Georeactor Blog

RSS Feed

Update on Burmese calendar support

Tags: proseunicodehistory

Fearing that the Sark emoji project is less than helpful, I revisited my project to add the traditional Burmese calendar support to the Unicode / ICU library. With a couple of days reserved for this task during funemployment, this got closer to reality.


After checking the current date, leap months and new years around the 2015 anomaly, and my birthday, the next step will be to validate older decades. This eventually gets into the concept of eras: kings, British colonization, and modern independence, and into the perils of record-keeping.

A history of previous calendar calculators

In 1848, Reverend Lyman Stilson wrote a Burmese-language book Stilson's Arithmetic with tables for traditional calendars and measurements. He returned to the US in 1852, and died in Jefferson, Iowa in 1886.
His daughter served as the superintendent of county schools.
During World War II, the Jefferson Bee found a local angle through Stilson, writing that he "lived at both Maulmain and Rangoon, two places that have been in the theater of war".

Big watat / leap days did not follow the schedule that Stilson had predicted. Between 1901 and 1910, a judge in colonial Burma (Sir Alfred Macdonald Bulteel Irwin, often A. M. B. Irwin) updated Stilson's work with The Burmese Calendar, The Burmese & Arakanese Calendars, and The elements of the Burmese Calendar from A.D. 638 to 1752. (These are public domain on Google Books and, do not purchase copies or "leather-bound" prints).

Sir Irwin names a few Burmese sources, who I should also credit here:

Sir Irwin reached the Chief Court of Burma before retiring to Ailesbury Road, Dublin. He died in 1921.
The National Library of Ireland adds some detail. His son, also named Alfred, served in World War I. During the Irish War of Independence, Sir Irwin wrote to his daughter and son-in-law (Howel Evans Price, Anglican Archdeacon of Yangon) that "six men with revolvers came in and searched whole house for Alfred".


Irwin's books contain specific dates (January 1st, 1900 = 2nd of Pyatho, 1261 ME), a table for every Burmese New Year from 1739–1910, and future projections to 2000 (if that era had continued). This can help me fill the gap to the earliest date in the Android app MmYearX (~1910 AD).

Remaining issues: