Bayinnaung, King

   (r. 1551-1581)
   One of Burma's most renowned kings, the third monarch of the Toungoo (Taungoo) Dynasty, succeeding his brother-in-law Tabinshwehti following the latter's assassination. Crushing Mon resistance and capturing Hanthawaddy (modern Pegu [Bago]) in 1551, he made it his royal capital, and in the following years campaigned in the north, capturing Ava (Inwa) from the Shans in 1555 and subjugating the Shan States. This enabled him to assert suzerainty over Chiang Mai (Lan Na) and brought him into confrontation with the states of Luang Prabang and Vientiane (in modern Laos), with whom he fought inconclusively until the end of his reign. Like Tabinshwehti, he made ample use of Portuguese mercenaries and firearms.
   His greatest military achievement was the capture of Ayuthaya, the Siamese capital, in 1564. The Siamese royal family was taken to Burma as hostages, but a Mon revolt in Lower Burma made it necessary for Bayinnaung to return home. He recaptured Ayuthaya from rebels in 1569, pillaging it completely, and Siam became Bayinnaung's vassal state. By the mid-1580s, however, it had regained its independence under the "Black Prince," Pra Naret.
   Cruel in war, Bayinnaung was a model Buddhist monarch, building pagodas, donating a hti to the Shwe Dagon Pagoda, and securing what was claimed to be a Buddha tooth relic from Sri Lanka. He prohibited animal sacrifices by Muslims and devotees of the nats, which were offensive to Buddhists. His capital at Pegu (Bago) was one of the richest cities in Southeast Asia. But endless warfare exhausted his subjects, and his successor, Nanda Bayin (r. 1581-1599), was unable to sustain his father's imperial expansion.
   The State Law and Order Restoration Council/State Peace and Development Council has made the warrior king one of its principal national heroes. In the early 1990s, the military regime built a concrete replica of his Kanbawzathadi Palace at Pegu, and it has provocatively put up statues of the monarch at the borders with Thailand. The military regime's use of Bayinnaung asserts the Tatmadaw's historical role in carrying on his work of hard-fisted nation-building and also deemphasizes the pre-1988 pantheon of modern heroes, especially Aung San, whose daughter, Aung San Suu Kyi, leads the prodemocracy movement.

Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). . 2014.

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