The Migration and History of Tai Yai
Question--Who are the Tai Yais and who are the Shans?
Answer---- The Shans are Tai Yai, and the Tai Yai are Shans
The Tai call themselves Tai; Non-Tai call them Shans
(The word "Yai" after the Tai (Tai Yai) actually means elder or bigger. Tai Yai refers to the Tais of the Shan State. Tai Yai is also referred to as "Tai Long". (long also means big)
Terrien de Lacouperie was one of the earliest scholar to publish in 1885 the origin of the Tais, based on the identification of ethnic names in Chinese records going back to the 3rd. millennium BC. On these grounds he concluded that the Tais formed part of an amalgam that contributed to the Chinese civilization. William Dodd used Terrein de Lacouperie’s essay, “The Cradle of the Shan Race” to support his theory that the Tais were the elder brother of the Chinese. Terrein de Lacouperie’s tentative identifications were transformed by William Dodd into time-table, which presented as a series of proven facts and dates beginning 2206 BC; taking the Tais through no less than seven waves of migrations, the 7th. occurring after the Mogul invasion of Nanchao in the 13th. Century AD. Facts or myths, the Tai peoples were described as having amenable roots with their origin that went further back in time than that of most great modern nations of the world.
The Distribution of Shan in Burma
The Tai Yai (Shan) of S.E. Asia
The history of Tais/Dais dates back to a very remote period of 850 BC. According to many Christian missionaries and researchers the Tais were found in vast areas along the river valleys of China. After 2,000 years they were chased out by the Chinese and the majority fled along the Yangtse Kiang River into Yunnan, where, after having conquered the country from the aborigines, founded the Kingdom of Nanchao, in theregion of Kosamphi, with Talifu as its capital. Being constantly disturbed by the Chinese a lot migrated to other countries. After eight hundred years the Tais lost their independence to the Chinese but they have not been absorbed , and in particular their language and way of life persist and hold their own against the Chinese.
Most Tai/Dais are also Buddhists, but it is their language, that binds all the Tais of South-east Asia;although their accents have changed due to the passing of time and the distance that separated each group's settlement; many words with the same meaning are still the same or very similar in pronunciation. This, suggests that all the Tais/Dais came from the same ancestral stock that once lived in several parts of China who then migrated to Yunnan, and from Yunnan to other parts of Asia. (This seems to be the accepted theory by most scholars although there are others. ) After time has elapsed the Tais in Yunnan was pronounced "Dai", in Thailand "Thai" and in the Shan State "Tai". This is the variant of the same word.Because of their expertise in wet rice cultivation the tai migrants were able to make a good living and increase their population. For a very long period they were powerful not only in the lowlands and uplands of Burma but they also infiltrated the river valleys of Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. They even followed the Brahmaputra River and settled in Assam and founded the Ahom Dynasty. During the early periods of history, in Central Burma the Burmans, Mons and Shans were constantly struggling for power, each having a turn of being dominant over the others. The Shan's Nam Mao Long Dynasty expanded from Yunnan to the Shan Plateau, Upper and Central Burma and Assam and, under Sao Hso HkanHpa and his twin brother, Hso Long Hpa reached its peak in 11th-13th centuries AD.
From 1287 to 1604 AD, the Shan controlled much of northern Burma. After 1604, the Shan Power in Burma Proper waned and was replaced by that of the Burmese Kings. The majority of Shans wanted a peaceful existence so they went to join their colleagues and resettled on the Shan plateau leaving small groups in many parts of Upper and Central Burma. Even today the Tais/Shans are still the most widely spread ethnic people in Burma. They are found in the northern most region of Hkamti Long down to Thaninthayi, in the south; from the eastern tip of Kengtung to Hsawng Hsup, and Ta-mu to the west. In Central Burma the Tai communities are found around Ava. Pinya, Sagaing. Taungoo, Phyu, Pyinmana and Pyay. The Tais are subdivided into subgroups and each is named according to where they permanently settled, in Hkamti Long the Tais became Tai Hkamti , in Sagaing division they are Tai Leang (Red Tai), in Mong Mao,Tai Mao, the majority of the Yunnanese Tais are Tai Lue, who in the Shan State are found along the Shan and Yunnan border. The Tais who live on the hills are Tai Nuer or Tai Loi and those living in the Shan State are Tai Yai or Tai long. The Tai Khuern very similar to Tai Yone of Thailand are found in Kengtung.
Tai Khuern's traditional jacket has a cross-over front with a side tie resembling that of the Japanese kimono. The hair is swept up and knotted into a pointed chignon with side swirl on the top of the crown, quite different from those of Tai Yai, which forms a rounded chignon at the back and base of the head.
According to Kengtung Story, during the Ayuthiya Period in Thailand some Japanese noble sea-men led by Captain Sumarai were shipwrecked on the coast of Thailand. The King of Ayuthiya did not want the foreigners in his country so he send them to Kengtung. The Sao Hpa (Prince) of Kengtung allowedthe Japanese to remain his country until they were ready to return home, but they stayed on and becamepart of the population of Hkuerns. Hence, there had been Japanese influence on the costume of Khuerns.
Various Tais with slight differences in their Costumes
|Tai Yai (Below) and Tai Khuern ( Above )||Tai Khuern - Kengtung|
Tai Hkamti - Northern Tip of Burma
Tai Mao -Murng Mao,Yunnan
|Tai Leang,Tai Nuer||Tai Lue Yunnan|
In the past the costumes were typical of each group, but now they are increasingly modernised and less traditional.
The Tai Yai
Most Tai migrants were wet rice cultivators who discovered that they needed a good supply of water to irrigate the land in order to succeed in growing good rice crops. Therefore, during their migration thousands of years ago they closely followed the course of the rivers to find the necessary conditions required for their way of life where they could turn wastelands into rice fields or Nas. This is the reason why most Shan farmers live in the lowlands of the river valleys. Groups of Tai families settled together forming a small community. The community grew into a village called wan or baan. Until recent years, villages surrounded by rice fields were found dotted along the river valleys. Several villages collectively became a principality or state known as "mong"(same as moeng; murng) Thus, steadily the Tai established an abundance of principalities in the Shan states which they called mongs varying in size and importance.Most Shans are Buddhists. Temples and Pagodas or Chaung Payaa were built in towns and large villages, and gradually monastic schools headed by monks came into existence. The monks represented part of the institution in the lives of the people and were treated with great regard and respect.
In the early periods of history until the British regime, in 1886 the Shan State was made up of loose collection of many mongs or states. Each mong was ruled by a hereditary Sao Hpa or Prince.In 1922 the British Government in consultation with the Sawbwas made the Shan States into the Federated Shan States. This was the best thing that had happened to the Shan State. The Federation created good communication and good working relationship between all Sawbwas, and the Sawbwas and the British Government Officials- There were law, order and peace through out the country. (For details, please refer to ("The Tais of the Shan State" under " Campaign and articles")Burma Proper became under Britain in 1824-1826 and after deposing and exiling Burmese King Thibaw to India it became part of British India until 1937. Different from Burma Proper the Shan State became an autonomous country under the protection of the British Empire.
From 1937, Burma Proper was known as Ministerial Burma while the Shan and
other Hill States were called"Excluded Areas" and later known as Frontier States. In 1942 the British lost the Shan States to the Japanese. From 1942- 1946
the Shan State came under the Japanese rule, but it was still a separate country from Ministerial Burma
and were allowed to remain autonomous.In 1946, after the return of the British, Bogyoke Aung San wanted Burma
Proper(Ministerial Burma)to become independent from the British as soon as possible. He thought that if the
Frontier Areas were to do the same his ambition could be achieved sooner. So he set out to woo the Leaders
of the Frontier States, the Chin, Kachin and Shan. In 1947, when the Frontier Leaders were at a
meeting in Panglong, in Central Shan State Bogyoke Aung San arrived to persuade them to devise a political
structure acceptable to both the Burmans and the ethnic nationalities and together they could ask
the British Government for independence. Bogyke Aungsan promised that all the terms required by
the Frontier Leaders would be incorporated in the Constitution.On the 7th. of February the Shan Leaders got together to adopt the Shan
National Flag and the National Anthem, followed by formation of the "Shan State Council" to declare that
they were a sovereign , free nation.
On the 12th. February, 1947 the Frontier leaders, Shan, Kachin and Chin signed an agreement with Bogyoke Aung San who represented the ethnic Burmans at "Panglong, a village in the Shan State. Thus, the Agreement signed between the Frontier Leaders and Bogyoke Aung San came to be known as the "Panglong Agreement" Lord Bottomley, His Majesty's Government representative, accompanied Aung San to Panglong and witnessed the signing of the Agreement.
Briefly, the Agreement stated that the association of Burma Proper and the Frontier States should be on a Federal basis with:
The signing of "The Panglong Agreement" February 12th. 1947
Front Row- Bogyoke Aung San, The Sao Hpa of Yawnghwe and the Sao Hpa of Mongpawn ;
Back rows- Leaders of Shan, Chins and Kachins
A Union Constitution was drafted and passed in 1948, which was also witnessed by
the British Government.
Thus, the Federal Union of Burma came into existence.
Without the "Panglong Agreement" there would never have been the Union of Burma.
On July, 1947 Bogyoke Aungsan and his Associates,were assassinated by U Saw, a Burmese political Opposition.
The Sawbwa of Mongpawn aurvived but was wounded but later died under suspicious circumstances.
Bogyoke Aungsan was succeeded by U Nu as the Leader of the AFPFL(Anti Facsist
People's Freedom League).
U Nu did respond . He called all
members of Parliament and legal experts of both Burmans and
non-Burmans to assemble in parliament.
During the forty-five years of Tyrannical Military Regimes of Ne Win and Than Shwe the Shan State has retrogressed; all the junta can claim is that they have brought deep sorrow and suffering to the citizens of the Shan State.
The 5 decades under the Burmese Military Regimes resulted in the Plight of the Shan people
The Military coup was followed by the obsession of the army to rule over, and
by using brutal force to Burmanise the non-Burman nationals. Youths belonging
to the non-Burman nationals rose and resisted the military rule: they were
fighting for their survival and freedom. The army suppressed not only the
resistant groups but also subjected the civilians to torture, gang-rape,
extrajudicial killing, massacre, ethnic cleansing and genocides. All basic human
rights including means of survival were taken way from them. (Please read "Human
Rights Violations perpetrated Burmese military junta under "campaign and
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