Burma, a province of British India, including the former kingdom of independent Burma, as well as British Burma, acquired by the British Indian government in the two wars of 1826 and 1852. It is divided into Upper and Lower Burma, the former being the territory annexed on 1st January 1886. The province lies to the east of the Bay of Bengal, and covers a range of country extending from the Pakchan river in 9° 55′ north latitude to the Naga and Chingpaw, or Kachin hills, lying roughly between the 27th and 28th degrees of north latitude; and from the Bay of Bengal on the west to the Mekong river, the boundary of the dependent Shan States on the east, that is to say, roughly, between the 92nd and 100th degrees of east longitude. The extreme length from north to south is almost 1200 m., and the broadest part, which is in about latitude 21° north, is 575 m. from east to west. On the N. it is bounded by the dependent state of Manipur, by the Mishmi hills, and by portions of Chinese territory; on the E. by the Chinese Shan States, portions of the province of Yunnan, the French province of Indo-China, and the Siamese Shan, or Lao States and Siam; on the S. by the Siamese Malay States and the Bay of Bengal; and on the W. by the Bay of Bengal and Chittagong. The coast-line from Taknaf, the mouth of the Naaf, in the Akyab district on the north, to the estuary of the Pakchan at Maliwun on the south, is about 1200 m.
The total area of the province is estimated at 238,738 sq.m., of which Burma proper occupies 168,573 sq.m., the Chin hills 10,250 sq.m., and the Shan States, which comprise the whole of the eastern portion of the province, some 59,915 sq.m.
The province falls into three natural divisions: Arakan with the Chin hills, the Irrawaddy basin, and the old province of Tenasserim, together with the portion of the Shan and Karen-ni states in the basin of the Salween, and part of Kengtung in the western basin of the Mekong. Of these Arakan is a strip of country lying on the seaward slopes of the range of hills known as the Arakan Yomas. It stretches from Cape Negrais on the south to the Naaf estuary, which divides it from the Chittagong division of Eastern Bengal and Assam on the north, and includes the districts of Sandoway, Kyaukpyu, Akyab and northern Arakan, an area of some 18,540 sq.m. The northern part of this tract is barren hilly country, but in the west and south are rich alluvial plains containing some of the most fertile lands of the province. Northwards lie the Chin and some part of the Kachin hills. To the east of the Arakan division, and separated from it by the Arakan Yornas, lies the main body of Burma in the basin of the Irrawaddy. This tract falls into four subdivisions.
First, there is the highland tract including the hilly country at the sources of the Chindwin and the upper waters of the Irrawaddy, the Upper Chindwin, Katha, Bhamo, Myitkyina and Ruby Mines districts, with the Kachin hills and a great part of the Northern Shan states. In the Shan States there are a few open plateaus, fertile and well populated, and Maymyo in the Mandalay district, the hill-station to which in the hot weather the government of Burma migrates, stands in the Pyin-u-lwin plateau, some 3500 ft. above the sea. But the greater part of this country is a mass of rugged hills cut deep with narrow gorges, within which even the biggest rivers are confined. The second tract is that known as the dry zone of Burma, and includes the whole of the lowlands lying between the Arakan Yomas and the western fringe of the Southern Shan States. It stretches along both sides of the Irrawaddy from the north of Mandalay to Thayetmyo, and embraces the Lower Chindwin, Shwebo, Sagaing, Mandalay, Kyauksè, Meiktila, Yamèthin, Myingyan, Magwe, Pakôkku and Minbu districts. This tract consists mostly of undulating lowlands, but it is broken towards the south by the Pegu Yomas, a considerable range of hills which divides the two remaining tracts of the Irrawaddy basin.
On the west, between the Pegu and the Arakan Yomas, stretches the Irrawaddy delta, a vast expanse of level plain 12,000 sq.m. in area falling in a gradual unbroken slope from its apex not far south of Prome down to the sea. This delta, which includes the districts of Bassein, Myaungmya, Thôngwa, Henzada, Hanthawaddy, Tharrawaddy, Pegu and Rangoon town, consists almost entirely of a rich alluvial deposit, and the whole area, which between Cape Negrais and Elephant Point is 137 m. wide, is fertile in the highest degree. To the east lies a tract of country which, though geographically a part of the Irrawaddy basin, is cut off from it by the Yomas, and forms a separate system draining into the Sittang river. The northern portion of this tract, which on the east touches the basin of the Salween river, is hilly; the remainder towards the confluence of the Salween, Gyaing and Attaran rivers consists of broad fertile plains. The whole is comprised in the districts of Toungoo and Thaton, part of the Karen-ni hills, with the Salween hill tract and the northern parts of Amherst, which form the northern portion of the Tenasserim administrative division.
The third natural division of Burma is the old province of Tenasserim, which, constituted in 1826 with Moulmein as its capital, formed the nucleus from which the British supremacy throughout Burma has grown. It is a narrow strip of country lying between the Bay of Bengal and the high range of hills which form the eastern boundary of the province towards Siam. It comprises the districts of Mergui and Tavoy and a part of Amherst, and includes also the Mergui Archipelago. The surface of this part of the country is mountainous and much intersected with streams. Northward from this lies the major portion of the Southern Shan States and Karen-ni and a narrowing strip along the Salween of the Northern Shan States.