Manglemjao S. Sorokhaubam, Retd IPS
Ex-Inspector General of Police, Manipur
The following is an evaluation chiefly from an ancient Meitei chronicle “Sorarel gi Machana Khunkumba”, (Sons of Heavenly King Descending on the Earth) supplemented by accounts of other colonial writers
After reigning the Tai-Pong country for 82 years, Su-Hung-Hpa died in the year TaoNgee Lakli (probably corresponding to 1035 AD), and was succeeded by his son Su-Hkun-Hpa after being named as Su-Kwot-Hpa1 in the same year (TaoNgee Lakli as mentioned by Ne Ellas,1876). Then he ruled for 20 years and died in the year Tao-khet Lakli, and his son Su-Gnam-Hpa or Sugnpha became the king. He had three sons namely, Su-Kyi-hpa, Su-Hum-Hpa, and Su-Put-Hpa. After some time when his queen wife was pregnant with a fourth son, who would come to be named Su-Hup-Hpa, there was an incident on the border between Pong (Shan)-Khagi (Yunnan). The story goes: “There were four brave men under the Pong King, one is very intelligent, the second is as brave as a tiger, the third is as light as mature silk cotton tree fiber, and the fourth as swift as wind. They were treated by the king with special statuses and they became very faithful to the king. When they were in that status for three years they became well-known in the Pong Kingdom, and even beyond the borders’. In the meantime, the king of Khagi came to know about the four brave men of Pong, and he became very jealous. To rival the Pongs, he also selected four healthy men and made them as four brave men of Khagi. One day the four brave men of Pong crossed the border unintentionally while walking, but unfortunately they came face to face with the four brave men of Khagi. A combat resulted. The seasoned four brave men of Pong beat the four Khagis black and blue when they were challenged without any provocation2. The news of the incident reached to the King of Khagi (Yunnan) and the treacherous Khagi King felt indignant and began chalking out a plan for revenge to defeat and humiliate the four brave Pong men.
Conspiracy Of Khagi (Khagi/Yunnan) King Against Pong King To Over Come That Kingdom.
The Khagi king sent one intelligent nobleman as his messenger with a lots of gifts to the court of Pong king, and accordingly the Khagi nobleman arrived at Pong capital, and showed his obeisance and presented all the gifts from the side of Khagi King, and also expressed the Khagi King’s confidence and well wishes to the Pong King, and narrated what had happened on the border village between Pong men and Khagi men, and requested for an interview between the king of Pong and Khagi at Mungse, which is five days journey from Mongmaorong, the Pong capital. (According to R.B. Pemberton this incident happened during the time of Chinese sovereign Chowongtee, and Shun-Tee in the year 1333 AD, and the border disagreement happened in the year 1332 AD). The Khagi messenger also narrated that the Khagi King always valued good relations between the two kingdoms. After hearing all the reports and request from the Khagi messenger, the Pong King felt that the Khagi King was a good peace-loving king who thinks of good relations between them for a better future, and thereafter they appointed the time of meeting and sent back the Khagi messenger. Keeping his words, after few days the Pong King arrived at Mungse. There he found two great thrones erected by the Khagis where the two kings sat side by side accompanied by their dignitaries. The treacherous Khagi King smiled and started to speak diplomatically that he was willing to make a deal with the Pong King for good relations for future welfare. And the Khagi King continued to say that he had four brave men, they were given many privileges so that they became pampered and arrogant, crossing the border and created nuisance. He said they even collected tributes from remote Pong villages which is a grave crime, which may even bring bad confrontations in the future. He expressed his desire to kill his four brave men to save him from such awkward situations in the future.
He then ordered for four arranged captives dressed like that of his four strong men to be brought out. These decoys were actually poor vagabond beggars. He then had them executed mercilessly in front of all to show his extreme sincerity towards his neighboring country.
The Khagi King then pleaded that since he had no authority over the four brave men of Pong who were also equally responsible for the grave border crime, the Pong King should mete out the same punishment to the four brave me of Pong as he himself just did to his four Khagi men.
Thereafter, the Pong King Sugnpha came back to his country with heavy heart. He never suspected the treacherous policy of Khagi (Chinese dominated Yunnan) King to defeat him (Pong) and his kingdom, and he was so touched, though disturbed, to think that his counterpart had taken up serious steps to maintain good neighborly relations with him and his countrymen, including the sacrifice of his four precious lives. The Pong king also ultimately decided to kill his four brave men who were so precious to him as a return gesture of goodwill to his counterpart Khagi King. Accordingly, he too killed his own four brave men in front of his people. The innocent peoples of Pong were happy with the acts of their king, presuming the king had done the right act for its people and the country, and that this was to further good friendly relations with their neighboring kingdom.
Khagi (Yunnan, China) Conspiracy to Devastate the Pong.
Thereafter, the Khagi King* thought of announcing the killing of the four brave men of Pong, but one Thelshu priest requested the king not to do that as the consequence may not be positive and instead it may give negative impact to the Khagi. The Khagi King acknowledged the priest’s suggestion and complied with the request. The Khagi King then asked Thelshu as to how Khagi can defeat the Pongs and also requested him to seek blessing from the ‘Lai’ on the ways and means to overcome the Pongs. Thereafter, Thelsu priest met the ‘Lai’ and asked how Khagi can defeat the Pong. The Lai or Li disclosed to Thelsu priest that there is a secret supernatural powered ‘sapphire’ in possession of Pong King which was sent by ‘Sorarel’, the Heavenly King. If Khagi were able to take possession of this Sapphire, only then, Khagi would succeed against the Pong. With all these serious adviced from Lai, Thelsu priest returned to the Khagi king and shared all that transpired. The Khagi King then chalked out a plan to extract the Sapphire from the possession of the Pong King. He accordingly selected one reliable intelligent nobleman and sent him to Pong.
The said nobleman reached the Pong kingdom and presented himself before the Pong King. He showed his obeisance to the king, and said Oh! King, noblest of the most noble – I have been sent by Khagi King as the (Khagi King) was not satisfied with the first meeting, and now again requested for another meeting, and the Khagi nobleman requested the Pong King for the second meeting. As the Pong King never suspected any treacherous policy from the side of Khagi King, he accepted the invitation. Thereafter, the Pong King arrived to their meeting place in time, and on his reaching there the Khagi King had shown great satisfaction and welcomed the Pong King. While discussing their good neighbourly relations both were very happy; and the Khagi King took out one sapphire and told that this is the most valuable sapphire possessing supernatural power in this land bounded by Loichari Hills range. He then asked the Pong King what sapphire he had. The Pong King without suspecting any ill will, brought out his sapphire, and showed it to the Khagi King explaining that the same had been inherited by him as the king of Pong. It was given to one of his ancestors by Sorarel, the heavenly king. Then, the Khagi king requested the Pong King thus: “Elder brother king I will arranged all food with well-furnished accommodation for five more days, and requested the Pong King to stay back for five days in his kingdom so that he (Khagi King) could keep that ‘Sapphire’ for five days to see its wonderful beauty. The Pong king after a light thought accepted the request, allowing the Khagi King to keep the ‘Sapphire’ for five days. The Pong king Sugnpha spent those five days there happily enjoying the Khagi food (Chinese food) and well-furnished accommodations. In the meantime, the Khagi king with the help of excellent artificers made a duplicate ‘Sapphire’ and took the original in his possession and kept the duplicate inside the box the original was brought in, and handed over the same to the Pong King on the fifth day. The king of Pong also departed the next day for his kingdom.
On reaching his kingdom he found the duplicate sapphire inside the box. Pong King Sugnpha was furious and he consulted with all his noblemen and commanders and prepared for a war against Khagi. He declared that the six small principalities of Mungshe, Sna, MungLa, Yeta, Chanta, and Mung-maing shall be taken back from Khagi (earlier these six regions originally belonged to Pong), and prepared for an all-out war against the Khagi and called out all commanders, all fighting groups, all elephant men, and together proceeded towards Khagi for a big fight*. (This Chronicle further narrates with an instruction to its readers that from that time there were continuous enmity and wars between Khagi and Pong. In other words this marked the beginning of a long war between Yunnan-China and the Pong-Shan).
The Pong forces reached Mungse and constructed a big fort there and all arrangements were made for a long drawn out war, and in the meantime all these news were also received by the Khagi King and he hurriedly arrived there with his forces, but Pongs had built themselves a very well-fortified stockade which the Khagis were unable to penetrate easily. They went back acknowledging that the Pongs were far stronger and well prepared than their forces.
Some time passed, and one day one Khagi man encountered with one Lai-Ningthou (a profound priest) ‘Ura-Kat-Hpa’, a priest, seats on a large flat stone, and said to live 1000 years, feeding on raw eel (who eat raw eel, i.e. in Meitei ngaprum ahingba chaba) in the west behind the “Western Gold Mountains, at the source of the great rivers. While inquiring to the Lai, the priest who lives there instantly asked the Khagi man: “who the hell you are talking about, I am the one who lives 1000 years, but you a man of 100 years only”. The old man (the priest) who sits on the large stone again told the Khagi man in angered tone: “Keep all these nonsense aside, there is a news that Khagi wants to destroy Pong, but it won’t succeed as he was protecting the Pongs”. He also further told that if he could be made the General of Khagi (Yunnan was already under Chinese Empire then) only then, the Khagi can win over the Pong.” He also wanted the man to tell this to their king. The Khagi man promptly returned to their king and reported the whole incident to the King. After hearing all these narrations the Khagi King immediately instructed the messenger to bring the priest.
Thereafter, the Khagi man went back hurriedly to meet the high priest in the mountains in the northern direction. He brought the priest in front of the Khagi King. The Khagi King (The Yunnan King or Governor nominated by Chinese Emperor) told the priest that he (the King) called him (the priest) so me may help him invade the Pong Kingdom. Then, the priest told the King that his name is ‘Yachangshi’, if he is to be the ‘Lalup-chingba’3, the Commanding General of Khagi Army, his title must be made ‘General Yachangshu’ and also requested the king to spread this name
That way three years passed, and the whole of Khagi and the Pong rosed for a war, and there was a fight. Ultimately Pongs went inside the “ Washanaiba-gi Lanban”4, a Bamboo Fort”, which was well built and the Khagi army could not do much, and they went back.
Khagi (Yunnan/Chinese) General Yachangshu’s New Strategy to Defeat Pong: Thereafter, the Khagi General Yachangshu suggested their King that, if they are to defeat and conquer Pong they must carry a lot of gold and silver, and throw these inside the wall of the ‘bamboo fort’ secretly in the night time, so that the soldiers inside are engaged collecting those gold and silver. While they are doing this, Khagi army can enter destroy the fort. This was done as suggested by the General. Next day morning the Pongs found the scattered gold and silver inside the wall of the bamboo fort. Even the Pong king saw the gold and silver inside the wall. They were very happy and the Pongs even praised that their king is one of the most fortunate and blessed king as there were rain of gold and silver on his abode. But they could not pick up those gold and silver as there were full sharp bamboo branches, so they dismantled the bamboo fort and collected the gold and silver. Then, the Pongs hurriedly constructed a fort of concrete with stone wall. But Khagis invaded the Pongs this time again, presuming that there would be no fort. A big fight ensued, the Pongs became weaker, and ultimately the Pongs entered inside the Stone Walled Fort, and even then, the Khagis could not overcome and destroy the Pong fort. The Khagis went back to their capital again.
General Yachangshu chalk out another plan to devastate Pong Capital
Now, General Yachangshu made out another plan to defeat Pongs; and constructed a number of boats and rafts with dummy men with fake arms and floated them down the river and the Pongs from the above took them as the real armed men and panicked. The men there fled away from the capital. This serious news that his capital had been destroyed reached the Pong King who was on the war front. He and his eldest son flee to Pokka or Awa or Pagan, and the Khagis entered his capital. Sometime later, the Pong King sends his first son from the capital of Awa in search of the queen mother and two of his sons. The son ultimately meets the mother and his brothers, who were in the extreme north in the Kachin hills, and narrated the whereabouts of his father. In the meantime the Khagi General came to know the sheltering of Pong King at Awa and the General Yachangshu pressed the Awa king to hand over the Pong King who was sheltering there for protection. At first, the Awa King was not willing to hand over the sheltered King to the Khagi (Yunnan General) as the Pong King was sheltering there to save himself from the invaders. Knowing that motive, the Khagi General warned the Awa King (Burma King) that if they did not hand over the fugitives, they would to face devastation by his army. The Awa King and his ministers discussed the gravity of the matter hurriedly in the night, and handed over the Pong King to Khagi General without giving any information to the Pong King. Thereafter his whereabouts became unknown. In the meantime, the queen mother sent one messenger to the Pong king to narrate their meeting with the eldest son who was sent by her husband king, but the messenger was caught by Khagi army on way to Awa. While the queen mother was there in a place called ‘Haitup-pokpi’5 with four sons as one more was born, named Suhungpha, there, the Khagi army attacked and captured the eldest son Sumipha and never returned; whereas the queen mother and the three sons escaped to Khampti in the extreme north and spent about two years there. Then, in the year Kapshi Lakli they came down to the bank of Namkong (Nam Kawng) River, and there established their capital called ‘Mung Kong Konung’6. Later it became known as Mogaung. That way Khagi Yunnan under the Chinese defeated the Pong Shan and completed their southern expansion.
1. Su-Kwot-Pha or Su-Hkum-Pha (1035 AD): During the reign of this king a new capital was established called Cheila, on the left bank of the Shweli and immediately opposite Ma-Kau Mung-Lung’ He is also said to have incorporated Bhamo with his dominion. Also see Ne Ellas:Introductory Sketch of the History of the Shans, 1876, p-16-17.
2. This incident occurred in the year 1332 AD (R.B.Pemberton-1.
3. Lalup-chingba:- Is a Manipuri(Meitei) word means Commander of an Army/General Officer Commanding ‘General Yachangshu’ all over the Khagi kingdom. Then the king announced that- if anyone called their ‘General Yachangshu’ as ‘Yachangshi’, then, those persons shall be punished by cutting mouth, and hair shall be shaved, ear shall also be cut by scissor. Now, General Yachangshu also suggested the King that if the Pongs are not willing to fight a war, then Khagi should not wage a war.
4. Washanaiba-gi Lanban: It’s a Manipuri (Meitei) word, Wa means bamboo, washanaiba derived from the word Wa, with strong branches that protrudes from the main trunk. Lanban means fort. A kind of Bamboo fort made of hard bamboo woods, which were prevalent in those days in this Mountainous Countries of Southeast Asia, at least in South west Yunnan, Laos, Thailand, Burma, Manipur, parts of Assam etc.
5. ‘Haitup-pokpi’: The place is marked as Haitup-pokpi, means the place where local apple first found. It need further investigation.
6. ‘Mung Kong Konung or Mongkwang or Mogaung which was established after the destruction of Mongmaorong in Shweli River Valley should not be confused with this location. This means that Mogaung is later established on Namkawng or Nam Kong River, and later known as Mogaung River. Konung in Meitei (Manipuri)-Palace or Capital, more accurately Headquarters of all Heads. According to old Meitei manuscript “Khununglon” Konung or Capital or Palace means the place where all secrets were disclosed and discussed minutely.
The writer is a retired Inspector General of Police, Manipur. Prior to joining Manipur Police Department, he served as a lecturer of geography, Thoubal College (Govt), Manipur.