Golden letter from Burmese king rediscovered in Germany

An 18th century letter written by King Alaungmintaya to King George II has been rediscovered – in a library in Hanover. The letter was no ordinary piece of correspondence, having been written on a plaque of gold and decorated with rubies!

Golden letter from a Myanmar king

Myanmar Times, 20-26 June 2011

In 1756 Myanmar king Alaungmintaya sent a diplomatic letter to King George II of Great Britain.

It was not a run-of-the mill, ink-on-paper dispatch. The message, in Myanmar language, was engraved on a rectangular plaque made of gold, with a line of 12 rubies embedded on each of two sides.

Dr Jacques Leider, a French scholar and historian who has studied the text on the plaque, has described it as being of “immense historical value … aesthetically pleasing and [of] political importance”.

Dr Leider became aware of the existence of the letter, which is kept in the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Library in Hanover, Germany, in 2007 when he was contacted to study the artefact’s engraved script.

“A curator at [the library], Dr Friedrich Hulsmann, beseeched me to trace the origin of the manuscript,” Dr Leider said in an email to The Myanmar Times.

He said hours of “painstaking inspection through a magnifying glass” were required to identify the origin of the letter beyond doubt.

“The letter is decrepit but survives in a largely unaltered state,” he said.


Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

3 thoughts on “Golden letter from Burmese king rediscovered in Germany”

  1. According to the article, the letter was a prelude to establishing or maintaining trade relations in the backdrop of local unrest. The letter was sent to Hanover, because it was the home town on King George II.

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