Hsipaw Saopha, who gave favour to Myanmar artistes

By Hsipaw Ko Latt

Hsipaw, the town in Shan State is famous in preserving, revitalizing and honouring the Myanmar culture. Saophas from Hsipaw respectfully honoured and favoured literature, culture and theatrical drama and artistes. Among them, Sao Khe called Sir Sao Hke, the 86th Saopha of Hsipaw, was the most famous. It was the time when King Thibaw had been taken away. So, it was time of the whole Myanmar under British colonial rule. Sao Hkun Saing (aka) Sao Kya Khaing, the 85th Saopha of Hsipaw, passed away. Son Monglong governor Sao Khe succeeded to his father, as the 86th Saopha of Hsipaw on 29 April 1906. Afterwards, he was famous as Kambawzarathta Mahawuntha Maharaza Saopha Sir Sao Khe.
Saopha Sir Sao Khe made utmost efforts for sectoral development of Hsipaw region. As part of supporting the Buddhism, he organized the Buddha

 Celebration of a Buddha Sasana Pujaniya festival in Hsipaw region of ancient time. Photo: Ko Latt
Celebration of a Buddha Sasana Pujaniya festival in Hsipaw region of ancient time. Photo: Ko Latt

Sasana Pujaniya festival once 10 years on a grand scale. He invited 18 eminent Sayadaws from Mandalay, Pyay and Kani and hermit U Khanti from Mandalay Hill to attend the ceremony so as to join hands with the venerable Buddhist monks in propagating religious affairs.
After King Thibaw had been taken away, experts of Myanmar theatrical performing arts were gathered by the Saopha and looked after in Hsipaw. Especially, he gave favour to Myanmar theatical drama performers similar to Shan ethnic theatrical drama troupes in order to continuously flourish the Myanmar theatrical drama performances.
He established a performer troupe quarter near Hsipaw Haw. Moreover, he ordered to issue allowance to those performers wishing to tour elsewhere for performing entertainments. Building the Thabin hall at the original Hsipaw Haw, he allowed performers to rehearse their entertainments.
He requested the performers to stage the royal drama performances and gave rewards to them. As such, outstanding Shan and Bamar theatrical drama performers emerged from Hsipaw Haw.

Sao Hkun Saing (aka) Sao Kya Khaing
Sao Hkun Saing (aka) Sao Kya Khaing

As an act of honouring experts, the Saopha allotted the plots for resettling goldsmiths in the goldsmith ward and established a ward for Bamar ethnics. Without discrimination, the Saopha urged them to participate in the development tasks of respective areas. He encouraged not only religious affairs but also literature, music, theatrical drama performance and social tasks. The Saopha himself especially preferred to music. When he had lunch or dinner, he could have three dishes of rice if he heard fine melodies from the Thabin Hall.
In his tenure, Saopha Sir Sao Khe built a summer palace in Nawngkawgyi in 1920. Moreover, the Sakhantha Haw was built on the hill near Pyaunggoung Village in 1922. Such residential palace took a position near Kyaukme.
As the Saopha created positions for qualified persons regardless of races, he appointed well-versed U Thant Sin as his counsellor. So, his son Sao On Kyar also continuously gave favour to U Thant Sin in his tenure. Saopha Sir Sao Khe honoured Ma Sein Kyi for her wonderful music and singing skills and took her as Thakhinma Saw Mya Aye Kyi. He conferred Thiri Ukkakwati title on her for excellent performance in composing and singing the song with the title of Moe Deva. Later, she became great prominent Alinka Kyawswa title winner Gita mother Daw Saw Mya Aye Kyi. The Saopha also appointed well-versed Bamar ethnic U Tha Myat as governor of Monglong town.
Sir Sao Khe together with his brother Sao Lu and Sao Oh had resided in Mandalay Yadanabon Royal Palace for having experiences of the royal palace and learning education. So he won the trust of Bamar ethnics in establishment of good relations. An occurrance of danger for life fell on him before King Thibaw was taken away but he escaped from danger because the governor of Shwehlan town called Shwe Hlan Bo safeguarded his life. Hence, he paid gratitude back when he became Hsipaw Saopha. He gave a helping hand to Bamar ethnics and looked after them. Not only father Saopha Sao Hkun Saing but also son Sir Sao Khe much encouraged fine arts of ethnics as well as classical songs of Bamar ethnics. Even some songs were composed by the Saopha. As a result, Hsipaw residential palace called Haw was similar to the shape of Mandalay Yadanabon Royal Palace. Myanmar’s culture flourished in the Hsipaw Haw thanks to wide scope of knowledge of Saophas. Saopha Sir Sao Khe esteemed the fine arts and performers.
Older persons recounted Yadana Thiha journal was published in Hsipaw thanks to efforts of director Saya Myint and associates. In fact, Hsipaw Haw in the past was the base of fine arts for veteran experts in Myanmar traditional performing arts from Shan State as well as from plain areas.

Translated by Than Tun Aung

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