Toungoo Dynasty

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History of Burma/Myanmar
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The Toungoo Dynasty (1486-1752) was one of the most powerful post-Bagan Burmese kingdoms, over which seven kings reigned for a period of 155 years. King Mingyinyo (1486-1531) founded the First Toungoo Dynasty (1486-1599) at Taungoo (Kaytumadi), far up the Sittang River, south of Ava, towards the end of the Ava dynasty in 1510 C.E. Mingyinyo's son King Tabinshwehti (1531-1550) unified most of Burma, overrunning the Irrawaddy delta region and crushing the Mon capital of Bago (Pegu). In 1544, Tabinshwehti was crowned as king of all Burma at the ancient capital of Bagan. By this time, the coming of European traders, had once again made Burma an important trading center, and Tabinshwehti moved his capital to Pegu due to its strategic position for commerce. Tabinshwehti's brother-in-law, Bayinnaung (1551-1581), an energetic leader and effective military commander, made Toungoo the most powerful state in Southeast Asia, and extended its borders from Laos to Ayutthaya, near Bangkok. Bayinnaung was poised to deliver a final, decisive assault on the kingdom of Arakan, when he died in 1581. His son, Nanda Bayin, and his successors, were forced to quell rebellions in other parts of the kingdom, and the victory over Arakan was never achieved.

Faced with rebellion by several cities and renewed Portuguese incursions, the Toungoo rulers withdrew from southern Myanmar and founded a second dynasty at Ava, the Nyaungyan Dynasty or Restored Toungoo Dynasty (1597-1752). Bayinnaung's grandson, Anaukpetlun (1605-1628), once again reunited Myanmar in 1613, and decisively defeated Portuguese attempts to take over Myanmar, but the empire gradually disintegrated. The Toungoo dynasty survived for another century and a half, until the death of Mahadammayaza in 1752, but never again ruled all of Myanmar.


King Mingyinyo (1486-1531) founded the First Toungoo Dynasty (1486-1599) at Taungoo (Kaytumadi), far up the Sittang River, south of Ava, towards the end of the Ava dynasty in 1510 C.E.. After the conquest of Ava by the Shan invaders in 1527, many Burmans migrated to Toungoo, which became a new center for Burmese rule. The dynasty conquered the Mohnyin Shan peoples in northern Burma.

Mingyinyo's son King, Tabinshwehti (1512–1550) (reigned 1531-1550), unified most of Burma (now Myanmar) and is known as the founder of the Second Burmese Empire.


Tabinshwehti succeeded his father, Mingyinyo, as ruler of the Toungoo dynasty in 1531. Shortly after Tabinshwehti became king of Toungoo, he began attacking the kingdom of Pegu on the Bay of Bengal, a succession of Mon kings who had ruled over a united Lower Burma, at least since the time of King Rajadhirat (r. 1385-1421). Pegu was an important trading center; Toungoo relied on Pegu for important commodities such as cloth and salt[1] and its maritime markets and economic prosperity made it an attractive military target.[2] The Shan confederation, which had ruled over Ava since 1527, had conquered Prome to the west of Toungoo in 1532, the year after Tabinshwehti became king of Toungoo. Toungoo was the only remaining Burmese stronghold, and conquering Pegu would augment Toungoo's military forces, strengthening Toungoo to better face the Shan threat from the north.[3]

Between 1535 and 1538, Tabinshwehti marched south from Toungoo in a series of four military expeditions against Pegu. In 1538, after first taking the western delta region around Bassein and augmenting his forces with military manpower and armaments, Tabinshwehti overcame the defenses of Pegu and occupied the capital of the Mon kingdom. He moved his capital from Toungoo to Pegu in 1539.

Prome (1540)

Takayutpi the Mon king of Pegu (r. 1526-1538) had fled north to seek refuge at Prome. Tabinshwehti sent his top general and brother-in-law, the future King Bayinnaung, north to Prome in pursuit. In the famous Battle of Naung Yo, Bayinnaung faced a superior force on the other side of a river. After crossing the river on a pontoon bridge (rafts, in other versions), Bayinnaung ordered the bridge to be destroyed. This action was taken to spur his troops forward in battle and provide a clear signal that there would be no retreat. Before the battle began, Bayinnaung replied to a message from Tabinshwehti, ordering him to wait for the main body of troops to arrive, by saying that he had already met the enemy and defeated them. To those who criticized this action, Bayinnaung replied that if they lost, they would all be dead anyway and there would be no one to take the consequences.[4]

Tabinshwehti could not take Prome because it was well-defended with strong walls, and supported militarily by Shan Ava. When Takayupti died, many of his loyal followers came over to Tabinshwehti's side. Tabinshwehti increased his military strength by employing mercenaries of many nationalities, including Portuguese and Muslims. The number of Portuguese in his employ is said to have numbered as many as 700 men.[5]

Martaban (1541-42)

The thriving port of Martaban proved difficult to subdue because it was supported by Portuguese soldiers and arms. On the land side of the town, there were strong fortifications backed by earthwork, and on the water side, seven Portuguese ships commanded by Paulo Seixas provided a strong defense. When supplies ran out under siege, Martaban tried to negotiate terms, but Tabinshwehti would only accept a complete surrender. Martaban tried to lure away the Portuguese mercenary, Joano Cayeyro, who was helping Tabinshwehti, but these efforts failed. Finally, Tabinshwehti used fire rafts to burn and drive away the ships guarding the water side of the fortifications. A high fortress raft armed with guns and cannons was maneuvered to a position in front of the river side fortifications. The walls were cleared of defenders and a final assault was made on the town.[6] The Portuguese writer, Fernão Mendes Pinto, records in great detail the pillaging and executions that supposedly took place in the wake of Martaban’s defeat after seven months of siege.[7]

Prome and Upper Burma (1542-45)

After a coronation ceremony and religious donations at the Shwedagon Pagoda in 1541, Tabinshwehti led an expedition to the north to subjugate Prome. The first assaults against the walls of Prome failed.[8] Prome requested aid from Shan Ava and Arakan. Tai forces arrived first, but Bayinnaung met them in advance before they could reach Prome and defeated them.

The siege of Prome dragged on, and when the rainy season arrived, Tabinshwehti ordered his troops to plant rice and gather manpower and provisions from Lower Burma.[9] The overland contingent of forces sent by Arakan was ambushed by Bayinnaung, and both the land and river forces of Arakan returned home. After five months of siege, starvation led to defections and the weakened defenses of Prome were easily overcome. The sack of Prome and the punishments that were supposedly meted out to the inhabitants are described in great detail by Fernão Mendes Pinto.[10]

In 1544, Shan forces led a counter-attack but were again defeated by Tabinshwehti's forces. Tabinshwehti was crowned as king of all Burma at the ancient capital of Bagan. By this time, the geopolitical situation in Southeast Asia had changed dramatically. The Shan gained power in a new kingdom in the North, Ayutthaya (Siam), while the Portuguese had arrived in the south and conquered Malacca. With the coming of European traders, Burma was once again an important trading center.

In 1545, Tabinshwehti marched north and took Pagan and Salin, leaving a garrison in Salin.[11] Instead of driving northwards and reestablishing a Burmese state at Ava, Tabinshwehti turned his attention to the coastal polities to his west and east, Arakan and Ayutthaya.

Arakan (1546-7)

The ruler of Sandoway in southern Arakan had pledged loyalty to Tabinshwehti in exchange for the throne of Arakan. The fortifications at Mrauk U, the capital of Arakan, had been built with the assistance of the Portuguese. The normal strategies of frontal assault or siege were ineffective against these fortifications. With the intercession of monks, Arakan finally convinced Tabinshwehti to abandon the siege and return to Pegu.[12]

Ayutthaya (1548)

While Tabinshwehti was campaigning in Arakan, Ayutthaya (Siam) had sent raiding parties against Tavoy in Tenasserim. Tabinshwehti ordered the lord of Martaban to regain Tenasserim, and in 1548, Tabinshwehti himself led a large invasion force westwards over the Three Pagodas Pass route to attack Ayutthaya. In the battle between Ayutthaya and Tabinshwehti's forces, the famous Ayutthaya Queen Sri Suriyothai dressed as a warrior, rode into battle on her elephant and lost her life while protecting her husband. Facing strong fortifications and Portuguese mercenaries at Ayutthaya, Tabinshwehti decided to move north and attack the weaker towns to the north, Kamphaengphet, Sukhothai, and Phitsanulok.[13]

While Tabinshwehti had been campaigning in the east, a Mon revival had been gathering momentum in Lower Burma. Upon his return, Tabinshwehti was assassinated by Mon members of his own court in 1550. A short period of Mon rule ensued while Bayinnnaung fought to restore the kingdom that Tabinshwehti had built.[14]

The Tabinshwehti Nat is one of the 37 nats (spirits) worshiped in Myanmar in addition to Buddhism.


Reconquest of Burma (1550-1555)

Bayinnaung (lit. "the King's Elder Brother," known in Portuguese as Braginoco, and in the Thai language as Burinnaung or Burengnong) was the name conferred by Tabinshwehti on his brother-in-law, Kyaw Htin Nawrata. After Tabinshwehti was assassinated by Mon members of his court in Pegu in 1550, Bayinnaung fought to recover Tabinshwehti's kingdom, retaking Toungoo and Prome in 1551, Pegu, Martaban, and Bassein in 1552, and finally Ava in 1555.

Shan States and Chiang Mai (1557-1558)

After Bayinnaung had retaken both Upper Burma and Lower Burma, he led a military expedition northwards to the Shan region and took Mong Mit, Hsipaw, Yawnghwe, Mong Yang, and Mogaung in 1557. The following year he marched to Mong Nai (1557) and then the Lanna kingdom of Chiang Mai (Zin Mè, 1558) taking both cities. In 1563, he conquered the Chinese Shans of Mong Mao.

Ayutthaya (1564-1569)

In 1563, Bayinnaung launched another campaign against the kingdom of Ayutthaya, capturing the capital in 1569, despite widespread opposition and resistance among the Siamese. Siam, in effect, became a vassal state of the Toungoo kingdom, and thousands were taken back to Burma as war captives.

Starting in the late 1560s, several European travelers such as Cesar Fedrici and Gaspero Balbi traveled to Pegu, the capital of Burma, and left detailed descriptions of Bayinnaung's kingdom in their travel journals.

Lan Chang (1570s)

In the 1570s, Bayinnaung marched against the kingdom of Lan Chang (Lin Zin) in modern day Laos. The king of Lan Chang, Setthathirat, and the inhabitants of the capital, Vientiane, fled to the jungle where they resisted the invasion. Bayinnaung pursued them, but warfare in the jungle proved difficult because the enemy was difficult to find and engage in battle. Failing to achieve decisive control over Lan Chang, Bayinnaung returned to Burma. When Bayinnaung returned to Lan Chang in 1574, he tried to lure the inhabitants back to the capital and rebuild the kingdom under a ruler of his choice.

An expedition was also sent to reassert control over the Shan state of Mogaung in the far north in 1576. In 1581, Bayinnaung was preparing to launch a final, decisive assault against the coastal kingdom of Arakan when he died suddenly. An energetic leader and effective military commander, Bayinnaung had made Toungoo the most powerful state in Southeast Asia, and extended its borders from Laos to Ayutthaya, near Bangkok. His wars stretched Myanmar to the limits of its resources, however, and both Manipur and Ayutthaya, which had remained under Myanmar domination for fifteen years, were soon independent once again. During the reign of Bayinnaung’s son and successor, Nanda Bayin, the empire that Bayinnaung had constructed was dismembered, and Siam was liberated by Prince Naresuan. The victory over Arakan was never achieved

Upon assuming power, Nanda Bayin was faced with a rebellion begun by his uncle, the viceroy of Inwa. Nanda defeated his uncle, but was unable to subjugate Ayutthaya Siam, at the time a vassal state of Myanmar. A Siamese rebellion led by Naresuan, defeated several of Nanda’s armies in the Chao Phraya river valley. Nanda faced another revolt in southern Myanmar, which was supported by Siam. In 1595, Nanda defended Bago, the royal capital, from a Siamese attack. Faced with rebellion by several cities and renewed Portuguese incursions, the Toungoo rulers withdrew from southern Myanmar and founded a second dynasty at Ava, the Nyaungyan Dynasty or Restored Toungoo Dynasty (1597-1752). Still another revolt, this time begun by his brothers (the viceroys of Taungoo, Pyay, and Inwa), occurred in 1599. Nanda was taken prisoner after his brothers gained the support of the king of Rakhine and besieged Bago.

It is cited that Nanda died in 1599, having "laughed himself to death when informed, by a visiting Italian merchant, that Venice was a free state without a king."[15]


Bayinnaung's grandson, Anaukpetlun (literally, "died in the west," 1605-1628), once again reunited Myanmar and decisively defeated Portuguese attempts to take over Myanmar. Born to Prince Nyaungyan in Upper Burma, Anaukpetlun launched an invasion of the neighboring region of Lower Burma, capturing Prome in 1607 and Toungoo in 1610. Continuing on to Syriam, then under the rule of Portuguese mercenary Philip de Brito, Anaukpetlun captured the city in 1613, following a long siege, after which he crucified de Brito and enslaved the surviving Portuguese and Eurasian populations (known as bayingyi, who subsequently served as hereditary gunners for later Burmese rulers).[16]

The same year, Anaukpetlun's forces invaded nearby Siam and briefly occupied Tenasserim, but within a year they were forced to withdraw from the country by combined Portuguese and Siamese forces. Anaukpetlun continued to fortify his control of Burma, until he was murdered by his own son, who feared retribution from an affair with one of his father's concubines, in 1628. He was succeeded by his brother, Thalun (1629-1648).

End of the Toungoo Empire

The Toungoo empire gradually disintegrated. The Toungoo dynasty survived for another century and a half, until the death of Mahadammayaza in 1752, but never again ruled all of Myanmar. Anaukpetlun's successor Thalun (1629-1648) reestablished the principles of the old Pagan kingdom, but concentrated his efforts on gaining religious merit and paid little attention to the southern part of his kingdom. Encouraged by the French in India, Pegu finally rebelled against Ava, further weakening the state, which fell in 1752.


  1. Lieberman (1984), 209.
  2. Harvey (1925), 153.
  3. Fernquest (2005), 106.
  4. Harvey (1925), 154-155.
  5. Lieberman (1980), 209-210.
  6. Harvey (1925), 155-157.
  7. Pinto (1989), 314-325.
  8. U. Kala II: 177-178
  9. U. Kala II: 179.
  10. Pinto (1989), 328-333.
  11. Harvey (1925), 157-158
  12. Harvey (1925), 158.
  13. Surakiat (2005), 79-80.
  14. Shorto, 50-60.
  15. Ben Schott, Schott's Original Miscellany (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2003). ISBN 0-7475-6320-9
  16. D.G.E. Hall, Burma (Hutchinson University Library, 1960).

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Charney, Michael Walter. 1998. "Rise of a Mainland Trading State: Rahkaing Under the Early Mrauk-U Kings, c. 1430-1603." In Journal of Burma Studies. 3: 1-34.
  • Fernquest, Jon. 2005. Min-gyi-nyo, the Shan Invasions of Ava (1524-27), and the Beginnings of Expansionary Warfare in Toungoo Burma: 1486-1539. SOAS Bulletin of Burma Research 3.2 Autumn. Retrieved December 15, 2007.
  • Harvey, G.E. 1925. History of Burma from the Earliest Times to 10 March 1824, The Beginning of the English Conquest. London: Longmans, Green and Co.
  • Kala, U. 1959-1961. Mahayazawinkyi [The Great Chronicles]. 1960.
  • Lieberman, Victor B. 1980. Europeans, Trade, and the Unification of Burma, c. 1540-1620. Oriens Extremus 27: 203-226.
  • Pinto, Fernão Mendes. 1989. The Travels of Mendes Pinto. Translated and edited by Rebecca. D. Catz. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226669513
  • Surakiat, Pamaree. 2005 "Thai-Burmese Warfare during the Sixteenth Century and the Growth of the First Toungoo Empire." In Journal of the Siam Society. 93: 69-100.
  • Thant Myint-U. 2006. The River of Lost Footsteps: Histories of Burma. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 9780374163426

External links

All links retrieved May 1, 2023.


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