Diverse Groups of People
|The Shan State is a cosmopolitan country,
consisting of no less than twenty interesting and colourful diverse
ethnic groups, each with its own belief, language and culture. These
various groups have for generations lived peacefully and in harmony
with one another until the military forcibly occupied the Shan
State. Since then societies have all disintegrated.
Kaws, Lahu Tai Yai, Lisu, Pa-O, Was, Palaung, Tai Nuer, Tai Kye
|The Shans or Tai Yai
The Shan or Tai makes approximately 65
percent of the population of the Shan State. The true Shans live
along the river valleys, who based their livelihood and economy on
wet rice cultivation and other food crops. They breed cattle for
drawing bullock carts, which in the past had served them as means of
transport for trade and other purposes. Buffaloes are used for
tilting the paddy fields.
The Palaung, who call
themselves Ta-arng is about 7 percent of the population. They live
in the mountainous region of Namhsan or Tawngpeng in Northern Shan
State, but also found in smaller groups in other parts of the Shan
States. They are noted for their tea plantation and in the past
have been successful in exporting English tea, Shan tea( green tea)
and pickled tea.
The Pa-O (or Taungthu) like the Palaung makes up 7 per cent
of the Shan State population and are found in Southern Shan State,
in villages on the out skirt Taunggyi, Kalaw and other Shan towns
bordering Burma Proper. They come into the towns on market days to
sell their fruit and vegetables to the town folks.
The Wa, constitutes about 5 percent of the Shan State
population. Originally, they inhabit the eastern and
northernmountainous region along the Salween River and in the border
areas of Shan State and China. Recently they have been forced by the
military regime to relocate south and to take over the land and
homes of the Lahus and Shans. The Wa make their living on the
mountain slopes using the slash and burn method of cultivation. Now,
most of them earn their living by growing poppies which they turn
into opium and amphetamines..
The Kachin - The Kachin in the Shan State are found in the
far north, along the mountainous areas along the Kachin and Shan
State border. They make their living by breeding cattle, and growing
food crops such as corn and rice.
Inthas, the leg Rowers
Dha-nu are Burmese speaking
group but with a dialect quite different from that of the real
Burmans. They have settled in the lowlands on the western area of
the Shan plateau along the Burma Proper and Shan State borders. Most
of them are rice and vegetable farmers while a few are traders.
Taungyo (Taunglur)-The Taungyos are similar to the Pa-Os in
appearance except that their costume tends to be reddish brown
instead of black
Intha -meaning Lake People- The Inthas are noted for their
floating villages with houses built on stilts in the Inle Lake,
situated in Yawnghwe State.. They grow rice and vegetables by the
hydroponics method and are famous for their silk weaving and other
home industries. Their peculiar way of life and the use of their
legs instead of their arms for rowing boats are well known to
international tourists. Like the Dhanus, the Inthas speak their own
dialect of Burmese language.
The Akha or Kaws- live in the hilly regions of Kengtung,
along the border areas of Shan State and Thailand, and Shan State
and Laos. They are recognizable by their beautiful , colourful
costume and accessories.
Lahu- (Musoe)In the remote mountainous regions of Northern
and Southern Shan State. They earn their living by using the slash
and burn method of farming.
Padaung- the Padaung are the original inhabitants of Kayah
State; in the Shan State they are found in areas bordering Kayah
State and eastern part of Shan State particularly in Mongpai. The
women folks are known by the adorning their necks with brass or
silver rings.. Foreigners describe them as the "giraffeneck" people.
The Kokangese- Kokang was at one time a small state under
Hsenwi, in Northern Shan State, which later became separated. The
inhabitants are mainly Chinese and Shan- Chinese who depend their
livelihood on trading across the borders with China, while a few are
also farmers and cattle breeders
Chinese and Indians - are mostly business people, the
majority of whom especially Indians are the descendents
of immigrants who migrated to the Shan State during the British
Regime. The number of Chinese immigrants, in recent years has
increased especially around Lashio and Mandalay.
The Burmans- In the past, as the opportunity of making a
living in Burma Proper was better than in the Shan State, there
were not many Burman citizens in the Shan State. During the Military
regimes the situation changed. The Burmans are now
scattered all over the Shan State, mainly as the regimes'
administrative workers, or families of the military officers and
A few, also on their own accord have come to find jobs in the towns
and the countryside.
The above are the main ethnic groups who are the inhabitants of the
Shan States. If any group has been left out, I apologise, and I will
put it right if you send me some information and photographs of the
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