In 1990 the Union of Burma became known as the Union of Myanmar.
Myanmar means "first people in the world".
There are thousands of temples and pagodas in Pagan (Bagan).
The Shwedagon Pagoda, which is covered with gold and diamonds, is one of the world's most important Buddhist shrines, containing eight hairs of Buddha.
Burmese people are expected to spend some time in their lives in a monastery studying the teachings of Buddha.
Monks ask for alms daily, setting out before dawn to beg for their food for the day.
The longest reclining Buddha at Shivekhalyaung, near Yangon, is more than fifty-five metres long.
A Portuguese adventurer, Philip de Brito, originally only a cabin boy, eventually became King of Lower Myanmar reigning for thirteen years.
In 1872 King Mindon called the Fifth Great Synod of Buddhism - a gathering that produced the Buddhist scripture still recognized today.
In 1886 Britain captured Mandalay and made Myanmar a province of British India. Independence was granted in January 1948
Rudyard Kipling wrote The Road to Mandalay:
"By the old Moulmein Pagoda, Lookin' eastwood to the sea,
There's a Burma girl a-settin', and I know she thinks o' me;
For the wind is in the palm-trees, an' the temple-bells they say;
'Come you back, you British soldier; come you back to Mandalay!"
George Orwell, author of the novels 1984 and Animal Farm, was the sub-divisional police officer for Moulmein. His book Burmese Days is about his years in Burma.
The different ethnic groups such as the Karin, the Shan and the Mon all have their own distinctive national dress.
Padaung women are known as "giraffe women" as they wear rings around their neck, arms and legs, the neck rings making the neck appear long.
On 26 December 2004, a quake occurred under the sea near Aceh in north Indonesia (8.9 on the Richter scale); this produced tsunamis causing flooding and destruction in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Thailand, Seychelles, Sri Lanka and the east coast of Africa (Kenya and Somalia).
Aung San Suu Kyi, founder member of National League for Democracy, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 but was unable to collect the prize as she was under house arrest.
The biggest protests for twenty years took place in Myanmar in September 2007. The protests were led by monks. Aung San Suu Kyi, who spent many years under house arrest, made her first appearance since 2003.
Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar in May 2008 killing many thousands of people and leaving many more homeless. It is thought that ten thousand people died in the Irrawaddy delta town of Bogalay alone.
In 2015 Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy won enough seats in parliament to form a government.
In August 2018 the UN accused Myanmar of genocide against Rohingya Muslims.