Pyu City-states - Decline of Pyu City-states

Decline of Pyu City-states

It was a long-lasting civilization that lasted nearly a millennium to early 9th century until a new group of "swift horsemen" from the north, the (Mranma) (Burmans) of the Nanzhao Kingdom entered the upper Irrawaddy valley through a series of raids. According to the Tang Dynasty chronicles, the Nanzhao began their raids of Upper Burma starting as early as 754 or 760. Nanzhao raids intensified in the 9th century, with the Nanzhao raiding in 800-802, and again in 808-809. Finally, according to the Chinese, in 832, the Nanzhao warriors overran the Pyu country, and took away 3000 Pyu prisoners from Halin. (In 835, the Chinese records say the Nanzhao also raided a state, generally identified by some but not universally accepted to be a Pyu state.)

To be sure, the Pyu and their culture did not disappear just because 3000 of them were taken away. The size of the Pyu realm and its many walled cities throughout the land indicates a population many times over. Indeed, no firm indications at Sri Ksetra or at any other Pyu site exist to suggest a violent overthrow. It is more likely that these raids significantly weakened the Pyu states, enabling the Burmans to move into Pyu territories. At any rate, evidence shows that the actual pace of Burman migration into the Pyu realm was gradual. Radiocarbon dating shows that human activity existed until c. 870 at Halin, the subject of the 832 Nanzhao raid. The Burmese chronicles claim the Burmans founded the fortified city of Pagan (Bagan) in 849 but the oldest radiocarbon dated evidence at Pagan (old walls) points to 980 CE while the main walls point to circa 1020 CE, just 24 years earlier than the beginning of the reign of Anawrahta, the founder of Pagan Empire.

At any rate, the Burmans had overtaken the leadership of the Pyu realm by the late 10th century, and went on to found the Pagan Empire in the middle of the 11th century, unifying the Irrawaddy valley and its periphery for the first time. Nonetheless, the Pyu had left an indelible mark on Pagan whose Burman rulers would incorporate the histories and legends of the Pyu as their own. The Burman kings of Pagan claimed descent from the kings of Sri Ksetra and Tagaung as far back as 850 BCE—a claim dismissed by most modern scholars. Pyu settlements remained in Upper Burma for the next three centuries but the Pyu gradually were absorbed and assimilated into the expanding Pagan Empire. The Pyu language still existed until the late 12th century but by the 13th century, the Pyu had assumed the Burman ethnicity and disappeared into history.

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