Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Burmans are a Tibeto-Burman-speaking people living in the central plain of Burma (Myanmar). They are predominantly wet rice cultivating farmers, but also grow some cotton, maize, peanuts, onions and other crops. Historically, the Burmans had a powerful kingdom which unified and ruled much of Burma. They remain the dominant ethnic group of this nation, both demographically and politically.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


Asia --Southeast Asia



OWC Code


Number of Documents


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Number of Pages


Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in eHRAF World Cultures and are referenced by author, date of publication and eHRAF document number. In addition to this culture summary, the Burmese collection consists of documents, all of them in English, covering a variety of cultural, geographical and historical information from 1820s to 2008.

The oldest document in the collection was compiled by J. G. Scott a British colonial official whose career in Burma spanned from 1870s-1909, covering parts of the third Anglo-Burmese war and a good part of the time during which Burma was a British Indian province (Scott 1935, no. 2). This book, together with another equally old book by two professional ethnologists who worked in the area around 1890 (Ferrars and Ferrars 1901, 25), provide the first systematic description of Burmese life and country in considerable details.

A majority of the documents in the collection focus on the years immediately following Burma’s independence in 1948 to 1962 when the new military regime cut off further fieldwork by western anthropologists in the country. Coverage of these documents includes aspects of village life (Brant 1954, no. 14), customary law (Aung 1953, no. 30), religion and rituals (Nash 1963, no. 35; Spiro 1978, no. 32), kinship and marriage (Brant 1951, no. 23; Spiro 1977, no. 33) and aspects of modernity (Nash 1965, no. 34).

The remaining documents are theme-based essays originally published either as book chapters or journal articles. Themes discussed include aspects of change and continuity in religious practices (Jordt 2005, no. 36; Brac de la Perrière 2005, no. 37; Sadan 2005, no. 38), state-local community relations (Skidmore 2003, no. 41), gender and family life (Spiro 1993, no. 42).

For more detailed information on the context of the individual works in the file, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document. For additional information on other cultural groups in Myanmar (formerly Burma), see eHRAF Kachin (AP06) and Karen (AP07) collections.

Overview by

Teferi Adem

Akaja –homestead or residence site– Use SETTLEMENT PATTERNS ( 361) with HOUSEHOLD ( 592)

BO BO GYI –a venerable ancestor deity– Use SPIRITS AND GODS ( 776)

Buddha –principal deity– Use SPIRITS AND GODS ( 766)

Dana –merit giving– Use PROPHETS AND ASCETICS ( 792)

Hpoun –glory– Use ETHNOPSYCHOLOGY ( 828)

Kan –destiny– Use LUCK AND CHANCE ( 777)

Karma –moral condition– Use THEOLOGICAL SYSTEMS ( 779)

Kurtho –merit– Use THEOLOGICAL SYSTEMS ( 779)

Kyaung –religious school– Use PROPHETS AND ASCETICS ( 892)

Lon htien –military police– Use AUXILIARY CORPS ( 708)

Nat –spirits– Use SPIRITS AND GODS ( 776)

Nibbana –enlightenment– Use ESCHATOLOGY ( 775)

Nirvana –enlightenment– Use ESCHATOLOGY ( 775)

Pon –glory– Use ETHNOPSYCHOLOGY ( 828)

Sangha –monastic order– Use PROPHETS AND ASCETICS ( 792)

Sasana –teachings of the Buddha– Use THEOLOGICAL SYSTEMS ( 779)

Shibyu –religious festival– Use ORGANIZED CEREMONIAL ( 796)

Sutras –Buddhist scriptures– Use THEOLOGICAL SYSTEMS ( 779)

Thila-shin –nuns– Use PROPHETS AND ASCETICS ( 792)

Thugyi –headmen– Use COMMUNITY HEADS ( 622)

Zayat –house monasteries– Use PROPHETS AND ASCETICS ( 792)

Indexing Notes by

Teferi Adem

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