all mankind never ceases, 

That all merchants of the English nation, who resort 
to Birman ports, shall pay customs, duties, charges, 
warehouse hire, searchers, &c. agreeably to former 
established usage. 

English merchants are to be permitted to go to 
whatever part of the Birman dominions they think 
proper, either to buy or to sell, and they are on no 

account to be stopped, molested, or oppressed, and 
they shall have liberty to go to whatever town, vil- 
lage, or city they choose, for the purpose of buying, 
selling, or bartering; and whatsoever articles of the 
produce of this country they maybe desirous of 
purchasing, they shall be allowed to do so, either in 
person, or by their agents: and English merchants 
having been long accustomed to trade to Birman 
ports without molestation, IT IS COMMANDED, 
that they continue their trade in future without mo- 
lestation; and should the Enghsh Company think 
proper to depute a person to reside at Rangoon, to 
superintend mercantile affairs, maintain a friendly 
intercourse, and forward letters to the Presence, it 
is ordered, that such person shall have a right of 
residence; and should any English merchant be de- 
sirous of sending a representation, the officers of 
Government, in any port, district, and town, shall 
forward such representation; or if a merchant 
should be inclined to present in person, a petition 
at the Golden Feet, he shall be allowed to come to 
the Golden Presence for that purpose: — This is per- 
emptory. —And as English merchants are unac- 
quainted with the Birman language, they are to be 
allowed to employ whatever interpreters they think 
proper; and as, in the stormy season, English ships 
are often dismasted, and driven into Birman ports 
by stress of weather, ships in this unfortunate pre- 
dicament shall be supplied with all necessary 
wood, workmen, &c. at the current rates of the 
country; and the arrangement that Captain Michael 
Symes has in friendship proposed, relative to 
commercial concerns, for the encouragement of 
merchants and traders, the Ministers of the Palace 
have received the Royal Command to signify to the 
Governors and Killedars of the several ports and 
districts, that such arrangement is lobe observed 
and carried into effect: and respecting the estab- 
hshment of a Chokey and village on the frontiers of 
Arracan, on the banks of the river Naaf, as there is 
strict and confidential friendship with the King of 
England, there can in future be no difference or dis- 
tinction between the countries; and with respect to 
the desire, that aid should not be given by this state 
to the enemies of England, as well European as In- 
dian, and that such enemies should not be assisted 
at our ports with warhke implements, timber, or 
provisions, it is to be observed, that, to purchase 
warlike weapons, lead, and powder, is forbidden to 
all nations; but when merchants come to trade, they 
will be allowed to carry away their commodities, 
agreeably to the usage of merchants. All the requi- 
sitions made by Captain Symes respecting customs, 
timber, searchers, and commercial matters, are no- 
tified to Killedars,i26 Governors, Guards of the 

' Original footnote: commanders of forts. 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

Gauts,i27 and persons in authority, and observance 
of the orders issued thereupon strictly enjoined. 
And to Captain Michael Symes has been presented, 
as a mark of favour, one ruby and one sapphire 
ring; and to Mr. Wood, and Dr. Buchanan, each, 
one ruby ring; also to Captain Symes, a precious 
stone, called Mobee, weighing three viss and forty 
tackall, and a stone of jasper, weighing eight viss, 
also two elephant's teeth, weighing thirty-four viss; 
these have been delivered to the care of Captain 
Symes. The Queen, likewise, has presented him 
with a ruby ring of nine stones, a silver box weigh- 
ing ninety tackall,i-^ and a silver cup of eleven 
tackall and three quarters weight; also, another sil- 
ver box, weighing forty-four tackall, and another 
cup weighing six tackall, and two silver trays, one 
weighing sixty-six tackall, the other seventy-seven, 
and two gilt trays of a different shape, and two 
large boxes; and from the second Queen, called 
Myack Nandoh, one ruby ring, and three sapphire 
rings, and a chest with a lock, and two gilt trays, 
and three painted cups. These several articles are 
sent to the illustrious Governor General, who is in- 
trusted in confidence by the King of England, with 
the administration of India, and who, ever anxious 
for the welfare and prosperity of his country, en- 
courages and assists Birmans that trade to Enghsh 
ports. In like manner, friendship is happily main- 
tained with the Chinese Government, and a con- 
stant intercourse is preserved. It will therefore be 
right that the illustrious Governor General do ac- 
quaint the King of England, of the friendship that 
is, on this occasion, established, and which it is 
hoped will be permanent. 

esty's good intentions, to obtain several subsidiary 
papers, which, by expressing in clear detail, the regu- 
lar dues of government, and specifying the authorized 
perquisites of office, might prevent in future any arbi- 
trary exactions, and put an end to impositions, which 
had long been practised on British merchants trading 
to Birman ports, from whom, loud complaints had at 
different times reached the supreme government. 
These papers 1 found no difficulty in obtaining: it was 
determined by them, that all goods of Europe and 
British India manufacture, imported in British ships, 
should be subject to a duty of ten per cent, to the King; 
the price of anchorage and pilotage, for ships of every 
rate, was determined; the fees of the provincial and 
port officers, charges for warehouse room, for inter- 
preters and clearance, the customs to be levied at each 
house of collection on goods conveying up the river, 
were accurately defined; and teak timber, to us by far 
the most valuable commodity which the country pro- 
duces, was ordered to pay a duty of Five per cent, ad 
valorem, at whatever port it might be shipped, and all 
further exactions on that article were prohibited. The 
several demands of the port and provincial officers on 
the masters of ships, which had heretofore been paid 
in rouni, or pure silver, were directed to be taken in 
the currency of the place, which, at Rangoon, is 
mowadzo, or silver depreciated twenty-five per cent. 

Translation of the Royal Mandate, accompanying 
the Letter to the Governor General. 

To all Commanders of Garrisons and Governors of 
Sea Ports, in like Virtue as to the Maywoon of Hen- 
zawuddy (Pegue). 

Note. — The following were explained to me as the 
ten duties incumbent on all kings, which are al- 
luded to in the foregoing letter: — Dhanaan, univer- 
sal beneficence; Seelaan, daily prayer, Owerodaan, 
to shew mercy, Dhasameda, to exact only a tenth; 
Dherma, justice; Yamatza, to punish without anger; 
Boumee, to support mankind as the earth sustains 
the weight of all creation: Aleedziet, to employ 
prudent commanders, Mantha, to listen to counsel, 
Deige Kunna, to avoid pride. 

The paper which accompanied the letter [see below] 
is an order delivered by the principal Woongee, to 
carry into effect the imperial mandate, and is ad- 
dressed to the Maywoon of Pegue in particular, as 
holding the jurisdiction of Rangoon, and to the gover- 
nors, of sea-port towns in general. It, however, became 
necessary, in order to give full operation to his Maj- 

Orignal footnote: Passes. 
'^^ A tackall weighs a little more than half an ounce. 

The Source of Greatness and Dignity Celestial, 
whose threshold is as the firmaments, and whose 
suppliants, when he places the Golden Foot of Maj- 
esty on their fortunate heads, like the blooming lo- 
tos, expand with confidence unbounded: — such are 
the Ministers of exalted rank, the Guardians of the 
Empire, from among whom the high and transcen- 
dant Woongee proclaims these orders. 

Governor of Henzawuddy, whose title is Mein, 
Lla, Noo, Retha; Governor of the Waters, whose ti- 
tle is Raywoon; Collector of the King's revenues, 
whose title is Ackawoon; Commander of the 
Troops, whose title is Chekey-: 

Whereas English merchants resort to the port 
of Rangoon to carry on trade in friendship, good 
faith, and confidence in the Royal protection, there- 
fore, when merchants come to the port of Rangoon, 
duties for Godown (warehouse), Rabeat (searchers 
or appraisers), and other charges, shall be regulated 
according to the former estabhshed rates, and no 
more on any pretence shall be taken. 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


English merchants who have paid the port du- 
ties, shall be allowed to go to whatever part of the 
country they think fit, having obtained a certificate 
and order from the Maywoon, or Governor of the 
province; and whatever goods English merchants 
wish to purchase in return, they shall not be im- 
peded, or molested, or prevented in their barter, 
bargain, or purchase; and if it should be judged ex- 
pedient to establish any person, on the part of the 
English Companyi29 ^t Rangoon, for the purpose of 
trade, and to forward letters or presents to the 
King, to such person a right of residence is granted. 

If any English merchant be aggrieved, or think 
that he suffers oppression, he may complain either 
through the governor of the province, by petition to 
the Throne, or prefer his complaint in person; and 
as Englishmen are, for the most part, unacquainted 
with the Birman tongue, they may employ what- 
ever interpreters they think proper, previously ac- 
quainting the King's principal interpreter, what 
person they mean to employ. 

English ships driven into Birman ports by 
stress of weather, and in want of repairs, on due 
notice of their distress being given to the officers of 
Government, such vessels shall be expeditiously 
supplied with workmen, timber, iron, and every 
requisite, and the work shall be done, and the sup- 
plies granted, at the current rates of the country. 

As the English have long had commercial con- 
nections with the Birman nation, and are desirous 
of extending it, they are to be allowed to come and 
depart at their pleasure without hindrance; and 
seeing that the illustrious Governor of Calcutta in 
Bengal, on the part of the King of England, has sent 
tokens of friendship to the Golden Feet; these or- 
ders are therefore issued for the benefit, welfare, 
and protection of the English people. 

The original in Birman authenticated by the Great 

These regulations, expressed in separate instru- 
ments with clearness and precision, were equally lib- 
eral and satisfactory; and, on the part of the Birman 
government, were voluntarily granted, from a convic- 
tion of the equity on which they were founded, and 
the reciprocal advantages they were likely to produce. 
From two propositions which 1 offered, the court 
thought proper to withhold its acquiescence; but it 
certainly was the intention of the King and his chief 
ministers, that the articles which were thus conceded, 
should be carried into complete effect. Intercourse, 
however, was not yet perfectly established; many ob- 
stacles still impeded the way; the road was only 

'^' Original footnote: The word Company is omitted in the Persian, 
but inserted in the original Birman. 

opened, and success depended on the discretion of 
those, who should first pursue the track that was now 
pointed out. 

Having thus obtained the objects for which 1 had 
been deputed, to an extent that equalled my utmost 
expectation, 1 prepared to depart. The waters of the 
great river had been subsiding for some time, by 
which the lake became so much reduced, that boats of 
burthen were obliged to leave it, and moor in the 
stream, the bar of sand at the entrance of the lake be- 
ing almost dry in the fair season. The vast sheet of wa- 
ter, which, by taking a circuitous direction, had, on 
our first arrival, induced us to conclude that we were 
on an island, was now diminished to an inconsider- 
able surface, and left a large portion of land, which 
had recently been covered, in a state adapted for the 
cultivation of rice. We observed the peasants industri- 
ously employed in turning up the oozy soil, prepara- 
tory to the reception of seed; and it was now manifest, 
that the place of our residence, which, from the en- 
croachment of the periodical waters, we had consid- 
ered as low, was in fact an elevated and commanding 

Early in October, the Chinese deputies, having ful- 
filled their diplomatic mission, left the grove to return 
to their native country. They embarked on board 
commodious boats, in which I understood they were 
to travel for three weeks, and afterwards prosecute 
their route by land, until they got into the heart of the 
Chinese dominions, where water carriage is facilitated 
by numerous canals. They expected to find the cold 
intense before their arrival at Pekin; a journey which 
they stated would require three months to perform. I 
presented the senior, at his last visit to me, with a 
wrapper of English broad cloth, which he remarked 
would be more Comfortable in his journey among the 
cold hiUs of China, in the month of December, than his 
own garments of silk quilted with cotton. He apolo- 
gized for not having any thing better to give me in re- 
turn than some pieces of silk and a few fans; but his 
son, a promising youth of seventeen, who attended his 
father in quality of page, and who had been on more 
familiar terms with us, than the natural gravity and 
pubhc character of the seniors would allow to them, 
came to take leave of me just before his embarkation, 
and observing that he should probably never see me 
again, entreated my acceptance of his pillow and his 
purse, as memorials of the son of Keeloree (this I con- 
ceive to be rather a title than his real name). When I 
hesitated in receiving what were conveniencies to him, 
but useless to me, he seemed so much hurt, that 1 
could not wound the feelings of the ingenuous youth, 
by rejecting his artless token of good will. 1 had given 
him at different times a few trifling gratifications, and 
he could not reconcile himself to depart without mak- 
ing some return. His pillow was, a light lacquered 
box, about eighteen inches long, circular at top, and 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

covered with a case of silk, so thickly quilted with cot- 
ton as to render it soft. In a box of this sort, a Chinese, 
when he makes a journey, usually carries all his valu- 
ables; though unprovided with a lock, it is not easy to 
be opened, and the case is closely buttoned: thus a 
traveller secures all his property by sleeping on it. This 
box was not empty; it contained the purse (This purse 
bore an exact resemblance to the representation in Sir 
George Staunton's work, of the purse which his impe- 
rial majesty of China presented to the embassador's 
page when the British embassy was formally intro- 
duced) beforementioned, a steel and flint to light fire, 
and a bracelet and ring of agate, which the donor as- 
sured me were endued with certain cabalistic virtues, 
to protect the possessor from the perils of the road. 

During the time that matters of business were under 
discussion, and the necessary papers preparing, Mr. 
Wood employed his leisure hours in digesting his 
survey of the river, and in making astronomical ob- 
servations; whilst Doctor Buchanan, ever assiduous in 
the pursuit of knowledge, prosecuted botanical en- 
quiries, and collected general information from every 
accessible source. Among other things, books in the 
Birman tongue were brought to him for sale, on which 
the owners put, what seemed to be a very exorbitant 
price; and either from real, or pretended apprehen- 
sion, these venders of Birman literature always pro- 
duced their wares in a clandestine manner; assigning 
as a reason, that if any person were discovered to have 
sold books to a foreigner without permission, he 
would be hable to a severe penalty. This assertion we 
were at first inclined to consider rather as a pretext for 
enhancing the demand, than as founded on fact; one 
day, however, we understood that a man had actually 
been imprisoned for an offence of this nature, and was 
likely to suffer punishment. 1 immediately sent a mes- 
sage to the chief Woongee, apprizing him of the cir- 
cumstance, and desiring to know whether it was ille- 
gal to sell books to us; that if their law prohibited it, 1 
should reject such as in future might be brought, and 
direct every person under my authority to do the 
same. The Woongee returned a civil message, and the 
man was set at hberty. His Majesty being made ac- 
quainted with the affair, summoned, on the following 
day, the principal Rhahaans to attend his council, and 
submitted to them, whether or not it was consistent 
with Birman tenets, to grant books that treated of their 
history and laws, to foreigners. The conclave, 1 was 
told, after solemn deliberation, determined in the af- 
firmative; and added, that it was not only admissible, 
but laudable, for the dissemination of knowledge. His 
Majesty was thereupon pleased to order a handsome 
copy of the Razawayn, or History of their Kings, and 
of the Dhirmasath, or Code of Laws, to be dehvered to 
me from the royal library: each was contained in one 
large volume, written in a beautiful manner, and 
handsomely adorned with painting and gilding. 

My Bengal draftsmen, whose labours were princi- 
pally directed by Dr. Buchanan in the delineation of 
plants, met at Ummerapoora with a brother artist in a 
Siamese painter, who was employed by the court. This 
man, though not so skilful as the person in my service, 
was nevertheless of much utility; he furnished me 
with several drawings descriptive of the costume of 
the country, which though executed with little taste, 
were finished with the most perfect fidelity; among 
other things he brought me a representation of the 
Shoepaundogee, or royal barge used by the King 
when he goes in state on the water; the painter re- 
ported that the length of the vessel was a hundred cu- 
bits (more than one hundred and fifty feet): 1 saw it 
through a glass, but at too great a distance to observe 
more than the elevated stern, the royal piasath in the 
centre, which occupied the place of a mast, and the 
splendour of the gilding, with which it was entirely 
covered. The King possesses a great variety of boats, 
some of them we had an opportunity of viewing, but 
the Shoepaundogee is by far the most magnificent. 

The Birman month of Sandaingguite, which had 
Just expired, is a season of universal festivity and re- 
joicing, and on the three terminating days, solemn 
homage is paid to the King, to the Engy Teekien, and 
to the principal Queen. At the court of the tatter, all 
the wives and daughters of the nobles pay their re- 
spects, unaccompanied by their husbands or any male 
attendants; and in this assembly, as much state and 
ceremony are observed as at the court of his Majesty. 
The rank, which each lady bears in right of her hus- 
band, is expressed by her dress and ornaments; fe- 
male priority being not less scrupulously maintained, 
than precedency amongst men. We regretted ex- 
tremely, that their customs did not allow us to attend 
the Queen's court, in the same manner as at that of 
her illustrious mother. Age and widowhood, it 
seems, gave the latter a privilege of receiving visits 
from the other sex, without violating decorum, or in- 
curring reproach. 

During the fifteen days of this "decreasing moon," 
the city was illuminated every night; lanterns made of 
different coloured transparent paper were suspended 
from bamboo scaffolds, and disposed in various 
shapes, which produced a pleasing effect when seen 
from our residence on the opposite side of the lake. 
The superior brilliancy of the hghts at the palace, was 
distinguishable above the rest. The Birmans are singu- 
larly expert in the display of fire-works of every de- 

On the 13th of October, 1 received a verbal message 
from the Engy Teekien, that he should be glad to see 
me on the following day, when he meant to lay aside 
the parade of state, and honour me with an uncere- 
monious reception. 1 embraced with pleasure an op- 
portunity of an interview, unincumbered with the 
formalities of regal pomp, and accompanied by a few 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


attendants, proceeded on horseback to his palace, at 
the appointed time. As soon as my arrival was an- 
nounced, I was immediately introduced without the 
previous ceremony of waiting in the Rhoom. On this 
occasion he did not, as formerly, exhibit himself from 
a casement window like a pagod, but was seated at 
the upper end of the hall, upon a couch richly adorned 
with the customary ornaments. His dress was entirely 
simple; he wore a white vest of fine muslin, with a 
lower garment of silk,, and his head was bound with 
an embroidered fillet. Several personages of rank were 
present, habited also in a plain manner, but distin- 
guished by their gold tzaloe, or chain of nobihty. The 
deportment of the prince at this interview was per- 
fectly frank, and free from ostentation; 1 was disap- 
pointed, however, in his conversation; 1 expected that 
he would, by inquiring into the state of the British 
provinces, and the causes of their prosperity, have 
sought for information, that might hereafter prove 
beneficial to the country over which he is one day pre- 
sumptively to reign. His discourse took a quite differ- 
ent turn; he asked only frivolous questions, and en- 
deavoured to amuse me by the prattle of two sprightly 
children, his daughters. Half an hour having been 
spent in this trifling manner, I withdrew, and paid a 
visit to the Maywoon of Pegue, who told me that it 
was his intention to accompany us back to Rangoon, 
where he would order every necessary to be provided 
for our convenience and accommodation. 

The distance to which our boats were obliged to 
remove, rendered the transportation of our baggage, a 
work of labour; after conveying it across the lake, it 
was to be laden on carts, and drawn for two miles 
over what was now a plain of sand, but at the time of 
our arrival had been a wide sheet of water, navigated 
by vessels of considerable burthen. The communica- 
tion between the lake and the river, was now com- 
pletely closed. 

On the 23d of October we began to send off our 
heaviest articles. The commissary, or Kyewoon, had 
taken care to provide a carriage and labourers, the ex- 
pence of which we were not suffered to defray; what 1 
gave to the people, was considered as a private gratifi- 

Having embarked most of our baggage, Mr. Wood 
and Doctor Buchanan, with a proportion of the atten- 
dants, left me early on the 25th, to go on board the 
boats: I remained until evening, waiting for some pa- 
pers which I expected from the city. Horses were in 
readiness for us to mount, on the opposite side of the 

On leaving Tounzemahn, as the boat pushed from 
the shore, I looked back with pleasure at the grove, 
under the shade of which we had resided, and bade a 
glad, but not unthankful adieu to an habitation, where 
I had experienced kind hospitahty, and spent three 
months in a manner, that could not fail to impress me 

with a lasting recollection of the scene. To be placed in 
so singular and interesting a situation, cannot often 
occur; nor can the images created by it be easily oblit- 
erated from the mind. Riding across the plain, over 
which I had lately sailed, 1 perceived that part of it, 
was already under tillage, but the largest portion was 
left for pasture. During the inundation, canoes navi- 
gated between the houses ot the lower suburbs of the 
city, and all communication was maintained by water; 
but carts now plied in dusty lanes, and the founda- 
tions of the buildings, were at least fifteen feet above 
the level of the river. Our boats were at a creek called 
Sakyingua, where a number of trading vessels were 
also moored, some of them of considerable burthen. 
The noise of the boatmen on the bank, and the smoke 
from the fires which they made, rendered the situation 
by no means agreeable. 

Various causes conspired to detain us at Sakyingua 
Creek, until the 29th. In the interval, I received a short 
letter from the principal Woongee, directed to the 
Governor-General of India, containing a desire of the 
King, to procure certain religious books written in the 
Shanscrit language; likewise that a Bramin, well 
versed in astronomy, might be sent from Bengal to his 
court, to instruct his own professors, of whose igno- 
rance in that science, his Majesty was fully sensible. 
The letter, however, laid as much stress on the purity 
of the preceptor's cast, as on the extent of his knowl- 
edge, and comprehended a curious addition to the re- 
quest, that a Bramin woman should accompany the 
sage, with a view, 1 imagine, of propagating a race of 
hereditary astronomers. I informed the Woongee, in 
reply, that Bramins of learning, have an invincible dis- 
like to leave their native country even for a limited 
period; but to emigrate with their families, 1 con- 
ceived, was an act, to which no temptation would in- 
duce them: I added, that the principles of the EngUsh 
government did not allow of force being used, to 
compel a subject into exile, who had not by any crime 
forfeited the protection of the law. This, I dare say, 
was not very intelligible doctrine to the despotic mon- 
arch of Ava, and at all events must have been perfectly 

Whilst we remained at this place, one of our people 
received iU treatment from the natives, which was 
remarkable, as being the first instance that had oc- 
curred. Doctor Buchanan, desirous of enriching his 
collection of plants, with every rare production of the 
country, used to employ a peasant boy of Bengal, to 
gather herbs for him, whom he every day sent for that 
purpose into the fields. The followers of the Prince of 
Tongho happened to reside in this quarter, a class of 
men, notorious among Birmans for their insolence 
and dishonesty: the lad unluckily chanced one day to 
meet a party of these ruffians, who took from him his 
knife, basket, and turban, and, threatening to put him 
to death, so frightened him that he botanized no 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

more, till we were out of their reach. 1 had before 
heard much of the ferocity of these people, who were 
very numerous; report made their numbers ten thou- 
sand: they were always quarrelling with the followers 
of the other princes, particularly those of the Prince of 
Prome. It was said that the King, had on one occasion, 
whilst we were at Ummerapoora, sharply repri- 
manded his son, the Tongho Teekien, and confined 
his Woon, or minister, for not keeping his people in 
better subjection. 1 took no notice of their conduct; it 
was not expedient at my departure to make a pubhc 
complaint of such a petty outrage. 

The river, which three months before, had dis- 
played an uninterrupted expanse of several miles, 
was now broken into separate streams, surrounding 
numerous Islands, which had just emerged from the 
inundation. The principal branch of the river, even in 
its diminished state, was a mile wide. Doctor Bu- 
chanan and 1 crossed in a small boat to an island, 
where some fishermen and gardeners had begun to 
erect huts, in which they reside until returning floods 
in the ensuing year force them to abandon their habi- 
tations. They seemed to have the means of comfort- 
able livelihood; their gardens were already sown with 
the sweet potatoe, convolvulus batatas, pulse, and 
Brenjals, solanum melongena; the latter are usually 
transplanted. The soil was extremely dry, notwith- 
standing it had so recently been covered with water, 
and the pasturage was luxuriant. The inhabitants pos- 
sessed cattle and poultry in abundance, and doubtless 
were supplied with excellent fish. 

Early on the 29th, the Maywoon of Pegue visited 
me, in a very handsome war-boat gilded to the water 
s edge, accompanied by several others that were 
plain; he invited me on board, and we took our seats 
on the prow, which, in Birman boats, is always the 
place of dignity. When we left the shore, the whole 
fleet pushed off and followed us; the morning was 
fine, and the water smooth, whilst the spires of Um- 
merapoora in our stem, the white temples and lofty 
hiUs of Chagaing opposite, and the fort of ancient Ava 
below, formed a very cheerful prospect. We rowed to 
Chagaing, where, soon after our arrival, the 
Maywoon took leave of me, to return to the capital, 
having business to detain him a few days longer; he 
however, promised to overtake us on the way down, 
his boats being better adapted than ours, for expedi- 

After dinner. Doctor Buchanan and 1 walked out to 
view the fort of Chagaing, which in the days of Nam- 
doo Praw had been the seat of empire; we entered un- 
der a gateway, the arch of which was wide and well 
turned. This fort had nothing to distinguish it from 
others that have been already described; it was not 
nearly so large as Ummerapoora, or even equal in ex- 
tent to the lines of ancient Ava; the defences were suf- 
fered to fall into ruins, and the houses were meanly 

built among weeds and rubbish. We observed a well 
supplied Herb market, which was attended wholly by 
women. Passing through the fort, we crossed a narrow 
fosse on a handsome wooden bridge, the length of 
which indicated, that during the monsoon the inunda- 
tion extended to a considerable distance, and a httle 
farther, we came to the great road leading to Meen- 
goung. On our right, lay the low conical hills, whose 
summits, crowned with white temples, form such con- 
spicuous objects from the river. Advancing about a 
mile, we arrived at a village called Oderua, or pot vil- 
lage, from its being a manufactory of earthenware. 
The lateness of the evening prevented our further 
progress. We returned by a road that led to the left of 
the fort, passing in our way a neat village situated 
near the banks of the river. 

By means of our horses, we now enjoyed a conven- 
ience which in coming up we did not possess. A plat- 
form had been constructed in a broad boat, capable of 
containing five horses: we brought three from the 
capital, and added two others on the way down: httle 
trouble was occasioned by embarking or landing 
them; the Birman grooms were expert, and the beasts 
tractable. Early next morning we mounted, and pur- 
sued the route of the preceding evening. Numerous 
temples lined the road on either side, but one only of 
the number attracted particular notice; it was sur- 
rounded by a high brick wall, from which elephants 
heads, formed of masonry, were protruded in such a 
manner, as to give the wall an appearance of being 
supported on the backs of those animals; the temple 
was a pyramid of brick, about one hundred feet high, 
ornamented with a gilded umbrella. Passing through 
Pot Village, we came to a town called Kyeock Zeit, 
remarkable for being the great manufactory of marble 
idols, the inhabitants of which were statuaries by 
trade. 1 saw thirty or forty large yards crowded with 
artists, at work on images of various sizes, but all of 
the same personage, Gaudma, sitting cross legged on 
a pedestal. The quarries, whence the materials are 
procured, are only a few miles distant; the marble is 
brought hither in shapeless blocks, and after being 
fashioned, the images are publicly sold to those who 
have grace enough to purchase them. The largest that 
1 observed, a little exceeded the human size, the price 
of which, they said, was one hundred tackals, twelve 
or thirteen pounds, but some diminutive Gaudmas 
were to be disposed of, as low as two or three tackals. 
The Leedegee, or steersman of my boat, bought one to 
protect us on the way down. The workmen were ex- 
tremely civil and communicative; they would not part 
with their sacred commodity, 1 was told, to any except 
Birmans, but they answered our questions with good 
humour, and our curiosity neither excited surprise, 
nor gave umbrage. Their tools are simple; they shape 
the image, with a chisel and mallet, and afterwards 
smooth it, by freestone and water. Many of the idols 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


were beautifully polished, which, I understood, was 
effected by rubbing the marble with three different 
sorts of stone; the first rough, the second finer, and the 
third such as hones are made of, the workmen after- 
wards use the palms of their hands. This operation 
gives it a transparent clearness, far surpassing the 
brightest polish of which European marble is suscep- 
tible. Such images as were designed for gilding, did 
not receive so high a finishing. 

Half a league further we came to where the temple 
of Kommodoo rears its massive and antique pile. This 
venerable and curious edifice stands on an eminence, 
which renders it a conspicuous object, at the distance 
of many miles. It is composed of sohd masonry with- 
out cavity of any sort, and in shape resembles a bell; 
there is a high railing of wood encircling it, twelve feet 
distant from the base; the circumference on the out- 
side of the railing, by my measurement, was four 
hundred paces, perhaps three hundred and fifty 
yards, and the height did not appear less than three 
hundred feet; it ended in a clumsy cone, unadorned 
by a spire or the customary umbrella, and exhibited a 
striking contrast to the elegant and still larger temple 
of Shoemadoo: indeed the stile of its structure indi- 
cated, that it was built either by a people possessing 
totally different notions of architecture, or at a far 
more remote period; it was much the most inelegant 
and heavy building, we had seen in the country. The 
roof had once been richly gilded, and the remains of 
wooden galleries, from which the paint and gilding 
were not quite obliterated, lay scattered around; these 
ornaments had probably been often renewed since the 
first erection of the temple. Kommodoo was once 
celebrated for its sanctity, and is stiU held in great rev- 
erence; many devotees were sauntering round the hill, 
whilst others were prostrate at their devotions. The 
Birmans boast of the antiquity of this building; they 
ascribe its rise to supernatural agency, and fix its date 
further back than the Mosaic aera: these, however, 
were the tales of ignorance to conceal the want of 
knowledge, but the traces of long duration were cer- 
tainly evident, and from its size and form, Kommodoo 
Praw seems likely to resist the effects of time, for 
many ages. 

From the site of Kommodoo, we had an extended 
view of the river winding through a rich and level 
country. A considerable lake lay to the southward; the 
plains were now cultivating, whilst numerous villages 
and herds of cattle denoted population and plenty. At 
a short distance from the foot of the hill, was a long 
avenue formed by a double row of tamarind trees of 
uncommon stateUness and beauty, under the shade of 
which a line of shops was erected on either side, 
where, besides provisions and cloth, utensils in brass 
ware, and fireworks, were sold. On a green, a little 
way retired from the road, we observed a number of 
people employed in making rockets, the tubes of 

which were the solid trunks of trees bored after the 
manner of a pump; in some, the cavity of the cylinder 
was nine or ten inches in diameter, and the wood 
about two inches thick; the length of these tubes var- 
ied from twelve to twenty feet; they were filled with a 
composition of charcoal, saltpetre, and gunpowder, 
rammed in very hard. The enormous size of Birman 
rockets, has already been noticed, in the account given 
of the fireworks of Pegue, but several that we saw 
here, far exceeded those in magnitude. The large ones 
are fired from a high scaffold erected for the purpose; 
bamboos fastened together, of a length adapted to 
preserve the poise, form the tail of the rocket; in this 
branch of pyrotechny the Birmans take particular de- 
light, and are extremely skilful. 

The day was now far advanced, and the sun become 
powerful. Having satisfied our curiosity, we galloped 
back to our boats, a distance of about seven miles. 1 
took notice in my way, of frequent sheds, built at the 
side of the road, in which pots of water were placed, 
for the refreshment of travellers. 

Chagaing is the principal emporium, to which cot- 
ton is brought from all parts of the country, and 
where, after being cleaned, it is embarked for the 
China market: females perform the labour of clearing 
it from the seeds; this is effected by double cylinders 
turned by a lathe, which the woman works with her 
foot, whilst she supplies the cotton with her hands. 1 
was told, that the most opulent merchant in the em- 
pire, resides at Chagaing, who deals solely in this arti- 
cle. In the afternoon we loosed our boats and dropped 
down to Ava on the opposite side. 

Early on the following morning, 1 walked out to ex- 
amine the ruins of this deserted capital. The disposi- 
tion of its streets and buildings nearly resembled that 
of Ummerapoora at the present day. We could trace 
the separate divisions of the palace, amidst heaps of 
rubbish overgrown by weeds and thorns: on the spot 
where but a few years since, the Lotoo stood, and jus- 
tice was administered to a mighty empire, pulse and 
Indian corn were now growing. Passing to the west- 
ward, among ruinous walls and fallen temples, we 
came upon a good road, and a miserable old woman, 
"the sad historian" and living emblem of the place, 
pointed out the way to Logatherpoo Praw, formerly 
the residence of the Seredaw, or high priest of the em- 
pire, where the colossal image of Gaudma was still to 
be viewed. 

The area on which the temple stands, is a square 
surrounded by an arcade of masonry; on each side, 
nine cubical towers are erected, and several buildings 
are comprehended within the space inclosed by the 
arcade. The temple in which the stupendous idol is 
placed, differs from the other pyramidical buildings, 
by having an arched excavation that contains the im- 
age. On entering this dome, our surprise was greatly 
excited at beholding such a monstrous representation 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

of the divinity. It was a Gaudma of marble seated on a 
pedestal, in its customary position. The height of the 
idol, from the top of the head to the pedestal on which 
it sat, was nearly twenty-four feet; the head was eight 
feet in diameter, and across the breast it measured ten; 
the hands were from five to six feet long; the pedestal, 
which was also of marble, was raised eight feet from 
the ground. The neck and the left side of the image 
were gilded, but the right arm and shoulder remained 
uncovered. The Birmans asserted, that this, like every 
other Gaudma which 1 had seen of the same material, 
was composed of one entire block of marble; nor could 
we on the closest inspection, observe any junction of 
parts. If what they said was true, it remains a matter of 
much curiosity, to discover how such a ponderous 
mass could be transported from its native bed, and 
raised in this place. The building had evidently been 
erected over the idol, as the entrance would scarcely 
admit the introduction of the head. No intelUgent 
Birman happening to be with us, all that 1 could learn 
in answer to my inquiries, was, that the image had 
been placed there an hundred years ago, by a King 
named Podoo Sembuan. Whatever may be its real his- 
tory, it is an extraordinary specimen of idolatrous ex- 

On our return, we perceived a man driving a cart 
drawn by a pair of oxen, which was filled with rub- 
bish from the rained buildings. 1 learnt that he was 
carrying the load to a neighbouring brook, to wash it, 
expecting to discover gold, silver, or some article of 
value, which not unfrequently happened. Old Ava is 
said to be the resort of numerous thieves, who find 
shelter and places of concealment, among the decayed 
religious edifices. 

Our researches being ended, we re-embarked and 
immediately got under way, the boatmen using their 
oars with just sufficient force to accelerate in a sUght 
degree, our motion down a gently ghding current. The 
river, except in those places where islands divided its 
stream, was above a mile wide. A little before sun set, 
we brought to for the night on the left hand, under a 
high bank near the town of Sandaht, and in the eve- 
ning we took our customary walk, which at this place 
was among lanes, separated by hedge rows, inclosing 
fields planted with pulse, sesamum, and Indian corn. 

We left Sandaht betimes the next morning, and con- 
tinued to float down the stream, with Uttle exertion or 
labour to our people. The river having fallen at least 
fifteen feet since the time we came up, we could not, 
as before, observe the towns and villages on each side, 
nor indeed could any object be seen that was not im- 
mediately on the edge of the banks, which hung per- 
pendicularly over the river, in many places to a con- 
siderable height; but we knew when a town or a col- 
lection of houses was nigh, by the steps that were cut 
in the bank, for the convenience of fetching water. 
About four' o'clock we passed the place where the 

Keenduem unites with the Irrawaddy. The mouth of 
the former did not seem to be much diminished by the 
change of season. We brought to in the evening, on the 
east side in the neighbourhood of a poor village, a 
short way below Tirroup Mew, where the country 
presented a cheerful aspect; grass was growing and 
cattle feeding in every direction. 

On the following day, November 2d, we continued 
to travel in the same tranquil manner, the current of 
the river Bowing two or three miles an hour with an 
unruffled surface. The weather was serene, and the 
temperature of the air moderate. Abundance of water 
fowl, collected on the sands which had recently 
emerged from the inundation, afforded us good shoot- 
ing. As we approached the city of Nioundoh, 1 made 
inquiry concerning the excavations in the banks, 
which formerly had been the retreats of hermits, and 
was told that no person would now venture to explore 
them, as they had become the habitation of innumer- 
able snakes and other noxious reptiles. We brought to 
in the evening among a fleet of at least two hundred 
large trading boats, which were moored at the bank, 
waiting to dehver or receive a lading. Nioundoh is a 
place of much commerce, having usurped all the trade 
that formerly was carried on at Pagahm: cotton, ja- 
panned ware, and oil extracted from sesamum, are the 
principal articles of exportation. The land adjacent to 
the town, did not wear a more fertile aspect, than 
when we passed it four months before; no change of 
season could effect an alteration in its barren soil, but 
on the opposite bank of the river, rich crops were wav- 
ing, and cattle grazing in luxuriant pasture. 

Early on the following day, we left Nioundoh and 
reached Pagahm by breakfast time. Although the dis- 
tance by land is so short, that Nioundoh may be called 
the modem appendage to ancient Pagahm, yet we 
were above two hours between them, owing to the 
circuitous course of the river, which lengthens the way 
to eight or nine miles. 

Mention of Pegahm has often occurred in this nar- 
rative, a city celebrated for its numerous temples, and 
the traces which it bears of former magnificence. To 
examine its extensive and various ruins with the accu- 
racy of a speculative traveller, would have occupied 
more time than we had to spare. Shortly after the fleet 
had brought to, 1 was visited by the Miou-dogee, or 
the person who governed the town and district in the 
absence of the prince; he informed me, that his royal 
master was expected on the following day from Um- 
merapoora. In the afternoon we walked out to view a 
very curious and ancient temple, which was repairing 
at the expence of the Engy Teekien, or prince royal. It 
was built of masonry, and comprehended several 
arches forming separate domes, into which four 
arched porches led, that faced the four cardinal points; 
on each side of the doors, in recesses in the wall, were 
seated gigantic human figures made of stucco, with 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


large staring eyes, and the head protruded forward, as 
if to look at those who approached the threshold. 
These, I was told, were the supernatural porters of the 
doors, whose power of perception was such, that they 
could penetrate the recesses of the human breast, and 
discover the sincerity of devotion. The Mioudogee ob- 
served, that it was the prince's intention to gild this 
temple; and that four viss of gold, about the value of 
six hundred pounds, were already prepared for that 
purpose; he added that a considerable sum of silver 
had been expended on the repairs. 

We were on this occasion, informed of a circum- 
stance, that shews how easily an art once well known, 
may be lost to a country from disuse and the capri- 
ciousness of fashion; notwithstanding that well 
formed arches of brick are still to be seen in many of 
the ancient temples, yet Birman workmen can no 
longer turn them. Masonry has not in latter ages been 
much practised; wooden buildings have superseded 
the more sohd structures of brick and mortar. 

On our return, the Mioudogee politely invited us 
to stop and rest ourselves at his house. We accepted 
the invitation, and were ushered into a commodious 
dwelling inclosed by a railing; where we found sev- 
eral persons seated in a spacious hall. Soon after our 
entrance, the Mioudogee's wife came forth from an 
inner apartment, and sat down by her husband; she 
was attended by two female servants, and held by 
the hand her daughter, a pretty delicate child about 
eight years of age, who was not at all alarmed at the 
sight of strangers, but came and examined my hat 
and epaulette, with much engaging familiarity. Her 
father was extremely civil; not knowing that we had 
horses, he kindly offered us the use of his, if we 
chose to remain another day, and amuse ourselves 
by riding through the ancient city, which was too 
extensive to be traversed in so short a time on foot. 
Doctor Buchanan having expressed a wish to exam- 
ine the Launzan, a rare species of plant, he promised 
to send one of his people on the following day some 
distance off, to procure it for him, which he punctu- 
ally performed. Such instances of genuine hospital- 
ity are amongst the highest gratifications that a trav- 
eller can experience. 

Next morning we mounted our horses at an early 
hour, pursuing an eastward direction on a road that 
led to hills, called Torroendong, about ten miles dis- 
tant; beyond which, and more southerly, we per- 
ceived Poupa, a conical mountain mentioned in our 
former journey. On each side of the road, innumer- 
able religious buildings appeared, in every stage of 
dilapidation. At the distance of two or three miles 
from the river, the soil became less barren. A few 
inconsiderable gardens were inclosed by the inhabi- 
tants, sown chiefly with Indian corn and pulse, and 
in some places the cotton plant was growing. We 
continued our ride five or six miles, as far as a small 

village, named Minangdoo, where the ruins seem to 
end in that direction. There 1 saw for the first time a 
Kioum, or monastery, built of masonry. We got back 
about twelve o'clock, and found crowds of people 
assembled at the water side, waiting for the arrival 
of the prince of Pagahm, who was hourly expected: 
all the men of distinction belonging to the city, had 
gone up the river to meet him. In order to make 
more room near the spot where he was to land, we 
loosed our boats, and removed to a situation lower 
down. Shortly after the fleet came in sight. We were 
at too great a distance to distinguish the prince's 
barge, the decorations of which were said to be very 
handsome; but we saw an immense number of 
boats, and heard the shouts of the people, who wel- 
comed their royal governor with every demonstra- 
tion of joy. 

Being unacquainted with the etiquette proper to be 
observed on such an occasion, 1 consulted the Miou- 
dogee, whether a visit from me was expected, or 
would be agreeable to the prince. He replied, that my 
paying a visit, would lay the prince under the neces- 
sity of desiring our stay for two or three days, to par- 
take of an entertainment. As such a ceremony could 
not be convenient to him, and had no inducement for 
me, 1 sent Baba-Sheen to apologize in my name, 
pleading haste and the lateness of the season, as my 
excuse for not having the honour to wait on him. At 
sun rise next morning, the prince of Prome passed by, 
with a very numerous and noisy retinue; from the 
number of boats there could not be fewer than three 
or four thousand persons: all the boatmen were sing- 
ing in unison with the strokes of their oars. The 
Maywoon of Pegue who was in his suite, sent me a 
complimentary message, saying that he meant to at- 
tend the prince as far as Meeaday, his own Jaghire, or 
estate, where he should wait our arrival. 

We were delayed at Pegahm by our boat people, 
till near ten o'clock when we pushed off. The river, 
during the early part of this day, where islands of 
sand did not intervene, was not less than two miles 
wide: at one place, however, the channel contracted, 
and the current rushed round a projecting rock, with 
excessive rapidity. We saw several ranges of hiUs, 
some of which approached near the river, but these 
were of no considerable magnitude. The Arracan 
mountains, fifty or sixty miles distant, which were 
visible at intervals, towered high above the rest. In the 
evening we reached Sillamew, an ancient city which 
had once been a place of considerable note. A httle 
way to the northward, we perceived the ruins of a 
brick fort erected in a very judicious situation; the 
ditch and wall were still to be traced. We had been so 
much engaged, when we were here before, with the 
silk and cotton merchants who brought their goods to 
sell, that we entirely overlooked the site of this for- 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

tress, an oversight that might easily happen, as its 
ramparts and towers are nearly level with the dust. 

Chapter XIX 

We departed from SiUahmew at the customary hour, 
and by nine o'clock in the morning reached Sembew- 
gewn on the east bank of the river. The town is a 
league inland, but there is a village at the place where 
boats usually stop. We perceived a temporary house 
at some distance, such as is built for the accommoda- 
tion of a man of rank when he travels, surrounded by 
small huts; and were informed that it was the en- 
campment of the governor of Arracan. This officer had 
been newly appointed, and was on his way to take 
possession of his vice-royalty, which confers the title 
of Maywoon on the possessor, and is accounted one of 
the most important governments of the empire. 1 sent 
a message to him with compliments, and a request 
that he would forward a dispatch for me to Chit- 
tagong; the frontier British province that borders on 
Arracan. He obligingly undertook the commission, 
and punctually fulfilled his promise. 1 had afterwards 
the satisfaction to know, that the first advice which the 
Governor-General received of my proceedings at 
Ummerapoora, was by this conveyance. 

We continued at Sembewghewn only a short time. 
1 did not land; but the Doctor went on shore, he saw 
nothing however that merited particular notice. Mr. 
Wood remained till the afternoon, to observe the dis- 
tance between the sun and moon; the latter being at 
this time visible, and the sky unclouded. We rowed 
till two o'clock, at which hour we reached Yaynang- 
heoum, or Petroleum creek; a place already noticed in 
our journey up the river. 

Doctor Buchanan partook of an early dinner with 
me; and when the sun had descended so low as to be 
no longer inconvenient, we mounted our horses to 
visit the celebrated wells that produce the oil, an arti- 
cle of universal use throughout the Birman empire. 
The face of the country was cheerless and sterile; the 
road, which wound among rocky eminences, was 
barely wide enough to admit the passage of a single 
cart, and in many places the track, in which the 
wheels must run, was a foot and a half lower on one 
side than the other: there were several of these lanes, 
some more circuitous than others, according to the 
situation of the small hills among which they led. Ve- 
hicles, going and returning, were thus enabled to pur- 
sue different routes, except at particular places where 
the nature of the ground would only admit of one 
road: when a cart came to the entrance of such a de- 
file, the driver hallooed out to stop any that might in- 
terfere with him from the opposite side, no part being 
sufficiently wide for two carts to pass. The hills, or 
rather hillocks, were covered with gravel, and yielded 
no other vegetation than a few stunted bushes. 

The wheels had worn ruts deep into the rock, 
which seemed to be rather a mass of concreted gravel, 
than hard stone, and many pieces of petrified wood 
lay strewed about. It is remarkable, that wherever 
these petrefactions were found, the soil was unpro- 
ductive, and the ground destitute of verdure. The 
evening being far advanced, we met but few carts; 
those we did observe were drawn each by a pair of 
oxen, and of a length disproportionate to the breadth 
to allow space for the earthen pots that contained the 
oil. It was a matter of surprise to us, how they could 
convey such brittle ware, with any degree of safety, 
over so rugged a road: each pot was packed in a sepa- 
rate basket, and laid on straw, nothwithstanding 
which precaution, the ground all the way was strewed 
with the fragments of the vessels, and wet with oil; for 
no care can prevent the fracture of some in every jour- 
ney. As we approached the pits, which were more dis- 
tant than we had imagined, the country became less 
uneven, and the soil produced herbage; it was nearly 
dark when we readied them, and the labourers had 
retired from work. There seemed to be a great many 
pits within a small compass; walking to the nearest, 
we found the aperture about four feet square, and the 
sides, as fur as we could see down, were lined with 
timber; the oil is drawn up in an iron pot, fastened to a 
rope passed over a wooden cylinder, which revolves 
on an axis supported by two upright posts. When the 
pot is filled, two men take the rope by the end, and 
run down a declivity, which is cut in the ground, to a 
distance equivalent to the depth of the well; thus 
when they reach the end of their track, the pot is 
raised to its proper elevation, the contents, water and 
oil together, are then discharged into a cistern, and the 
water is afterwards drawn off through a hole at the 
bottom. Our guide, an active intelhgent fellow, went 
to a neighbouring house and procured a well rope, by 
means of which we were enabled to measure the 
depth, and ascertained it to be thirty-seven fathom, 
but of the quantity of oil at the bottom we could not 
judge: the owner of the rope, who followed our guide, 
affirmed, that when a pit yielded as much as came up 
to the waist of a man, it was deemed tolerably produc- 
tive; if it reached to his neck, it was abundant; but that 
which rose no higher than the knee, was accounted 
indifferent. When a well is exhausted, they restore the 
spring by cutting deeper into the rock, which is ex- 
tremely hard in those places where the oil is pro- 
duced. Government farm out the ground that supplies 
this useful commodity; and it is again let to adventur- 
ers who dig wells at their own hazard, by which they 
sometimes gain, and often lose, as the labour and ex- 
pence of digging are considerable. The oil is sold on 
the spot for a mere trifle; 1 think two or three hundred 
pots for a tackal, or half a crown. The principal charge 
is incurred by the transportation and purchase of ves- 
sels. We had but half gratified our curiosity when it 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


grew dark, and our guide urged us not to remain any 
longer, as the road was said to be infested by tigers, 
that prowled at night among the rocky uninhabited 
ways, through which we had to pass. We followed his 
advice, and returned with greater risk, as 1 thought, of 
breaking our necks from the badness of the road, than 
of being devoured by wild beasts. At ten o'clock we 
reached our boats without any misadventure. 

We left Yaynangheoum before sunrise, and, com- 
mitting ourselves to the current, glided almost imper- 
ceptibly down the stream, the boatmen lying in idle 
ease, some on the roof, and others on the lateral plat- 
forms of the vessel; whilst their only occupation was 
singing, praying, and sleeping by turns. The present 
manner of passing their time, was a contrast to what 
they experienced on the former journey, during which 
their labour had been excessive and without intermis- 
sion; they all appeared pleased to return to Rangoon, 
where the necessaries of life are much cheaper than at 
the capital. We lay this night near the town of 
Patanago, a place already noticed. Walking out in the 
afternoon, 1 started several hares: the country abounds 
in game, and is beautifully diversified with hanging 
woods and rising grounds. 

The fleet parted from Patanago very early. Doctor 
Buchanan's boat going ahead of the rest; he reached 
Loonghee half an hour before his companions, and, 
profiting by his celerity, went on shore at this roman- 
tic spot, where we had passed several days on our 
journey upwards. He walked to some distance, in the 
hope of finding fruit on a tree, which about four 
months before he had left in the earliest stage of blos- 
som; but the fruit had since that time ripened and de- 
cayed, and the tree was now putting forth fresh flow- 
ers. Between this place and Meeaday, there are several 
ridges of low hiUs, clothed with wood and destitute of 
cultivation, which my people said were the haunts of 
numerous tigers and elephants. At sunset we got to 
Meeaday and perceived a number of boats fastened to 
the bank below the town, and among others we dis- 
tinguished that of the Maywoon of Pegue: I immedi- 
ately sent a message to his house, notifying our arri- 
val, and in return received a civil reply, expressing a 
desire to see me. 

On the following morning about nine o'clock, a 
nephew of the Maywoon came down to welcome us: 
after conversing sometime, I walked with him to visit 
his relation, by whom 1 was received with every dem- 
onstration of friendship: he politely asked me to re- 
main at Meeaday for a day or two, and visit his gar- 
den and country house; but as the season was ad- 
vanced, I felt sohcitous to avoid unnecessary delay, 
and therefore excused myself: in fact, our stay would 
have put him to an inconvenience, having business, he 
said, to adjust on his estate, which would employ him 
for several days, but he expected to arrive at Rangoon 
as soon as ourselves. On my expressing a desire to see 

some of the mountaineers called Kayn, he obligingly 
offered to send one of his attendants to a village a few 
miles off, inhabited by these people, with directions to 
bring some of them for our inspection, dressed in the 
proper garb of their country. 1 understood from him 
that, since our departure from Ummerapoora, not less 
than 50,000 persons had left that city in the train of the 
several princes and men of rank, who, after paying 
homage at the golden feet, had returned to their re- 
spective governments. When 1 took leave, he ordered 
a pair of horses to be brought from his stable, and re- 
quested my acceptance of them; they were very hand- 
some, and one was of an uncommon colour, having a 
number of circular black spots, on a milk white skin. 
In return, 1 presented him with a marquee made of 
European canvass., lined with English broad cloth, 
and my rifle-barrelled gun, which 1 more highly val- 

In the evening 1 walked over grounds which 1 had 
often trod before. Every thing in this district seemed to 
be flourishing; the peasants and farmers acknowledge 
in the Maywoon, a mild and beneficent landlord; if 
they were not so opulent as some, they were not so 
poor as many others: content, 1 thought, shone in 
every countenance, and comfort appeared to be an 
inmate of every dwelling. In my walks 1 saw a good 
deal of game, and shot a henza, or Braminy goose. The 
natives, although it is the symbol of their nation, hold 
the bird in no estimation; it is somewhat larger than a 
barnacle; the plumage is beautiful, but the flesh indif- 

Next morning on my return from a long ride, 1 
found a number of people collected on the banks op- 
posite to our boats; these 1 learned were the Kayn, or 
mountaineers, with their conductors, for whom the 
Maywoon had sent on the preceding day. 1 desired 
that the principal man and woman should be brought 
on board. This curious couple were dressed in their 
best attire, consisting of an ill shaped sleeved coat 
made of coarse black cotton cloth; that of the man was 
much shorter than the woman's; both were bordered 
with stripes of white, red, and yeUow; the man had a 
belt over his right shoulder, from which was sus- 
pended a pouch, ornamented with strings and small 
shells; on their heads they wore fillets nearly in the 
Birman manner; to the woman's were fastened tassels, 
composed of the Calyptra of the Buprestis ignita; she 
had also decorated her neck and arms with many 
strings of beads and cowries; but the most remarkable 
part was her face, which was tattowed all over in lines 
mostly describing segments of circles. This ceremony, 
which in some other countries is performed on the 
parts of women not publicly exposed, among the 
Kayn is confined wholly to the visage of their females, 
to which, in the eye of an unaccustomed beholder, it 
gives a most extraordinary appearance; the aspect of 
the woman, though she was not old, nor in other re- 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

spects ugly, from the effect of the operation was truly 
hideous. 1 asked the origin of the custom; this they did 
not know, but said it had existed from time immemo- 
rial, and that it was invariably performed on every 
female, at a certain age. 1 immediately employed my 
painter to make a drawing of these singular figures, in 
the attitude in which they stood before me: a task 
which he performed in two hours, with great exact- 
ness, and drew striking resemblances. There was some 
difficulty in taking a likeness of the man, who was 
alarmed and restless, from a supposition that we were 
imposing magical spells upon him; but the woman 
stood still with her hands crossed, apparently in per- 
fect good humour and content; they spoke the Birman 
language indifferently, and, in order to engage their 
attention, we asked the man several questions, where 
he expected to go when he died? He replied, that he 
should again become a child. Who will make you a 
child? "The Mounzing." Who are the Mounzing? "The 
father and mother of the world, who grow on the 
earth as two trees in a field, one ever green, the other 
dry." What he meant by this metaphor we could not 
tell, unless it was a type of successive and eternal 
renovation and decay. He added, that the Mounzing 
resided on the great mountain Gnowa, where the im- 
ages of the dead are deposited. They had no idea of a 
place of future rewards and punishments, and deny 
the existence of sin in their country; they do not pray 
whilst living, because they cannot, in this life, see the 
Mounzing, but they think that their images pray to 
them after mortal decease. They burn their dead, and 
afterwards collect their ashes in an urn, which they 
convey to a house, where, if the urn contain the rehcs 
of a man, they keep it six days, if of a woman, five; 
after which it is carried to the place of interment, and 
deposited in a grave, and on the sod that covers it, is 
laid a wooden image of the deceased, to pray to the 
Mounzing and protect the bones and ashes. 

These are the rude notions of religion entertained 
by the harmless untaught race, that inhabit the lofty 
mountains which divide Arracan from Ava, and who, 
as children of nature, delighting in their wild and na- 
tive freedom, are for the most part insuperably averse 
to hold any commerce with the people of the plains. 
The Birmans, since the conquest of Arracan, have 
compelled many, and allured a few, to settle in vil- 
lages at the foot of the hills, where they are treated 
with a humanity that tends to conciliate them, to their 
new and more civilized state. A large proportion of 
Kayn are, however, still independent. The Birmans 
have not yet carried sacrilegious invasion to their holy 
mountain, which probably is not worth acquiring. 
When a Kayn dies within the jurisdiction of the Bir- 
mans, the relations of the deceased always convey the 
urn, and the image of the departed person, to Gnowa, 
there to deposit them in hallowed earth. These people 
have no letters, nor any law, except custom; to this the 

Birmans prudently leave them, never interfering in 
their municipal and social economy. 

Our curiosity being satisfied, we left Meeaday as 
soon as the painter had finished the drawings. The 
country through which we sailed this day had a pleas- 
ing appearance; spots of cultivation and frequent 
towns skirted the river, while small hills clothed with 
trees rose behind them. We passed in our way 
through a flock of thirty or forty elephants, who were 
swimming across the river, carrying their riders on 
their necks; these were all females, and had been em- 
ployed in hunting their own species; males are seldom 
used by the Birmans for that purpose. Late in the eve- 
ning we brought to, at a small town called PuUoo, 
where there is a custom house, having now entered 
the government of the Prince of Prome. 

We got under way early the ensuing morning, and 
about two o'clock stopped at the lower suburbs of 
Prome, in the midst of a great concourse of boats. 
Landing our horses, we rode in the evening to view 
the site of a very ancient city, which ages ago was the 
residence of a dynasty of Pegue kings, before their 
country had submitted to the Birman yoke. On our 
right, we left a large temple named Shoe Sanda Praw, 
situated on an eminence, round the foot of which were 
several kioums, or monasteries; pursuing a southerly 
direction, we came on a level road leading through 
well cultivated fields, interspersed with groves of tall 
palmyra trees. We observed the channels of two rivers 
at this time almost dry; but which in the rainy season 
roll down an impetuous current from the mountains, 
and empty their waters into the Irrawaddy; by these 
streams, teak timber is floated from the forests during 
the monsoon, and is sold here very cheap. A plank 
three inches thick, and from sixteen to twenty feet 
long, may be purchased for a tackal, or half a crown. 
The soil in the neighbourhood of Prome, is remarkably 
well adapted for gardens, and we met several persons 
carrying loads of fruit on their heads to market. The 
evening was far advanced before we reached Yaettee, 
on entering which we passed through an old gateway, 
that appeared to be narrower, but of greater depth, 
than any we had yet seen; indeed the ruinous state 
both of the gateway and the wall, rendered it difficult 
to judge accurately of their dimensions; within we 
could distinguish nothing but houses and fields, and it 
was now too late to explore the antiquities of the 
place. Two intelligent men, whom we overtook riding 
along the road, informed us that it had once been a 
great fortified city of a square form, each side measur- 
ing a space equal to two miles and a half; that it had 
flourished for several centuries, before the fall of the 
Pegue monarchy, and that the vestiges of the imperial 
palace and a large temple were stiU remaining. 

During our ride, we observed two caravans of wag- 
gons drawn up in a circular form, in the same manner 
as those we had remarked at Meeaday, on our journey 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


to the capital: here, however, the number of carts was 
much greater; one of the caravans containing not less 
than a hundred, which were disposed in two circles, 
one within the other, presenting a very formidable 
barrier against the assaults either of men, or of wild 
beasts. They were chiefly loaden with gnapee and salt 
fish, and had come from a town called Omow, situ- 
ated on the banks of a lake where fish is caught in 
such abundance, as to constitute an article of commer- 
cial exportation. The road in this direction seemed to 
be well made, and much frequented. The Ledegee, or 
steersman, of Doctor Buchanan's boat, who had trav- 
elled by land from Prome to Rangoon, a journey of six 
days, said, that it was equally good the whole way. 
Timber and stone flags are the principal articles of ex- 
port trade at Prome. 

When the day broke we resumed our journey; the 
temperature of the air was now extremely pleasant, 
and the mornings and evenings cool: at sunrise, the 
quicksilver in the thermometer stood at 67 degrees. In 
the earlier part of this day, the villages, particularly 
those on the east bank, had a very inviting appear- 
ance, from the orchards of plantain, mango, and other 
fruit trees, with which they were surrounded. After 
passing Peinghee, the country assumed a rougher as- 
pect; the river, at the narrow strait where our boat had 
been wrecked on the way -up, did not now run with 
such rapid violence as before. Just above Ttrroupmiou, 
we passed a large island covered with reeds and 
brushwood, which the boat people said was much in- 
fested by tigers. The handsome town of Kainggaih 
was situated below it: we continued our course till af- 
ter dark, and passing the hghts of the long and popu- 
lous city of Mayahoun, formerly Loonzay, brought to 
at the west bank, a little to the southward of the town; 
but it was too late to think of landing. 

Next morning (Nov. 13th) we put off, at an early 
hour in the middle of the preceding night, 1 had been 
alarmed by a scene of discord, between the boatmen 
and my people, which had nearly produced serious 
consequences. The Birmans have a superstitious ab- 
horrence of any person's passing over them, when 
they are asleep; it is deemed a great indignity, as well 
as injurious from the apprehended effects of super- 
natural agency. The boatmen usually slept either on 
the roof of the boat, or on the platform projecting from 
the sides, whilst my people occupied the inner part. It 
happened that in the night, one of the soldiers went 
out on the platform, and, regardless of the Birmans 
who were taking their rest, stepped over them without 
ceremony, most likely ignorant of their prejudice, and 
perhaps half asleep himself: one of the Birmans, how- 
ever, chanced unluckily to be awake, who, jumping 
up, instantly attacked the offender with his fists; a 
scuffle ensued, attended with no small outcry; the 
other Birmans rose, and armed themselves with the 
bamboos, that were kept for oar handles; the soldiers 

flew to their bayonets, and my servants were prepar- 
ing to take their part. In this state of hostility 1 came 
among them, just time enough to prevent mischief. 
The Seree of Rangoon and the Ledegee at length paci- 
fied the enraged crew, and 1 ordered my own people 
to return to their births. This accident produced no 
future enmity, and it was the only disagreement that 
occurred. The Birmans, though sometimes irascible, 
were in general extremely good tempered, and seldom 
refused to accommodate; the colars (strangers), even 
at the expence of their own convenience. 

We rowed all this day through a country, not so 
well cultivated or so thickly inhabited, as that we had 
passed on the preceding: a little below Spainwah, a 
considerable branch of the river takes a southwesterly 
course, leading, we were informed, to Bassien; it is 
caled Keidowa, and sometimes Anou Kioup, or the 
Western River: the Arracan mountains were visible in 
the north-west quarter. We brought to after dark, a 
little above Henzadah, under a reedy bank, from 
which we were invaded by myriads of troublesome 

The following day brought us without any remark- 
able incident to Denoobew. The high bank and beauti- 
ful situation of Terriato or Mango village, on the west 
side, tempted me to go on shore. It is a charming spot; 
the town is inconsiderable, but the houses are neat 
and commodious. 

Denoobew, where we arrived after sunset, is distin- 
guished by a fine temple, and is also celebrated for its 
manufactory of mats, which are made here in beauti- 
ful variety, and superior in quahty to what are fabri- 
cated in any other part of the empire; long reeds and 
grass skirted the banks during the greatest part of this 
day's Journey. 

From Denoobew to Yangain Chaingah, the river 
preserves nearly a direct course. About ten o'clock in 
the morning of the 15th, we got to the entrance of the 
Panlang river, where it separates from the great 
stream, in the same manner as the Hoogly does from 
the Ganges; the principal branch pursuing a southerly 
course, divides as it approaches the sea into a number 
of channels, which are filled by the tide, and are for 
the most part navigable. The river we now entered, is 
called by various names, Ashay Kioup, or the Eastern 
River, Panlang river, and Rangoon river, the width of 
which did not exceed four hundred yards. The eastern 
bank is within the jurisdiction of Pegue; but the oppo- 
site country is included in the province of DaUa, and is 
governed by a person of a much less dignified title 
than Maywoon. Through the high reeds, which on 
each side overhung the water, several pathways were 
made leading to Carrian villages. As we passed, 1 per- 
ceived a watercourse, which my people said came 
from a lake called Mallatoo. We had now reached the 
place, where in going up, we had been so severely 
teizedby mosquitos, and again felt their venomous 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

influence; they even assailed us in the daytime, and in 
such numbers, that we were obliged to fortify our legs 
with boots, and put on thick gloves, whilst by con- 
tinually flapping with an handkerchief, we endeav- 
oured to defend our faces. But no sooner had darkness 
commenced, than these troublesome insects redoubled 
their attacks, in such multitudes, of such a size, and so 
poisonous, that 1 am persuaded if an European with a 
delicate skin were to be exposed uncovered to then- 
ravages for one night, it would nearly prove fatal; 
even the Birman boatmen, whose skins are not easily 
penetrated, cannot repose within their action; and my 
Bengal servants actually cried out in torment. 1 lay in 
boots with my cloaths on, and a double napkin over 
my face, and even thus could procure no rest. About 
nine o'clock we anchored below the town of Panlang, 
being unable to stem the tide; and at eleven my people 
hailed a strange boat coming with the flood, that 
rowed towards us. Instantly 1 heard an European 
voice, to which 1 had not of late been accustomed, and 
soon recognized that of Captain Thomas, of the Sea- 
Horse. 1 had sent an express when we were at 
Meeaday, to apprize him of our approach, and desire 
him to get ready for sea; he had learned from a small 
vessel that we were at hand, and came thus far to meet 
us. It being impossible to sleep, we passed the night in 
conversation; the account he gave of his treatment by 
the municipal government of Rangoon during my ab- 
sence, and of the conduct of the Birmans in general 
towards his crew, was perfectly satisfactory. He had 
unrigged his ship during the monsoon, and covered 
the decks with an awning of mats, as a protection 
against the weather. Being in possession of a tolerably 
commodious house near the quay, he obligingly of- 
fered me a room in it; of this 1 availed myself, having 
no intention to remain at Rangoon longer than abso- 
lutely necessary, and hoped to limit my stay to a very 
few days. At midnight we got under way, and 
brought to again at six in the morning: the banks on 
each side of the river do not indicate much cultivation 
in its neighbourhood; but of the state of the interior 
country we could not judge, being prevented by the 
bushes and tall reeds from seeing any distant objects. 
At ten o'clock the boatmen resumed their labour, and 
we passed on the left a very miserable village named 
Teetheet. We were again obhged to anchor on account 
of the tide; and early on the morning of the 17th of 
November, landed at Rangoon. 

Chapter XX 

The Maywoon of Pegue arrived at Rangoon a few 
hours after we had landed. 1 paid him a visit on the 
following morning, and apprized him of my intention 
to sail for Bengal in a few days, when he politely said 
that he would continue at Rangoon until we departed. 
He informed me that the orders for carrying into effect 

the late regulations, would be publicly read and regis- 
tered at the Rhoom on the following day; and he in- 
vited me to send a confidential person to be present at 
the ceremony; adding that the records were always 
open to public inspection, and that whoever chose, 
might at any time procure a copy, by paying a trifling 
fee to the officer of the court. 

It may not be improper in this stage of my narrative 
to offer a few observations on the relative connection 
that subsists between the British possessions in India, 
and the Birman empire; to point out the commercial 
objects that render the intercourse desirable, and the 
political necessity there is for our preserving such a 
degree of national influence with that government, as 
may enable us hereafter to counteract any attempts to 
diminish our weight, or to erect an alien power that 
might eventually injure our interests, and even one 
day rival our authority. The propriety of discussing a 
subject of so much moment, naturally suggests itself; 
but a moment's reflection serves to convince that it 
ought not to be passed over in silence. It is too true, 
that the importance of the objects is hidden only from 
ourselves. Those against whom it is most incumbent 
on us to guard, are well apprised of their extent and 
magnitude; but even were it otherwise, the security 
which is to arise from the suppression of points of 
general knowledge, is fallacious and without dignity. 
Prudence requires that the transactions of a cabinet 
should not be divulged, but that policy must be very 
short sighted which attempts to conceal from the 
world what every person may discover; the bounties 
of providence, the products, resources, and local ad- 
vantages of a great empire. 

British India is more deeply concerned in her com- 
merce and connection with that part of the Birman 
empire, called Pegue, than many persons, in other re- 
spects intimately versed in the affairs of India, seem to 
be aware. This interest points to three distinct objects; 
first, to secure from that quarter regular suppUes of 
timber for ship building, without which the British 
marine of India could exist but on a very contracted 
scale; secondly, to introduce into that country, as 
much of our manufactures as its consumption may 
require, and to endeavour to find a mart in the south- 
west dominions of China, by means of the great river 
of Ava; thirdly, to guard with vigilance against every 
encroachment or advance, which may be made by for- 
eign nations to divert the trade into other channels, 
and obtain a permanent settlement in a country so 
contiguous to the capital of our possessions. This last 
consideration supersedes all others in the magnitude 
of the consequences that might ultimately result, from 

It is impossible to impress my reader by any 
stronger proof with the vast importance of the Pegue 
trade than briefly to state, that a durable vessel (ships 
have been constructed of saul wood, and of other in- 

SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


digenous timber of Bengal, but on trial they were not 
found to be serviceable) of burthen cannot be built in 
the river of Bengal, except by the aid of teak plank, 
which is procurable from Pegue alone; and that if the 
timber trade with that country should by any act of 
power be wrested from us, if it should be lost by mis- 
fortune, or forfeited through misconduct, the marine 
of Calcutta, which of late years has proved a source of 
unexampled prosperity to our principal settlement/i^" 
essentially benefited the parent country, and given 
honourable affluence to individuals, must be reduced 
nearly to annihilation, without the possibility of our 
being able to find any adequate substitute for the ma- 
terial of which we should be deprived. Within the last 
six years, some of the finest merchant ships, ever seen 
in the river Thames, have arrived from Calcuttai^i 
where they were built of teak timber; and, after deliv- 
ering valuable cargoes in London, were usefully em- 
ployed in the service of the state: nor would the de- 
struction of the Pegue trade be confined solely, in its 
effects, to Bengal: the other settlements would sensi- 
bly share in the loss. Madras is supplied from Ran- 
goon, with timber for all the common purposes of 
domestic use; and even Bombay, although the coast of 
Malabar is its principal storehouse, finds it worth 
while, annually to import a large quantity of planks 
from Pegue. 

But whilst it is advantageous to us, to promote the 
exportation of timber from the maritime towns of 
Pegue, it is as manifestly our interest to discourage the 
building of ships in the Rangoon river, where the con- 
struction is facilitated by local advantages, equal to 

The following remarkable instance of public spirit, will evince 
the advantages that have already been derived by the parent coun- 
try from the marine of India, and the benefit that may in future be 
expected. In the year 1794, when the horrors of impending famine 
aggravated the miseries of war, the Secret Committee of the Court 
of Directors, at the recommendation of his Majesty's ministers, 
transmitted by express to Lord Teignmouth, then Governor Gen- 
eral of India, intelligence of the calamity that threatened Great 
Britain, and desiring whatever aid the Government of India could 
supply. On receipt of the dispatch, the Governor General, with 
that promptitude and energy, which distinguished his administra- 
tion, exerted the influence of government with such effect, that 
14000 tons of shipping, almost entirely India built, were freighted 
to carry rice to England, and were loaden and cleared from the 
port of Calcutta in less than five months from the date of the arri- 
val of the letter. This supply, with the exception of the casualties of 
the sea, arrived most opportunely for the relief of the poor of Lon- 
don, and reduced the price of that excellent article of food to three 
halfpence a pound. So extraordinary an exertion is neither so 
widely known, nor so justly appreciated, as it merits. It is a cir- 
cumstance which reflects the highest credit on all the parties con- 
cerned, and deserves to be recorded in order to declare to posterity 
the vast resources of Great Britain, which was enabled to draw 
seasonable supplies of provision for the relief of the metropolis, 
from colonies situated at the distance of nearly two thirds of the 
equatorial circumference of the globe. 

The Cuvera and the Gabriel, built at Calcutta of Pegue timber, 
are now in the river, and exhibit no contemptible specimens of the 
naval architecture of India. The port of Calcutta can furnish 40,000 
tons of shipping. 

those of any port in the world, and superior to most. 
The progress made in this art, 1^2 by the Birmans, has of 
late years been rapid, and increases in proportion as 
foreigners can place confidence in the Birman gov- 
ernment. When merchants find that they can build, 
with security in the Rangoon river, for one-third less 
cost than in the Ganges, and for nearly half of what 
they can at Bombay, few will hesitate in their choice of 
a place. It is said, that the ships of Pegue are not so 
firmly constructed, as those built in our ports, and in 
general this assertion is true; but the defect does not 
arise from the want of materials, but because the own- 
ers were speculative adventurers, without sufficient 
funds to defray the charges of labour and of iron, in 
which material, Pegue ships have, by fatal experience, 
been found deficient. The shipwrights, however, are 
as expert as any workmen of the East, and their mod- 
els, which are all from France, are excellent; the detri- 
ment, therefore, that arises to us, from the construc- 
tion of ships at Rangoon, is not less evident than the 
benefit that we derive, from importing the unmanu- 
factured material. The Birmans, sagaciously knowing 
their own interest, set us an example of policy, by re- 
mitting all duty on cordage, canvas, and wrought iron, 
provided these articles are, bona fide, brought for the 
equipment of a new vessel; the port charges also are 
not exacted from a new ship, on leaving the river to 
proceed on lier first voyage. A conduct on their part so 
wise, suggests to us the expediency of adopting some 
measures for our own interest; an alien duty, or a 
modified disqualification, would probably, like the 
acts of parliament in aid of British navigation, prove 
the most effectual remedy. Trade cannot be prose- 
cuted in the Indian seas to any extent, except with 
British ports; many objections, it is true, may be made 
to such a proposition, but the good resulting to us, 
would be immediate and certain, whilst the ill conse- 
quences, if any there be, are equivocal and remote. 

But if we are called upon by our interest in a com- 
mercial point of view, to check the growth of ship 
building at Rangoon, how much more important is the 
subject when seen in a political light? It is a fact, which 
appears to merit some consideration, and is perhaps 
not generally adverted to, that in a Very few years, 
and at a small comparative expence, a formidable 
navy may rise on the banks of the Irrawaddy, from the 
forests of Pegue. It is probably not known, that artifi- 
cers (the French have long maintained an agent at 
Rangoon, and are thoroughly acquainted with the ad- 
vantages which the country of Pegue offers) are edu- 
cating by our enemies for that express purpose, whilst 
we encourage their progress in the science, by ena- 

" The Superb, a very fine ship, which was on the stocks when 1 
was at Rangoon, has lately delivered a valuable cargo in the river 
Thames; the Laurestone also, a vessel of considerable force, which, 
1 believe, was taken into the French line during the last war, was 
constructed at the same port. 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

bling them to derive benefit, and acquire experience at 
the same time. National security, therefore, as well as 
mercantile advantage, strongly urge a vigilant atten- 
tion to a quarter, whence the means of injury to our- 
selves, may so abundantly be drawn. 

The imports into Rangoon from the British settle- 
ments, in the year 1794-5, amounted, 1 was informed, 
to more than twelve lacks of rupees, about £135,000 
sterling; these consisted chiefly of coarse piece goods, 
glass, hardware, and broad cloth. The demand for the 
last article, in the year 1795, was considerable; returns 
were made almost wholly in timber. A few unimpor- 
tant commodities are annually carried from Pegue to 
the coast of Pedier and the Prince of Wales's Island, 
for the China market. The timber trade, though at- 
tended with a certain advantage to the carrier, yet not 
producing such large profits, as a more hazardous 
venture to the eastern straits, to China, and the Malay 
coast, is seldom prosecuted by merchants of the high- 
est commercial credit, who aim at making a fortune by 
the success of a single voyage, for which the ship is 
usually freighted with that valuable and alluring drug 
opium, so eagerly sought after by the Chinese, yet so 
strictly prohibited by their government. Owing to this 
enterprizing spirit among merchants in India, a ship is 
seldom sent to carry wood, except when the owners 
have not funds to provide a more valuable cargo; and 
this inability frequently extends even to the means of 
defraying the expence of a lading of timber: hence the 
master of a vessel often finds himself embarrassed 
when on the eve of departure, and the vessel is some- 
times detained by legal demands which he cannot dis- 
charge. Difficulty produces contention, and provokes 
bitter and generally groundless invectives against the 
laws of the country, which, though oppressive to the 
subject, are certainly lenient to foreigners. 

Timber for maritime purposes is the only article the 
Birman empire produces, of which we stand in indis- 
pensable need, and to promote or encourage the cul- 
ture and exportation of those commodities, which 
form the valuable staples of British India, almost all of 
which the kingdom of Ava is capable of yielding, 
would operate to the manifest injury of our own prov- 
inces. We require and should seek for nothing more 
than a mart for our manufactured goods, and, in re- 
turn, to bring back their unwrought materials; inter- 
ference in any other shape appears to be impolitic, and 
likely, in the end, to prove prejudicial to ourselves. 

The maritime ports of this great empire are commo- 
dious for shipping, and better situated for Indian 
commerce, than those of any other power. Great Brit- 
ain possesses the western side of what is called the 
Bay of Bengal; the government of Ava, the eastern; 
which is far superior to the former in the facilities it 
affords to navigation. From the mouth of the Ganges 
to cape Comorin, the whole range of our continental 
territory, there is not a single harbour capable of af- 

fording shelter to a vessel of five hundred tons bur- 
then; it is an unbroken line of exposed shore where 
ships must ride in open roads: but Ava comprehends 
within her extent of coast, three excellent ports; Ne- 
grais, the most secure harbour in the bay; Rangoon 
and Mergui, each of these is equally convenient and 
much more accessible than the river of Bengal, which 
is the only port within the bay, in our possession. 

The entrance into the river of Bengal, presents as in- 
tricate and dangerous a channel, as any that is known; 
and during three months of the year, a ship, in leaving 
the Ganges, incurs considerable hazard from being 
obliged to beat against a foul wind, in shoal water, 
among surrounding sands; but from the harbour of 
Negrais, a ship launches at once into the open bay, 
and may work to the southward without any other 
impediment, than what the monsoon opposes. Ran- 
goon, at that particular season, is more perilous than 
Negrais, especially to vessels bound from the straits of 
Malacca, Pulo Penang, and other eastern ports; these, 
if not well acquainted with the violent current setting 
at that period to the eastward, are liable to be deceived 
in their reckoning, and, imagining themselves to be 
farther west than they really are, sometimes stand too 
much to the northward, till they get entangled among 
the shoals of what is called the bay of Martaban, 
whence a retreat is very difficult, and where the tide 
flows with such impetuosity, and rises so high, that 
anchors are useless, and retard, but for a very short 
period, the impending fate. Ships sailing from the 
westward, by making cape Negrais, and keeping 
within sight of the coast, until they come near the bar 
of Rangoon, avoid those dangers; at every other sea- 
son Rangoon may be approached, and left with per- 
fect security; the bar is narrow, and contains depth of 
water, at three-quarters Hood, sufficient for vessels of 
any burthen. The channel of the river is unimpeded, 
carrying from six to eight fathoms, as high as the town 
of Rangoon. 

Blessed with so extraordinary a coincidence of ad- 
vantages, arising from situation, extent, produce, and 
climate, the kingdom of Ava, or more properly the 
Birman empire, is among eastern nations, second in 
importance to China alone, whilst, from its contiguity 
to British India, it becomes to us, of much greater con- 
sequence. We can have no reason, in the present pros- 
perous state of our affairs, to dread the hostiUties of all 
the native powers of India combined. Our hereditary 
foe is destroyed, and there remains no other, who 
bears towards us any fixed or rooted enmity: the Bir- 
mans certainly do not, but however favourable their 
natural disposition may be, that characteristic pride 
and unbounded arrogance, which govern their con- 
duct towards other states, may lead them to offer in- 
dignity, which we cannot avoid resenting, and to 
commit acts of aggression, as in the affair at Chit- 
tagong, which we shall be obliged to repel. 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


Such necessity is sincerely to be deprecated: steadi- 
ness and temper in our negociations, and a reasonable 
allowance for their mistaken principles, wiU go far, to 
avert the ill consequences that might arise from their 
haughty and weak assumption. We cannot expect 
from a proud and victorious people, impressed with 
an extravagant opinion of their own power, that rev- 
erence, which the states of India have been taught to 
feel for our established character. The principal na- 
tions to the east of Bengal are to be considered by 
themselves as a kind of body politic, whoUy distinct 
from all others; and, intact, China, Ava, and the coun- 
tries south of them; compose a body, in extent and 
number of inhabitants, more than equal to all Europe. 
These nations are connected by a striking similarity of 
manners and political maxims, to which, as they can- 
not be suddenly changed, we ought to assimilate, in 
our intercourse with their governments, as far as the 
dignity of our own will permit. To preserve, a corre- 
spondence and a good understanding with the court 
of Ava, is essentially expedient for our own prosper- 
ity; but, for the reasons already stated, that connection 
should not be too intimate. A limited trade and a pre- 
ponderating influence, sufficient to counteract the 
machinations of our enemies, are the utmost lengths 
that we should go; by not interfering farther, the Bir- 
mans will be convinced of the moderation and justice 
of our principles, and learn from them to repel the in- 
sidious advances of any other power, made with a la- 
tent view to undermine their dominion, and ulti- 
mately to wrest their country from them. It is our in- 
terest to maintain their independence, and to guard it 
from foreign encroachment, whilst a knowledge of 
this truth cannot fail, in the end, to unite the Birman 
government to ours, in bonds of reciprocal amity and 

During the few days that we continued at Rangoon, 
1 had the pleasure to interchange many reciprocal 
marks of civihty with the Maywoon, who paid me a 
visit on board the Sea Horse; after which we rowed in 
his war-boat to a very fine ship belonging to him, 
which had recently been built, and, he assured me, 
was entirely the workmanship of native artificers. 

Whilst we remained here. Doctor Buchanan, ac- 
companied by one of the officers of the Sea Horse, 
made an excursion on horseback a few miles off, to 
view a village inhabited by Carianers, the simple rural 
race of people, of whom mention has already been 
made. Passing by the great temple of Shoedagoung, 
they proceeded along an indifferent road, about three 
miles, till they arrived at one of the villages which 
they sought, it contained not more than ten or a dozen 
houses raised on posts, and disposed in such a man- 
ner as to inclose a square yard, in which were a num- 
ber of buffaloes. The head man was gone to a distant 
village, but one of the inhabitants invited the strangers 
to enter his dwelling, and hospitably offered what his 

house afforded. The visitants ascended a narrow lad- 
der about twelve feet high into a sort of barn, divided 
into two by a mat partition; the floor was of rough 
boards, the sides of mats, and a roof, composed of 
bamboos, was covered with thatch; at night they draw 
up the ladder, and, closing the door, sleep secure from 
the assaults of wild beasts, or the depredations of 
thieves. Seven or eight men, as many women, and 
several children, constituted a numerous family; they 
seemed a healthy and vigorous race of people, and 
were of a fairer complexion than the generality of 
southern Birmans; some of the women wore rich 
strings of coral round their necks, and were even 
adorned with ornaments of gold and silver; they 
speak a dialect peculiar to themselves, but their lan- 
guage is radically the same as the Birman. There are 
both Pegue and Birman Carianers, who differ in the 
same degree as the nations to which they are attached; 
they complain of being oppressed by the Birmans, but 
their appearance did not indicate severe oppression, 
and they have a certain sale for whatever their indus- 
try can raise. Doctor Buchanan saw several Birmans 
on the road, carrying baskets; some going for the pro- 
duce of their gardens, others returning with burthens 
of fruit and vegetables. The life these people lead, is 
truly pastoral; they have no other business or object 
except that of cultivating the soil, and tending their 
flocks; their rehgion is the worship of Gaudma, but in 
these rites they do not join with the same fervour that 
animates the Birmans; they rather seem to acquiesce in 
the doctrines of their conquerors, which they do not 
even profess to understand. 

Dr. Buchanan interrogated one of the men, who 
admitted their want of knowledge, and assigned as 
the reason, that God once wrote his laws and com- 
mands on the skin of a buffalo, and called upon aU 
nations of the earth to come and take a copy; a sum- 
mons which all obeyed, except the Carianers, who had 
not leisure, being occupied in the business of hus- 
bandry; and that in consequence of this neglect, they 
remained ever since in a state of ignorance, without 
any other cares, than those which related to their pas- 
toral employment. On going away. Dr. Buchanan of- 
fered them a few pieces of silver, which so excited 
their surprise, being quite unaccustomed to such acts 
of liberality, that they hesitated to receive the money, 
and seemed at a loss to what motive, to ascribe his 
bounty. After looking at one another, and talking for a 
minute or two, with much earnestness, the women, on 
a sudden, as if his design had just been discovered, all 
ran away laughing, whilst the men sullenly declined 
the gift; in fact, they concluded that the Doctor wanted 
to purchase the favours of one of their females, having 
no notion of a disinterested donation. The ladies how- 
ever did not wait to ascertain for whom the golden 
apple was designed, and it was in vain he tried to 
convince the men that their suspicions were ill 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 

founded. These poor people entertain a delicacy in 
regard to women, which their more enlightened con- 
querors do not feel. To prove, however, the purity of 
his intentions, the Doctor left the money on the floor 
when he departed. The gentlemen returned by the 
same road, and in their way, examined a mineral 
spring, in the neighbourhood of the great Pagoda. 

I had an opportunity at Rangoon, of observing that 
the Birmans of distinction played at chess, a circum- 
stance which, from our secluded situation at the capi- 
tal, had escaped my notice. This game is held in high 
estimation among the superior ranks: the board they 
use is exactly similar to ours, containing sixty-four 
squares, and their number of troops the same, sixteen 
on each side; but the names, the power and disposal of 
them differ essentially: the king and his minister (a 
queen is never introduced by the Orientals) are 
mounted on elephants; these are defended by two cas- 
tles or yettay, two knights on horseback, Mene, two 
officers on foot, one called Meem, the other Chekey, 
and eight Maundelayor foot soldiers: the forces of 
each party are arranged on three hnes, "by which 
eight squares remain unoccupied; none of the pieces 
possess equal force with our queen; and this restricted 
operation, renders the Birman mode of playing more 
complex and difficult than ours. The Birmans affirm 
that ft is a game of high antiquity, and that it is ac- 
knowledged and authorized by their sacred writings, 
although every play of chance is prohibited. This tes- 
timony confirms (see a paper on the Indian game of 
Chess by the President of the Asiatic Society, in the 2d 
vol. of Asiatic Researches) the opinion of the late Sir 
William Jones, that chess was invented in India, and is 
not, as generally imagined, of Persian origin: the Bir- 
mans call it Chedreen, a word that bears some resem- 
blance to the name which is given to the game, in most 
other parts of the world. 

During the time that the English deputation was at 
Ummerapoora, Captain Thomas witnessed at Ran- 
goon, a remarkable instance of a trial by the ordeal of 
water, the circumstances of which he thus related to 
me; Two women of the middling class litigated a small 
property before the court of justice, and as the judges 
found great difficulty in deciding the question of 
right, it was at length agreed, by mutual consent, to 
put the matter to the issue of an ordeal. The parties, 
attended by the officers of the court, several Rhahaans, 
or priests, and a vast concourse of people, repaired to 
a tank or pond, in the vicinity of the town. After pray- 
ing to the Rhahaans for some time, and performing 
certain purificatory ceremonials, the htigants entered 
the pond, and waded in it, till the water reached their 
breasts; they were accompanied by two or three men, 
one of whom placing the women close to each other, 
and putting a board on their heads, at a signal given, 
pressed upon the board till he immersed them both at 
the same instant. They remained out of sight about a 

minute and a half, when one of them, nearly suffo- 
cated, raised her head, whilst the other continued to 
sit upon her hams at the bottom, but was immediately 
lifted up by the men; after which an officer of the 
court solemnly pronounced judgment in her favour, 
and of the justice of this decision none of the bye slan- 
ders appeared to entertain the smallest doubt, from 
the infallibility of the proof which had been given. 

The trial by ordeal, in all countries where the Hin- 
doo rehgion prevails, is as ancient as their records. 
The late All Ibrahim Khan, native chief magistrate of 
Benares, has communicated, in a very curious paper 
(this paper was presented to the Asiatic Society by 
Warren Hastings, Esq. See "On the trial by ordeal 
among the Hindoos," Asiatic Researches, vol. 1), the 
modes by which this appeal to the Deity is made, as 
they are described in the Metaschera, or comment on 
the Dherma Sastra, in the chapter on oaths: the Bir- 
mans being governed by the same authority, observe 
nearly similar forms; but as knowledge increases, and 
mankind become more enlightened, these absurd 
practices lose ground, and have of late years been dis- 
countenanced, by the judicial courts both of India and 
of Ava. 

Previous to our departure, the Maywoon of Pegue 
delivered to my care a letter addressed to the Gover- 
nor General of India, couched in very friendly terms, 
but dictated in the usual style of turgid extravagance; 
he enumerated in it the concessions granted in favour 
of English commerce, and expressed a determination 
to execute his part with punctuality and attention. His 
Birman Majesty has long entertained a desire to pro- 
cure an English carriage, with the distinctions of Bir- 
man royalty attached to it: in this letter the Maywoon 
made a request that such a one might be sent; and in 
order to direct the artist, 1 was furnished with a very 
intelligible and well executed drawing, i^s performed 
at Ummerapoora, by the King's painter. It displayed 
the carriage and body of an English crane-necked 
chariot, gilded all over: from the top of the body, there 
rose a regal spire, or piasath, in separate stages, bear- 
ing a miniature resemblance to those which orna- 
mented the palace and royal barge; four lions in a 
crouching attitude, guarded the carriage, two on the 
fore part, and two behind, and a bird, designed, 1 
imagine, to represent the Henza, or tutelary goose, 
was placed in front with expanded wings. The 
Maywoon's letter, however, contained a requisition of 
yet greater importance, that was, to obtain materials 
for the establishment of a mint, a design which, if car- 

The European part of this drawing was made from an old car- 
riage, which had been introduced into the Ava country, several 
years before. The Governor General complied with both the re- 
quests contained in the Ma3?woon's letter, and in the following 
year, sent a very superb chariot to his Birman Majesty, constructed 
according to the representation: the top of the spire, notwithstand- 
ing the body hung very low, was eighteen feet from the ground, it 
was extremely rich and well executed. 

SB BR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006 


ried into effect (it is surprising that the Chinese have 
no national coin; at the port of Canton, dollars in some 
measure supply the deficiency, but in the interior of 
the kingdom, the inconvenience must be generally 
felt), must considerably promote the prosperity of the 
country, as the necessity of weighing lumps of lead 
and silver, and ascertaining the purity, operate as a 
sensible impediment to commerce. 

On the 26th of November, the day preceding that of 
our embarkation, I waited on the Maywoon, accom- 
panied by the gentlemen of the deputation and Cap- 
tain Thomas, to take our final leave. I had occasion to 
feel myself individually obhged to him for his per- 
sonal attentions, whilst his mild administration and 
pleasing manners had acquired my esteem: he is uni- 
versally acknowledged to be a good man, and seems 
highly to deserve that reputation. 1 had opportunities 
of witnessing several instances of his benevolence and 
humanity, and, although his authority within his own 
jurisdiction is absolute, I never heard him accused of 
an abuse of his power, or of a single act of oppression 
or injustice. Such a character in a country, where the 
most rigorous and often barbarous despotism pre- 
vails, is entitled to particular encomium. We parted 
with mutual, and, I am inclined to believe, not insin- 
cere, professions of permanent good will. 

On the morning of the 27th, we breakfasted on 
board the Sea Horse; most of the attendants with our 
heavy baggage had embarked on the preceding day, 
and at ten o'clock we weighed anchor. It had previ- 
ously been agreed that the Company's ship should 
salute the Birman flag with eleven guns, which were 
to be answered by an equal number from the battery 
on shore: Captain Thomas performed his part of the 
agreement, but the battery, which was very slow in 
acknowledging the compliment, returned only seven. 
This apparent mark of disrespect, which could not be 
attributed to ignorance, I conceived rather to originate 
in the person who had charge of the battery, and who 
might think to recommend himself by it, than from 
any higher authority; it was, however, such an osten- 
sible and public slight to the Company's colours, that 1 
judged it expedient to write a note to the Maywoon, to 
acquaint him of the fact. 

We dropped down with the ebb as far as the 
Chokey, or watch station, from whence the custom- 
house officer had visited the Sea Horse, on her first ar- 
rival. In passing the mouth of the Pegue river we ob- 
served, that at the entrance, it was nearly as wide as 
the great river; but that breadth soon diminishes to a 
very contracted space' several large creeks branched 
off both to the right and the left, which the pilot said 
were navigable to a considerable distance by boats of 
heavy burthen. In the evening we again weighed, and 
crossed the bar at midnight; early next morning we 
saw the landmark called the Elephant, and favoured 
by the ebb, passed the China Bakir river. The wind not 

being strong enough, when the tide turned, to enable 
us to stem the Hood, we again came to anchor, being 
in company with a ship named the Hope, bound also 
to Calcutta. On the 30th, we made Diamond Island 
and Cape Negrais, and next day at an early hour 
passed a ship standing towards Rangoon, which ap- 
peared to have suffered severely from a recent storm, 
having lost her main-top and fore-top-gallant masts; 
the wind was at this time north-north west, and a 
heavy swell from the same quarter, indicated that 
there had lately been a hard gale, a very unusual cir- 
cumstance at that season of the year. 

Keeping within a few leagues of the coast, we con- 
tinued to beat against a foul wind, until the 9th of De- 
cember, when we made Cheduba, a fertile island be- 
longing to the Birman government: the channel be- 
tween this island and the main, is annually navigated 
by large trading boats, but it does not afford a safe 
passage for shipping. The length of the island we 
judged to be about forty-five miles; it yields abun- 
dance of rice, and is governed by a Chekey or Lieu- 
tenant, who is subject to the Maywoon of Arracan. 
Having now the benefit of regular land and sea 
breezes, we were enabled to make some progress to 
the northward. On the morning of the 11th, we saw 
what are called the Broken Islands, on the coast of Ar- 
racan, which are for the most part a barren assemblage 
of rocky eminences, affording shelter only to pirates 
and thieves. On the 12th and 13th, we experienced 
much inconvenience, the wind, which was directly 
against us, blowing with such violence that the ship 
laboured greatly, and our fore-top-sail was torn from 
the yard. On the 14th, the weather moderated, and the 
wind veering a Httle to the eastward, we had the good 
fortune on the 16th to discover a pilot schooner at an- 
chor, between the eastern and western reefs near the 
mouth of the Ganges: neap tides prevailing, our pas- 
sage up the river was tedious, and the wind coming 
invariably from the northern quarter, rendered it haz- 
ardous to proceed by night. On the 22d, we reached 
Budge Budge, where I found a pulwar (a commodious 
kind of boat used in the river Ganges) waiting, which 
my friend. Captain Sandys, as soon as he heard of the 
arrival of the Sea Horse, had dispatched to meet me; at 
this place 1 quitted the ship, and in two hours reached 
Calcutta, after an eventful absence of ten months. 


SBBR VOL. 4, Issue 1 Spring 2006