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Mandalay, the second largest city in Myanmar, was the last capital of the Burmese Kingdom, remaining so until 1885. And to this day, it still retains traces of traditional Burmese (or Bamar) court culture. I wanted to see Myanmar’s recent rapid changes in Mandalay for myself and intended to visit Mandalay University’s Myanmar Department to establish a connection with our Burmese Program. This aspiration to do so became a reality when a Burmese scholar encouraged me to visit their Department this year, also because many of their current staff also studied with my teacher, Prof. Si Si Win, late Professor of Yangon University, who was also Visiting Professor at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (TUFS), and with whom I studied for four years.
Dr. Toe Hla visited Burmese classroom
On 10 September, I arrived in Mandalay to see a city bustling with Tok Toks, which had only began appearing two years ago. I visited Mandalay University's Myanmar Department for the first time on the 11 September and met Prof. Aung Kyaw Moe and other teaching staff. They welcomed me warmly and told me of the many vibrant changes at their Department. The country’s open-up policy, particularly the lifting of censorship in 2012, also appears to have influenced Burmese literature studies. Prof. Aung Kyaw Moe told me that their Department, with 23 teaching staff, now have 100 PhD candidates working on Burmese literature! In recent years, the Myanmar Department has been engaged in teaching Burmese as a foreign language and I learned that, similarly to Yangon University, many Chinese students are now attending their intensive courses. Korean and Japanese students are also frequently in attendance and I unexpectedly met a Japanese scholar from TUFS visiting the Department, whom I had known well. Through introductions by the Myanmar Department, I met Prof. Thidar Htwe Win, Head of the Anthropology Department., as well as Professor Yee Yee Win, Head of the History Department. I also visited the History Department's newly opened History Museum commemorating the late historian Dr. Than Tun, who was also my former teacher.
History Department Mandalay University
Two weeks after my visit to Mandalay University, Professor Toe Hla from the History Department of Mandalay University visited ANU privately on 23–24 September. He visited the classroom of Burmese level 4 and listened to our students’ presentations on the independence movements of India, Indonesia, Korea and Vietnam, delivered in Burmese. He praised the students’ efforts and the high quality of the language program. He then gave a talk on the history of the centenary of Yangon University, which included many valuable opinions and insights on Burmese manuscripts in historical studies. He also donated some of his books to the Menzies Library.
Anthropology Department Mandalay University
Last September opened up a road for us from Mandalay to Canberra. How can we further explore this path to Myanmar culture, history and language? I hope many students and young scholars follow this route to help deepen their understanding of Myanmar culture and its people.