One of the major ethnic nationalities of Burma, distinguished by language, culture, and a history of organized states reaching back to the early centuries CE. The Mon language is related to Cambodian (Khmer), but the origin of the Mons is unclear. According to one theory, they came to Mainland Southeast Asia from India (Talaing, the Burmese term for them, is said to refer to southern India's Telingana region, though the Mons do not use this term as a self-reference, considering it derogatory). Another widely accepted theory says they came from the Yangtze River region of eastern China. They established kingdoms in Lower Burma (which they called Ramanyadesa), were avid sailors and traders, and were primarily responsible for introducing Indian civilization and Theravada Buddhism to what are now Burma and Thailand. The premier Mon city-state in Burma, Hanthawaddy, was established ca. 825 CE at what is now Pegu (Bago) and served as the capital of states ruled by both Mons and Burmans for more than nine centuries. King Anawrahta, founder of the Pagan (Bagan) Dynasty, conquered the Mon state of Thaton in 1057, bringing its king, Manuha, and many thousands of Mon monks, craftsmen, and artists back to his capital in Upper Burma. This was the beginning of a period when Burman culture and national identity were deeply transformedespecially in the religious, literary, and artistic fields-by the Mons. Mon monks, such as Anawrahta's spiritual advisor, Shin Arahan, imposed strict Theravada orthodoxy; the early Buddhist monuments of Pagan (Bagan) were essentially of Mon design; and the Burmans adopted the Mon writing system. Following the collapse of the Pagan Dynasty, Wareru established a powerful Mon dynasty at Martaban in the late 13th century. In the 14th and 15th centuries, the Mon state of Hanthawaddy flourished, especially during the reigns of Razadarit (r. 1393-1423), Shinsawbu (r. 1453-1472), and Dhammazedi (r. 1472-1492). The three monarchs are best remembered as patrons of Buddhism and generous donors to the Shwe Dagon and Shwemawdaw Pagodas.
   Although the Burman rulers Tabinshwehti (r. 1531-1550) and Bayinnaung (r. 1551-1581) subjugated Lower Burma in the 16th century, they made Hanthawaddy their capital, and highly esteemed Mon culture for its contributions to religion and the arts. But Alaungpaya, founder of the Konbaung Dynasty, reestablished Burman hegemony in Lower Burma following an uprising led by Smim Daw Buddhaketi between 1740 and 1747. He captured Dagon in 1755 and pillaged Hanthawaddy in 1757. By this time, antagonism between Burmans and Mons had become intense. With Hanthawaddy's fall, the history of independent Mon states came to an end, and the last Mon king, Binnya Dala, was executed by King Hsinbyushin in 1774. During the 19th century, the British attempted to enlist the support of the Mons against the Burmans, but with less success than they had with the Karens (Kayins). During the colonial period, the Mons were largely written off as a dying race and culture, but community leaders established the All Ramanya Mon Association in 1939 to promote cultural revitalization. Proponents of Mon identity have tended to define it in terms of ancestry rather than language, which a decreasing number of people speak. An estimated two to four million Mons live in Burma today, about 4 to 8 percent of the population, mostly in Mon State but also in adjoining Tenasserim (Tanintharyi) Division and Karen (Kayin) State. Most of the original Mon population of the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady) River Delta and Pegu Division fled to Thailand during the late 18th century or has been assimilated by the Burmans. With the exception of a few Christians, most Mons are Buddhists, and they also venerate spirits similar to the Burmese nats, known as kalok.
   After Burma became independent in 1948, some Mon armed groups fought the central government, the most important being the New Mon State Party (NMSP), established in 1958 and led by Nai Shwe Kyin. In 1995, the NMSP signed a cease-fire with the State Law and Order Restoration Council, but other armed groups, such as the Monland Restoration Army, continue insurgent activities.
   See also Hongsa; Manuha Temple.

Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). . 2014.

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