IV. The Early Modern Period, 1500–1800 > D. South and Southeast Asia, 1500–1800 > 3. Mainland Southeast Asia, 1500–1800
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
(See 1287)
3. Mainland Southeast Asia, 1500–1800
a. Burma
Heritage of ethnic fragmentation complicated rivalry between developing religious and political centers. While the prestige of Mon capital at Pegu was on the rise following the revival of Mon strength in the 15th century (including a renewed patronage of Buddhism), the center of Burman power, Ava, steadily declined as it found itself the target of repeated raids by various Shan tribal groups. The early 16th century witnessed downward Shan pressure, reflecting the development of a greater cohesiveness and a hierarchical society among the Shan tribal groups leading to a process of expansion into more desirable lowland areas.  1
Result was an increasing cultural homogeneity achieved in this period, beginning with policies of first Toungoo kings in the 16th century and continued in 17th and 18th, especially through integration of Shans and Mons into a Burman-dominated polity. Maritime trade played a reduced role when the capital was moved inland, but monetization of the economy continued throughout the 18th century.  2
Following the arrival during the 15th century of a few European travelers (Nicolo di Conti, c. 1435), the Portuguese by treaty secured trading privileges at Martaban, and an increasing portion of the foreign trade was conducted by Europeans.  3
By 1527
Ava was under Shan control, with the killing of the Burmese king and the installation of a Shan prince on the throne. This led to the flight of Burman refugees southward to Toungoo, which was situated on the Sittang River.  4
R. 1531–50
Tabinshwehti founded new Burman dynasty originating at Toungoo. His goal was to establish a centralized state in the Irrawaddy basin.  5
Late 1530s
He made successful attacks on the Mon capital of Pegu.  6
By 1539
He captured Pegu.  7
Tabinshwehti crowned king of Lower Burma.  8
He extended his power northward to Pagan and assumed the title King of All Burma. With Portuguese mercenaries he attacked unsuccessfully both Arakan to the west and Siam to the east. (The Portuguese had secured trading privileges in Martaban in 1519, and Europeans were increasing their involvement in foreign trade.)  9
Late 1540s
Tabinshwehti launched attacks on Martaban.  10
R. 1551–81
Bayinnaung, successor to Tabinshwehti. Acted as a model Buddhist king: building and repairing pagodas and monasteries, ordaining and feeding monks, and distributing copies of the Tipitaka (the Buddhist scriptures). By bringing Mon princesses into the palace and taking Mon chiefs as brothers, Bayinnaung sought to resolve the longstanding Burman-Mon rivalry. In the tradition of great Burmese kings, he exchanged missions with China, Bengal, Sri Lanka, and Portuguese Goa, reflecting his vision of a Burmese role in a wide diplomatic world. Bayinnaung himself launched ships on commercial voyages. He promoted commerce by appointing officials to supervise merchant shipping, by standardizing weights and measures, and by collecting and collating laws and judicial decisions. His was an exceptional rule because he was able to extend his overlordship over such a great distance from Pegu, his capital, into areas like Lan Sang, which had never before been under Burmese control.  11
By Late 1550s
Bayinnaung's overlordship accepted by most Shan states.  12
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.