Friday, April 27, 2012

Italy, Burma to cooperate on Bagan, Pyu preservation

Friday, 27 April 2012 13:51 Mizzima News

(Mizzima) – The Burmese cultural heritage sites of Bagan and Pyu will be the focus of cultural preservation in a cooperative agreement between Burma and Italy, official media reported on Friday.

Oxen and wagons near the Bagan cultural heritage site in central Burma. Photo: Mizzima

The capacity building program will be funded with Italy's assistance under the supervision of UNESCO.

Burma Information and Culture Minister Kyaw Hsan and Italian Foreign Minister Giuliomaria Terzi this week discussed increased cooperation, training for human resources development in burmaand further cooperation in the cultural and information sectors, said the New Light of Myanmar, the state-run newspaper.

The capacity building programs will cover three sectors: on-job training to draw up management plans for safeguarding sites of cultural heritage in ancient Pyu and Bagan, cultural heritage data management with the application of geography information systems, and policy and technological assistance.

Burmese officials recently nominated three Pyu city-states – Beikthano, Hanlin and Sri Kestra – to the world heritage list. Evidence including Pondaung and Ponnya Primates have been found in Burma showing the country's rich cultural heritage and evolution through the Stone Age, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age.

The Pyu culture is represented in archeological sites in three ancient Pyu city states, cultural officials said.

The Myazedi inscription c. 1112–1113 from the Pyu culture. Photo: Wikipedia

The Pyu city-states never unified into a Pyu kingdom, but the most powerful city by far was Sri Ksetra, which archaeological evidence indicates was the largest city that has ever been built in Burma. The exact date of its founding is not known, though likely to be prior to a dynastic change in A.D. 94 that Pyu chronicles speak of, according to the website.

The Pyu arrived in Burma in the 1st century BC and established city kingdoms. During this period, Burma was part of an overland trade route from China to India. In 97 and 121 AD, Roman embassies to China chose the overland route through Burma for their journey. The Pyu, however, provided an alternative route down the Irrawaddy to Shri Ksetra and then by sea westward to India and eastward to Southeast Asia.

Chinese historical sources state that the Pyu controlled 18 kingdoms and describe them as a humane and peaceful people, and note the elegance and grace of Pyu life. War was virtually unknown amongst the Pyu, and disputes were often solved through duels by champions or building competitions. They wore silk cotton instead of actual silk so they would not have to kill silk worms.

Bagan was founded in the mid-to-late 9th century. It was among several competing Pyu city-states until the late 10th century when the Burman settlement grew in authority and grandeur.

From 1044 to 1287, Bagan was the capital as well as the political, economic and cultural nerve center of the Pagan Empire.

Over the course of 250 years, Bagan's rulers and their wealthy subjects constructed over 10,000 religious monuments (approximately 1000 stupas, 10,000 small temples and 3000 monasteries) in an area of 104 square kilometres (40 sq mi) on the Bagan plains. The prosperous city grew in size and grandeur, and became a cosmopolitan center for religious and secular studies, specializing in Pali scholarship in grammar and philosophical-psychological (abhidhamma) studies. The city attracted monks and students from as far as India, Ceylon as well as the Khmer Empire.

Burma and the UNESCO held a meeting recently on capacity building to safeguard cultural heritage and to nominate the Pyu ancient cities.

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