Burmah a kingdom (formerly called an empire) of Farther India. Before the English conquests in 1826, it included Burmah Proper, Cathay, Arracan, Pegu, Tenasserim, and the extensive country of the Shan tribes. By those conquests and the subsequent war of 1853 Arracan, Pegu, and Tenasserim, with the entire sea-coast of the country, have been incorporated into the British territory. The population of the entire country probably amounts to 9,250.000, and belongs to various tribes, among which the Burmans, the Karens, the Peguans or Talaings, and Shans are the principal.
I. Religion. — "Buddhism (q.v.) is the prevailing religion of Burmah, where it has been preserved in great purity. Its monuments, temples, pagodas, and monasteries are innumerable; its festivals are carefully observed, and its monastic system is fully established in every part of the kingdom. While directing the reader to the special article on BUDDHISM for an account of its doctrines, history, etc., we may here glance at its development, institutions, and edifices among the Burmans. The members of the monastic fraternity are known in Burmah as pon-gyees, meaning 'great glory;' but the Pali word is rahan, or holy man. The pon-gyees are not priests, in the usual acceptation of the term, but rather monks. Their religious ministrations are confined to sermons, and they do not interfere with the worship of the people. They are a very numerous class, living in monasteries, or kyoungs, and may at once be known by their yellow robes (the color of mourning), shaven heads, and bare feet. They subsist wholly by the charity of the people, which, however, they well repay by instructing the boys of the country. The kyoungs are thus converted into national schools. The vows of a pon-gyee include celibacy, poverty, and the renunciation of the world; but from these he may at any time be released and return to a secular life. Hence nearly every youth assumes the yellow robe for a time, as a meritorious act or for the purpose of study, and the ceremony of making a pon-gyee is one of great importance. The ostensible object of the brotherhood is the more perfect observance of the laws of Buddha. The order is composed of five classes-viz., young men who wear the yellow robe and live in the kyoungs, but are not professed members; those on whom the title and character of pon-gyees have been solemnly conferred with the usual ceremonies; the heads or governors of the several communities; provincials, whose jurisdiction extends over their respective provinces; and, lastly, a superior general. or great master, who directs the affairs of the order throughout the empire. No provision is made for religion by the government, but it meets with liberal support from the people. A pongyee is held in profound veneration; his person is sacred, and he is addressed by the lordly title of pra or phra; nor does this reverence terminate with his death. On the decease of a distinguished member his body is embalmed, while his limbs are swathed in linen, varnished, and even gilded. The mummy is then placed on a highly-decorated cenotaph, and preserved, sometimes for months, until the grand day of funeral. The Burman rites of cremation are very remarkable, but we cannot here enlarge upon them. On the whole, a favorable opinion may be passed on the monastic fraternity of Burmah; although abuses have crept in, discipline is more lax than formerly, and many doubtless assume the yellow robe from unworthy motives. In Burmah, the last Buddha is worshipped under the name of Gotama. His images crowd the temples, and many are of a gigantic size. The days of worship are at the new and full moon, and seven days after each; but the whole time, from the full moon of July to the full moon of October, is devoted by the Burmans to a stricter observance of the ceremonies of their religion. During the latter month several religious festivals take place, which are so many social gatherings and occasions for grand displays of dress, dancing, music, and feasting. At such times barges full of gayly dressed people, the women dancing to the monotonous dissonance of a Burman band, may be seen gliding along the rivers to some shrine of peculiar sanctity. The worship on these occasions has been described by an eye-witness, in 1857, as follows: 'Arrived at the pagodas and temples, the people suddenly turn from pleasure to devotion. Men bearing ornamental paper umbrellas, fruits, flowers, and other offerings, crowd the image-houses, present their gifts to the favorite idol, make their shek-he, and say their prayers with all dispatch. Others are gluing more gold-leaf on the face of the image, or saluting him with crackers, the explosion of which in nowise interferes with the serenity of the worshippers. The women for the most part remain outside, kneeling on the sward, just at the entrance of the temple, where a view can be obtained of the image within.' On another occasion we read: 'The principal temple, being under repair, was much crowded by bamboo scaffolding, and new pillars were being put up, each bearing an inscription with the name of the donor... The umbrellas brought as offerings were so numerous that one could with difficulty thread a passage through them. Some were pure white, others white and gold, while many boasted all the colors of the rainbow. They were made of paper, beautifully cut into various patterns. There were numerous altars and images, and numberless little Gotamas; but a deep niche or cave, at the far end of which was a fat idol, with a yellow cloth wrapped round him, seemed a place of peculiar sanctity. This recess would have been quite dark had it not been for the numberless tapers of yellow wax that were burning before the image. The closeness of the place, the smoke from the candles, and the fumes from the quantity of crackers constantly being let off, rendered respiration almost impossible. An old pon-gyee, however, the only one I ever saw in a temple, seemed quite in his element, his shaven bristly head and coarse features looking ugly enough to serve for some favorite idol, and he seemed a fitting embodiment of so senseless and degrading a worship. Offerings of flowers, paper ornaments, flags, and candles were scattered about in profusion. The beating a bell with a deer's horn, the explosion of crackers, and the rapid muttering of prayers, made up a din of sounds, the suitable accompaniment of so misdirected a devotion. The rosary is in general use, and the Pali words Aneitya! doka! anatta! expressing the transitory nature of all sublunary things, are very often repeated. The Burman is singularly free from fanaticism in the exercise of his religion, and his most sacred temples may be freely entered by the stranger without offense; indeed, the impartial observer will hardly fail to admit that Buddhism, in the absence of a purer creed, possesses considerable influence for good in the country under consideration. Reciprocal kindnesses are promoted, and even the system of merit and demerit-the one leading to the perfect state of nirvana, the other punishing by a degrading metempsychosis-has no doubt some moral effect. The religious edifices are of three kinds:
1. The pagoda (Zadee or Tsa-dee), a monument erected to the last Buddha, is a solid, bell-shaped mass of plastered brickwork, tapering to the summit, which is crowned by the tee, or umbrella, of open iron-work.
2. The temple, in which are many images of Gotama. The most remarkable specimen of Burman temple-architecture is the Ananda of Pagan. The ground-plan takes the form of a perfect Greek cross, and a tapering spire, with a gilded tee at the height of 168 feet from the foundation, crowns the whole.
3. The kyoung is generally constructed with a roof of several diminishing stages, and is often adorned with elaborate carved work and gilding. Burman architecture 'differs essentially from that of India in the frequent use of the pointed arch, not only for doors and windows, but also in the vaulted coverings of passages.' The civilization of Burmah, if not retrograde-which the ruins of Pagan would almost seem to indicate-is stationary and stereotyped, like that of China. All the wealth of the country is lavished on religious edifices, £10,000 sterling being sometimes expended on the gilding and beautifying of a single pagoda or temple, while roads, bridges, and works of public utility are neglected. The vernacular tongue of Burmah belongs to the monosyllabic class of languages, and is without inflection; the character is formed of circles and segments of circles. It is engraved on prepared strips of palm-leaf, and a number of these form a book. Printing is unknown, except where introduced by missionaries. Pali is the language of the religious literature" (Chambers, Encyclopaedia, s.v.).
II. Missions. — Burmah has become in the nineteenth century the seat of one of the most flourishing Protestant missions. In 1813 the Rev. Adoniram Judson (q.v.), an American Baptist missionary at Rangoon, published a tract and a catechism in the Burman language, and translated the Gospel of Matthew. In 1819 he baptized and received into the mission church the first Burman convert, Moung Nan. In the winter of the same year he went to Amarapura (or Ummerapoora), the seat of the imperial government, to obtain, if possible, toleration for the Christian religion, but his petition was contemptuously rejected. The arrival of Dr. Price, a physician as well as a minister, procured to him and Dr. Price an invitation from the king to reside at Ava. The war between Burmah and England (1824 to 1826) led to the conquest of a considerable part of Burmah by England. This part became the center of the Burman mission, though a little church was maintained at Rangoon. In 1828 the first convert from the tribe of the Karens, who are found in great numbers in all parts of Burmah and the neighboring kingdom of Siam, was baptized. A Karen mission was thus founded, which has outgrown in extent the mission to the Burman tribe, and whose success has scarcely been equalled by any other of modern times. The Karen language at this time had not been reduced to writing, and one of the missionaries, Mr. Wade, undertook in 1832 to make an alphabet of its elemental sounds, to compile a spelling-book, and to translate two or three of the tracts already printed in Burman into the Karen language. In 1832 there were fourteen American missionaries in Burmah, and the reception of two additional printing-presses, with a large font of types and the materials for a type foundry, enabled them to print tracts and portions of the Scriptures in the Burman, the Karen, and the Talaing or Peguan languages. In 1834 Mr. Judson completed his Burman translation of the Bible, which was carefully revised by him, and published as revised in 1840. The successful attempt to unite the scattered Karens into compact villages greatly advanced the prosperity of the mission. In Burmah Proper a new persecution broke out against the Christian Karens in 1843, and many of them sought refuge in the British possessions. Attempts have been repeatedly made by the missionaries to obtain a permanent footing in Burmah Proper, or at least to secure toleration, but without success. In the British part of Burmah the work was very prosperous. Mr. Abbott, on his return from the United States in 1847, was met by thirty-three native preachers, who reported not less than 1200 converts in their several districts. In 1851 the missionaries received marks of the royal favor, and were allowed to commence a mission at Ava, which was interrupted by the war between Burmah and Great Britain in 1852. On December 20, 1852, the entire southern portion of Burmah, including the ancient province of Pegu, was incorporated with British India, and thus laid open to the free influence of Christianity. The missions in Burmah, till recently, were maintained by the American Baptist Missionary Union. In 1853 a deputation from the Union visited Burmah, and eventually some differences arose respecting the measures then adopted, and the reports subsequently made in America, the result of which was that some missionaries broke off their connection with the Baptist Union. They were, in 1866, in connection with the "American Baptist Free Mission Society." In 1859 the American missionaries were again invited by the king to come and live with him. Commissioner Phayre, of Pegu, in the same year stated in a report to the government of India that of the Karens, whose number he estimates at about 50,000, over 20,000 souls are either professed Christians, or under Christian instruction and influence. At the 50th annual meeting of the Missionary Union, held in 1864 in Philadelphia, a paper was read on the "Retrospective and Prospective Aspects of the Missions," in which was suggested as among the agencies of the future the formation of a general convention for Burmah, corresponding with similar associations in the United States, the body to be without disciplinary power, purely missionary in its character, to which should at once be transferred the responsibility and care of many details hitherto devolved on the executive committee; the membership to be made up of the missionaries and delegates from native churches and local associations, the latter being much more numerous than the former, and occupying a prominent place in its transactions, the avowed object and aim being to form on the field an agency that should in time assume the sole responsibility of evangelizing the country. The proposal received the cordial indorsement of the Missionary Union, and the executive committee accordingly addressed a circular to the missionaries, recommending the formation of a Burmah Association. Circumstances occurred which delayed the meeting of the missionaries and native helpers until Oct. 15,1865, when it assembled in Rangoon. Nearly all the American missionaries (including three not connected with the Missionary Union) were present, together with seventy native preachers and "elders." The Constitution adopted for permanent organization is as follows:
Preamble. — We, Christians of various races residing in British Burmah and now assembled in Rangoon, in gratitude to our Redeemer for his saving grace, in obedience to his last commission to his Church to preach the Gospel to every creature, and with unfeigned love and compassion to our fellowmen, yet ignorant of the Gospel, do now, in humble reliance upon the promised grace of Christ, form ourselves into a society for the more effectual advancement of his kingdom in this land; and for this purpose we unite in adopting the following Constitution:
Art. I. This society shall be called the Burmah Baptist Missionary Convention.
Art. II. All missionaries, ordained ministers, and authorized preachers of the Gospel, who are in the fellowship of our de. nomination, and who agree to this Constitution, shall be members of the Convention, together with such lay delegates as may be appointed by the churches, in the ratio of one delegate to each church, with an additional delegate for every fifty members.
Art. III. The object of this Convention shall be to strengthen and unite the Baptist churches of Burmah in mutual love and the Christian faith, and to extend the work of evangelization to all regions within our reach which do not receive the Gospel from other agencies.
Art. IV. The attainment of this twofold object shall be sought by the personal intercourse of Christians representing our churches; by the collection of reports and statistics setting forth the state of the churches and the results of Christian labor in Burmah; by united representations to Christians in this and other lands of the religious and educational wants of the various races and sections of Burmah; and, lastly, by calling forth and combining the prayers and efforts of all the native Christians in the common object of saving their brethren, the heathen, from sin and everlasting death by the Gospel.
Art. V. This Convention shall assume no ecclesiastical or disciplinary power.
Art. VI. Moneys which may at any time be confided to the disposal of this Convention shall be faithfully applied in accordance with the objects of the Convention and the expressed wishes of the donors.
Art. VII. The officers of this Convention shall be a president, four vice-presidents, recording and corresponding secretaries, and a treasurer, who, together with twelve other members, shall be a committee of management to conduct the affairs of the Convention in the intervals of its regular meetings. Seven members of the Convention present at any meeting regularly called by the chairman and one of the secretaries shall be a quorum for the transaction of business.
Art VIII. This Convention shall meet annually, at such time and place as it shall appoint, for prayer, conference, and preaching, with special reference to the objects of the Convention, and for the transaction of its business. At these meetings the committee of management shall present a faithful report of their doings during the previous year, and officers shall be elected and all needful arrangements made for the year ensuing.
Art. IX. The recording secretaries shall keep a faithful record of the proceedings at the annual meeting. The corresponding secretaries shall record the doings of the committee at their meetings, conduct the correspondence of the committee, and preserve copies of important letters.
Art. X. This Constitution maybe amended by a vote of two thirds of the members present at any annual meeting of the Convention, notice of the proposed change having been given at a previous annual meeting.
President, Rev. C. Bennett; Vice-presidents, Rev. J. S. Beecher, Syah Ko En, Thrah Quala, Thrah Po Kway; Recording Secretaries, English, Rev. C. II. Carpenter; Burmese, Ko Yacob; Karen,Thrall Tay; Corresponding Secretary, Rev. A. T. Rose; Treasurer, Rev. D. L. Brayton; Committee; Rev. E. A. Stevens, D. I., Rev. D. A. W. Smith, Thrah Sah Mai, Rev. J. L. Douglass, Rev. B. C. Thomas, Thrah Thah Oo, Thralh Pah Poo, Ko Too, Syah Ko Shway A, Ko Aing, Shway Noo, Moung O.
(a.) Missionary. — In that part of Burmah now under British rule there were formerly nine different missions. They have now been consolidated into five.
1. The Maulmain Burman Mission had, in 1889, 50 missionaries, 18 men and 32 women (including wives of missionaries; 14 ordained and 44 unordained native preachers, 23 churches, 1977 members; 287 were baptized in 1888.
2. The Maulmain Karen Mission had, in 1889, 54 missionaries, 17 men and 37 women; 110 ordained and 335 unordained native preachers, 487 churches, 27,627 members; 1584 baptized in 1888.
3. The Shan Mission, begun in 1861, had, in 1889, 7 missionaries, 2 men and 5 women; 7 unordained native preachers, 2 churches, 53 members; 4 baptized in 1888.
4. The Kachin Mission had 6 missionaries, 2 men and 4 women; 1 ordained and 3 unordained native preachers, 1 church, 44 members; 5 baptized in 1888.
5. The Chin Mission had 6 missionaries, 2 men and 4 women; 2 ordained and 11 unordained native preachers, 8 churches, 251 members; 32 were baptized in 1888.
(b.) Educational. —
1. There is at Rangoon a Karen Theological Seminary; also the Rangoon Baptist College is located here. The Women's Baptist Foreign Missionary Society has here a girls' boarding-school with 160 pupils, and 3 day schools with 158 pupils. At Maulmain they have a girls' school with 110 pupils, and a boys' school with 170 pupils. At Thongze there is a girls' school with 74 pupils; at Prome there are 3 schools with 225 pupils; at Zigon 3 schools with 112 pupils; at Henthada 1 school with 30 pupils; at Waukema 40 pupils; at Mandalay 1 boarding and day school with 85 pupils; at Pegu 1 school with 25 pupils; at Myingyan 1 school with 45 pupils; at Sagaing 2 schools with 17 pupils.
2. Among the Karens there is a boarding-school at Bassein, Sgau Karen, with 351 pupils; at Tavoy one with 102 pupils; at Rangoon a boarding- school with 173 pupils; at Maubin, Pwo Karen, a boarding and day school with 81 pupils; at Toungoo, Red Karen, 1 school with 5 pupils; at Thatone 2 schools and 57 pupils.
3. Among the Shans there is a school at Toungoo with 51 pupils, and another at Thatone with 30 pupils.
4. Among the Chins there is a school at Sandoway with 50 pupils; another at Bhamo, Kachin, with 28 pupils.
There is also a girls' boarding and day school for Eurasians at Maulmain, with 42 pupils; another is located at Rangoon and has 65 pupils.
The census of 1881 showed that 61 per cent. of the males in Lower Burmah above the age of twelve could read and write. Later statistics show that there are 16 training and technical schools, 1 college, 70 secondary schools, and 5325 primary schools, chiefly monastic, with a total enrollment of 158,932.
(c.) Special. — In the earlier history of these missions a great confusion was caused by the peculiar teachings of one of the American missionaries, Mrs. Mason, which were supported by her husband, Rev. Dr. Mason, but emphatically repudiated by the Missionary Union. The result was a division in many, if not most of the churches, the majority in some instances taking sides with one party, and in other instances with the other.
In 1886 Burmah was entered by the Methodist Episcopal Church. There is now at Rangoon (1888) an English Church with 35 members, and a native church with 40 members, and property valued at $16,333.
Burmah was entered by the Wesleyan Missionary Society in 1887, Mandalay being chosen as the center of operations. A vernacular and English school has been established.
The Leipsic Evangelical Lutheran Missionary Society has a mission at Rangoon.
The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel entered Burmah in 1868. It now has a bishop at Rangoon, for which the society contributed toward the endowment of the see £2000. The work is largely educational.
In 1874 Mr. W. C. Baily, together with friends in Dublin. organized a mission to the lepers of India. Its work extends into Burmah also.
A Danish Lutheran Mission to the Karens of Burmah was commenced in 1884 by Hans Poulsen and H. J. Jensen. At first they opened a station at Yaddu, near Taung-ngu; but, wishing to go to those not yet evangelized, they went among the Red Karens, beginning work at Pobja, the residence of the chief. Here Mr. Poulsen died in 1886: the sister of Mr. Jensen in 1887; Mr. Jensen himself in 1888. Mr. Knudsen, who had joined the mission in 1886, has been compelled by ill-health to return to Taung-ngu, where Miss A. Gehlert, who went out in 1887, is laboring among the women and children.
The Hudson Taylor's China Inland Mission has a station at Bhamo, in Upper Burmah.
A new Burman Bible has been printed (1888), a revision of the translation of Dr. Judson. There is also a version of the Bible in the Karen and Shan languages..
See Mrs. Wylie, The Gospel in Burmah (N. Y. 1860, 8vo); Reports of Baptist Missionary Union; Missionary Year-book for 1889; Fytche, Burma, Past and Present (1878); Scott, The Burman, His Life and Notions (1882); Burma as it Was, Is, and Will Be (1886). Comp. INDIA.