Thursday, August 13, 2009


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The Shan who call themselves the Tai are found primarily the
Shan State of Burma. The Burmese word "Shan" (referring to the Tai) is
variously spelled Syam, Syaam, and Syan in the inscriptions of the
Pagan period (1044-1334) and in old Burmese texts. In modern Burma the
Tai people are called Shan, as are various other branches of the Tai
people of Shan state in Burma.
The Shan are a branch of the Tai race. Historical accounts maintain
that Upper Burma was the place of the Pyu and the Shan before the
establishment of the Pagan kingdom by Anawratha (1044-1077). In Yunnan
the Mao kingdom of the Shan existed until it was subdued by the Ming
court. From that base they often sent forays into Upper Burma and
Assam. Later they had Shan colonies in some parts of southern and
northern Shan state, Kachin state, and Sagaing Division in Upper
Burma, and all these colonies were under the suzerainty of a Mao
chief. Eventually the Shans also controlled almost all Upper Burma.
This Shan period of Burmese history lasted from about 1300 until 1540.
The Shan of Yunnan, however, were subdued by the Chinese after three
successive wars (1441-1448). The final destruction of Shan power in
Yunnan occurred in 1604 when the Chinese troops swooped down on
Mongmao. After the collapse of the Mao kingdom in Yunnan, the power of
the Shan in Burma also weakened and the group finally disintegrated
into many small Shan principalities. The development of the Shan in
Burma depended much upon the political history of Burma which
eventually divided the Shan into such groups as:

a. the Khamti Shan (the Tai in the Khamti region of Sagaing division
in Upper Burma)
b. the Mao Shan (the Tai in the Mao River valley in northern Shan state)
c. the Tai Leng (the Red Tai in Kachin state)
d. the Gum Shan (the Tai Hkun in the Kengtung district of eastern Shan state)

The Shan (Tai) are spread throughout Burma, in Shan state, Kachin
state, and Sagaing division. The states and divisions in Burma were
fixed during the British administration period (1885-1948). In the
time of the Burmese kings, the Shan (Tai) areas were named "Saint
Taing," "Kambawza Taing," "Haripunza Taing," "Khemawara Taing," etc.
In the British administration period (1885-1948), Burma was
reorganized into states, divisions, and hill tracts. The present Shan
state was formed during the British period, becoming the "Federated
Shan States" in 1922. The rest of the Shan areas in Burma were put
into Sagaing division, Myitkyina, Bhamo, and Putao districts. The
geographical barriers, difficulties in communication, and the system
of administration since the times of the Burmese kings separated the
Shan from each other, resulting in each group developing its own way
of culture and tradition. Thus, those Shan who settled in the Khamti
region are called Khamti Shan, those in the Mao River valley are Mao
Shan, and those in eastern Shan state are the Hkuns.

A Brief History of Tai(Shan)

Shan” comes from the Burmese rendering of “Siam” or “Siem” the name
by which the ancient Khmer or Cambodians call the Tai or Thai People.
The Shan are members of the Tai Speaking Peoples who today live in
northeastern India, Burma & the Federated Shan States, Thailand, Laos,
Cambodia, Vietnam and south & southwestern China. In 1957, Premier
Chou-en-lai said that there are over 100 million Tai or Dai Speaking
Peoples in the People’s Republic of China.

Historically Shan or Tai Kingdoms & Principalities have stretched from
northeast India through Southeast Asia and into south & southwestern
China and the Shan today are linguistically and culturally closely
related to modern Thailand and Laos.

In the late 19th century the Shan Principalities on the Shan Plateau
were annexed by the British following their conquest of the Burmese
kingdom of Mandalay and British Burma then consisted of the Shan
States, “Burma Proper” and the Frontier Areas.

Administratively, the Shan States as a Protectorate ruled themselves &
had autonomy in internal affairs separate from “Burma Proper” which
was governed directly by the British Governor in Rangoon – and indeed
Banknotes of British Burma were inscribed in English, Shan & Burmese.

After the end of WWII the Shan Princes & Representatives in 1946
convened the First Panglong Conference in the Shan States attended
also by Leaders & Representatives of the British Burma Frontier Areas.
A second Conference was called in 1947 to which the Burmese came as
Observers and it was at this second Conference that General Aung San
of the Burmese tabled a proposal to include “Burma Proper” in forming
a Union. In the vote that followed, the Shan narrowly by a margin of
51:49%, voted for the Union of equal partnership and because of this
decision take by the Shan, the Chin, Kachin & Karenni also ratified
the Panglong Agreement which also specified the Right of Secession – a
Right that is also recognized in the 1948 Union of Burma Constitution,
Chapter X specifically stating the Shan State’s Right to Secede from
the Union of Burma after 10 years.

Following the second Burmese military coup in 1962, the Shan State has
lost all its autonomy and is now under Nazi-like occupation of the
Burmese SPDC regime. In 2000, 2004 & 2006, Shan Leaders secretly and
clandestinely held meetings and canvassed the people of the Se-Viengs
or Counties of the Shan lands resulting in 2000 & 2004 in a 48:14
voting for independence and that majority rising to 54:8 or 87%
majority for independence in 2006.

On April 17, 2005 President Prince Hso-khan-pha of Yawnghwe, under
instructions from the Shan Leadership inside occupied Federated Shan
States (consisting of Shan, Palaung, Pa-O, Kokang States and other
ethnic communities), made a Declaration of Independence and the Shan
Government is now working to fulfill its Mandate for Independence and
to deliver humanitarian relief to the victims of Burmese SPDC
atrocities and war crimes.


Geographical Features:


The Shan States is situated in the north-eastern part of Burma,
bordering the People's Republic of China on the North and East, the
Lao People's Democratic Republic on the East, the Kingdom of Thailand
on South and East, the Karenni state on the South and the Union of
Burma (Myanmar) on the west. It is positioned at Latitude North 19
degrees 20 minutes and South 24 degrees 9 minutes and between
Longitude East 96 degrees 13 minutes and West 101 degrees 9 minutes.


The Shan State is a high plateau with an elevation of 5,000-6,000
feet above sea level. It is covered with dense evergreen forests,
pine, streams, rivers and waterfalls making the country a natural and
beautiful land. It lies at an average of 3,000 to 4,000 feet above sea
level and the highest point is Mount Loilaeng (8,777 ft ) in Mong Yai,
Loi Parng Nao (8,408 ft ) in Kentung, Loi tzang (8,129 ft) in Mong
Kung township.

The Salween ( Nam Khong in Shan) River is the principal river of
the Shan State. It has its source in the Tibetan Himalayas and flows
southwards through China and enters the Shan State, dividing it into
two parts, then passes the Karenni state, Karen State and Mon State
finally joining the Indian Ocean at the Gulf of Martaban near the town
of Moulmein. Many tributaries of the Salween, such as the Nam Taeng,
Nam Parng and Nam Nim all enter the Salween near the Town of Kun Hing
(Kun Haeng: thousand islets) where many islets by the hundreds are
formed. In the east there are the Nam Ma, Nam Kha and Nam Sim which
flow into the Salween. The Mekong ( Nam Khawng in Shan) serves as the
boundary between Laos and the Shan State for a length of 120 miles,
then flows through Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam into the Gulf of

Nam Loei and Nam Kok, which flows through Kengtung, all join the
Mekong. Nam Mao (Shweli in Burnese) and the Nam Tu in the north flow
into the Irrawaddy. The Nam Zawgyi, Nam Tamphat and Nam Bilu in the
south are all famous by their capacities as natural waterways. Because
these rivers flow through deep valleys of mountain ranges, many rapids
and waterfalls can be found throughout the Shan State. Joung-ang, the
biggest waterfall on the Nam Taeng can be found near the town of Keng
Tawng in Mong Nai Twnship.
The second largest one is Om-pu on the Nam Parng River in the Shan
State of Monghsu. Among Shan State's numerous waterfalls, the only one
so far used for hydroelectric power is the Marnsarm Falls on the Nam
Yao River in Hsipaw Twnship. Marnsarm Falls generates enough power for
the surrounding towns and the Bawdwin Mines at Panghai, Namtu
Township. Waterfalls large and small can be found on most of the
The inland lake of Inlay (Nong Hai Ya in Shan)14 miles long and 7
miles wide, is noted for the floating villages and floating vegetable
gardens, silk-weaving and fantastic leg-rowers. Hot and cold
underground springs are countless and some have been developed as rest
and recreation places. Primitive hard rocks that contain numerous
kinds of mineral ores waiting for discovery and development form the
Shan Plateau and its southern continuation into the Tenasserim.

Map references: Southeast Asia
Capital: Taunggyi (Tonti in Shan)

The Shan symbol is a tiger. The Shan flag consists of yellow,
green and red stripes with a white circle in the middle. Yellow stands
for Buddhism and that the Shan are origin of the yellow race(The
Mongoloid peoples). Green symbolizes the verdant landscape, a warm
climate and farming. Red symbolizes the Shan's courage. The white disk
is for the moon, the Shan’s pure and peaceful spirit. It is forbidden
to use this flag in Burma and Thailand.

Area: 62,500 square mile (160,000 square kilometers)
Population: About 7-8 million (est.)

The Shan plateau located in the northeastern part of Burma is
generally cooler than the rest of Burma and Thailand, since it is
mountainous and higher in elevation. There is a cool, dry season from
November to February, and a hot season or summer from February to May,
a hot,rainy season from June to October.
One town can reach over 100F while just a few hours drive away 77F
is normal. Coldness in winter brings the temperature down to 40F in
hill-station towns and 60F on the plains. Annual rainfall averages
between 40-60 inches. Flash flood of rivers and streams occur during
the rainy season causing landslides and floods in the lowlands.

In the areas where the elevation is over 4,000 feet, pine and
evergreen forest can be found in abundance; teak and woods of ‘Shorea
Robusta’ and ‘diptercarpus grandiflora’ abound in the hot lowlands.
Valuable woods such as teak, padauk or pterocarpus, sandalwood and
ironwood cover over 42,210 square miles. Mong Mit, Hsipaw, Mong Kung,
Tong Lao, Mawk-mai, Lawk-sawk, Mong-nai, Keng-tawng, Keng-kham,
Pa-lai, Mong-ton, Mong-sat are all hardwood and teak producing areas.
All kinds of vegetables and fruits are grown according to each
region’s soil and climatic conditions. Many forest products such as
lac, cutch, honey, beewax and wild orchids can be found.


Shan State is rich in natural resources.The majority land surface
of the Shan State is covered with primitive hard rocks and mineral
ores such as silver, lead, gold, copper, iron, tin, wolfram, tungsten
and manganese, have been discovered. The Burmese government is
exploiting mineral developments.For example, Bawdwin-Namtu silver and
lead deposit in the north is one of the largest in the world. Local
Chinese traders discovered it in the 14th century. In 1909 the British
started to take over under the name of "Burma Corporation Limited."
After the Union of Burma was established, it was registered as a joint
venture with the Burmese government under the name "Burma Corporation
Limited 1951". In 1965 the Burmese government nationalized the whole
enterprise. The newly discovered silver, nickel and tungsten deposits
are found in the Naungkieo township area called Yadana Theingi Mine,
where produces silver and lead sent to Namtu to be refined.

The Bawsai Mines in the south produces lead and pyrites. In the
surrounding hills of the southern town of Kalaw, dolomite, pyrites,
Fluorides can be found in abundance. At Loi Ma, near another southern
town of Hpe-Khoung, lead deposits remain undeveloped. Besides these
known deposits the geological survey discovered in 1963, there also is
tin and wolfram deposits at Pangpek near the Shan State capital of
Taunggyi, estimated at over 63 million tons. Diamond is found in the
environs of Mong mit and gems in Namhkan Township.
Many undiscovered or unexplored natural resources in the Shan
State still remain hidden to be used later for the development of the
Shan State and its people. Mogok (Mong Kut in Shan) which is world
famous for its rubies and sapphires lies within the State of Mong Mit
in the north but has been nationalized and drawn into the Mandalay
Division of Burma.


Ethnic groups: It is composed of more than 20 ethnic national groups
in Shan state. the majority of whom are Shan (Tai). It is a
multiethnic nation and the main ethnic groups are: Shan (Tai),
Palawng, Pa-O, Kachin, Wa, Lahu, Akha and Kokang Chinese.
Shan or Tai (Thai Yai in Thai): 68% of the total population are Shan
and therefore Shan are the dominant ethnic group. Most Shan are
farmers and livestock breeders who predominantly live in the valleys
and lowlands.
Palawng or Ta-arng: About 7% of the total population are the Palaungs
who call themselves “Ta-arng”. They are concentrated in the northern
mountainous region of Namhsan or Palaung Tawngpeng State. They are
mostly dependent upon tea plantations producing English tea and
pickled tea (Chinese tea) for consumers throughout the Union. Due to
socio-political upheavals, some of them migrated into the central and
southern mountains of the Shan State using their Knowledge about tea
planting for their livelihood.
Pa-o: The Pa-o ethnic group is also about 7% and are found in the
Southern part of the Shan State. The Pa-o grow agricultural cash crops
such as potatoes, cabbages, garlic and especially the cheroot-leaves
for local and Burmese cheroot industries.
Wa: About 5% of the population are the Wa people. They inhabit the
eastern mountains along the Salween and the areas bordering China. The
Wa make their living on the harsh mountain slopes and valleys using
the old slash and burn methods.

Kachins: They are found in the northern region where the Shan State
borders with the Kachin State. The Kachin breed livestock and grow
vegetables, corn and rice in remote mountainous villages.
Dhanu: These people are settled in the lowlands on the western slopes
of the Shan Plateau bordering with Burma. The Dhanu work on their
paddy fields and vegetable farms.
Intha-s: These people live on the Floating villages and vegetable
plots in the largest inland lake called Inlay where silk weaving and
local handicrafts have been their home industry for generations.
Lahu: They are found east of the Salween along the mountainous border
region between the Shan State and Thailand.
Akha: Akha mostly live in the border areas between the Shan State and Laos.

Kokangnese: Kokangnese are found in the Northeastern Shan State close
to the Yunnan Province. They farm, breed livestock and conduct cross
border trading with China.
Padaung or Kayan: Padaung settled in the south around Mong Pai
Township where farming is their livelihood. Their womenfolk are known
as ‘giraffenecks’ because of the brass or silver rings worn round
their necks as adornments.
Lisu or Lisaw: Lisu are scattered in the north and southern Shan State
remote mountainous regions on large and permanent settlements, because
of their accustomed slash and burn farming traditions.
Yang-lam: Yang-lam are found around Ming-su and Kesi-wansam in the
central region living on primitive farming.
Liju: Liju are found around Kokang State in the north. They rely on
livestock raising and hill-farming.
Chinese and Indian immigrants are found throughout the country and are
mostly traders, shopkeepers and money-lenders. Some also live on
farming and livestock breeding too.
Burmese or Burmans: Burmese are scattered throughout Shan State as
government employees in offices, schools and administrative centers.
They also came in to find work as manual laborers and hired hands
doing various jobs in towns and in the countryside. Many ethnic groups
such as the En, Dhanor, Palay, and others can be found making their
living on primitive farms with contentment. All the different national
groups have lived harmoniosly together for thousand of years sharing
hardships and prosperity in times of peace and war.


The Buddhist religion, spread into the Shan society nine years
after the Lord Buddha attained His enlightenment (Mong Mao Chronicle)
and came to Loi Seng monastery to teach Buddhism among the Shans
(Dai/Tai) people. The Loi Seng monastery is still at the same place
situated near the Mong Mao district town known to the Chinese as Ruili
today. Naturally, Buddhist religion emphasizes respect to the elderly.
It became a tradition of the Shans since then. Religious learning,
self-training through meditation, reflection on one's deeds and the
study and the assessment of the Law of Nature as Buddhism teaches made
them acquire wisdom. The younger generation's respect for the elders'
wisdom also became a tradition.

The Shan believe in spirits, which can cause good or evil in a
person’s life and must be appeased. They also believe in reincarnation
and that the good or evil done in one’s life will determine their
status and fate in the next life. In order to atone for wrongs done, a
person must participate in merit-building activities, such as
suffering a punishment of some sort or doing good deeds such as giving
to and worshipping the monks. The lowest form of life is to be an
animal such as a dog or a cat, and the highest is to retire into a
state of passionless peace.
All Shan boys about 12 years old enter the novicehood for a short
period of time. Some become monks again later for a longer period of
time( about 20 years old to enter the monkshood). They believe that
the way to happiness it to renounce the world and carnal desires. They
also believe that the physical and the spiritual are closely

Languages: The Shan language is part of the Tai languages group of the
Tai-Kadai language family, and is related to Thai and Lao. The spoken
language are Shan, English and Burmese. Minority ethnic groups have
their own languages. Tai with dialects varying for each group.
literature: The Shan have their own alphabet related to ancient
Sanskrit. Shan, like Thai, is built on 5 different tones(Chinese Shan
have 6). The Shan Phonology Committee including the representatives of
the Tai long,Tai Mao, Tai Khamti, and Tai Hkun devised a Common Shan
Script in 1974. For precision in writing the various Shan languages,
the committee decided to have six tone marks in the Common Shan


The Shan have a rich cultural heritage and are a proud and
sophisticated race. They are a gentle and peaceful people. Many of
their customs are related to the Chinese and the Thai. They have their
own centuries old literature, art, agriculture and history. Tattooing
is common among Shan men. The tattoos are often Buddhist connotations
or signs, placed there in an effort to ward off evil spirits and
protect the person from danger. Tattooing is also considered a sign of
manhood in Shan society.
Instead of shaking hands, the Shan usually greet with a "wai", or
placing the palms together in front of the face or chest and say “ Mai
Soong Kha ”. The one lowest in status should initiate the greeting.
How high the palms are placed reflects the status of the person being
greeted in relation to the person greeting. In addressing each other,
the Shan use titles (such as "Pa: grandmother", "Loong: uncle", “Pi:
elder”, "Nawng ying: little sister", etc.) to express the person’s
status or relationship to others. It is not acceptable to show
affection between the sexes in public.The Shan are traditionally
wet-rice cultivators, shopkeepers, and artisans. Most Shan are
Theravada Buddhists and/or observe their traditional religion, which
is related to animist practices.


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