My wonderful guide in Myanmar, Win Kyaw Zan, helped me greatly with this list of Famous Burmese. I love doing these lists. And my informants around the world seem to enjoy thinking about the famous people in their respective countries.
Famous Burmese: Historical
King Anawrahta (1014-1078) founded of the Burmese nation. He also founded the Shwezigon Pagoda in Bagan, where he was born. I chose a statue of him for the title image.
King Bayinnaung (1516-1581) assembled the Taungoo Empire, the largest in the history of Southeast Asia.
Gotta love a map.
Famous Burmese: Modern Politics
Aung Sang Suu Kyi
Aung Sang Suu Kyi is currently the State Counsellor of Myanmar, a position roughly equivalent to Prime Minister. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights. During her political career, she lived under house arrest for 15 years, on and off, during a 21-year period.
She has become quite controversial, internationally speaking.
General Aung Sang
Aung Sang (1915-1947) was the father of Aung Sang Suu Kyi. When he was born, the country was the British Crown Colony of Burma, and he served as its 5th Premier. He worked for Burma’s independence from British rule and deserves the title Father of modern-day Myanmar. Six months before independence, he was assassinated.
U Thant (1909-1974) was Secretary General of the United Nations from 1961-1971 and the first non-European secretary.
The Burmese honorific U means, something like ‘Mister.’ I was unable to find any name for him other than Thant.
General Ne Win
Ethnically Chinese Shu Maung (1911-2002) took the Burmese name Ne Win meaning ‘Radiant Sun.’ He trained alongside Aung Sang but chose a different path by staging a military coup in 1948. Later he brought a Bamboo Curtain down over Burma, cutting it off from the rest of the world. He was also Burma’s dictator during the Socialist Burma period from 1962-1988.
As my guide, Win, put it: “He turned one of the richest countries in the world into one of the poorest.” So, let’s call him an Infamous Burmese.
Famous Burmese: Modern Artists
Shwe Man Tinn Maung
Tinn Maung (1918-1969) was a performer of traditional Burmese dance/drama known as zat pwe. His full stage name includes shwe ‘gold’ and man ‘mandalay.’
The performance of zat pwe goes on all-night long. Tinn Maung died on stage during a performance.
Po Po is a performance artist who has the distinction of being the first Burmese to practice this art form. He started in 1987.
Here is his rice terrace Out of Installation of 2009-2010:
Famous Burmese: Record Holders
Mingum Sayadaw (1911-1993), the Venerable, was a Theraveda Buddhist monk, known for his memory.
He entered the Guinness Book of Records in 1985 in the category Human Memory. How did he do that? He recited 16,000 pages of Buddhist canonical text in Yangon, May 1954. (To repeat: how did he do that?)
Tay Za is Chairman of the Htoo Group, Air Bagan, and a billionaire. He is Myanmar’s richest person – so that’s a record of sorts.
This post was written by Julie Tetel Andresen