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(2002 est. pop. 4 million). Yangon is the capital of the Union of Myanmar (Burma) and of Yangon Division (2002 est. pop. 5.7 million). Located on the Yangon River, some 30 kilometers (21 miles) from its mouth on the Gulf of Martaban, Yangon is Myanmar's largest city and principal seaport, with Mingaladon airport its main international entry point.
Yangon was originally an ancient Mon settlement known latterly as Dagon (derived from an ancient Pali term meaning "three pots"), a name commemorated in that of Burma's famed Buddhist temple, the Shwedagon, which has stood for centuries on Singuttara Hill. Dagon was renamed Yangon (meaning "end of strife") by King Alaungpaya (reigned 1752–1760), who conquered Lower Burma in 1755. Under British colonial rule, Yangon—its name anglicized to Rangoon—developed rapidly as a major seaport and cosmopolitan commercial center. In the 1850s the British constructed a new city on a grid plan on delta land, bounded to the east by the Pazundaung Creek and to the south and west by the Yangon River. By the 1890s Yangon's increasing population and commerce necessitated land reclamation work at its riverine boundaries, while prosperous residential suburbs developed to the north of the royal lakes (Kan-daw-gyi) and the Shwedagon. Colonial Yangon, with its spacious parks and lakes and mix of modern buildings and traditional wooden architecture, was known as "the garden city of the East." Before World War II, almost half of Yangon's population was Indian.
Yangon suffered heavy damage in World War II and, in the decades since Burma regained independence (1948), the city has expanded and changed in character. Satellite towns were built to create a Maha Yangon (Greater Yangon) and names of streets and parks were changed from old colonial appellations to more patriotic nationalist names. The greatest transformation occurred in the 1990s, following both the military government's adoption of an open-door market economy under strong state control and an influx of investment. Many colonial-period buildings were demolished to make way for multistory hotels, office buildings, and shopping developments, and some inner-city inhabitants relocated to new satellite towns. Major road-and bridge-building programs were undertaken, including construction of a bridge across the river to Syriam (Thanlyin) and its industrial hinterland.
The 99.4-meter-high (326-foot-high) golden Shwedagon is the city's major landmark, and the country's largest and most revered Buddhist shrine. Legend links its foundation to the time of the Buddha, and for centuries it has been the focus of state as well as private patronage and devotion. Other temples are the waterfront Botataung (destroyed in 1943, but rebuilt as an exact replica) and the octagonal Sule in the heart of Yangon. Notable twentieth-century temples include the Kaba Aye (World Peace), completed under U Nu's government in 1952; the six-story Kyauk-htat-gyi, containing a huge reclining Buddha; the Melamu; and the Maha Wizaya (Great Victory), completed in 1986. The Azani Beikman (Martyrs' Mausoleum), containing the tombs of Burma's independence hero Aung San and six cabinet colleagues (assassinated 19 July 1947), is an important national monument.
Pearn, Bertie Reginald. ( 1971) A History of Rangoon. Reprint ed. Farnborough, U.K.: Gregg.
Renault, Thomas, and Bénédicte Brac de la Perrière. (1998) Eternal Rangoon: Contemporary Portrait of a Timeless City. Paris: ASA.
Singer, Noel F. (1995) Old Rangoon: City of the Shwedagon. Gartmore, U.K.: Kiscadale.
Yangon (Burmese: , population 4,082,000 (2005 census), formerlyRangoon), is the largest city of Myanmar (formerly Burma) and its former capital. The city is located at the convergence of the Yangon and Bago Rivers, and is about 30 km (19 mi) away from the Gulf of Martaban. Yangon is located at 16°48' North, 96°09' East (16.8, 96.15), and its standard time zone is UTC/GMT +6:30 hours. In November 2005, the military junta began relocating the capital to Naypyidaw, Mandalay Division which was officially named as the new capital on 26 March 2006.
As compared to other major cities in Southeast Asia, Yangon is relatively undeveloped. Construction is booming, mostly through the influx of foreign investment (from Singapore and China). Many multi-storied residential and commercial buildings (taik) have been reconstructed or remodelled throughout Downtown and the Greater Yangon areas. Yangon has the largest number of colonial buildings in Southeast Asia today. Government offices inside colonial buildings (e.g. High Court, City Hall, Bogyoke Market and General Hospital) have been listed for renovation. New Towns (မ္ရုိ့သစ္) and other suburban areas, such as Thaketa Township continue to be impoverished.
Yangon is a combination of the two words yan (ရန္) and koun (ကုန္), which mean "enemies" and "run out of" respectively.
Yangon was founded as Dagon in the 500s by the Mon, who had dominated the lower portions of present-day Myanmar at the time. Dagon was a small fishing village centred about the Shwedagon Pagoda. In 1753, King Alaungpaya conquered Lower Burma, and renamed Dagon, "Yangon". The city was destroyed by a fire in 1841, and suffered extensive damage in the Second Anglo-Burmese War of 1852.
The British Empire seized Yangon in 1852, and transformed it into the commercial and political hub of Burma. As Lower Burma became integrated into British India, the city's present boundaries were established, with the Cantonment's streets (Downtown) paved in a chessboard fashion along the eastern banks of the Yangon River. In addition, the British introduced a westernised educational system in Burma, establishing major colleges, such as Rangoon College (modern-day Yangon University) and the Theological College for Karens (modern-day Myanmar Institute of Theology). In addition, many religiously-affiliated boarding schools were built in order to teach English, Anglo-Burmese and Christian Karen children. During the colonial period, Rangoon's main industries were rice and timber, although other exports, such as raw cotton, precious stones, cheroots, and ivory were also exported.
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 Myanmar. Before WWII, Indians formed the majority in Rangoon; however, after independence, the population became more Bamar. Because the colonial policies that encouraged Indian and Chinese immigration, as well as Caucasian intermixing with the local Bamar were dismantled, their presence has dwindled significantly. The English name Rangoon was officially changed in 1989 to Yangon. This is controversial, however, because the military junta that changed the name is not officially recognised as legitimate by some governments. For example, the United States government still maintains the usage of Rangoon, as well as Burma. Likewise, street names were renamed in Burmese. However, many locals continue to use British names for major streets. In 1996, to protect some colonial buildings under government jurisdiction, the Burmese government devised a "Heritage List", of buildings to preserve. Yangon was site of the World Buddhist Summit in December 2004, which was attended by over 1,000 monks and world leaders including Thaksin Shinawatra, Prime Minister of Thailand. On 6 November2005, the junta began its move from Yangon to the newly-developed city of Naypyidaw, 320 km north in Mandalay Division. The motives for this were unclear, although it has been suggested that the regime moved further inland for a better position in the event of an Iraq-style invasion. Other theories include easier control of Karen, Shan, and Chin States, and that the regime wanted a capital free from foreign telecommunications.
Yangon City Hall (YCDC)
Yangon is administered by the Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC). The city is divided into four districts. The districts combined have a total of 32 townships. The mayor of Yangon currently is Brigadier General Aung Thein Lynn. Each township is administered by a committee of township leaders, who make decisions regarding city beautification and infrastructure.
Districts of Yangon
Yangon Municipality's jurisdictions are inclusive of 32 townships. Myo-thit (New Towns) are not within such jurisdictions.
The vernacular language of Yangon is Burmese. English is widely spoken in the urban areas of the city, and is predominantly spoken among those of the elder generation and educated Burmese.
Yangon is home to the oldest university in Myanmar. A former affiliated college of the University of Calcutta, Yangon University was officially founded as a separate institute of higher learning in 1920. Two of the four Institutes of Medicine in Myanmar are located in Yangon.
Yangon is the economic centre of Myanmar. The majority of imports and exports come through Yangon, mostly through the Yangon River (Hlaing River), which merges with the Ayeyarwady River, the main river of Myanmar. In 2004, the government authorised Shanghai Jingqiao Export Processing Zone Development Corporation to create plans for Myanmar's largest Special Economic Zone, to be built in Thanlyin Township, adjacent to Thilawa Port. The plans were finished in 2006, and approval is pending.
All international air travel arrives at the Yangon International Airport, which is located about 19 km (12 mi) from Downtown Yangon. Buses are cramped with daily commuters. An archaic railroad extends to upper Myanmar. Cars, although expensive, have become increasingly more common on Yangon's streets, and there is much traffic congestion. The government regularly places restrictions on car imports. As a result, the black market is the primary source of used and new cars (which primarily come from Thailand and China). In addition, because the government rations petrol, the majority of cars utilise both government-supplied and black market-supplied gasoline. Within Yangon, it is illegal to drive trishaws, bicycles, and motorcycles.
Downtown Yangon, facing Sule Pagoda and Hlaing River
Sule Pagoda at night
Downtown Yangon by night
Karaweik Palace on Kandawgyi Lake
The High Court as seen from Mahabandoola Garden
Shwedagon Pagoda, a landmark of Yangon
Ngahtatgyi Buddha image
The Popular Encyclopedia or Conversation Lexicon. Blackie & Son, 1890.