ELIG Ills. The Burmese are the practical Buddhists of the world, their religion being of the Southern (Ceylonese) or purer variety, which most elosely approximates the original form taught by Gautama. Even the Siamese are lax in comparison to the Burmese. Burma, isolated geographically between the mountains and the ocean, has remained, since the Fifth Century, thoroughly imbued with Buddhism. It has been their great teaeher and eivilizer, stimulating the growth of a folk-lore and a na tional literature. It has prevented caste, and has covered the settled part of the country with temples, shrines, and monasteries, the latter being well organized. Theoretically, every boy in the country, while at the tenifilit school, be comes a monk, though he is not bound by vows to remain. Tolerant and free from fanaticism, as well as from blood feuds, the Bnrmans show the blessings of the gentle teachings of the purer Buddhism. In sacred edifices the country is very rich; the tope. dagoba, or shrine is a solid mass of brickwork, shaped like a bell and crowned by an umbrellalike open ironwork. The temples contain many images of the En lightened One, or Gautama, the Buddha of his tory; and the people never tire of plastering these images over with gold-leaf. The temples bristle on the sides and top with pointed pro jections which are usually gilded. The most famous temple in the country is in Pagan, a city founded A.D. 100. It flourished about A.D. 1000. and later fell into decay. its ruins cover ing nearly eight square miles. A tremendous expense was incurred in temple-building. At every shrine great bell, are hung by metal clasps of rich design. At Alingnm, near Alan dalay. the hell, cast in 1790, weighs SS tons. It is 17 feet in diameter. and the metal is lti inches thick. The monastery buildings have roofs of several diminishing stages, elaborately adorned, but the special feature of Burman architecture is the pointed arch, used not only for doors and windows, hut. also in the vaulted coverings of passages. The ancient temples of Pagan con sisted almost entirely of brick corridors, one within the other, with vaulted tent roofs, of masonry springing from the outer or lower wall to the inner or higher. Among the non-Bud dhist tribes, spirit, nature, or demon worship prevails in more or less degrading form.
The early history of Burma is mythical and obscure. As i, the case with many other peo ples, the legendary accounts, preserved in old chronicles of the country, seem to point to an early immigration of the dominant race. It is
supposed that the ancestors of the modern Bur mese came from the Indian Highlands, on the northwest, at a period from 2000 to 2500 years ago; entered the valley of the Irrawaddy, the great river highway along which the whole his tory of Burma has been enacted; conquered the Alongoloid peoples then inhabiting the country. and gradually built up a new State. Tagoung, on the Cpper Irrawaddy, the ruins of which still remain, is reputed to have been founded about if.c. SOO. In the Eleventh Century A.D. Pagan. in Central Burmall, was the seat of power; its kings consolidated the country, and conquered the land of feign on the south. The power of Pagan declined through the decadence of its rulers, and received a fatal blow from the as sault of the Alongols, in the time of Kublai Khan. The Fourteenth Century saw the rise of the power of the rulers of Ava, the new centre of the kingdom, and the beginning of the long rivalry between Ava, the northern kingdom, and Pegu, in the south. The chronicles of the Kings of Ava claim for them descent from early Buddhist rulers in India, even going back to Gautama himself. The power of Ava reached its zenith in the Fifteenth Century, when the history of the country becomes clearer through the accounts of Portuguese and other Euro pean traders, who entered the country and de scribed its conditions. The supremacy passed temporarily from the Burmans to a line of kings from the Shan tribes on the Siamese border; but in 1580 the southern Kingdom of Pegu became dominant over all Burma. The Peguan suprem acy continued until 1752, but during the last century of this period there was a steady de cline of the Burmese power. The French and English, meanwhile, secured a foothold in the Irrawaddy delta. In 175• Alaunghpra, or Alom pra• the energetic war•ionehief of a village of Ava, headed a rising, overthrew the dominion of Pegu, and reorganized the Burmese Empire. He founded Rangoon (17551, the commercial centre of Burma. Troubles began in his reign with the English East India Company, which had established a factory in Burmese territory. Alompra died in 1760, during an invasion of Siam. The dynasty which he founded degener ated rapidly through intermarriage among its members. With one exception, Alindohn Alin t1S52-78), the successsors of .Alompra were bloodthirsty and tyrannical.