Facts about Myanmar (formerly Burma)

Surface area: 676,578 km2

Capital: Naypyidaw (until 2006 Yangon, formerly Rangoon)

Population: 54 million

Ethnic structure: Burmese and Burmese-related 78%, Mons 6.7%, Chinese 1 million, Indian 0.5 million, and several other ethnic groups

Languages: Burmese and Burmese-related (Karen, Kachin, Chin etc.), Shan, Min, and Chinese

Religions: Theravada Buddhists 89%, Christians 4%, animists 1%

Myanmar (formerly Burma) is an isolated country, both geographically and politically. It is separated from its neighbours to the west, north, and east by mountains and is bordered by the Indian Ocean in the south. Until the late 18th century it expanded politically, but the 19th and 20th centuries have been a period of deliberate isolation, a situation that has still continued during the regime of the present military junta (since 1962).

As a result of the isolation, some archaic forms of theatre have been preserved, free from direct outside influences. Theatre and dance did not, however, develop in a vacuum. Early contacts with Indian culture played a major role in the development of the dance, theatre, arts, literature, and music of Myanmar, and later, in the late 18th and the early 19th centuries, the contacts with Thailand also influenced the theatrical traditions.