Mindon, King

   (r. 1853-1878)
   Tenth and penultimate monarch of the Konbaung Dynasty, he seized the throne after his half brother, Pagan Min (r. 1846-1853), suffered the loss of Lower Burma in the Second Anglo-Burmese War. Like his contemporary, King Mongkut of Siam (Thailand), he spent most of his adult life as a member of the Sangha before becoming king, promoted limited reforms of his realm, and pursued amicable relations with the British, who threatened Burma's independence as never before. He moved the royal capital from Amarapura to a new city, Mandalay, building an extensive palace compound at the foot of Mandalay Hill. With the support of his most influential minister, the Kinwun Mingyi, he undertook modernization of the civil service, tax system, and currency. One of his sons, the Mekkara Prince, embarked on a modest program of industrialization, setting up textile and other factories. Telegraph lines were strung between his kingdom and British Burma. A devout Buddhist, he convened the Fifth Great Buddhist Council in 1871, which produced an authoritative version of the Tipitaka, or scriptures. These were engraved on stone stelae and placed in the Kuthodaw Pagoda.
   Mindon failed to persuade the British to return Lower Burma to him, and they barred him from coming to Rangoon (Yangon) to donate a hti to the Shwe Dagon Pagoda in 1871, because that might be interpreted as acknowledging his continued authority in British-occupied territory. The loss of Lower Burma left his kingdom landlocked, cutting Mindon off from effective communications with the other European powers. The British regarded him as equivalent to the Indian maharajas, a tributary rather than the sovereign of an independent state; he was never allowed to negotiate directly with the government in London (as Siam's Mongkut did), but only with the Indian Viceroy. British insistence on "free trade" led to the abolition of old royal monopolies, for example, on teak. Anglo-French rivalry, growing British economic interests in Upper Burma, and chronic unrest both in central Burma and ethnic minority areas doomed his efforts to preserve his country's independence.
   Although the "shoe question" increased Anglo-Burmese tensions, Mindon succeeded in keeping the peace even though rumors of French interests in Burma were rife. Because a coup d'état attempt in 1866 resulted in the assassination of the crown prince, there was a succession struggle following Mindon's death on October 1, 1878 that resulted in a less able monarch, Thibaw, ascending the throne.
   See also Anglo-Burmese War, Third.

Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). . 2014.

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