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Yangon was founded as Dagon in the 6th century AD by the Mon, who dominated Lower Burma at that time. Dagon was a small fishing village centered about the Shwedagon Pagoda. In 1755, King Alaungpaya conquered Dagon, and renamed it "Yangon". The British captured Yangon during the First Anglo-Burmese War (1824-1826) but returned it to Burmese administration after the war. The city was destroyed by a fire in 1841.

The British Empire seized Yangon and all of Lower Burma in the Second Anglo-Burmese War of 1852, and subsequently transformed Yangon into the commercial and political hub of British Burma. Based on the design by army engineer Lt. Fraser, the British constructed a new city on a grid plan on delta land, bounded to the east by the Pazundaung Creek and to the south and west by the Yangon River. By the 1890s Yangon's increasing population and commerce gave birth to prosperous residential suburbs to the north of Royal Lake (Kandawgyi) and Inya Lake The British also established hospitals including Rangoon General Hospital and colleges including Rangoon University.

Colonial Yangon, with its spacious parks and lakes and mix of modern buildings and traditional wooden architecture, was known as "the garden city of the East." By the early 20th century, Yangon had public services and infrastructure on par with London.

Before World War II, almost half of Yangon's population was Indian or South Asian. Soon after Burma's independence in 1948, many colonial names of streets and parks were changed to more nationalistic Burmese names. In 1989, the city's name was changed to "Yangon", along with many other changes in English transliteration of Burmese names.

Since independence, Yangon has expanded outwards. Successive governments have built satellite towns such as Thuwana and Okkalapa in the 1950s to Dagon Myothit (New Dagon) in the 1990s. Today, Greater Yangon encompasses an area covering nearly 400 square miles (1000 sqkm).

In November 2005, the military government designated the newly developed city of Naypyidaw, 200 miles (322 km) north in Mandalay Division as the new administrative capital. The motives for the move remain unclear. At any rate, Yangon remains the largest city, and the most important commercial center of Burma.


The ruins of Bagan cover an area of 16 square miles. The majority of its buildings were built in the 1000s to 1200s, during the time Bagan was the capital of the First Burmese Empire. It was not until King Pyinbya moved the capital to Bagan in AD 874 that it became a major city. However, in Burmese tradition, the capital shifted with each reign, and thus Bagan was once again abandoned until the reign of Anawrahta. In 1057, King Anawrahta conquered the Mon capital of Thaton, and brought back the Tripitaka Pali scriptures, Buddhist monks and craftsmen and all of these were made good use of in order to transform Bagan into a religious and cultural centre. With the help of a monk from Lower Burma, Anawrahta made Theravada Buddhism a kind of state religion, and the king also established contacts with Sri Lanka. In the 12th and 13th centuries, Bagan became a truly cosmopolitan centre of Buddhist studies, attracting monks and students from as far as India, Sri Lanka as well as the Thai and Khmer kingdoms. In 1287, the kingdom fell to the Mongols, after refusing to pay tribute to Kublai Khan. Abandoned by the Burmese king and perhaps sacked by the Mongols, the city declined as a political centre, but continued to flourish as a place of Buddhist scholarship.





Founded in 1857 by King Mindon Mandalay was the last capital (1860–1885) of the last independent Burmese Kingdom before annexation by the British after the Third Anglo-Burmese War in 1885.

Unlike other Burmese towns, Mandalay did not grow from a smaller settlement, although a small village Hti Baunga did exist nearby. Mandalay was set up in an empty area at the foot of 775 ft high (236 m) Mandalay Hill according to a prophecy made by the Buddha that in that exact place a great city, a metropolis of Buddhism, would come into existence on the occasion of the 2,400th jubilee of Buddhism.

King Mindon decided to fulfill the prophecy and during his reign in the Kingdom of Amarapura he issued a royal order on January 13, 1857 to establish a new kingdom. The Ceremony of Ascending the Throne was celebrated in July 1858 and the former royal city of Amarapura was dismantled and moved by elephants to the new location at the foot of Mandalay Hill. With the ground-breaking ceremony, King Mindon laid the foundation of Mandalay on the 6th waning day of Kason, Burmese Era 1219 (1857). The King simultaneously laid the foundations of seven edifices: the royal city with the battlemented walls, the moat surrounding it, the Maha Lawka Marazein Stupa (Kuthodaw Pagoda), the higher ordination hall named the Pahtan-haw Shwe Thein, the Atumashi (Incomparable) monastery, the Thudhama Zayats or public houses for preaching the Doctrine, and the libThe whole royal city was called Lei Kyun Aung Myei (Victorious Land over the Four Islands) and the royal palace, Mya Nan San Kyaw (The Famed Royal Emerald Palace). The new royal capital was called Yadanabon Naypyidaw, the Burmese version of its Pali name Ratanapura which means "The City of Gems". It then became Mandalay after the hill; the name is a derivative of the Pali word "Mandala", which means "a plains land" - Mandalay is said to be as flat as the face of a drum - and also of the Pali word "Mandare", which means "an auspicious land."

Mandalay was captured by the British during the Third Anglo-Burmese War (1885). Reigning King Thibaw and his queen, Supayalat, were forced to evacuate the palace and eventually exiled to India. Renamed Fort Dufferin, the palace was used to quarter British and Indian troops and many of its fabulous treasures were looted. Some of the best pieces were sent back to Great Britain and can still be see in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Mandalay suffered heavy damage during World War II. The Japanese captured Mandalay on 2 May 1942, and turned the fort that contained the palace, into a supply depot. The fort was heavily bombed by the British prior to their liberation of the city in March 1945. The palace was burnt down to the ground and only the masonry plinth of the palace complex with a couple of masonry structures such as the royal mint and the hour drum tower remained. A faithful replica of the palace was rebuilt in the 1990s.
After Burma's independence from Britain in 1948, the city became the capital of Mandalay Division.


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