Shan (Pong) Relationship with Meitei: Mongmaorung, The Splendid Capital of The Kingdom of Pong

/ Guest Column / Monday, 06 September 2021 18:31

By: Manglemjao S. Sorokhaibam

Mongmaorong which is also written as Mungmaorung was a great and splendid city in Shweli (Nam Mao) River basin in an area lying between the borders of present day Myanmar (then Burma) and Yunnan Province in China now. During the heydays of Pong (Shan) Kings this ancient city was the capital or the administrative centre of Pongs. (Yunnan was then known as Khaki/Khagi to the Meitei/Manipuri as noted in their historical books and chronicles). This present paper is an evaluation from an ancient Chronicle found in Manipur long back by R.B.Pemberton, a British Officer in 1835 from the hands of Meitei (Manipuri) scholars a copy which has been handed to the author some years back. The name of the chronicle is named as “Sorarel Machana Khunkumba”, its literary meaning could be “ Sons of Sorarel (Heavenly King) Descending On The Earth.* In those days, Tai Shan or the Pongs as Meitei called Shan, or Tais as Pongs (as mentioned in Meitei manuscripts) settled in the vast areas from the eastern Tibetan Plateau, the land of the great rivers rises in the north west extending to the far south covering Kabaw Valley, sometimes reaching up to the borders of Bengal, Tripura, Assam and even Arakan Hills, covering Hukwang Valleys, Kachin Hills, Hsenwi, Eastern Shan areas, Northern Thailand, Lao, Northern Vietnam, and major parts of Yunnan China (Yunnan was always named as Khaki or Khagi in Meitei manuscripts). In the later phases the Ming Dynasty of the Han Chinesein thier southern expansion, the capital cities in Shweli River valleys were destroyed repeatedly and the centre of political of the Shan based shifted or drifted to the west in Kachin and Sagaing Divisions in present day Myanmar.
The Shan Kingdom of Pong before the establishment of their capital at Mongmaorong:
According to this ancient chronicle ‘Sorarel Machana Khunkumba”, the Pong Shan Chronicle, there were so many small principalities or administrative divisions within the kingdom of Pong in these ‘Mountainous Countries of Mainland South-East Asia”. It is mentioned in the chronicle that in the year “Kapchou” or Kap Sau ( Kapchou Lakli in the Meitei Chronicle) Sangbou Sorarel, the Heavenly King sent down one of his grandson namely “Hun Hseng” to rule KengHku country. He was accompanied by 30,000 male and female folks to assists in his ruling. Thereafter, the King Hun Hseng introduced many administrative reforms in his country. His first steps of the reforms were:
To make smooth and free flow of the rivers and streams in his kingdom;
Introduced the proper and better used of fire in the community,
Better construction of houses by using bamboo,
Farming Reforms: Transplantation of rice in cultivation was also introduced widely,
Introduce silk culture: Silk cocoons were boiled inside the extraordinarily big jars/pots by ladies and extracted silk fibres from the boiled cocoons and this was used for weaving, bring great changes in the way of life and administrations in the Pong Kingdom,
Grain Storage Houses (Kei in Meitei big Paddy Storage House) were constructed abundantly,
Tribute System : Tribute System were also introduced and royal grain houses were also constructed for keeping collected grains as tributes annually,
Other valuable royal properties collected in the form of tributes were also kept inside such newly constructed houses. Trusted commanders or in charge official were deployed to guard or look after these houses. During Hun Hseng’s reign Keng-Hkam and Keng-Hkai with many Lai or Li people were arrived in his kingdom.
Thereafter, Hun Hseng declared himself as the king of all Pong principalities i.e. The Unified Kingdom of Pong. When one son namely Tao-HkuHku was born he further thought of more reforms so that he can reign with pomp and grandeur.
Hun Hseng continued his reforms in a grand way so that he could reigned in the Kingdom of Pong with pomp and grandeur with lasting peace and prosperity. In the 1st Phase he thought of making 19 divisions under one king or chaophas each, but there were only nine principalities namely:
Keng Hai,
Keng Ham,
Keng Men,
Keng Hkam,
Keng Hu,
Keng Mai,
Keng Hung.
Then, he divided these 9 divisions into 27 maings or moang or mong in Shan means town or certain local area under a chief or Sawbwa, or Chaopha namely:
Mong Pu
Mong Hkak
Mong Mang
Mong Hse,
Mong Htee,
Mong Yal or Mong wal
Mong Yun or Mong Wun,
Mong Yaw or Mong Yao,
Mung Kawng,
Mong Kiang,
Mong Hteng,
Mong Yang,
Mong Hla,
Mong Yet,
Momg Mit,
Mong Mao,
Mong Hkun,
Mong Wai,
Mong Mel,
Mong Hkung,
Mong Nai,
Mong Kuang,
Mong Huk
Mong Hsang,
Mong Hkam,
Mong Hai.
In this way Hun Hseng with various social and administrative reforms reigned there for a long period and died in the year Kamao Lakli. Thereafter, for about 365 years seven kings ruled the Kingdom but there were no significant incident in this period.
MONGMAORONG: The Capital of The Great Shan Kingdom of Pong.
Thereafter, Chao Mrprong became the king of Pong Kingdom. During this time their capital was shifted near the water at Mongmaorong, perhaps near the bank of Shweli River (Nam Mao). He reigned for 60 years and died in the year “Kamao Lakli”, and then, his son Chao Murgnou became the King of Mongmaorong and reigned there for long 100 years. (Pemberton,1835- In the year 777 A.D. Murgnou died, leaving two sons, called Sooksmpha and Samlongpha, of whom the eldest Sookapha succeeded to the throne of Pong, and during his reign we find the first traces of a connection with more western countries, many of which he appears to have succeeded in bringing under subjugation to his kingdom. According to “Sorarel Machana Khunkumba”, a Shan Chronicle found in Manipur in Meitei Script, Sukhanpha’s earlier name was Samgnam Tahkam, and the name Sukhanpha was his coronation name. King Sukhanpha had a son name Sukhaipha. During this time no king appeared to present any annual tribute to the king of Mongmaorong and king Sukhanpha was not happy.
King Suhkanpha deputed his brother Samlong as the Commander of a large army of his kingdom and ordered him to collect tributes from the countries. Further advised him (Samlong) that those rulers who paid obeisance to him can be granted or any kind of authority above them. The campaign was successful as many kings came to pay obeisance to him with a lots of tributes from their kingdoms. Samlongpha the commander of Pong Kingdom was satisfied with the acts of those kings and further instructed to those kings that what they (Eastern Kings) have to be done is that every year tributes must be given to the king of Pong at Mongmaorong without fail. All those Eastern Kings were also happy and he came back to Mongmaorong with all those tributes and narrated all stories of their submission to him with tributes, and Samlong submitted all tributes submitted by the tributary kings to King Sukhanpha.
SAMLONG, The Commander in Chief of Mongmaorong: His Western Campaign.
Then, King Sukhanpha was very happy with the successful campaign of his brother in the Eastern Kingdoms and ordered to make another campaign in the Western countries; and hence, he was the Commander of a large army with full of fighting equipment to conquer western countries including Basa or Pasa (Bengal–Pemberton,1835) and countries around the great ocean. Samlong marched to the west and all kings of the countries submitted to him after showing the power of his forces, and presented tributes to him. He was happy with these kings and instructed to pay annual tributes to the king of Mongmaorong who is his brother. On way back he reached Moirang and Meitei lam (Manipur). He was a great kind prince as he showed compassion to the poor economy of Moirang and Meiteis at the time and chose not to extract tributes from them. He also helped their rulers to evolve means for the amelioration of their social condition. During his stay in Meiteilam he advised the Meitei in many ways – how a king should treat his people, how and where to construct the king’s palace, what to wear, where to worship the ‘Naben Lairema’, the Goddess of wealth (Goddess Imoi-nu) etc… Here we may refer to G.W.Dawson, ICS, 1960 Rangoon: “Anderson describes Bhamo as forming an integral portion of the ancient Shan Kingdom of Pong, which the capital was first on the Shweli and later at Mogaung. This theory was based on the researches of Captain Pemberton, who derived his information from Shan manuscripts at Manipur. Further, John Anderson, MD, Medical Officer and Naturalist to one of the expedition to Western Yunnan, China in 1860s and 70s quoted in his report that “Captain Pemberton’s information was derived from an ancient Shan manuscript chronicle, which he obtained during his residence at Manipur, and had translated into the Manipuri language. From this document it appears that the Kingdom of Pong, in 14th Century, occupied the country between the frontiers of Yunnan and the hills separating the Kubo Valley from Manipur, extending north apparently to the mountains which bound Assam on the south-east, and south, as far down as the parallel of 23 degree 35 minutes. Tradition places the ancient capital on the Shweli. but it appears that after its capture by the Chinese, about the middle of the 14th century, a new city was founded on the banks of the Namkong, on the western side of the Irrawady, to which the name Muangkung was given. According to the ancient chronicle “the influence of the Pong Kingdom, on the neighbouring states, began to be most felt in the reign of Sukampha, who ascended the throne in 777 A.D. He subdued all the countries to the east of his capital, up to the confines of China, and carried his arms into Cachar, Tripura, and Manipur. Thereafter, Samlong, the commander of Sukhanpha’s armies invaded Assam and succeeded in establishing his brother’s supremacy, but he did not return to Pong, as a conspiracy was formed to destroy him. He was joined by his wife and his son, Chaonahkam, and the latter is said to have been the head of the subsequent dynasty of Assam. From these facts, it is evident that, even at this early period, Pong was recognized as a powerful Shan Kingdom with a large territory.
According to Ne Ellas in his “Introductory Sketch of The History of The Shans” in Upper Burma and Western Yunnan, the undernoted countries were wholly or partly fallen under the Pong King at Mongmaorong:
Momiet, comprising seven maings,viz., Bhamo Molai, Maing-lung, Ungbaung, Thibo, Thungzei, Singu, Tagaung.
Mogaung comprising ninety-nine maings, among which the following were the most important: Mung-lung(Asam), Kassei (Manipur), part of Aracan, the Yaw country, Kalei (Kali), Taungthut (Samjok), Maing-Kaing, Maing-Yaung, Maing-Kwon, Sankring Khamti, Maingli (Khamti proper, Monyin, Mokshobow, Kunung_Kumun (Mishmi country), Khang-sei (Naga country) etc. etc.
Theinni, comprising thirty-nine maings,
Kyain Sen ( Kiang-Tsen on the Cambodia),
Lansan (Linzin),
Yun (Zimmei),
King-lung (said to be Kiang Hung, Kiang-Yung-gyi or Cheili).
King-laung (said to be a district north of Ayudia),
Mung Lem,
Tai-lai (Tali-fu?),
Wangchang (Yung-chang-fu),
The Palaung country (Taungbain, & c),
Sang-pho (the Singpho country?),
The Karen country,
Lamu (?),
Lakhaing (Aracan-meaning probably that portion not under Mongaung),
Langsap (?),
Ayudia (Siam),
Tawi (Tavoy.),
Since the reign of Chao Mrpong around 777AD the capital was shifted on the bank of Shweli River also known as Nam Mao River at Mongmaorong.
Many historians also believe that the Tai or Dai State of Mong Mao grew from many small mongs/moang under chieftainship since the beginning of Christian era under the name “ The kingdom of Pong” as mentioned in the Shan Chronicle found in Manipur during the time of R.B. Pemberton in his residency. Later, this great kingdom was destroyed by the southern expansion of Ming Dynasty of China. In the language of Jon Fernquest – “Mong Mao existed during the Ming Dynasty near the present day Myanmar-Yunnan border. Ming military expedition into Yunnan, first in 1380s, then again in 1440s, broke up this state, dispersed and atomized the power of its ruling elites, and put an end to an ongoing process of the state formation. In one counterfactual world, Mong Mao was even at a state destined to rival Sukhothai or Lan-Xang to the south”.
Political power in the Mong Mao area had long been diffuse before the Ming arrived in Yunnan in 1382. Mountainous geography, endemic warfare, inter-elite struggles for power, and overlapping spheres of Chinese and Burmese influence had all contributed to this diffusion of power. Ming frontier policy transformed this diffuse power in various ways over a roughly 150 year period from 1382 to 1524 through a combination of diplomacy, military and police action, tribute, taxation, and settlement, Starting in 1524, Mong Mao’s former rulers, displaced westwards to Mong Yang, played a significant albeit short role in mainland Southeast Asian history when Tai forces swept down upon Upper Burma and established Tai rule over Upper Burma for 28 years. The Burmese re conquest and depopulation of the Shan or Tai states in 1557 brought with it a final “reduction and dismantling” of Tai political power in the Mong Mao region and completed the process that the Ming invasion began in 1382 (Wade, 2004, 31; Fernquest, 2005b, 2005c).
Mong Mao: Old City Mongmaorong’s Present Location
Mong Mao, once Mongmaorong the great city capital of Mong Moa/Tai Pong Kingdom is now located in Dehong Autonomous Prefacture in South Yunnan, China.The ancient city site in located 10 km away from Ruili City, on the right bank of the Shweli River (Nam Mao) in Yunnan, China and on the left bank is muse township of present day Myanmar.
According to Chouna Mein (2005): Ruili is the official Chinese name of the old Mung Mao city. Tai call themselves the city as Mung Mao. Many new generations, Han Chinese does not know the city as Mung Mao: We were astonished when our official Chinese guide with knowledge of English language, Mr. Ting Hua could not understand at all when we called the city as Mung Mao. He knew it as Ruili only. We had to explain him that in past Ruili was popular as Mung Mao, as it was the main administrative centre of King Chen Mung Mao Lung, once a great powerful Tai Kingdom. Chinese called Mung Mao too as Meng Mao according to their pinyin Chinese system. Present Mung Mao is situated on the both side of Nam Mao River. Northern side is included in China and southern side in northern Shan State of Myanmar. On both sides there are Tai and Singphos. Mung Mao Loang is situated in Dehong Dai Jingpo Autonomous prefecture. Actually Tai and Singphos pronounces as Te hong Tai Singphos Autonomous prefecture. In Chinese system ‘T’ is pronounced as ‘D’ and ‘S’ and ‘K’ are pronounced almost as ‘J’. So the name transforms in Dehong, Tai as Dai, Singpho as Jingpo, Kiang as Jing. The Dehong prefecture includes 5 regions such as Mung Mao, Mung Khon, Mung Wan, Mung La and Mung Ti. The modern official names are Ruili (Mung Mao), Lung chuan (Mung Wan), Luxi( Mung khon), Ying Jiang (Hung La) and Liang kho (Mung Ti). All are regarded as district, country. Luxis administrative head quarter as well as Dehong prefectures capital is at Mung khon city. Which is presently known as Mang Shi.
Now Mung Mao-Ruili is well known as a tourist circuit and was ranked as one of the finest tourist cities of China in 1998. Presently within 15 years tourism has indeed become a key factor in the prosperous development of Ruili economy. Being famous for the production and processing of jewellery, jadeite, fossilized trees and other tourism products, Mung Mao-Ruili is honoured as “The jewel city of East; Many honour the city as city of gems and country of peacock. Peacock is found in forest in enormous numbers. The Tai people like Khampti, Ahom, Phake, Aiton, Turung of NE India still bear the symbol of peacock in textile designs, folk dance, folk art forms. Peacock dance of Khamti, Phake aiton, Turung and Khamyang is similar to that found in Dehong and Sipsongpanna.
Manipur continued its closed relation with Tai-Mao/Tai-Shan (Pong) kings since the time of Samlongpha to Maharaj Garibaniwaz (Pamheiba) the king of Manipur up to late 1740AD; and there were diplomatic and administrative reforms were made in consultation with one another.
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Ne Ellas: Introductory Sketch of The History of The Shans in Upper Burma and Western Yunnan,1876, Calcutta
B.Pemberton: The Eastern Frontier of India,1835,(Reprinted 1998) Delhi,
N Khelchandra Singh: Ariba Manipuri Sahityagi Itihas (Manipuri),1969, Imphal.
K Gohain: Origin of The Tai and Chao Lung Hsukapha,1999, New Delhi.
Ibohal Singh: History of Manipur,1986, Imphal.
P Gogoi: Tai and Tai Kingdoms, 1986 Gauhati.
Ma Williamson,ICS,: Burma Gazetteer:Shwebo District,1924, Rangoon, Burma.
W.Dawson, ICS: Bhamo District ( Burma Gazetteer),1960, Rangoon.
Edward Tuite Dalton,CSI: Descriptive Enthnology of (Archaeological Survey of India) Bengal (1871-72)
Jon Fernquest : Crucible of War (SOAS Bulletin of Burma Research),2006.
Oinam Bhogeshwar: Ningthourol Lambuba (Maniouri),1967, Imphal.
Cheitharol Kumbaba, 1989, : N.Khekchandra Singh and L.Iboongohal Singh
Konsam Manikchand Singh,2014: Descent of The Scion of Sorarel on Earth (A Shan Chronicle in Meitei),2014, Imphal.
Sons of Sorarel (Heavenly King) Descending On The Earth(Sorarel Machana Khunkumba): With the Author.
(*** 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.)

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