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Depictions of Portuguese in Burmese Buddhist Murals

The first Portuguese communities to settle in Burma, in the early 16th century, came from Malaya. The first use of firearms in the country dates to the mid-16th century, when Portuguese along the coast controlled ports and trade routes, sometimes resorting to looting and piracy, as well as hiring out their services as mercenaries. In the early 17th century, a number of Portuguese were captured and settled in villages in Upper Burma to join the royal guard, where they intermarried with the locals, lapsing from Catholicism and gradually losing their identity. The author discusses the representation of Portuguese in the Buddhist murals of Upper Burma, where they are integrated within the murals’ moral discourse.
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November/December 2019
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