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(Broadcast talk in Czechoslovakia and Romania)

Burma's Cultural Relations with Foreign countries, past and present.

U Tha Myat

Director of Culture, Burma

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Vol. III, No. 3, 1958

          1. It is a well-known fact that Burmese culture throughout history has been enriched by both India and China. Existence of cultural ties between India and Burma, can be traced as far back as the life-time of King Asoka. The two arahats (saints) Sona and Uttara's mission to Suvarnbhumi (Thaton) in 241 B.C., sent by the Third Buddhist Council of Pataliputra, the similarity of the Kadamba script and the Pyu script of the 5th century A D..,the suggestion by Buddhist remains excavated round about old Prorne and Pagan of the existence of Mahayanist, Theravadin and Brahmanical influences on art and architecture of those days and the influence of Buddhist Tripitakas and of Vedic treatises on the literature of Burma, point out to the extent of cultural relations between Burma and India. Owing to historical accidents such as invasions and foreign dominations, a hiatus is often caused in the trend of our traditional civilization; but even in spite of the fact, Burma continues to drink deep the fountain of wisdom of modern India, inspired by the works of' Dr. Rabindranath Tagore.

          2. In the same ways, cultural relations between Ceylon and Burma are also very close and deep. Cultural contacts were maintained by the Mon Kings of Burma in the 10th and 11th Century AD. In the 12th Century A.D. during the reign of Parakama Bahu, the great, a Ceylonese monk by the name or Sumangala Sami, wrote a commentary on Anuruddha's "Abhidhammattha Sangaha ". This commentary was subsequently introduced into Burma. During the Ava period, it was translated and annotated by a Burmese monk in the interest of Buddhist scholars in Burma. It now goes by the name of "Tikakyaw". In the beginning of the 13th century A.D., a Mon monk by the name of Sariputra, of Dalla compiled the "Dhammavilasa Dhammasat " inspired by Ceylonese treatises on ethical and juridical subjects. These are, but a few of the numerous incidents in the history of Ceylon-Burma cultural relations.

          3. In regard to Thailand, Burma's cultural affinity with her is quite apparent in the Yodaya songs and dance of the Burmese, believed to be introduced in the 18th century from Ayuthia. In the Buddhist religious observances, Burma and Thailand are almost the same. The dominance of Khmer architectural style in Mon pagodas also suggest close affinity not only with the Khmer people but also with the people of Malaya and Indonesia.

         4. During the Srikshettara or Pyu period, Burma was known to China. The chronicles of the Tang Dynasty (A.D. 606-910) describe Burma as containing eighteen states and nine walled towns. I - mon - hsun, Kolofeng's grandson and successor, sent a present of Pyu musicians to the Tang Court in 800 A.D. In 801-2, a Pyu King sent a formal embassy, accompanied by thirty-five musicians, to China via Nanchao. Chinese interest in the Pyu was stimulated, and the Tang History contains a graphic account of the Pyu capital and its inhabitants. The Pyu artists gave a performance of singing and dancing accompanied by Pyu musical insturments, which formed the subject of a poem by the well-known Chinese poet, Pochu-i. Ethnologically, the Burmese and the Chinese came from a common stock. Although the evidence of cultural links between Burma and China cannot be brought forth in a more materialistic sense just as India can bring forth with her sculptural and architectural styles adopted in Burma, the existence of cultural relations between the two countries can be seen. The ritualism observed in building a new city, together with its city walls and moats suggest Burmese affinity with the ancient Chinese. During the years 1955 and 1956, Burma had mutual cultural exchanges with China and Thailand.

          With regard to European countries, Soviet Russia, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia had very successful cultural relations with Burma, during the years 1955, 1956 and 1957.

         The world once divided by oceans and continents, is today united physically, but is divided in mind and spirit. We are compelled to live together and let us act in the hope that we will live together as friends. Whatever our differences may be, we are concerned to know each other, and let us act in the spirit of the Cultural Missions as well. Every form of human intercourse is rendered possible. sWe may be Burman, we may be Chinese, we may be American, we may be Romanian, but we are essentially human beings. Let us not overlook that fundamental fact. Thank you.