Mandalay is the second-largest city and the last royal capital of Myanmar. Located 445 miles (716 km) north of Yangon on the east bank of the Irrawaddy River; the city has a population of one million, and is the capital of Mandalay Region.
Mandalay is the economic hub of Upper Myanmar and considered the centre of Burmese culture. A continuing influx of Chinese immigrants, mostly from Yunnan Province, in the past twenty years, has reshaped the city's ethnic makeup and increased commerce with China. Despite Naypyidaw's recent rise, Mandalay remains Upper Myanmar's main commercial, educational and health centre.
Like most former (and present) capitals of Myanmar, Mandalay was founded on the wishes of the ruler of the day. On 13 February 1857, King Mindon founded a new royal capital at the foot of Mandalay Hill, ostensibly to fulfils a prophecy on the founding of a metropolis of Buddhism in that exact place on the occasion of the 2,400th jubilee of Buddhism.
Mandalay ceased to be the capital on 28 November 1885 when the conquering British sent King Thibaw and his queen Supayalat into exile, ending the Third Anglo-Burmese War.
After the country gained independence from Britain in 1948, Mandalay continued to be the main cultural, educational and economic hub of Upper Myanmar. Today, the city attracts a fraction of students as the military government requires students to attend their local universities in order to reduce concentration of students in one place.
In November 1959, Mandalay celebrated its centennial with a festival at the foot of Mandalay Hill. Special commemorative stamps were issued.
The Chinese are largely responsible for the economic revitalization of the downtown, now rebuilt with apartment blocks, hotels and shopping malls, and returning the city to its role as the trading hub connecting Lower Myanmar, Upper Myanmar, China and India.
Mandalay is located in the central dry zone of Myanmar by the Irrawaddy River at 21.98° north, 96.08° east, 64 meters (210 feet) above sea level. Mandalay lies along the Sagaing Fault, a tectonic plate boundary between the India and Sunda plates. (The biggestearthquake in its history, with a magnitude of 7, occurred in 1956.The devastation was greatest in nearby Sagaing, and it came to be known as the Great Sagaing Quake.)
Mandalay is Myanmar's cultural and religious centre of Buddhism, having numerous monasteries and more than 700 pagodas. There are 729 slabs of stone that together are inscribed with the entire Buddhist canon, each housed in its own white stupa.
The buildings inside the old Mandalay city walls, surrounded by a moat, which was repaired in recent times using prison labor, comprise the Mandalay Palace, mostly destroyed during World War II. It is now replaced by a replica, Mandalay Prison and a military garrison, the headquarters of the Central Military Command.
Mandalay is the major trading and communications center for northern and central Myanmar. Much of Burmese external trade to China and India goes through Mandalay.
Among the leading traditional industries are silk weaving, tapestry, jade cutting and polishing, stone and wood carving, making marble and bronze Buddha images, temple ornaments and paraphernalia, the working of gold leaves and of silver, the manufacture of matches, brewing and distilling.