Only two Burmese kings ruled from there, King Mingdon and King Thibaw, before the British conquest of Upper Burma in 1885. It was a city of splendour between 1858 and 1885 but most of the magnificence is gone, destroyed by the fire that consumed wooden structures and by intensive bombing by the Axis powers during the Second World War. The city, neatly planned with its lettered roads and numbered streets, is a British creation. The once magnificent Royal Palace and the great Atumashi (incomparable) pagoda, King Mingdon Min’s finest creations, are modern reconstructions. Today, Mandalay lies at the end of the Lashio Road and it is, by Burmese standards, relatively prosperous as a centre for trade with China and as a centre for the growing trade with India. Despite the capital having been moved to Mandalay remains by far the main commercial centre of Upper Myanmar.
Mandalay is ethnically diverse, with the Bamar (Burmans) forming a slight majority. In recent years, there has been a major influx of Chinese from Mainland China, and the local Chinese (both recent migrants and descendants of colonial-era immigrants) form 30 to 40% of the population. Their influence is seen in the China-style glass buildings throughout the city, while the Yunnan dialect of Mandarin is often spoken among the ethnic Chinese community. Other prevalent ethnic groups include the Shan, who are ethnically and linguistically related to the Thais and Laotians, and the Karen (Kayin). There is a sizeable ethnic Indian population, including Nepalis and Sikhs.
Mandalay has a semi-tropical climate. Winter (which is dry and cold) lasts from November to February, and summer lasts from March to May. Because Mandalay is in the central dry zone, it receives far less rain than the more tropical south.