Theses essay explores how Burma reached its peak of power and wealth during the late 10th through late 13th centuries when the Kingdom of Pagan reigned in much of contemporary Burma.
The Concise Essay first looks at the origins of the empire or kingdom – how founder-kings exploited favorable circumstances to their advantage. I then turn to an examination of sources of wealth and power in the ancient world – agriculture, foreign trade, and foreign conquest. I move on to means of control – political organization and religious persuasion – used by ruling elites to retain power and extract wealth from the masses. Next I examine causes of decline in Pagan – internal erosion of control followed by foreign incursions by competing enemies. I then summarize the key trends in the aftermath of Pagan's decline – how successful later groups were in holding on to power and creating wealth. At the end of the essay, I draw lessons for contemporary powers from the experiences of ancient empires and kingdoms.
The Complete Essay allows the reader to go more in-depth into Pagan's history. It is divided into three parts. This essay thus focuses principally on the rise and fall of Pagan. The first part of the essay considers ancient Burma before Pagan came into power. The purpose is to show how the Pyu people utilized Burma’s natural advantages to create a long-lasting kingdom and set the stage for the greatness of Pagan. The second section of the essay shows how the Burman people entered the scene, absorbed the Pyus, and formed the Kingdom of Pagan. The Pagan kings unified upper and lower Burma and expanded eastward within Southeast Asia. But Pagan fell apart because the tax-free, Theravada-Buddhist temple societies gained control of two-thirds of the rice-producing land and undercut the kingdom’s military strength. Pagan resisted the Mongol-Chinese invasion in the late 13th century, but the kingdom finally succumbed and splintered. The third and last part of this essay discusses what has happened in Burma during the past seven centuries, after Pagan fell. A time line, an annotated bibliography, and a description of sites visited in Burma are appended at the end of the essay.
River-boat based, Aboard the Paukan 2007, Rangoon (Yangon), Inle Lake, Pagan (Bagan), Irrawaddy River, Mandalay, Airplane-based, Putao, Burma