The future king was born Ye Htut (ရဲထွတ်, IPA: [jɛ́ tʰʊʔ]) on 16 January 1516 to Mingyi Swe and Shin Myo Myat. His exact ancestry is unclear. No extant contemporary records, including Hanthawaddy Hsinbyushin Ayedawbon, the extensive chronicle of the king's reign written two years before his death, mention his ancestry. It was only in 1724, some 143 years after the king's death that Maha Yazawin, the official chronicle of the Toungoo Dynasty, first proclaimed his genealogy. According to Maha Yazawin, he was born to a gentry family in Toungoo (Taungoo), then a former vassal state of the Ava Kingdom. He was descended from viceroys of Toungoo Tarabya (r. 1440–1446) and Minkhaung I (r. 1446–1451) on his father's side; and from King Thihathu of Pinya (r. 1310–1325) and his chief queen Mi Saw U of the Pagan Dynasty on his mother's side. Furthermore, Ye Htut was distantly related to then presiding ruler of Toungoo Mingyi Nyo and his son Tabinshwehti through their common ancestor, Tarabya of Pakhan.[note 1] Later chronicles simply repeat Maha Yazawin's account. In all, the chronicles (perhaps too) neatly tie his ancestry to all the previous main dynasties that existed in Upper Burma: the Ava, Sagaing, Myinsaing–Pinya and Pagan dynasties.
Despite the official version of royal descent, oral traditions speak of a decidedly less grandiose genealogy: That his parents were commoners from Ngathayauk in Pagan district or Htihlaing village in Toungoo district, and that his father was a toddy palm tree climber, then one of the lowest professions in Burmese society. The commoner origin narrative first gained prominence in the early 20th century during the British colonial period as nationalist writers like Po Kya promoted it as proof that even a son of a toddy tree climber could rise to become the great emperor in Burmese society. To be sure, the chronicle and oral traditions need not be mutually exclusive since being a toddy tree climber does not preclude his having royal ancestors.[note 2]
Childhood and education
Whatever their origin and station in life may have been, both of his parents were chosen to be part of the seven-person staff to take care of the royal baby Tabinshwehti in April 1516. Ye Htut's mother was chosen to be the wet nurse of the prince and heir apparent. The family moved into the Toungoo Palace precincts where the couple had three more sons, the last of whom died young. Ye Htut had an elder sister Khin Hpone Soe, and three younger brothers: Minye Sithu, Thado Dhamma Yaza II, and the youngest who died young. He also had two half-brothers, Minkhaung II and Thado Minsaw who were born to his aunt (his mother's younger sister) and his father.
Ye Htut grew up playing with the prince and the king's other children, including Princess Thakin Gyi, who would later become his chief queen. He was educated in the palace along with the prince and the other children. King Mingyi Nyo required his son to receive an education in military arts. Tabinshwehti along with Ye Htut and other young men at the palace received training in martial arts, horseback riding, elephant riding, and military strategy. Ye Htut became the prince's right-hand man.