That there should be a Burmese national character is not very remarkable. Our fields of green rice paddy, our broad rivers, the bare sands of the hot central plains, interspersed everywhere with the particular Burmese grouping of palms, low roofs, high monastery and higher pagoda spire—with always on the east and west horizons the line of blue hills—have produced their own inimitable synthesis of human characteristics.
To our neighbors in India, as far back as the times of the Buddha, Burma was known as “the golden land.” And so it still seems to the Burmese today, who, as figures for emigration will prove, have no desire to live anywhere else. This national contentment has its roots in the facts of our geography, our religion, and our history.
Burma’s geography is that of an abundant, warm, and well-watered land, where raising enough food for the population has never been difficult. Our religion is a form of Buddhism which tempers and moderates, and which, as it has evolved over the centuries, absorbing elements from several cultures, has come to provide a full range of activity for the many rather than a difficult mystic philosophy for the few. And the history of the Burmese has been that of a nation long victorious over all neighbors until a conquest by the British, which, after only some sixty years of colonial subjugation, was ended with apparent ease. These factors have made us relaxed and generous; neither fanatical nor preoccupied; proud, and in a great many ways unusually contented with ourselves.