Kuthodaw Pagoda inscriptions to be restored

Stone inscriptions in Kuthodaw Pagoda in Mandalay will be the subject of a restoration project jointly run bu the Myanmar Ministry of Culture and the University of Sydney.

Mandalay. Source: TTR Weekly 20151123
Mandalay. Source: TTR Weekly 20151123

Mandalay restores stone plaques
TTR Weekly, 23 November 2015

Myanmar Ministry of Culture’s Archaeology and National Museum is collaborating with Sydney University’s Buddhist Studies Programme in Australia to restore stone inscriptions at Kuthodaw Pagoda in Mandalay.

Global New Light of Myanmar reported the collaboration started since the beginning of the year.
According to Archaeology and National Museum’s Mandalay branch, technicians and experts are undertaking preservation works of stone plaques and pagodas, taking photo records, translating stone inscriptions from Pali-Myanmar to English and publishing academic articles about the stones and inscriptions.

Translation and publishing are being carried out by Sydney University.

Full story here.

Scholars to read Myanmar’s ancient script an endangered species

The expertise to translate the ancient languages of Myanmar, including Pyu, Mon, Rakhine and Pali, is becoming increasingly rare as there is decreasing interest among young scholars in learning such languages.

The Maha Ganda Bell at Shwedagon Pagoda. Source: Myanmar Times 20150810
The Maha Ganda Bell at Shwedagon Pagoda. Source: Myanmar Times 20150810

Myanmar’s history lost in translation
Myanmar Times, 10 August 2015

Much of Myanmar’s early history is recorded in multi-lingual inscriptions dating back more than 1000 years. These words – etched into stone slabs, bronze bells, burial pots, clay tables, even the walls of sacred caves – describe the deeds of kings and reveal details about ancient civilisations, cultures and customs.

But while some of these inscriptions have been deciphered, many more have not, and only a handful of scholars possess the expertise to translate the millennium-old versions of the Pyu, Mon, Rakhine, Pali, Myanmar and Sanskrit languages in which they are written.

Deputy Minister of Culture Daw Sandar Khin said these languages are in danger of becoming extinct if action is not taken to preserve them.

Full story here.

Preserving poetry inscribed on Hue’s buildings

Conservators in Vietnam met recently in Hue to discuss the best ways to preserve the unique poetry carved on some of the heritage buildings in the historic city.

Carved poetry on buildings in Hue. Source: Viet Nam News 20150511
Carved poetry on buildings in Hue. Source: Viet Nam News 20150511

Conservationists discuss Hue carvings
Viet Nam News, 11 May 2015

The country’s leading conservationists gathered in Hue over the weekend to discuss the poetry that is carved on wooden and concrete heritage buildings in the former royal capital city.

The conservationists also will seek ways to protect this poetry.

Despite Han Chinese characters being used for transcription of the poems, they are still different from carved calligraphy found on ancient buildings in China, the conservationists agreed.

According to Vu Thi Minh Huong, chairwoman of the national committee for Memory of the World Programmes, carved poetry on imperial buildings in Hue and the Nguyen dynasty (1802-1945) woodprints included poems for the general public.

Full story here.

Earliest known inscription of ‘0’ is Cambodian

The author of the book ‘Finding Zero’ describes the earliest known inscription of the number ‘0’ in the modern Arabic numeral system, which is found in a Cambodian inscription.

Update and correction: A reader has pointed out to me that the representation of zero in the Arabic numeral system appears simultaneously in Cambodia and Sumatra in 683CE, and that prior to that we have symbolic representations of the number zero using words such as ‘void’, ‘air’, ‘wind’ from Cambodian inscriptions dating to 604CE. See G. Coedès (1931) A propos de l’origine des chiffres arabes. (Thanks Terry Lustig)

Sambor inscription with the earliest known zero. Source: Time.com 20150507
Sambor inscription with the earliest known zero. Source: Time.com 20150507

My Quest to Find the First Zero
Time.com, 07 May 2015

It’s humanity’s great invention

At 1:35 p.m. on Jan. 2, 2013, in a deserted, dusty shed in a clearing in what was once a lush, dense tropical forest a few miles southeast of the imposing ancient temple of Angkor Wat in northwest Cambodia, I had a rendezvous with history.

I found myself standing in front of a long-lost archaeological artifact whose importance for the history of science could not be overstated. It had taken me five years of intense effort to find this piece of stone. After talking to experts on three continents, and trekking through jungles, arid fields, sweltering deserts, and ragged mountains in India, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia, I was finally here, in front of the object I had almost lost hope of ever finding.

The artifact was a 5-foot-by-3-foot stone slab weighing half a ton, with ancient writings in a lost language chiseled into its smooth face. The language was Pre-Angkorian Old Khmer, an ancient form of the language of present-day Cambodia. This stele once adorned the wall of a 7th century temple at a place called Sambor on the Mekong River, all the way across the country, and it bore a description of the gifts made to this temple from the people of the area, including a list of slaves, five pairs of oxen, and white rice for the subsistence of those who worshipped there.

Full story here.

Is a Cambodian inscription the earliest record of the number zero?

A blurb for an upcoming book, Finding Zero, about the origins of the numeral ‘0’. It seems that the oldest inscriptional evidence thus far comes from a Khmer stele K127.

K127. Source: Smithsonian 201411
K127. Source: Smithsonian 201411

The Origin of the Number Zero
Smithsonian Magazine, December 2014
Continue reading “Is a Cambodian inscription the earliest record of the number zero?”

A possible Tamil link to the Ramkhamhaeng inscription

A post by D. Hellmann-Rajanayagam and Ruediger Korff from the University of Passau about the Ramkhamhaeng inscription and its possible links to a 1st century Tamil story.

Another view of the Ramkhamhaeng inscription
New Mandala, 23 October 2014
Continue reading “A possible Tamil link to the Ramkhamhaeng inscription”

Documents in Babayin script declared Philippine heritage

Two documents written in Babayin script have been declared cultural treasures in the Philippines.

1635 Deed of Sale, written in Babayin script. Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer 20140825
1635 Deed of Sale, written in Babayin script. Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer 20140825

UST documents in ancient ‘baybayin’ script declared a National Cultural Treasure
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 25 August 2014
Continue reading “Documents in Babayin script declared Philippine heritage”

Inscriptions found on Phnom Tbeng Meanchey

I don’t read Khmer, and I ran this story through Google Translate, but it seems that a number of inscriptions have been discovered on Phnom Tbeng Meanchey in Preah Vihear province. Corrections, translations and clarifications welcome!

Inscriptions on Phnom Tbeng Source: Everyday.com.kh 20140818
Inscriptions on Phnom Tbeng Source: Everyday.com.kh 20140818

ភ្នំ​ត្បែងមានជ័យ, អាថ័កំបាំងដែល មិនទាន់ទម្លាយ​
Everyday.com, 18 August 2014
Article is in Khmer

Update: Alison provides a short translation in the comments below.

One of the earliest uses of ‘0’ found in Cambodia

A mathematician is on the trail of the earliest known use of the numerical zero in writing, and which is quite possibly found on the K-127 inscription.

Inscription K-127. Source: Phnom Penh Post 20140809
Inscription K-127. Source: Phnom Penh Post 20140809

Did ancient Cambodians invent the zero?
Phnom Penh Post, 09 August 2014
Continue reading “One of the earliest uses of ‘0’ found in Cambodia”