Yangon, previously known as Rangoon, Dagan, and before that Okkalapa, is the economic heart of Myanmar containing a vibrant emerging economy, while at the same time it is rich in ancient cultural heritage. Yangon is home to numerous pagodas, temples, monuments and monasteries, all dominated by the magnificent Shwedagon Pagoda in the center of the city. Nearer the water’s edge, the downtown area is characterized by British colonial buildings, widely considered the best remaining example of this architectural style outside of Britain. Once under threat of redevelopment, many of these colonial buildings now enjoy protected status.
Yangon was founded as Dagon in the 500’s by the Mon people. It was a small fishing village centered around Shwedagon Pagoda. In 1753, King Alaungpaya conquered Lower Burma, and renamed Dagon, “Yangon”, which, means end of enemies. Yangon was destroyed by a fire in 1841, and suffered extensive damage in the Second Anglo-Burmese War of 1852. In 1852 the British colonized and transformed the city into the commercial and political hub of Burma, and as Lower Burma became integrated into British India the city’s present boundaries were established. The British introduced a Westernized educational system in Burma, establishing major colleges, such as Rangoon College (now Yangon University) and the Theological College for Karens (now Myanmar Institute of Theology). In addition, many religiously-affiliated boarding schools were established in order to teach the privileged children of the English. During the colonial period, Rangoon’s main industries were rice and timber.
Rangoon was heavily damaged by an earthquake and tsunami in 1930, and again during World War II. After the war, it retained its position as capital of Burma which was renamed Myanmar in 1989. The name of Rangoon was also changed in 1989 to its present name Yangon. In 2006, the Myanmar capital was relocated from Yangon to the city of Nay Pyi Taw, situated to the north in the Mandalay division.