The Oil Wells, Yé-nan-gyoung
Artist: Grant, Colesworthy (1813-1880)
Medium: Watercolour with pen and ink
Watercolour in pen and ink of a view of the Oil Wells at Yenangyaung from 'A Series of Views in Burmah taken during Major Phayre’s Mission to the Court of Ava in 1855' by Colesworthy Grant dated 16 August 1855. This album is made up of 106 landscapes and portraits of Burmese and Europeans documenting the British embassy to the Burmese King, Mindon Min (r.1853-1878).
The mission took place after the Second Anglo-Burmese War in 1852 and the annexation by the British of the Burmese province of Pegu. 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 started out from Rangoon and travelled up the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady) River to the royal capital at Amarapura. Grant was the official artist on the mission. In recognition of his skill, he was presented with a gold cup and ruby ring by the Burmese King.
Grant wrote that: 'situated at about two miles and-a-half from the town...The Wells, three or four of which may be observed in the drawing, are distributed at irregular intervals. They are said to be about one hundred in number, and to cover a space of probably half a square mile...Their depths vary from about 150 to 250 feet. The one nearest to the foreground in the drawing, measured by the rope with which the oil bucket was raised, proved to be 100 cubits, or 240 feet. The oil is drawn up by a bucket as water from an ordinary well. The rope passes over a wheel or pulley, and on the bucket descending to the bottom, the attendant labourer passes the end of the rope over his shoulder, and running down the side of the ravine to the requisite distance, draws the full bucket to the mouth of the well, near which carts, as seen in the sketch, with earthen pots prepared for its reception, are in waiting to carry it away to the town. These wells are said to be exhausted in, probably, ten years, but can be renewed by further digging. The price of the oil has now risen to double its former value.'