Meaning of MYANMAR, FLAG OF in English


national flag consisting of a red field (background) with a blue canton bearing, in white, a circle of stars, a cogwheel, and ears of rice. The flag has a width-to-length ratio of 5 to 9. In many Asian countries the earliest flag representing the ruler had a plain background with a distinctive national animal in the centre. In Myanmar the peacock was that central emblem, introduced in 1757 by King Alaungpaya. The peacock, symbolic of the sun and of Buddhism, was also said to stand for happiness and unity. Under the colonial rule of the British (18861948), when the country became known as Burma, there was a special Blue Ensign with a gold disk bearing the peacock, although for most of the years of British rule the Union Jack alone was displayed. In August 1943 a Japanese-sponsored puppet regime established a horizontal tricolour of yellow-green-red bearing a white disk with a gold central peacock. The regime was opposed by the Anti-Fascist Organization (later the Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League), whose red banner with a single white star in the upper hoist corner inspired the national flag of Burma at the time of its independence (January 4, 1948). That new flag was red and had a large white star on a blue canton; the star had five smaller stars between its points, representing the different ethnic groups of the country. A new regime changed the national flag on January 3, 1974. The stars for the ethnic groups were replaced by 14 stars for the states and other divisions of the country, and instead of the large star there was a cogwheel for industrial workers, framing two ears (and four leaves) of rice, a symbol of the peasantry. The blue in the flag is for truthfulness and strength; red is for bravery, unity, and determination; and white is for truth, purity, and steadfastness. Whitney Smith History In prehistoric times Myanmar was inhabited along its coasts and its river valleys. During most of the 1st millennium AD the overland trade route between China and India passed through Myanmar's borders, and merchant ships from India, Sri Lanka, and even farther west converged on its ports, some of which also were the termini of the portage routes from the Gulf of Thailand across the narrow Isthmus of Kra on the Malay Peninsula. Thus, Myanmar often was the western gateway of mainland Southeast Asia. The Indian merchants brought with them not only precious cargoes but their religious, political, and legal ideas; and within a few decades Indian cultural traditions had remolded indigenous society, thought, and arts and crafts. Yet important components of Myanmar's own native culture were retained, creating a lasting synthesis with Indian culture. Surrounded on three sides by mountains and on the fourth by the sea, Myanmar always has been somewhat isolated; as a consequence, its culture has remained distinct in spite of the many Indian influences and in spite of its close affinity with the cultures of the other countries of Southeast Asia. Myanmar was one of the first areas in Southeast Asia to receive Buddhism, and by the 11th century it had become the centre of the Theravada branch of Buddhism. The faith was patronized by the country's leadership, and it became the ideological foundation of the Myanmar state that blossomed at Pagan on the dry central plains. The origins of civilization in Myanmar The Irrawaddy River, flowing southward through the entire north-south length of modern-day Myanmar, divides the country in two, and its valley forms the central plain. In addition, the region has long been divided culturally into northern Myanmar (or Upper Burma), the areas north of the Irrawaddy delta, and southern Myanmar (or Lower Burma), the delta and peninsular areas. The first human settlements in Myanmar appeared some 11,000 years ago in this valley. The stone and fossilized-wood tools used by these people have been named Anyathian, from Anyatha (another term for Upper Burma); little else, however, is known of these people. A discovery in 1969 by workers from the government's Department of Archaeology of some cave paintings and stone tools in the eastern part of present-day Shan state shows that that area, too, had Paleolithic and Proto-Neolithic settlements, the culture of which was similar to the Hoabinhian culture that was widespread in the rest of Southeast Asia. Crude shards and ring stones found at the site appear to have been attached to stonecutting tools to make them more suitable for digging. The woodcutting tools in the find probably were used to clear patches of forest for cultivation, which would indicate that the shift from gathering to agriculture had already begun. The economy Myanmar's economy is one of the least developed of the region and is basically agricultural; more than two-thirds of the people derive their livelihoods directly from agricultural pursuits. Of the nonagricultural workers who are employed in the other sectors of the economy, many are indirectly involved in agriculture through such activities as transporting, processing, marketing, and exporting agricultural goods. Nearly half of Myanmar's economic outputnotably all large industrial enterprises, the banking system, insurance, foreign trade, domestic wholesale trade, and nearly all the retail tradewas nationalized in 196263. Small-scale industry (consisting mainly of food and beverage processing, miscellaneous manufacturing, and cottage industries), agriculture, and fishing were left in the private sector. In 197576, however, the government placed nationalized corporations on a commercial basis and instituted a bonus system for workers. The overall economic objectives of self-sufficiency and the exclusion of foreign investment also were revised. Foreign investment was permitted to resume in 1973 and was further liberalized in the late 1980s. Enterprises remaining in the private sector after nationalization account for only a small fraction of the nation's tax income. The balance is collected from the public sector. The principal sources of revenue are taxes (income, commercial, and customs) and receipts from state enterprises. Myanmar also has an informal economy. Considerable quantities of consumer goods are smuggled into the country, and teak and gems are exported both legally and illegally. In addition, northern Myanmar is one of the largest producers of opium in the region. Agriculture Myanmar may be divided into three agricultural regions: the delta, where rice cultivation predominates; the dry zone, an area largely of rice production but also where a wide variety of other crops are raised; and the hill and plateau regions, where forestry and shifting agriculture are the most important. Although the dry zone was Myanmar's most important agricultural region in the past, the rice production of the Irrawaddy delta now provides much of the country's export earnings and the staple diet of the country's people. About half of all agricultural land in Myanmar is devoted to rice, and, despite a climate that permits much more extensive double-cropping, only a small proportion of the land is actually so managed. The delta's traditional agriculture consisted primarily of rice in normal years, with the substitution of millet in drier years when there was insufficient moisture for rice; both grains yielded good returns on the alluvial soils. After Burma was officially annexed to British India in 1886, however, colonial policy called for a more commercially oriented and extensive cultivation of rice. Since the indigenous labour force was thought to be insufficient to support the colonial export economy, the immigration of Indian and Chinese labourers was officially encouraged during the early decades of the 20th century. By 1942, first-generation immigrants made up about 13 percent of the total population. Despite relatively low growth in rice production after World War II, rice remained both the basic food and the basic export of Myanmar. Crops raised in the dry zone, in addition to rice, include wheat, millet, corn (maize), peanuts (groundnuts), sesame, legumes, tea, and rubber. To cultivate much of this land successfully, however, irrigation is required. The earliest known irrigation works were constructed in the 1st century and greatly improved in the 11th century; though their maintenance has lapsed somewhat since the fall of the monarchy, many are still in active service. As in the delta, the arrival of the British in the dry zone led to increased commercial and public-works activities. British authorities repaired and extended parts of these ancient systems during the early 20th century. Most of Myanmar's irrigated land is in the dry zone, and almost all of it is planted in rice. The portions of the dry zone that are not irrigated are utilized for the production of crops that are less sensitive to the seasonality or irregularity of rainfall than rice. In addition to the crops mentioned above, cotton and sugarcane are cultivated, although neither is of considerable significance. Cattle also are raised there. The third agricultural zone, the hill and plateau country, occupies perhaps two-thirds of the area of Myanmar. Although this land has less economic significance than the other two zones, it is the home of many of the country's non-Burman ethnic groups. They generally continue to practice shifting cultivation (called taungya in Burmese), although more sedentary modes also exist and others are imposed with the advance of agricultural technology and central planning. Outside the forest areas of these highlands, the principal crops raised are rice, yams, and millet, and large numbers of pigs and poultry are kept. Bullocks and buffalo are used as beasts of burden, and goats, pigs, and poultry are raised for food in all parts of the country. The land Relief Myanmar slopes from north to south, from an elevation of 19,296 feet (5,881 metres) at Mount Hkakabo (the country's highest peak) in the extreme north to sea level at the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady) and Sittang (Sittoung) river deltas. The mountain ranges generally run from north to south. The country as a whole can be divided into five physiographic regionsthe northern mountains, the western ranges, the eastern plateau, the central basin and lowlands, and the coastal plains. The northern mountains consist of a series of ranges that form a complex knot at Mount Hkakabo. Geologically, this knot marks the northeastern limit of the encroaching Indian-Australian Plate, which has been colliding with the southern edge of the Eurasian Plate for roughly the past 50 million years and thrusting up the mountain ranges of Myanmar and beyond. This region contains the sources of several of Asia's great rivers: the Irrawaddy, which rises and flows wholly within Myanmar, and the Salween (Thanlwin), Mekong, and Yangtze, which rise to the north in China. The upper courses of these rivers all flow through deep gorges within a short distance of each other, separated by steep, sheer peaks. The western ranges traverse the entire western side of Myanmar from the northern mountains to the southern tip of the Arakan (Rakhine) Peninsula, where they run under the sea and reappear as the Andaman and Nicobar islands. Their average height is about 6,000 feet, although some peaks rise to 10,000 feet and higher. The mountains consist of old crystalline rocks surrounded by hard, tightly folded sedimentary rocks on either side. From north to south, the Patkai Range, Naga Hills, and Chin Hills form the border between India and Myanmar. To the south of these are the Arakan Mountains, which lie entirely within Myanmar and separate the coastal strip from the central basin. The Shan Plateau to the east rises abruptly from the central basin, often in a single step of 2,000 feet. Occupying the eastern half of the country, it is deeply dissected, with an average height of 3,000 feet. The plateau was formed during the Mesozoic Era (245 to 66.4 million years ago) and thus is a much older feature than the western mountains, but the plateau also shows more recent and intensive folding, with north-south longitudinal ranges reaching elevations of 6,000 to 8,600 feet rising abruptly from the plateau surface. Northward, the plateau merges into the northern mountains, and southward it continues into the Dawna Range and the peninsular Tenasserim Mountains, each a series of parallel ranges with narrow valleys. The central basin and lowlands, lying between the Arakan Mountains and the Shan Plateau, are structurally connected with the folding of the western ranges. The basin was deeply excavated by the predecessors of the Irrawaddy, Chindwin (Chindwinn), and Sittang rivers; the ancient valleys are now occupied by these rivers, which cover the ancient soft sandstones, shales, and clays with their more recent alluvial deposits. In the deltaic regions formed by the Irrawaddy and Sittang rivers, the landscape is absolutely flat, and the monotony is relieved by only a few blocks of erosion-resistant rocks that are never more than 60 feet high. The basin is divided into two unequal parts, the larger Irrawaddy valley and the smaller Sittang valley, by the Pegu Mountains. In the centre of the basin and structurally connected with the Pegu Mountains and its northern extension is a line of extinct volcanoes with small crater lakes and eroded cones, the largest being Mount Popa, at 4,981 feet. The coastal areas consist of the narrow Arakan and Tenasserim coastal plains, which are backed by the high ranges of the Arakan and Tenasserim mountains and are fringed with numerous islands of varying sizes. Drainage and soils Like the mountains, Myanmar's main rivers run from north to south. About three-fifths of Myanmar's surface is drained by the Irrawaddy and its tributaries. Flowing entirely through Myanmar, it is navigable for nearly 1,000 miles. At the apex of its delta, the Irrawaddy breaks up into a vast network of streams and empties into the Andaman Sea through nine mouths. Its great tributary, the Chindwin, drains the western region. The Bassein River drains the southern Arakan Mountains, and the Yangn (Rangoon) River drains the Pegu Mountains, both entering the Irrawaddy at the delta. The Sittang flows into the Gulf of Martaban of the Andaman Sea and, in spite of its comparative shortness, has a relatively large valley and delta. The Shan Plateau is drained by the Salween River, which enters Myanmar from southern China and empties into the Gulf of Martaban southeast of the Sittang. It is deeply entrenched and crosses the plateau in a series of deep gorges. Many of its tributaries are more than 300 miles long and join the Salween in cascades. The Arakan coastal plains are drained by short, rapid streams, which, after forming broad deltas, flow into the Bay of Bengal. The Tenasserim plains also are drained by short and rapid rivers, which enter the Gulf of Martaban. The highland regions of Myanmar are covered with highly leached dark red and reddish brown latosols. When protected by forest cover, these soils absorb the region's heavy rain, but they erode quickly once the forest is cleared. The lowland regions are covered with alluvial soilsmainly silt and clay. Low in nutrients and organic matter, they are improved by fertilizers. In the central-region dry belt are found red-brown soils rich in calcium and magnesium. In the same region, however, when the soil has a low clay content, it becomes saline under high evaporation and is recognizable by its yellow or brown colour. The people Linguistic groups Several indigenous languagesas distinct from mere dialectsare spoken in Myanmar. The official language is Burmese, spoken by the people of both the plains and the hills. These languages belong to three language families. The Burmese language itself, and most of the other languages, belong to the Tibeto-Burman subfamily of the Sino-Tibetan family. The Shan language belongs to the Tai family. Languages spoken by the Mon of southern Myanmar and by the Wa and Palaung of the Shan Plateau are members of the Mon-Khmer subfamily of the Austro-Asiatic family. Until colonial times, only Pyu, Burmese, Mon, and Shan were written; writing systems for Karen, Kachin, and Chin were developed later. The Burmese spoken in Arakan state and Tenasserim (Taninthary) division suggests that it has preserved the language's ancient pronunciations. For the majority of the hill peoples, Burmese is a second language. During the colonial period, English became the official language, but Burmese continued as the primary language in all other settings. Both English and Burmese were made compulsory subjects in schools and colleges. Since a knowledge of English became an asset, many learned to speak it, and a small English-speaking elite emerged. Burmese, Chinese, and Hindi were the languages of commerce. After independence, English ceased to be the official language and, after the military coup of 1962, lost its importance in schools and colleges; an elementary knowledge of English, however, is still required, and its instruction is again being encouraged. Ethnic groups The original home of the Burmans in the dry zone established the ethnic character of the entire Irrawaddy valley and the coastal strips. These areas hold the majority of the population. The Irrawaddy and Sittang deltas were once peopled by the Mon, who may have entered the country from their kingdoms in the Chao Phraya River valley in Thailand. They were conquered in the 11th century by the Burmans, a more martial and less cultured group at the time. The Mon attempted twice to throw off Burman control, but by the end of the 18th century they had been largely absorbed by the Burmans, by intermarriage as well as by suppression. A sizable number still remain in the Sittang valley and in Tenasserim; although they continue to call themselves Mon, most of them have been integrated into Burman culture and no longer speak their original language. In the western hills and the Chindwin River valley are various groups called by the comprehensive name of Chin. The upper Irrawaddy valley and the northern hills are occupied by groups under the comprehensive name of Kachin. These peoples have had a long association with the Burmans. The Shan of the Shan Plateau have little ethno-linguistic affinity with the Burmans, and their society, unlike that of the plains peoples, was less elaborately structured. The Wa and the Palaung are Mon-Khmer speakers, but, because of the smallness of their numbers and their long residency on the plateau, they are sometimes confused with the Shan. In the same way, the Naga on the Myanmar side of the frontier with India are mistakenly placed with the Chin, and the Lolo-Muhso in northeastern Myanmar are grouped with the Kachin. The Karen are the only hill people who have settled in significant numbers in the plains. Although ethnically and linguistically Tibeto-Burman, they share territory and much vocabulary with the Mon. They are found in the deltas among the Burmans, in the Pegu Mountains, and along both sides of the lower Salween River. The Kayah, who live on the southern edge of the Shan Plateau, were known as Red Karens, or Karenni, apparently from their red robes. Although ethnically and linguistically Karen, they tend to have their own identity. During the period of British colonial rule, there were sizable communities of South Asians and Chinese, but many of these people left at the outbreak of World War II. A second exodus took place in 1963, when commerce and industry were nationalized.

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