|The Shan State is a plateau, averaging 3000 ft. above sea-level. The
great Salween River runs along the whole length of the country, dividing
Kengtung and Mongpan from the rest of the country. The plateau is made
up of mountain ranges, in the north, east and west, running from north
to south. In the east of the Salween the ranges have high, pointed
peaks and are grouped together with very few valleys in between. To the
north the heights of these ranges are considerable, some reaching
6000-7000 ft. but they are more spread out and the valleys between them
are broader and more numerous. In the west of the plateau the country
consists mainly of downs and broader plains.
The geographical make up of the Shan State therefore, provides the country with an interesting landscape: a grand scenery of mountains, hills and rolling downs, and beautiful broad and narrow valleys surrounded by ranges. The true Shan only live in the valleys, basing their livelihood on wet rice and bamboo.
The Shan State before the military occupation was made of 33 states or principalities, called the Federated Shan State, each state ruled by a Sawbwa or Sao Hpa (Prince). Kengtung was the largest state with Hsipaw coming second, followed by the rest of the 31 states.
The Federated Shan State was divide into two main administrative units, Northern Shan State and Southern Shan State. In Northern Shan State were Hsenwi, Hsipaw, Tawngpeng, (Namsan) Mongmit, South Hsenwi or Mongyai and the Wa State of Monglun and Shan/Chinese State
Kokang. Kokang was originally under Hsenwi but in 1948 became a a separate state.
In Southern Shan State were Kengtung, which occupied nearly all the eastern part beyond the Salween; Kesi Mansam, Mongkung, Laikha, Mongnawng and Mongsu in the north of Sothern Shan States while Mongnai, Mongpan and Mawkmai occupy the central region.
Mongpawn, Hopong, Namkok and Wanyain were a group of smaller states separated by bigger states, Yawnghwe and Mongpai.
Besides these mentioned states there were Hill Stations used during the British Regime as Administrative Centres. Taunggyi, the main administrative Centre was also the capital of the whole Shan States. The Taunggyi Centre was also responsible for places like Lawksawk and Yawnghwe. Loilem, was the Centre for the central region of Southern Shan State, Kalaw, for the centre and west, Loimwe for east of the Salween. Lashio was the centre for the Northern Shan State and Kutkai for the northern part of Hsenwi, near the Chinese border.
Maymyo was also adopted by the British as a hill station, but more importantly as a British Army Training Camp. At one time it was a town under Hsipaw.
|Taunggyi, the capital of the Shan State
Shan Festival in Taunggyi
Geographically, Taunggyi, was in Yawnghwe State. It was
built in 1896 as a British Hill station to replace Fort Steadman, which
was too hot for the British. Taungyyi, means a great Mountain, at the
top of which is the Craig shaped like the head of a lion. From the Craig
you could see the view of almost the whole town and in the far distance
and beyond the town were lovely forested hills.
Being over 3750feet above sea-level the climate is pleasant the whole year round. The town used to have many colonial style buildings, and some Sawbwas who had a long way to get to the Capital also had their second home there. Taunggyi was noted for its beautiful flowering and evergreen trees, which adorned the streets and the gardens of many homes.
Taunggyi had a museum that stored antiques, memorabilia, records and chronicles that helped to keep alive Shan culture and history, which the Military Regime tries its best to destroy.
The Taunggyi Market was a place for all the colourful ethnic groups to come and sell fresh fruit and vegetables to the town folks. It also provided an opportunity for them to meet and make friends.
Being a cosmpolitan city, apart from the Shans, Inthas and Pa-Os
Indians, Chinese, Seiks and Persians(Iranese) also formed part of the
population of Taunggyi.
Northern Shan State
|Lashio- Administrative Town of Northern Shan State
Lashio- Indoor Market
Lashio, an administrative town for Northern Shan States, was one of the border towns with China and as such the inhabitants were mostly Shans, Chinese and Shan/Chinese.
Like all Shan towns the Central Market was a meeting place for trade and social life of different ethnic communities, thus furthering good communication and understanding between them.
The Hsipaw Hot Spring was an attraction for visitors who wished to bathe in the hot water containing sulphur, to cure their aches and pains.
The Goteik Viaduct which was built in 1901 over the deep Gokteik gorge was said to be the second highest railway bridge in the world.
The Goteik Bridge
Pagodas in Tawngpeng
Tawngpeng, the major tea-producing principality in the Federated Shan States, contained an area of 938 square miles.
Its Geographic features were characterised by hills ranging from five to seven thousand feet in height interspersed with valleys that averaged approximately ten miles in length, and from a few hundred yards to a few miles in width. Namhsan, the chief town of Tawngpeng lies on a very high mountain of six thousand feet above sea-level.
In the lower levels of the hillsides, Palaungs and Shans grew tea, the most important product of the area. Higher up the hills the Kachins and Lisus practised burn and shift cultivation.
Tawngpeng was one of the richest states because of the revenue it obtained from lead and silver mine of Bawdwin
Elephants at work in Hsipaw
Hsipaw Haw or Palace
Hsipaw was an ancient Shan town, of a State or principality of the
same name which according to its chronicle went back to the year 58 BC.
It was said to have been founded by Sao Hkum Hkam Saw, the fourth son of
the Sao Hpa of Mong Mao. Sao Hkun Lai.
|SOUTHERN Shan State
|Kengtung or Chaingtung
Sao Nam Tum, the son of King Mangrai. He was the founder and the first ruler of Kengtung 1253
The picture below is of Nawng Tung
Kengtung was the largest and most easterly state of the Federated Shan State. Kengtung, the principal town was situated in a valley encircled by ten villages with rice fields and orange groves. There were four other big valleys in which subsidiary towns Mongping, Monglin, Mongyang and Mongyawng were founded. There were also many small villages tucked along the ranges of the mountains where the Wa, Kaw, Lisu and Ens chose to make a living and build their homes.
The Tai Khuens formed the majority of the population, while the Tai Nuer or Tai Loi lived in higher regions and the Tai Lue nearer the Yunnan border. The Tai Yai lived in the westerly valleys of the state.
Kengtung was one of most progressive Shan principalities with beautiful scenic views, pagodas and buildings. Being a border state it had all the trade coming from China and Thailand.
It was quite a considerable distance away from the rest of the
Southern Shan State , 300 miles from Taunggyi and the journey used to
take two or three days along a very narrow and winding road. Since there
were no bridges across the rivers, Nam Pang and Nam Khong ferries were
used to get across. I believe this route is now unusable.
|Kaw Village along the hillside of Kengtung
Tea Plantation in Kalaw
Pindaya - a small quiet town on the bank of the Botoloke Lake was
famous for its limestone cave where 8094 Buddha images made from
alabaster, teak, marble, brick, laquer and cement were installed since
the 11th. Century AD The inhabitants of this area were
The name Lawksawk had been changed to Yak Sawk by the junta
Elephants, given a rest after a hard Day's work
The inhabitants of Lawksawk were a mixture of Danus in the south along the borders of Pindaya and Yawnghwe. The Taunglur or Taungyo lived in villages at the foot of the hills. The inhabitants in larger, northern villages bordering Hsipaw, Maymyo, Laikha and Mongkhung were predominantly Shans.
But the goodwill was betrayed when in 1962 all the Sawbwas were put in prison
without any crime or reason and the army under Ne Win occupied all the Shan
States by force.
Yawnghwe and the Inle Lake
Houses built on stilts
Inle Lake Village
Yawnghwe Town, the capital of the state lies at the northern end of the of the Inle Lake. Between the town and the lake were nearby villages and interesting walks along the country lanes.
The late Sawbwa, Sao Shwe Thaike, was the first President of the Union of Burma. When Ne Win staged a coup, like all the other Sawbwas, he was imprisoned, and later died in jail under suspicious circumstances. Some believed that he was killed by the military because he refused to sign certain documents.
The Yawnghwe Haw (Palace) was donated to the state to be used as a
Museum to store a collection of photos and Shan regalia.
The municipal market near the town was busiest in the morning when traders congregated to sell mountains of fresh fruit and vegetables as well as pottery and textiles. The population of Yawnghwe was composed of Inthas, Pa-Os, Shans Taungyo (or Taunglur)and Danus.
The most fascinating and unique feature in Yawnghwe State was the Inle lake area, which was 22km long and 11 km wide, 1328metres above sea-level. It had calm waters dotted with groups of floating vegetation and busy fishing boats. The lake was surrounded by hills, and along the shores and the floating islands were village houses built on stilts. The inhabitants were mostly Inthas, who made a living by growing fruit and vegetables the whole year round, and by fishing with coned shaped nets. The men also produce silver and brass as well as pottery and lacquer wares. The women worked at their spinning and weaving silk into sarongs or skirts when they are not working outdoors.
Heho was also part of Yawnghwe State and became one of the first air
terminals in the Shan State. It also served as a cross road for all the
|CENTRAL SHAN STATE
Nam Taeng, one of many tributaries of the Salween (Monkung)
Water from the well for drinking; water from the lake for other uses (Mongkung)
Shan Village Children at Play
Mongkung, contains a large productive valley made by the Teang River, on which the capital town stood. The town consists of groups of houses, pagodas, monasteries and clumps of bamboo surrounded by smaller villages.
The Teang valley was one of the characteristics of Shan valleys, containing paddy fields, enclosed by hills on which pine and oak grew. On a sunny afternoon when looking across the paddy fields one could see puddles of water glistening in the sun, Shan men tilting the land with their wooden ploughs drawn by buffalos or women transplanting rice seedlings. Such is a scene of a typical Shan settlement in the river valleys.
Mongkung produced plenty of good rice, very sweet oranges and juicy and delicious pineapples. Monkung, Lai Kha, Mong Nawg, Kesi Mansam and Mong Su together formed the important Rice Bowl of the Shan State.
This was also the area which the SLORC and SPDC targeted to destroy,
followed by the intense relocation of Shan people in 1997 and 1998.
Thousands of Shan became homeless and stateless that they had to flee to
Thailand or into the jungle and becoming internally displaced. Although
the situation is not as bad as in 1997 and 1998 the confiscation of land
and relocation of Shan citizens are still going on until today.
The Purcell Tower
Maymyo Botanical Garden
A stupa on an islet of a pond
A coach drawn by horses serve as a local transport
Maymyo (City of May), was named after a British Army officer called Captain May. It was another Hill Station as well as an army training post during the British rule.
The Botanical Garden was inaugurated as the Maymyo Botanical Garden on a 30 acres plot of land in 1915 by an Englishman named Mr Alex Rodger. It was modeled on the Kew Gardens of England with the professional help of a botanist, Lady Cuffe, who worked at Kew. It had well kept lawns, flower beds, a rose garden and 49 acres of forest with walking trails. A small pagoda was also built on an islet of a pond. Maymyo and its environments were later declared a protected area by the British Government.
The Purcell clock tower, near the town entrance was a present from Queen Victoria who gave an identical one to Cape town in S. Africa. The chime was an imitation of the chime of the Big Ben in London.
Small coaches drawn by horses served as a cheap means of local transport and could be seen daily on every street of Maymyo.
Like Taunggyi, Maymyo was a cosmopolitan town, with Indians and Chinese forming part of the population. Before the Burmese military regimes there were also many Anglo- Indians and Anglo-Burmese families. Several Shan villages were found on the outskirt of the town, who made a living by growing strawberries and other temperate fruit and vegetables.
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