June 28, 2022

#08-218: Maung Pauk Kyaing

From the cover of a Burmese comic about Pauk Kyaing

Note: How a poor student followed his teacher's advice and became the founder of a great Burmese dynasty.

Get Ready: Why isn't "history" enough? Why do so many culture need to attach legends to their founding heroes (like George Washington and the cherry tree)?

This is the story of how the great legendary Burmese leader Pauk Kyaing became the king of Tagaung.

Pauk Kyaing's parents wanted him to be a scholar, and sent him to the Buddhist University of ancient Taxila. But he was a mediocre student, never studying, and even falling asleep in class. So the kindly head of the university suggested he leave, but gave him three pieces of advice:

  1. A journey can end happily only after you have traveled far.
  2. You can learn what is important only by asking many questions.
  3. A long life comes from staying awake more than you sleep.

Thanking his teacher, Pauk Kyaing set out for home. But when he came to a fork in the road, he remembered the first piece of advice, and took the way that led away from his home.

After walking for several days, he came to a great city. Seeing an old man, he remembered the second piece of advice and asked:

"What city is this?"

"That is Tagaung," said the old man.

"Who is its king?" Pauk Kyaing asked.

"It has no king," the old man answered. After many more questions, Pauk Kyaing learned that the first man to marry the queen had entered the royal bedchamber on his wedding night, and was found in the morning torn to pieces, as if he had been attacked by a beast. Since then, several candidates had tried to live through the night in that bedchamber--and failed. Now no one would accept the challenge.

Pauk Kyaing, of course, decided to try. When he had been ushered into the bedchamber, he noticed a large pillar in the center of the room. He made up the bed and put the trunk of a banana tree in place of his body. He then sat with his sword in a corner, since the third piece of advice had recommended he stay awake.

Sure enough, in the middle of the night, the large pillar split open and a great dragon emerged! It sunk its fangs into the banana trunk, and there they stayed until Pauk Kyaing had cut off the dragon's head.

Pauk Kyaing was enthroned, and learned that the dragon had the power to turn into a man--and was the queen's lover! Pauk Kyaing reconciled with the queen, and went on to a long and happy reign.


Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. bedchamber
  2. enthroned
  3. fangs
  4. mediocre
  5. pillar
  6. reconciled
  7. reign
  8. scholar
  9. trunk
  10. ushered

  1. the main stem of a tree
  2. support for a roof
  3. not very good; barely adequate
  4. a period of rule
  5. a person who studies
  6. shown; conducted
  7. brought back together
  8. a sleeping room
  9. made king
  10. long, sharp front teeth

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for June 28, 2022

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. h; 2. i; 3. j; 4. c; 5. b; 6. g; 7. d; 8. e; 9. a; 10. f