Yé-nan-gyoung, Petroleum or Earth Oil Creek
Photographer: Grant, Colesworthy (1813-1880)
Medium: Watercolour with pen and ink
Drawing in pen-and-ink and watercolour made by Colesworthy Grant in 1855, depicting a view of the town of Yenangyaung in Magway, Burma (Myanmar). The drawing is from an album of 106 landscapes and portraits of Burmese and Europeans documenting the British embassy to the Burmese King, Mindon Min (reigned 1853-1878), titled “A Series of Views in Burmah taken during Major Phayre’s Mission to the Court of Ava in 1855”. The mission started from Rangoon and travelled up the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady) River to the royal capital at Amarapura, and this view was described by the artist as follows: “The town, viewed from the deck of the steamer. Yea-nan-gyoung, or ‘Fetid Water Creek,’ so called from the ‘Petroleum’, or Earth Oil, of which singular production this is the locality, stands on the eastern, or left bank of the Irrawaddy, and was reached on the fourteenth day of the journey. The town lies in one of the numerous hollows found between the barren sandy hills, of which this bank of the river had, throughout the day, presented so singular and continuous a succession...Every eminence around was crowned by pagodas, or monastic buildings, which increased in number, singularity, beauty and magnitude, as the journey progressed. The most remarkable and imposing of these seen here was the Pagoda occupying the centre of the drawing - It was built on five or six terraces of red brick, which were ascended by a flight of steps, divided mid-way by a kind of portico of two arches. To the right was another pagoda, apparently of more modern erection, of octagonal and very graceful form, and tastefully elaborated architecture; and to the extreme right two monastic buildings, one of wood and the other of brick, are observed, and are found to crown the high bank of the creek from which the place takes its name. ‘(See Sketch, No. 19).’ The boats seen crowding around the shore, many of which were very large, are used mostly for transport of the petroleum oil, which is frequently stowed ‘in bulk’ like salt or coals.” The mission took place after the Second Anglo-Burmese War in 1852 and the annexation by the British of the Burmese province of Pegu (Bago). It was despatched by the Governor-General of India, Lord Dalhousie, on the instructions of the East India Company, to attempt to persuade King Mindon to sign a treaty formally acknowledging the extension of British rule over the province. The mission was headed by Arthur Phayre (Commissioner of Pegu and later first Chief Commissioner of British Burma), with Henry Yule (Under-Secretary of the Public Works Department) as Secretary. In addition to diplomatic duties, the mission aimed to obtain accurate information about the country, culture and people of a land little-known to Europeans, and to this end Grant was sent as official artist and Linnaeus Tripe as photographer. Grant (1813-1880) had come to India in 1832 where he lived in Calcutta and worked as a professional artist and freelance journalist, travelling to Rangoon in 1846. In recognition of his skill, he was presented with a gold cup and ruby ring by the Burmese King. Together with a privately-printed book of notes, Grant’s drawings give a vivid account of the journey. A number were used to illustrate Yule’s “A Narrative of the mission sent by the Governor General of India to the Court of Ava in 1855” (London, 1858).