What is the main religion of Burma
Find out more about Myanmar (Burma)
Art and architecture
Music, dance and theater
Myanmar's population is made up of more than 135 ethnic groups. The four main ethnic groups are the Tibetan-Burmese tribes, the Mon-Khmer, the Thai-Chinese and the Karen. Most of the Burmese and more than 30 other tribes belong to the Tibeto-Burmese tribe. The other 3 groups are less diverse, but still not completely homogeneous. For a long time, the various ethnic groups were the cause of numerous disputes and thus also prevented the country's economic development.
The Karen inhabit an extensive area along the Burmese-Thai border, stretching from the Shan Plateau in the north to the Malay Peninsula, as well as parts of the Ayeyarwady Delta. Its most important distribution area is east of the Sittaung River and on the lower Saluen, in the mountainous southeast of the multi-ethnic state of Myanmar, which has more than 50 million inhabitants, where it is the third largest population group after the Burmese (approx. 69%) and Shan (approx. 8.5%) (approx. 7%).
The Padaung women, a subgroup of the Karen, are known for the heavy brass rings they wear around their necks. Because the heavy rings press on the shoulder and thus lengthen the neck, they are often called "giraffe women".
The Shan are made up of a variety of tribes and their history dates back to the 3rd century BC. Ch. Back. Today you can find them in the border region in the north, north-west, east and the borders with Laos and Thailand. Their main religion is Buddhism, although natural religions play a large role in daily life.
The Mon, mainly to be found in the regions around Mawlamyine and Bago, had a great influence on art and culture. You are Buddhist and speak your own language. Today about 1.3 million Mon live in Myanmar.
The Kachin live in the remote north and comprise over 62 different tribes, some Christians and some animists. Their wooden houses are unique.
With an area of 671,000 square kilometers, Myanmar is almost twice the size of Germany. It lies between India and Bangladesh on one side and China, Laos and Thailand on the other. In the south lies the Andaman Sea with beautiful pristine beaches.
In the center of Myanmar lies the mighty Ayeyarwady (previously Irrawaddy), which flows through the country for more than 1,600 km from north to south. Fertile plains stretch along the river, which opens into a wide delta on the Gulf of Martaban on the Indian Ocean. This level is framed by high mountain ranges, which form the borders with the neighboring countries. In the west the Arakan Mountains, in the east the Shan Plateau. In the north of Myanmar lies the southern foothills of the Himalayas, with the Hkakabo Razi, directly on the border between Myanmar and Tibet, the highest mountain in Southeast Asia at 5,881 m. The meltwater of the mountain peaks forms the source of the Ayeyarwadys.
The first settlers in the area of today's Myanmar were probably different tribes: Karen, Mon as well as different Tibet-Burmese tribes from the eastern Tibetan area.
In the 11th century, the first Burmese king, Anawratha, began to establish a strong kingdom with the then capital Bagan. After defeating the Mon, he brought the prisoners back to his capital and used their architectural skills to expand Bagan. He also adopted Theravada Buddhism and spread it throughout his kingdom.
Lively temple building activity began - around 13,000 temples are said to have been built by the 13th century. In the 13th century, Bagan was largely destroyed during a war with the invading Mongols. After all, five independent kingdoms existed from the 13th to the 18th centuries - Inwa, Toungoo, Rakhine, Bago, and Pyu.
It was not until 1753 that Alaungpaya established a new Burmese kingdom. He drove the Mon from northern Myanmar and made Shwebo his capital. In 1755 he conquered Pyay and Dagon and changed the name to Yangon ("end of the conflict").
After the annexation of Myanmar (1824) by the British, the country lost its independence and became a province of British India. A central government was set up. The Burmese culture is suppressed. In the 20th century there was strong opposition to the British occupation. Elections were finally held in 1936. In 1937 the country received autonomous status within the British Empire. During the Second World War (1942-45) the country was occupied by the Japanese. In 1947 the "Burmese Union" was formed on the basis of a new constitution, which was then converted into the Independent Republic of Burma in 1948.
Art and architecture
The best evidence of architectural craftsmanship of the Burmese are their religious buildings. With their penchant for daring temple constructions on cliffs or towering cliffs, it often appears as if every bend in the river and every hill is provided with a temple.
Religious buildings are commonly referred to as "Paya" which means "sanctuary". There are two types of payas: the bell-shaped, massive “zedi” and the four or rectangular “pahto”. Usually in a zedi, or stupa, there are sacred relics like a hair or a footstep of the Buddha. The originally spherical, simple construction developed over time into a more graceful architectural style. However, the age of the stupa cannot be determined from the style, as the many earthquakes in Myanmar have repeatedly rebuilt and transformed many buildings.
At the top of most of the zedis there are small, metal umbrellas, called hti, whose soft ringing underlines the quiet of the grounds.
The "Pahtos" have more of the function of a shrine than a temple, which explains the absence of monks. The Patho in the style of the Mon have the shape of a huge cube with small windows and corridors, some of which lead to small corridors outdoors. Both variants are usually decorated with religious reliefs or frescoes.
Unfortunately, there are not many of the richly carved monasteries and secular buildings left as they were made of wood, whereas the religious buildings are made of stone.
Music, dance and theater
Classical dance dramas are experiencing a new upswing in Myanmar. Occasionally they are performed by the Yangon National Theater. The main attraction of every performance is the solo performances by the female dancers. They wear dresses with long white trains which they whirl in the air with their heels with every movement.
The Yokthei pwe - a Burmese puppet theater - impresses with the colorful and up to one meter tall puppets, which are certainly among the most expressive Burmese works of art. The Burmese have great respect for the puppeteers. A dozen or more strings move the puppets.
Some marionettes are even moved by up to 60 strings, using one string for each eyebrow. The standard repertoire includes 28 puppets. Together they bring together the talents of singers, puppeteers, musicians, wood carvers, embroiderers and set builders.
The vast majority of the Burmese, around 89 percent, are Theravada Buddhists.
The origin of Buddhism in Myanmar goes back to the year 638, when the Malay faith spread here. During the 11th century, most of Bagan's population attended the Theravada Buddhist School.
The rest of the population is divided into the majority Baptist Christians approx. 7 percent, Sunni Muslims approx. 3 percent, Hindus approx. 0.5 percent, animists and others together approx. 0.5 percent. Myanmar has over 100,000 monks. Every male Buddhist is obliged to stay in a monastery for a certain period of time. Long before Buddhism reached Myanmar, the people of the country were animists. Even today, the worship of the 37 most important nats (spirits) is still part of the Burmese faith. Especially in remote areas in the north of the country, the Nat belief is very widespread among some mountain tribes.
Although Myanmar is theoretically one of the richest countries in Southeast Asia due to its great natural resource potential, it is in fact one of the poorest and has the status of a “Least Developed Country”. Myanmar is economically backward due to long isolation and a centrally planned economy. The per capita income is among the lowest in Southeast Asia. Since the country reopened its borders in the 1990s, capital has risen steadily due to increased investment and growing tourism figures.
Foreign investments are currently mostly only possible as a joint venture with local, private or state companies. Agriculture accounts for 50 percent of the gross domestic product and plays the most important role in the overall economy of Myanmar. The main areas are teak, rice and jute. The country hopes for further income from tourism.
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