Burma is a British colonial term for the former British colony that covered the land area of today?s Union of Myanmar. Historically this has not be a unified kingdom, however, but rather 4 seperate ones, influencing each other significantly throughout history. I will use the term ?Burma? and ?Burmese? when referring collectively to all 4 kingdoms or as a geographic term. The term is questionable from an art historian?s point of view, because we are talking about art that was created many hundreds of years before the British esthablished the term ?Burma?.
The history of Burma begins with the Yin Lin Kingdom, that gained its independence from the Funan Kingdom in the 6th century and subsequently split into 4 smaller kingdoms. The Pyu and Mon Kingdoms in the area of Burma, the Dvaravati Kingdom in the area of today?s Central Thailand and the Srivajaya Kingdom in the area of today?s Southern Thailand and Indonesia. Independently from the Pyu (who later mix with the Myan people to form the Myanmar kingdom with Bagan as its capital) and the Mon was the Arakan kingdom in the far West of Burma, near the Indian border and only much later in the 14th century, the Tai Yai (called Shan by the British) Kingdom was formed in the East of Burma.
In Burma we therefore look at 4 seperate kingdoms:
1. Myanmar Kingdom (Pyu and Myan people)
2. Tai Yai Kingdom (Shan)
3. Arakan Kingdom
4. Mon Kingdom
More than 90% of the Burmese Art is from the Myanmar and Tai Yai Kingdoms. The later styles of these two kingdoms are the ones commonly associated with "Burmese Art". Throughout history the kingdoms, especially Myanmar, Mon and Tai Yai, conquered and influences each other back and forth, which resulted in a mixture of the Art styles, increasingly visible during the later periods.