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August 08, 2020

Developing Yangon city teeming with ancient cultural heritages

By Shin Naw

The transition velocity of Yangon is growing higher and higher day by day. Seminars and meetings concerning high rise housing, tall fencing construction sites and a new satellite town project are not new for the Yangonites. The Yangonites are going to catch sight of the new town project centering Yangon in full view before long.

A city for relaxation
The old Yangon city will be seen as the city teeming with ancient cultural heritages within ten years. The old Yangon city will turn new Yangon, which is surrounded by industrial towns, port towns and recreational towns with lots of housing. New Yangon and old Yangon must be upgraded rapidly and harmoniously. To be able to establish new Yangon as desired, it is required to renovate old Yangon in a systematic manner so that ancient urban heritages will be able to be well preserved. The Yangon Heritage Trust (YHT) believes that Yangon will appear as a modern developed city without having negative effect on original urban heritages.

Urban project matters
The Yangon Heritage Trust (YHT) was established in 2012, chaired by historian Dr Than Myint Oo and architect Daw Moe Moe Lwin is a director of the YHT. At the initial stage of the establishment of the YHT, it is aimed at realizing more about resources of urban heritages and calling on the authorities to protect them, but later it turned attention to a wide range of measures of urban project.
The installation of Blue Plaques is one of the measures taken by the YHT. The aim of installing Blue Plaques is to raise public awareness of historic heritages and boost public’s knowledge about them. The YHT already installed Blue Plaques at thirty-four historic sites.
Yangon’s 35th Blue Plaque was unveiled at Basic Education High School No (1) Pabedan (formerly St Mary’s Diocesan Girls’ High School), located at Shwedagon Pagoda Road, Pabedan Township, on 11 January. The installation ceremony was attended by the Chief Minister of Yangon Region Government U Phyo Min Thein, Deputy Mayor of Yangon City Development Committee U Soe Lwin and invited guests. The school which is now known as B E H S (1) Pabedan was one of the earliest girls only school in Yangon. The school was established in 1866 by the noted Anglican missionary the Rev Dr J E Marks. From its founding in 1866, St Mary’s was a leading girl’s school. The school was nationalized in 1965 and restructured as Basic Education High School No (1), Pabedan, according to the YHT.

Inya Lake Hotel .
Inya Lake Hotel .

Installation of Blue Plaques
Regarding the consequences of the installation of Blue Plaques, Ko Thurein Aung of the YHT said, “The Blue Plaques are being installed in public places for enabling the people to come to know more about Yangon history while going around the city. If it is easily said, the tourist guide explained the Blue Plaque to the tourists when they arrived in front of the Strand Hotel. Most of the buildings existing around Pansodan Street have got the Blue Plaques. The tourist guides can explain the histories of ancient buildings through these Blue Plaques. Now local people have become interested in the installation of the Blue Plaques at the ancient structures. The students are studying the Blue Plaques and writing resource papers. The students from University of Foreign Languages write papers with the title of Blue Plaques. The regional government is also providing necessary assistance.”
With regard to the installation of the Blue Plaques, Aunty Stella who was an old student of St Mary recounted the salient points of the school 60 years ago, “At that time, the headmistress was Daw Khin Khin. In our childhood, inter-school sports festival was held in the sports ground of the school. I remembered that I played Htoke-se-toe together with singer Mar Mar Aye from Mayangyan school. At that time, Mar Mar Aye just produced a song with the title “I will play on the rainbow”. Mayangyan school played against St Mary school in Htoke-se-toe. Our school competed in SEA Games with Gabyalut (A Myanmar basic dance solely accompanied by rhythmic beats). Our school is very strict. When we put on gowns without belts and socks, we had to pay a fine. When we wanted to go out, we had to speak in English. We are not allowed speaking in gesture. We had to speak in English like “Please may I go out.”
The 36th Blue Plaque was installed at Inya Lake Hotel in Mayangon Township on 18 February, 2020. The ceremony was attended by Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the Republic of the Union of Myanmar H E Nikolay A. Listopadov and Deputy Mayor of Yangon City Development Committee U Soe Lwin and invited guests. The Inya Lake Hotel is one of the important examples of post-war modernist buildings in Yangon. Built between 1958 and 1962, it was one of the most famous hotels in Rangoon (now Yangon).
The first Soviet-Burma trade agreement was signed in 1955 and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, then the first secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, made a high-profile state visit in December 1955. During the visit, the Soviet Union presented the Government of Myanmar with three gifts; one of which was the Inya Lake hotel.
The Director of Yangon Heritage Trust, Daw Moe Moe Lwin, said, “Inya Lake Hotel is one of the rare examples of post-war modern architecture landmarks in Myanmar. It is also a fine building of its period and has played an important role in the social history of Myanmar. Numerous social and commercial functions and events were held at this place, which can be considered one of the icons of Yangon.”
The Yangon Heritage Trust is planning to carry out continued installation of the Blue Plaques commemorating ancient urban heritages, one after another without delay not later than the coming monsoon.
YHT is installing a system of commemorative Blue Plaques around Yangon to highlight significant historical buildings and renowned residents who contributed to the narrative of the city. The plaques, in Burmese (Myanmar) and English, will draw attention to both the known and forgotten histories of the city, serving as a reminder for the city’s residents and providing interpretive signage for visitors. The Royal Philips Corporation has partnered with YHT to honor these key sites throughout Yangon by providing funding for historical research, manufacturing, and installation of the plaques. The first plaque was installed in mid-August, 2014 at Yangon’s City Hall. Translated by Htut Htut (Twantay)

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