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Adventus Amicorum (15) – Sino-Burmese People-to-People Exchange


The 15th lecture of the “Adventus Amicorum” salon series, “Sino-Burmese People-to-People Exchange,” was held by the Institute of Area Studies, Peking University (PKUIAS) on December 19, 2023. Li Zuqing, a member of the Advisory Committee of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council (tasked with Chinese language education) and the principal of Mandalay’s Fuqing School in Myanmar, gave a lecture at the salon. The event was moderated by Zhang Tian, a postdoctoral fellow at PKUIAS. Zhai Kun, deputy director of PKUIAS and a professor at PKU’s School of International Studies; Zhao Jin, associate professor at the School of Asian Studies, Beijing Foreign Studies University; and Song Qingrun, professor at the School of Asian Studies, Beijing Foreign Studies University, participated in the discussion.

Li Zuqing began by recounting the history of the origin of the Bamar people. The relationship between China and Myanmar is inextricably linked and has a long history, which can be traced back to the origin of the Bamar people thousands of years ago. Dr. Than Tun, a Burmese historian, has argued that the original Bamar people originated in the “Tiao River” basin in Gansu, northwest China. They later migrated to the Salween River and Mekong River basins in Yunnan, and some migrated to the Shan Plateau in northern Myanmar in the early 8th century. Li Zuqing mentioned there are two theories about the origin of the Bamar (Burmese) people: one suggests that their origin is in Ta gaung, whereas the other suggests Kyaukse. The second theory proposes that the Barma settled in Kyaukse, in central Myanmar. They then built irrigation systems, developed agriculture, and eventually established the city of Bagan (also spelled Pagan) around the year 850 AD.

Li Zuqing then reviewed the rise and fall of Myanmar’s dynastic history. In the mid-11th century, King Anawrahta (1044–1077) unified Myanmar and established the first dynasty in Myanmar, the Pagan Kingdom.

At the end of the 13th century, the Pagan Kingdom fell as a result of Mongol invasions, leading to the fragmentation of Myanmar once again. In the year 1364, the Bamar people re-established their capital at Inwa. They were then faced with multiple external threats, such as from the Shan people in the north, the Mon people in the south, and Siam. Later, King Bayinnaung (1551–1581) unified Myanmar again and established its second dynasty, the Toungoo dynasty, which at its peak expanded to cover Siam, Laos, Bangladesh, and Manipur (in India). The dynasty fell in 1752 due to the invasion by the Mon-led Pegu (Hanthawaddy) polity, which was supported by the French based in India.

Subsequently, King Alaungpaya (1752–1760) established the Konbaung dynasty, the third dynasty in Myanmar. Toward the end of the dynasty, the capital was eventually moved to Mandalay, a city on the east bank of the Irrawaddy River, to better defend from British invasion from the sea. After three Anglo-Burmese wars, Myanmar finally became a British colony. Finally, Li Zuqing commented on the demises of the three Myanmar dynasties and pointed out that all of these dynasties’ downfalls were closely related to external polities. These historical experiences caused trauma for the relatively “weak” Myanmar, so much so that a defensive way of self-protection in times of crisis became a tendency toward exclusion and xenophobia.

The attending experts engaged in lively discussions on the history, current affairs, and the political future of Myanmar. Zhai Kun welcomed Li Zuqing’s arrival and said that his lecture had inspired a significant number of young scholars who were passionate about Myanmar, dedicated to Myanmar studies, and eager to gain a comprehensive understanding of the country. Zhao Jin compared the development of relations between the main ethnic groups and minority ethnic groups in China to that in Myanmar and discussed the historical and ethnic perspectives of Myanmar’s ethnic groups. Song Qingrun exchanged thoughts with Li Zuqing on the future political direction of Myanmar. Li Zuqing also engaged in a Q&A session with the students attending the lecture on various issues related to the current state of education and teaching in Myanmar, economic development trends, and more.