Burmese Artifacts Added to the Memory of the World Register

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 12 October 2015

RANGOON — Burma is proud to have had two more artifacts included in the UN-established Memory of the World Register for 2015, Kyaw Oo Lwin, director general of the Ministry of Culture’s archeology department, told The Irrawaddy on Monday.

The Myazedi Inscription and the Golden Parchment of King Alaungpaya were added to the register at the 12th meeting of the International Advisory Committee of the Memory of the World Register Program, which took place Oct. 4-6 in Abu Dhabi.

The program was established by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) in 1992.

The committee approved a total of 47 out of 88 nominations in 2015, including the Bagan-period Myazedi Inscription, believed to date back to 1113, and the Golden Parchment of King Alaungpaya, the founder of the Konbaung Dynasty, which was jointly nominated by Burma’s Ministry of Culture, the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Library in Germany, and the British Library.

“While some may not see this recognition as carrying the same prestige as being included on the World Heritage list, we still see it as worldwide recognition of Burma’s value,” Kyaw Oo Lwin said.

The UN body previously accepted Mandalay’s Maha Lawkamarazein, also known as the Kuthodaw Inscriptions, to the register in June 2013. Considered the world’s largest book, the 729 stone slabs were placed at the foot of Mandalay Hill by King Mindon in the 19th Century.

The Myazedi Inscription, also called the Yazakumar Inscription or the Gubyaukgyi Inscription, is named after the Myazedi Pagoda in Myinkaba, a village south of Bagan in Mandalay Division.  Myazedi means “jade stupa” in Burmese.

Engraved on stone and supposedly made by Prince Yazakumar in honor of his father, King Kyansittha (1030-1112), the inscription reflects the prince’s fondness for his father, despite the fact he was overlooked for the throne in favor of the king’s grandson.

The inscription is written in four languages—Pali, Mon, Burmese and Pyu—and is important historical evidence of the diverse histories, cultures, and languages of Burma. There are two main stone inscriptions in Burma today, one at the Myazedi Pagoda and the other at the Bagan Archaeological Museum.

Professor Pe Maung Tin of Rangoon University translated the inscription from Mon to Burmese, and a doctor from London University translated it from Mon to English.

Though the Myazedi Inscription is often referred to as the oldest intact stone inscription in Burma, anther stone inscription believed to have been made by King Sawlu (1050–1084) and found in Mandalay’s Myittha Township in November 2013, may prove to be of similar antiquity.

The second nomination, the Golden Parchment, is a letter sent by King Alaungpaya to Britain’s King George in 1756. Made from pure gold, the parchment, which historians said conveys the Burmese king’s wish to build trade ties with Britain, arrived in London four years after it was sent.

The Golden Parchment is currently housed at Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Library in Hanover, Germany, where it has been kept for over 250 years. President Thein Sein viewed a 3D scan of the parchment during his visit to Germany last year. Another 3D copy of the parchment is located at the National Museum in Rangoon.

Burma’s Ministry of Culture plans to make further submissions to the Unesco program in the coming years.

“We’re preparing to submit another item for consideration in the register for 2017, King Bayinnaung’s 16th Century Bell located at Shwezigon Pagoda in Bagan,” Kyaw Oo Lwin said.

King Bayinnaung donated the bell to the famous pagoda in the 1500s. The bell’s inscription is written in three languages: Mon, Burmese, and Pali.

The Ministry of Culture’s archeology department is withholding submission of the bell to Unesco until it receives additional expert opinions.