Myitkyina (Burmese: ျမစ္ၾကီးနား) is the capital city of Kachin State in Myanmar (Burma), located 919 miles from Yangon, or 487 miles from Mandalay. In Burmese it means “near the big river”, and in fact “Myitkyina” lies on the west bank of the Ayeyarwady River, just below 25 miles from Myit-son (Burmese for confluence) of its two headstreams (the Mali and N’mai rivers).It is the northernmost river port and railways terminus in Myanmar.
Myitkyina has been a important trading town between China and Burma since ancient times. American Baptist missionary George J. Geis and his wife arrived in Myitkyina in the late 1890s and in 1900 requested permission to build a misison there.
In August 1944 during World War II, Myitkyina fell to the Allied forces under General Joseph Stilwell after a prolonged siege and heavy fighting between Nationalist Chinese divisions, the Chindits, and Merrill’s Marauders of the Northern Combat Area Command and the besieged elements of the 33rd Imperial Japanese Army under General Masaki Honda. The town was strategically important not only because of its rail and water links to the rest of Burma, but also because it was on the planned route of the Ledo Road.
As the capital of the state, it has government offices, and a greater population than other cities in the state. The city has a population of approximately 150,000, with a mix of Kachin, Shan, Bamar peoples and some Chinese and Indians. Fragrant rice produced near Myitkyina, called khat cho, is considered the best in Myanmar.
The Kachin language is the common language among the Kachin, but Burmese is the national language and everyone can speak Burmese. It has two big markets. The city is home to Myitkyina University, a teachers college, a nurses training school, and a computer college, and various Christian theological seminaries and colleges affiliated with several seminaries in the U.S. and Asia, notably Kachin Theological College-Nawng Nan.
Major religions are Theravada Buddhism and Baptist Christianity, but other religions such as animism, Hinduism and Islam are also practised. Foreigners are now free to visit Myitkyina without prior government permission.