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Buddhism: Details about 'Suwannaphum'

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Suwannaphum (also Suwarnabhumi) remains one of the most mythified and contentious toponym in the hisory of Asia. In Thailand, government proclamations and state museums insist that it was somewhere along their southern coast (and, in celebration of this, the government has named the new Bangkok airport after the mythic kingdom of Suwarnabhumi, or "Suwannaphum"); meanwhile, in Myanmar, authorities insist that it was the Sittang River in Burma. Working from limited historical sources (primarily, the vague accounts of the region provided by Chinese pilgrims on their way to and from India) the term has been idenified with coastal regions from Indonesia to Malaysia.

The issue at the base of all these modern myths is the appearance of the term in the ancient stone inscriptions of Ashoka; it is significant that none of these myths existed (in any country in South-East Asia) prior to the publication and translation of the edicts of Ashoka in the 19th century.

Scholars identify the "Suvannabhumi" named by Ashoka as



a toponym in Southern India, and deny that it has anything to do with South-East Asia. The later (and less contested) references to the region in Chinese historical sources depends on the (highly conjectural) identification of Chinese idiograms with phonetic equivalents, and the subsequent identification of those phonetic toponyms with ancient civilizations.

Responsible modern scholarship does not accept that Ashoka's missionaries went any further east than Sri Lanka, and archaeological evidence tends to affirm this. Further, the attempts to identify the modern ethnic/political groupings of "Thai" and "Burmese" with a conjectural "Suvannabhumi" of the 2nd century BCE flounders on the simple fact that neither the Tai-Kadai migration nor the Sino-Tibetan population of Burma had yet come to pass. In other words, if the myth identifying Ashoka's "Suwannaphum" with Burma or Thailand were true, it would entail an impossible anachronism, as neither any Thais nor any Burmese lived on that coast for many centuries thereafter.

See also

  • Pyu
  • Dvaravati
  • History of Burma
  • History of Thailand

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Suwannaphum". A list of the wikipedia authors can be found here.