Delving through the Mandalay Cultural Museum

Though many of the museums in Myanmar have suffered from decades of neglect and underfunding, Mandalay Cultural Museum does hold a few literary gems. The Yadanabon Gazette: In 1854 Mandalay, King Mindon, a reformer of sorts and fully aware of the technological superiority of the invading British Forces to the south, commissioned the first Burmese language newspaper, the Yadanabon Gazette …

An American owned printing press was sailed up the Irrawaddy and supervised, appropriately enough, by Ahee, the Kings Messenger. The Mandalay Museums copy is a very early edition still in great condition.

A Letter of Two Sentences:  When a royal government minister issued a formal order relating to the affairs of the country, the order would be written on a two-foot long bamboo peisa and delivered to district governors.  To foil would be forgers spreading fake news, the order would be written in two sentences, proof of its authenticity, for in Monarchical Myanmar only a Minister was allowed to write in two sentences.  A single sentence was the special reserve of the King himself.  The museums Letter of Two Sentences is housed in a long glass case on the first floor, unfortunately (at least when I last visited) without an explanation of what the letter commanded.

Sadaik:  Burmese texts, usually religious in content, would be inscribed on layered sheets of stripped bamboo woven together to form a threaded book or parabeik.  The manuscripts would be stored in wooden, lacquered sadaiks (literally a manuscript chest or any receptacle big or small that could contain papers the modern Burmese word for post office is sadaik gyi : big manuscript chest.)  The sadaiks come in a multitude of shapes and sizes and the Mandalay museum has one of the best public collections in the country.  My personal favourite is the two by two foot mythological chinthe (body of a dragon, head of a lion) where the elongated back opens up to a hollow insides where the manuscripts would be stored.

Address: 80 St, Between 24 and 25 St, Aung Myay Thar Zan Township, Mandalay, Myanmar