Wednesday 30 March 2016

Congratulations to China - and 2018 World Cup Qualifying (AFC) Round 3 Speculation


North Korea Lost.

Jordan Lost.

Oman didn't win (by a crazy amount).

And China won.


China scraped through to the Third Round! Barely. But what an exciting result.

And now we have this interesting scenario.

These are the remaining teams fighting it out for 4.5 spots at the 2018 World Cup with their respective ranks, courtesy of Wikipedia (again) of course.

FIFA Prognosis Tool

The rankings in (brackets) are outdated.

FIFA has a prognosis tool that allows you to calculate the future ranking points of a team.

For example, Iran and Australia look dandy, the latter having won an important game against a high-ranking opponent:

Images courtesy of

Similarly we can plug in values for Saudi Arabia, Japan, South Korea and the UAE

If we do this for all the teams, we come up with this ranked Asian list of those who have qualified for the Third Round (potential April 2016 ranking points in brackets):

1. Iran (672)
2. Australia (601)
3. Korea Republic (579)
4. Japan (577)
5. Saudi Arabia (559)
6. Uzbekistan (549)
7. United Arab Emirates (521)
8. China (423)
9. Qatar (416)
10. Iraq (333)
11. Syria (316)
12. Thailand (297)

Now Ranks 1 and 2 will be in Pot 1; Ranks 3 and 4 will be in Pot 2 and so on.

We pick one team out of each of the 6 Pots to form Group A. The remainder of the teams form Group B. This is how the 2 Groups of 6 will be formed for the Third Qualifying Round.

Therefore, you will see that Japan and Korea Republic can't be in the same group, just as Australia and Iran can't be in the same group.

If the above list is accurate, the toughest group for Australia, in my unlearned view, would probably be:

Saudi Arabia* 

*When playing at their home ground, I think the Saudis are tougher than Uzbekistan - all other things considered the Uzbeks are probably just as dangerous as the Saudis. 

**Let's not forget that Thailand almost put the Socceroos to the sword for the 2014 World Cup Qualifiers. Plus they would be acclimatised to humid/tropical conditions and playing away might prove to be a challenge for the Socceroos.

That being said, playing away to any of the 11 countries in contention would present its own unique challenges.

We only need to wait a couple of weeks before the draw comes out.

What does everyone else think? Which countries are dangerous and which are not?

Remember only the Top 2 of a given group qualify automatically for the 2018 World Cup.

Andre Lim

Sunday 27 March 2016

2018 World Cup Qualifiers - Close of AFC Second Round

So there are some interesting concepts here for the final set of Second Round matches for the Asian segment of the World Cup Qualifiers 2018.

Wikipedia has helpfully outlined the teams that have qualified for the Third Round, which are as follows:

In addition to the Group Winners, the 4 best runner-ups will go through.

The best placed runners-up table is tight, as is to be expected.

Courtesy of Wikipedia

Some teams were disqualified from competing in the World Cup Qualifiers (Indonesia and now possibly Kuwait from memory). This has had ramifications on the above table.

Some groups have 5 teams, and some have 4 teams. So an adjustment must be made.

In groups with 5 teams, points won against the bottom-placed team are removed for the purposes of this table. You would expect that, in most cases, this would be a matter of removing 6 points (2 likely wins against the worst-placed team). The runner-up in a group with 4 teams does not need to deduct any points for the purposes of this table.


Courtesy of Wikipedia
Of particular interest is Vietnam, which sits at 3rd in Group F, only 2 points behind Iraq. In Group F there are, in effect, only 4 teams as Indonesia was disqualified from participating. So for Group F the points scored by the runner-up team stand as is and no deduction is required.

Vietnam's final game is against Iraq.

If Vietnam can muster a shock 3-0 or 4-0 win over Iraq, that could potentially send them into the Top 4 Runner-ups -- a difficult task in truth because it relies on North Korea losing to the Philippines (which does not seem likely) as well as other match outcomes not in their control (see China).

It's very unlikely Vietnam can make it through. China have more of a chance (but still not a very good chance).


Courtesy of Wikipedia
Similarly, if China can muster a shock win over Qatar, this may be enough to send them into the top 4 Runner-ups -- but that relies on many of the below factors:
  1. The UAE not drawing or winning against Saudi Arabia (possible);
  2. Jordan not drawing or winning against Australia (possible - but not certain);
  3. North Korea losing or drawing to Philippines (unlikely); 
  4. Oman not beating Iran in Tehran (possible);
  5. Iraq not beating Vietnam (unlikely); and
  6. What FIFA will do with Kuwait and its remaining matches (?);

Essentially, for China to progress, almost all of the Runner-ups with 10 points must not gain 1 or more points; and the others with less than ten points must, preferably, not get more than 1 point.

For all that to happen at the same time is pretty much impossible, but I suppose you never know.

What if....

Points 1 and 2 mentioned above (UAE and Jordan losing) are plausible but by no means guaranteed.

Assuming they do happen, and assuming Iraq and North Korea do their jobs, then there will only be 1 spot left for China.

Provided that Oman does not score too many goals, and China can provide a shock win, then that spot is potentially there for China's taking.

But it's quite unlikely China will go through as there are a lot of assumptions going on here.


In reality I expect North Korea to go through.

Syria should, in theory, also go through even if Japan thrash them in their final group match. Being 2 points clear at the top of the runner-up table is quite a great buffer. For Syria to not qualify after losing to Japan would require 3 wins from the other teams on 10 points, and Iraq to have a goal difference of at least +2 against Vietnam. Those are relatively long odds.

The UAE v Saudi Arabia scenario is a bit of an interesting problem for the UAE, as it depends on the team the Saudis will field. Saudi Arabia have already qualified.

If the UAE and Jordan lose or draw, I expect Iraq to storm into the Top 4 unless Vietnam shocks. Even if only one of UAE or Jordan is successful in their respective match, Iraq should still be fine. I don't expect both UAE and Jordan to be successful. The odds of UAE and Jordan both overcoming their scenarios is relatively long.

This leaves Jordan in a precarious position as they will stay stagnant on 10 points if Australia win - potentially knocking them out if other teams win their matches.

I think the UAE is quite resilient though, and may take out the final spot, perhaps with a grinding draw.

I am looking forward to upsets of any kind, barring any that would cause Australia strife.

Andre Lim

Thursday 24 March 2016

Joanne Lee

This tribute is for my mum, Joanne Lee.

As I mentioned in my father’s tribute, no parent, or indeed, person, is perfect. But the purpose of a tribute is to highlight a person’s positive qualities --- it's certainly not the point to bring them down. So with that in mind, here we go.

Like all good mums, my mum is a real powerhouse when it comes to taking care of her children. She does everything. Even with me quite shamelessly being a grown adult, she still cooks, cleans and does the laundry for me. She enjoys playing the part of the chauffeur –and she is a very good driver at that (parallel parking, even with a large car, is quite easy for her). Having lived her life through action and less talk, mum often has to put on the hat of a counsellor: indeed, she is almost always too happy to offer common-sense advice to anyone who will listen. And as all mothers do, she worries - sometimes unnecessarily - for the safety and well-being of her children.

Another distinctive feature of mum is that she expects the best of people

If I could put it another way, mum holds high standards for a range of things, be it for performing tasks or how one conducts themselves in front of others. While some who read this may feel that such a stance may put pressure on children if implemented incorrectly (and yes it can!!!!), at the same time I actually feel that it is very important for all of us to have such a benchmark because having one serves as a constant reminder that we should always strive to get to our best, character-wise or task-wise. We should never be complacent. Although mum's criticism may sometimes be taken in the wrong way, I believe her intentions are to improve people rather than to bring them down.

Hilariously, my mum's high standards extend to not only the practical elements of life but also to other things.......

....such as video games.

A position that my mum would approve of.
Courtesy of 

If I am playing the Last of Us on the PS3 (or any other game like Uncharted or Halo), my mum will openly criticise me for failing to, for example, attack that Clicker zombie stalking Joel on the left.... or allowing those covenant aliens to flank me from behind.

Typical comments made by her include:

Why didn’t you jump over there behind the box? Silly fool, now they can see you and will shoot you.
Why are you fighting like that. You can't just rush out like that. You have to be patient.
Can't you go around from behind? --- otherwise that guy will see you.
Now, how many children in this world can boast of a mother who not only watches them play video games, but actively issues them with in-game orders and commands?!!* 

(On that note, my mum's enthusiasm for action/adventure games, as well as blockbuster movies, to some extent, shows how technologically 'flexible' and 'accepting' my mum is---- if I can put it that way. She is relatively up to date with all manner of gadgets and computer systems – perhaps this is partly because she enjoys taking an interest in her children’s activities, although the large part of it, I suspect, is probably the fact that she is just good at keeping updated.

I should also pause here to note that one other prominent feature of my mum is that she loves her camera and photography. She loves the opportunity to experiment with taking pictures of people and items. Her pictures can be frequently found on this website.)

Another related and crucial attribute of mum is her frankness.

My mum will not say that something is 'good' just for the sake of saying it or to please someone. One of the most admirable qualities about mum is that she is direct and forthcoming. She will tell you how it is, as it is, without any sugar coating. Sometimes you need people like that -- some things can't be done unless they are done directly and without any of the unnecessary baggage (or niceties, if you will).

I think this is critically important.

On one hand, being encouraging and kind are great virtues to have (in fact, everyone should have these virtues). On the other hand, if you say that everything is ‘good’ or if you are one of those people who says that everything is ‘excellent’, then, in my view, these false praises devalue the meaning of what really qualifies as ‘good’ or 'excellent'. I think the best place to be is somewhere in the middle: Encouraging but honest.

My mum is also a very determined character.

She doesn’t give up easily and refuses to be put down. She has a strong and stoical personality. The hardship and suffering she has endured over the years has been considerable. You would have to ask her personally about this as I fear that I would not do justice to her stories if I tried to tell them myself. Many of them involve her facing substantial adversity and being able to overcome the odds. If I could have even a tenth of my mother’s resolve, I would be laughing already.

For all the above reasons, I am indebted to my mum.

Mum, thank you for being a good mother to Chloe and myself - and a good wife to dad - and thank you for putting up with us, especially me.

Happy early birthday for 2 April 2016.

Andre Lim

* I have even seen my mum play Halo before...suffice to say that was quite the treat LOL

Saturday 19 March 2016

2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Preview

Running Time: Approximately 120 minutes.

Cost: I bought this for $4.95 including shipping LOL. I have seen prices go up to $15.

2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Preview offers a good-run down of how each of the 32 teams got to the 2010 World Cup. This DVD is probably the minimum standard I would expect of a World Cup Qualification campaign highlights DVD.

Good coverage of all teams

While all teams' qualifying campaigns were covered, I particularly enjoyed the brief, but crucial, coverage of the lesser-known countries such as Honduras and the All Whites.

Rory Fallon's winner against Bahrain
  • Specifically, highlights were shown of New Zealand's 1-0 victory against 3rd-placed  Bahrain at Wellington in the second leg of the AFC-OFC inter-confederation playoffs. Mark Paston's save against Sayed Mohamed was also amazing.
  • Honduras' reliance on the United States scoring a critical equaliser against Costa Rica also featured. 
While the coverage of these smaller teams' achievements was not as extensive as the major big guns of the competition, I thought that the average football fan (such as myself) would greatly appreciate the insight into the struggles each country (big or small) had to endure to make it to South Africa 2010.

Further examples:
  • The tense playoff between Costa Rica and Uruguay was also covered, as was Algeria's crazy tie-breaking play-off match against Egypt. 

North Korean crowds presumably in Pyongyang

  • North Korea's solemn stadium, woeful scoring record (1.2 goals per game) and grinding draw in Riyadh against Saudi Arabia made for an interesting viewing.

Slovakia v Czech Republic

  • Slovakia scoring against their own former team mates in the Czech Republic, as well as their remarkable achievement in qualifying for the World Cup since playing their first official match as an independent nation in 1994, was also very fascinating.

Courtesy Wikipedia
  • Paraguay and Chile's extremely strong showings during CONMEBOL qualification (finishing 3rd and 2nd respectively, both tied at 1 point behind Brazil) were also an eye-opener --- this highlighted the strength of the South American nations.

Slovenia v Russia - just to give you an idea of the footage. Wide views of the whole field are also shown of course.
  • Slovenia's shock come-from-behind win over Russia in the European play-off was great (winning on away goals). Slovenia pulled off some remarkable victories as an underdog in the qualification campaign.

As a football fan and a person who likes learning about countries, I think it's great that the DVD captured all qualifying campaigns.

As mentioned above, some teams get more coverage than others. That is to be expected. The bigger teams are more popular (and better!) and a team like Australia, for example, probably couldn't justify a longer viewing.

Fan footage

There are some great shots of fan crowds in this DVD.

So-so quality of footage

One downside of this DVD is that the quality of the footage is not always so great, but that is probably because different confederations may have different video footage quality so the consistency of images can't be guaranteed. I suppose that's understandable.

Top goals and saves compilation

The DVD also compiles the 'best 10 saves' of all qualifying campaigns and the top 20 goals of all qualifying campaigns.

Honduras v Mexico

No doubt any such list would be subjective but, as I understand it, the importance of the goal - how critical it was to that team's progression to the World Cup - played a part as did the quality of the goal itself.

The list is quite good to watch and makes for pleasant viewing.

Player interviews

There are also plenty of player interviews.

I remember one of the Serbian players, Stojkovic, talking about Serbia being prepared against Ghana and Germany, before quickly adding (as if realising he caused offence to Socceroos fans and had to make up for it):

"But Australia too, we are ready for their English-style football."

It was also funny seeing, for example, Samuel Eto'o passionately overhyping Africa's chances of making it far in the World Cup (all in hindsight of course) or Piotr Trochowski of Germany implicitly not rating Australia and saying that the Germans were chiefly focussed on the Ghana and Serbian matches.

The array of interviews is diverse and provides plenty of entertainment. Other people interviewed from memory included Kaka, van der Vaart and David Villa.

Some of the interviews are a bit too long though in my opinion.

Great coverage of South Africa

As a minor feature of this DVD, the host towns in South Africa are also covered. Video footage of towns, people, culture and wildlife are all shown.

Tshwane, South Africa?

Weird - reflection on the future that has already gone by

Being a preview, the DVD keeps speaking of the World Cup 2010 as a future event, which can be a little strange sometimes. It's not necessarily a bad thing, as it helps viewers to appreciate the questions that were raised prior to the tournament and to reflect upon how those questions were eventually answered.


I think this DVD does a good job and sets a decent benchmark for qualification DVDs.

7 - 7.5+ out of 10
(Say, 7.3)

Andre Lim

Wednesday 16 March 2016

2018 World Cup Qualifiers: Socceroos in trouble?

Australia could be in a difficult position come April of this year.

Current rankings as at March 2016
Assuming the Socceroos do top their World Cup Qualifying Second Round Group B or place as one of the 4 best runner-ups throughout all groups, that isn't the end of the story.

(By way of background there are thus twelve teams that will go into the Third Round of qualifying across the 8 groups: Group winners and four best runner ups. The Third Round comprises of two groups of six teams drawn from seeded pots.)

The seedings as at 7 April 2016 will determine the formation of the final Third Round Groups.

The top two teams in Asia will be seeded in Pot 1 (Iran and Japan now); teams ranked 3 and 4 (South Korea and Saudi Arabia) will be seeded into Pot 2 and so on.

As it stands, Australia will be seeded in Pot 3, which creates the very dangerous and real prospect that Iran/Japan and Korea could be in the same group as Australia. Now remember, only the top two in a given group AUTOMATICALLY* qualifies for the World Cup.

To be told that one of the Asian giants in South Korea, Japan or Australia could potentially* be out of the World Cup 2018 is unthinkable!

*There is of course a last-chance third place and the intercontinental playoffs but that is a riskier and uncertain prospect.

I did note in February 2015 that Australia really needs to maintain its Top 4 position in Asia.

Of course, the rankings above are unlikely to remain stagnant given that there are some 4 games remaining in each group for this Second Round. Nor are the top 12 necessarily guaranteed to go through. For example, Syria, and Thailand are causing some chaos in their respective groups, whilst China is underperforming even though they would qualify if we took the top 12 in Asia right now.

Potentially, the hardest Third Round group, in my view, would be: Jordan, Uzbekistan, Australia, South Korea and Japan (yes Iran is arguably better equipped to deal with Australia but, given our rivalry with the Blue Samurai, I feel the stakes are higher with Japan in the mix).

FIFA Rankings for Asia in February 2015
If we look at the rankings in February 2015, Australia shot up to 4th place after its Asian Cup triumph.

What could possibly be the explanation for Australia's drop to 6th place? Perhaps Saudi Arabia and UAE have played more games than Australia?

No fear

At any rate, as they say, to be the best, you have to beat the best.

Even if the nightmare scenario discussed above does come to fruition, no doubt it is also important to remember that South Korea/Japan/Iran will be annoyed that Australia is in their group because the Socceroos do make tough physical opponents, at least by Asian standards.

A good team will not panic when they see the draw - a good team embraces the challenge and rises up to it.

Remaining games - the job at hand

For the time being, Australia should just focus on Tajikistan on 24 March 2016 and Jordan on 29 March 2016.

Scraping through the next round of qualifying is of course the minimum priority (1 win against Tajikistan and then 1 draw with Jordan); however, 2 wins could go a long way towards raising our ranking to the top 4 in Asia. That being said, perhaps the gap between 4th and 6th is already too hard to bridge, and to a large extent, any shift in rankings is heavily dependent on the performances of other nations.

Tajikistan in theory should be "easy." Of course, on one hand, we all know how difficult it is to play in Central and Western Asia (who can forget the tough matches against Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Jordan away in qualifying campaigns gone past?!!). However this match is at home so we don't really have that travelling problem to worry about.

Jordan is strong at Amman (I expect them to thrash Bangladesh at least 4-0) but if playing on Australian soil they should theoretically be weaker.

But talk is cheap. We can only wait and see..

The draw for the Third and 'Final' Round (ignoring intercontinental play-offs)  of Qualifying happens on 12 April 2016...

Andre Lim

Friday 11 March 2016

Roy Young (杨祎程)

Happy Birthday Roy.

Today my tribute is for you.

Roy is something of an unusual friend. How so? Well, I should explain by asking this question:

What kind of friend would literally drop everything and dedicate one-quarter of his weekend, consistently week after week, to help another friend's cause? 
Well, as you would have guessed, the very kind of friend that Roy is.

Last year in December, when I asked Roy if he could help me to learn Chinese, I certainly was not expecting an all-out effort on his part. Although we've only recently started, Roy has consistently made himself available to teach me basic Mandarin, with no questions asked. Being the traditional Chinese that he is, he continually refuses to let me pay him back or buy him lunch. Furthermore, when I asked him if he could help me to search for some textbooks I was after - the New Practical Chinese Reader textbooks - he immediately got his friend in China to buy them for me.

Certainly the lengths Roy goes to to demonstrate his friendship is exemplary. Indeed, Roy has taught me an important lesson, one that I have been told many times but have never really put into action: We must not always keep taking. We ought to give in return. 

Roy lives his life by this philosophy.

Roy is also a hard-working individual who strives for excellence. When one considers that Roy is from mainland China, it becomes manifestly clear that his English skills are somewhat accomplished. He continually toils and labours on his English and always seeks to improve. He has, in fact, improved A LOT - not an easy feat at all given how difficult it is for foreigners (especially East, West and South-east Asians) to deviate from their mother tongue.

Another strong feature of Roy is that he is a polite, courteous and well-mannered individual. He respects elders and values his friends as well. I can easily foresee that he will make a good family man one day--- although, of course, he is currently a very good one at that to his very proud mother.

Last but not least, Roy is also quite the accomplished video-gamer. I remember sharing a few good nights playing Terraria with him. Roy was always leaps and bounds ahead of me: developing his character at a faster rate than mine and producing crazy levels of armour and weapons (Kevin Ngo and Diana Liu can attest to this fact).

One might be quick to dismiss this skill on the basis that is 'not relevant to real life' (because 'it's only a game') but what I will say in my defence is that Terraria is well-known for its not-so-straightforward crafting recipes and challenging character development. Thus any skill in this area, in my view, is reflective of a person's intelligence and persistence in real life. And Roy has plenty.

Since a picture speaks a thousand words, I shall post two pictures here and leave it to the reader to visualise the 2000 words I could have used now to explain the remarkable adventures Roy and I had in that strange place called Terraria, with me running behind him and Roy leading the way...

Andre Lim

Sunday 6 March 2016

Ancient Burma - A History of Southeast Asia (Part 2)

Continuing my notes from my first post....

Again all credit goes to Arthur Cotterell for providing the basis for these notes in his book A History of Southeast Asia. The notes here are largely my summary of his ideas and research.

Summary of Ancient Burma

If I could summarise what I've learnt in one line, it's this: Buddhism (and the mixing of it with Hinduism and spirit worship), the Indians, the Mongolians and to a lesser extent, Sri Lanka, have all contributed significantly to shaping the course of history in Ancient Burma.

The downfall of Pagan, a mighty Burmese empire, is also a key highlight. I find it hard to believe that the last King of Pagan caused his whole kingdom to fall merely because he took offence to certain  Mongolian ambassadors failing to take off their shoes while in his presence.

The last King had these ambassadors executed despite his ministers advising him that this was a VERY BAD idea.

Obviously this incurred the wrath of Kubilai (Kublai) Khan who promptly invaded Pagan not long after...

Indian roots and Buddhism

It is not possible to discuss the roots of Ancient Burma without discussing India and Buddhism. 
Asoka's Maurya empire

  • Around the 260s BC King Asoka (Ashoka) sought to expand his Mauryan empire via peacefulness rather than warfare. Buddhism became a pan-Asia religion 2.5 centuries after Buddha's death thanks to Asoka.
  • Asoka's son apparently even went to Sri Lanka as a missionary to spread the religion.
  • The Theravada version of Buddhism appears to have been started in Sri Lanka.

Buddhism was split into many schools. Two famous ones were Mahayana and Hinayana.
  • Brahmin-influenced Mahayana saw itself as superior to Hinayana. Mahayana buddhists were allegedly prepared to postpone buddhahood to lead others to enlightenment, whereas the latter allegedly 'only sought personal salvation in the seclusion of a cloister'.
  • The Therevada branch of Buddhism, apparently a branch of Hinayana, believes there is no intermediate stage between death and rebirth. The Mahayana branch believes that various punishments await people after death.
  • Therevada Buddhism focuses mostly on karma: the good and bad things done in a person's previous life which allegedly determine a person's next existence.
  • Burma eventually received the Theravada version of Buddhism.


Stupas flood the landscape of present-day Burma.

Although stupas are a key symbol of Buddhism, they originally came from memorial tombs of Magadha, one of the kingdoms of Ancient India.
  • Apparently there is a distinction between a stupa and pagoda but the distinction appears to be blurred given the overlap in the purpose for their use.

Interaction with Hinduism and the caste system

From circa 300AD to roughly 550, the Gupta dynasty ruled in Northern India. In this period Hinduism experienced a resurgence. Apparently a system of hereditary classes also followed.
  • Buddhism rejected such social divisions on the basis that a person's position is not based on birth or descent but by conduct and character.
  • It is unclear how far the Indian caste system transferred to Burma.
  • Hindu deities appear to have always been incorporated into the framework of Buddhist belief, in the same way nats (indigenous spirits associated with waterfalls, rocks, trees, fields etc) were incorporated into the system.
  • In the 2nd century the Pyus came into contact with Indian culture via East India and Sri Lanka. The religion then became a fusion between Buddhism, Hinduism, animism and the urn burial tradition.

Burmese Kings and Buddhism

Many Burmese Kings grappled with the dilemma of either being a ruling monarch or being a sage seeking buddhahood.
King Anawrahta
King Anawrahta (King A) of Pagan, probably Burma's most famous king, was converted to Theravada Buddhism by a monk from Thaton of the Mon Kingdom (Lower Burma). King A was keen to spread this religion in his kingdom and asked the monk for scriptures.
  • The invasion of Sri Lanka by the Hindu Chola dynasty of South India apparently made it difficult for Burma to obtain Theravada scriptures. The Hindu Cholas sacked neighbouring kingdoms and even raided as far as Indonesia. (They even attached Srivijaya in 1017, 1025 and the 1070s).

Accessibility of Buddhism - intermixing of religions

King A realised that his people would not accept Buddhism so readily when nat worship (Burmese spirit worship) was so engrained in their culture.
  • He therefore permitted nat spirits to be placed outside the Shwezigon, one of the largest Burmese stupas, on the basis that 
"People will not come for the sake of the new faith. Let them come for their old deities and gradually they will be converted." 

When King Kyanzittha (King K) came into power at Pagan, Theravada Buddhist ideas were so established that the intermixing of Hindu and Mahayana ideas was permissible.
  • King K is famous for building the Ananda temple.

Earliest Burmese States

According to The Glass Palace Chronicle ('Hmannan Maha Yazawindawgyi'), a book compiled by Burmese royal command in 1829 by the Konbaung dynasty, the earliest Burmese kingdom was founded by an Indian prince called Abhiraja (Abhiyaza) in about 850BC. It was called Tagaung.
  • According to the Chronicle, when King Abhiraja died, his sons held a building contest on one night. The person to finish building first would be the next ruler. The younger son won because he and his followers built an almshouse using bamboo and thatch, which was faster to assemble than the elder son's choice of brick and wood.

Pyus - Sriksetra

The Pyus, a group of Burman tribes, eventually pushed the last King of Tagaung south.
  • The Pyus pushed downwards along the Irrawaddy/Ayeyarwady River and eventually founded Sriksetra in circa 480BC (the largest known Pyu settlement, near modern Prome/Pyay in the Bago Region of Burma).
Sriksetra was a huge city. According to Chinese scouts, the city walls enclosed 30 square kilometres.
  • Sriksetra's economy depended on irrigation (as did Pagan, see below).
  • The end of Sriksetra is a mystery. One theory is that it was invaded by Nanzhou (a belligerent state in modern day Chinese province Yunnan) in 832. Another theory states that its demise had something to do with Sriksetra ceasing to be the Pyu capital in 656. Yet another theory states that it was destroyed during the reign of King Anawrahta who was alive in the 11th Century.
  • Pyu's cultural influence in Pagan is considered by many to be undeniable.
Mon Kingdom

The Mon Kingdom appears to have been a kingdom in southern Burma, near central Thailand. Its capital was Pegu (Bago).
  • The Thaton Kingdom existed pre 11th century until it was invaded by Pagan.
  • When Pagan collapsed, the Mon Kingdom was reborn as the Hanthawaddy Kingdom in circa 1287.
  • Pegu was home to Indians and Mons when King Anawrahta, founder of Pagan, ruled.

The Kingdom of Pagan (849- 1297 AD)

Pagan sat in one of Burma's key irrigated systems.

Pagan was famous for its excessive religious building (stupas, temples and monasteries - 3000+ are still there today) and extensive irrigation.
  • King Anawrahta (King A), founder of the Pagan empire, apparently had a dream from the king of nats, who asked him to build wells, ponds, canals, ditches, monasteries, pagodas etc.
King A drew upon the irrigation skills of the Thai-speaking Shan hillmen
  • Shan farmers relied upon a sophisticated method of water control along with a special type of rice that could withstand dry climate or land with limited flooding.
  • In the 11th century, Pagan had enough agricultural supplies for it to control Lower Burma - this conquest led to a greater cultural exchange with India and Sri Lanka.
  • Pagan's economy over-relied on the endowment of Buddhist temples and agricultural estates on other Buddhist monks - this was tax-exempt and did not bring money to the royal exchequer.


The Shwezigon, one of the earliest and largest stupas, may have been the work of both King Anawrahta and future king Kyanzittha (who, on one account, was allegedly born due to an affair between one of King A's envoy's and a princess). 

According to legend, it is supposed to hold the tooth of Gautama Buddha, or a replica of it, - a powerful image

King Kyanzittha (ruler after King A)

Kyanzittha (K) was an interesting character. Despite being mistreated by King A and his son Sawlu, K nonetheless attempted to rescue Sawlu after Sawlu had been captured by the Mons.

K snuck into the Mon camp and took Sawlu.

Given how his father and himself has mistreated of K, Sawlu thought this 'noble deed' was too good to be true and suspected K would do something bad to him. So Sawlu cried out while they were still in camp.

K left Sawlu behind, fled and said "Then die, you fool, at the hands of the Mon."
  • Despite Sawlu's ungratefulness, when K later became king, he announced that the throne should return to King A's line and gave his daughter to Sawlu's son - when K's grandson was born through this marriage, K declared that he was a mere servant and caretaker for his grandson, anointing his grandson King.
  • On this account, K appears to have been an altruistic and loyal character.

After King K

Alaungsithu then ruled after King K.

When Alaungsithu was old, he was smothered by his son Narathu.

It is implied that Narathu had a hand in his older brother's death as well. Narathu's tutor, Panthagu, called Narathu accursed and left for Sri Lanka.

Building temples to atone for guilt

Courtesy of Justin Vidamo and Wikipedia
It is traditionally believed that Narathu raised Dhammayan, Pagan's largest temple, to atone for his guilt.
  • Narathu was eventually killed by assassins disguised as brahmins sent by a king he had angered.
Similarly, King Narapatisithu put to death a tutor without realising how wise the tutor had been. Narapatisithu attempted to atone for his guilt by going on a construction frenzy.

Decline of Pagan

Pagan declined throughout the 13th century. Religious buildings occupied 60% of land, reducing tax revenue available to Pagan Kings as well as the manpower available to them (as mentioned above, the construction of religious buildings was tax-exempt).

Burma's last ruler, Narathihapate, quite ridiculously ordered the deaths of Mongol Ambassadors sent by Kublai Khan (grandson of Genghis Khan) on the basis that these ambassadors did not take off their shoes often enough. His ministers strongly advised against this course of action.
  • Suffice to say this must have outraged Kubilai Khan. 
  • Narathihapate turned the Mongols into an unnecessary enemy, causing Kubilai Khan to invade Burma. Marco Polo provides a detailed, but perhaps exaggerated, account of this invasion.

Battle of Ngasaunggyan

Narathihapate assembled 2000 large elephants to block the Mongols, each elephant carrying 12-16 soldiers. 
  • Narathihapate had 40,000 men.
  • The elephants psychologically scared the Mongol horses.

The Mongol general Khudu (Qutuq) changed his tactics immediately. He tied his horses to trees, and advanced his 12,000 men on foot. He ordered his men to fire arrows at the elephants.
  • Marco Polo describes the Mongols as triumphant in employing this tactic

Mongols finally win

However, it did take two campaigns for the Mongols to win. In 1287, King Narathihapate fled the city.

Marco Polo claims that Kubilai Khan expressly ordered that no religious buildings be burnt because Kubilai appreciated the fact that previous kings had built them to benefit souls. 
  • Polo claimed that the Mongols never touched the property of the dead but he was very wrong about this - while Genghis Khan respected other people's deities, he had no problem with looting tombs.
  • Kubilai Khan also allowed the pillaging of Chinese imperial tombs to pay for expensive foreign wars.

Mongols very influential

The Mongols' conquest of Nanzhou freed Thai chieftains, causing the Shan people to overrun Upper Burma and the Thai to press Angkor hard. The damage to stupas that can be seen in present-day Pagan is suspected to have been caused by the Shan tribesman or other soldiers.

Andre Lim