Shan State & People

Shan State & People

The name Shan is not used among the people themselves, and probably originates, as do also Chin, and Kachin from China. It is a common Chinese term for hill-savage, or barbarian.They call themselves Thai, meaning ‘free’, and remnants of their ethnic group are spread right across east Asia, from Canton to Assam the greatest single unit being the Siamese or present day Thai.


It is their singular passion for freedom which has kept them disunited. In general, those peoples that remain in the mountains reflect in their character the physical division of their environment into hills and valleys. The smaller the tribe the greater the freedom.

 These republicans of south-eastern Asia sometimes carried their democracy to a point where there were no chiefs and not even a village council, its little bit  different at current. Only when they are driven by some invader from their valleys, and forced down into the plains as were the Siamese or Thai can they be united.

There are plenty of other ethnic groups

such as the Burmese, Mon or Talaing, Karen, Chin, Kachin, Salone and altogether over 300. The Burmese are the most numerous their idiosyncrasy gives the country its fascination and its charm.

shan state ox cart myanmar

Ox cart near Inle Lake between rain trees in the afternoon.

This mountain people with wide trousers and flapping hat and an instinct for trade came from South-western China about two thousand years ago.

Its migration was hastened by the pressure of other Chinese behind, and as this pressure increased they spread from the valley of the Shweli river, its first home in Burma, southwards to the Siamese seas.

Eastward to Tongking, and north and west till it reached the Brahmaputra and founded the Ahom kingdom of Assam.

They are living here and far down the eastern peninsula to Mergui. In the north they spread over the whole upper territories of the Irrawaddy and along the Chindwin, where traces of their former supremacy survive in the principalities of Singkaling—Hkamti and Thaungdut.

They have ruled at Ava, and have come near to the mastery of Burma. They owe their failure to their inability to combine on any national scale.

In economic qualities they surpass the Burmese, advancing, dominating the people.

shan state the red tree myanmar

Shan State scenery has real beautiful spots.


This is one of the most active ethnic groups

in the country plenty innovations come from them, negative ones like the drug production and positive ones like the first cars assembled with parts smuggled in from China and Thailand.

Brits were like a devil to many parts of the country. They also encouraged them in the north east to plant opium poppies which the Brits sold to the Chinese, payable in silver. There was no drug production and problems in this part of the country before the colonialists.

Today it’s different, the colonialists are gone but their legacy still are the source of many problems in the country.

Luckily slowly another kind of foreigners move in with good intentions, this are the tourists since this is one of the most magnificent travel destinations.

This is one of the most beautiful areas in the country and this is not only the lake, there are plenty of interesting things to see, such as the wooden palaces of their rulers of the past.

Unfortunately they were tricked by the British offering them their own State when they help them against the other but this was only the usual lies the Brits made everywhere according to the old philosophy, divide and conquered they copied from

Shan State Inle Lake

Inle Lake Pa-Oo Festival

Phaundaw Oo Pagoda Festival and leg rower regatta

Kayan or Padaung mother and daughter

Inle Lake Travel

Inle Lake Travel

Sagar Pagoda south of Lake Inle

Sagar Pagoda south of Lake Inle


the old Romans. They did this not only with them but also with the Chin and Karen, all of them were cheated.

The ethnic group living around are the Pa-Oo which are rather Mon who fled long time ago from the border area south of Bago because of the constant fighting with the Thai’s a few hundred years ago.

They are the famous “leg rower” of today and their cooperative run the Golden Cottage Hotel built on stilts right into the lake.

Exploring and trekking


shan state inle lake floating garden leg rower

At Lake Inle

this is one of the top tourist destination in the country and there are really lots of things to see and experienced.

This is real exotic Asia at it’s best, from a tourist point of view, read more.

Trip to the 5 day market at Inle Lake

Trip to the 5 day market at Inle Lake


The area is ideal for soft adventure travel. The capital is Taunggyi not far off with an old wooden palace of the ruler before he got ousted by the communists, military.

Around are lush hills, plenty of water and lots to see, among is the legendary 5 day market when the people of the lake come together at the market, this market moves around every five days. There are festivals such as the famous Phaundaw Oo Pagoda Festival and nearby are the Pindaya Caves one of top pilgrim destinations in the country.

Phaundaw Oo Pagoda

Phaundaw Oo Pagoda at Inle Lake


Inle is easy to reach there are several Myanmar Airlines touching down a couple of times ever day at He Ho Airport with is close to the lake. This is a very rustic area with small workshops near the Phaundaw Oo Pagoda where all kind of local handicrafts are created such as clothing, metal items such as knives and more.

Shan People

Shan’s or T’ai are Chinese

they had a kingdom of their own in the eight century at Yunnan, called Nanchao., a kindom which was administered in Chinese manner by civil service. The snobs at the imperial court called them barbarians which means nothing, they also called the Europeans barbarians and got defeated by them.

Nanchao lasted until the middle of the thirteenth century when it was overwhelmed by the Tartars. Because of that they were driven southwards, they conquered the whole area with the result that the modern Thai people are actually Shan. But their conquest did not last. By the sixteenth century the Burmese, who has a more unitary system of government, more of a dedicated nation, drove them into the hills of the east. By the eighteenth century they extended their authority over the hill area at the border to Siam.

The people were organized under chieftains, who were feudal lords and hereditary princes. There was no central king, the chieftains were forced by the arms to acknowledge their rule. The practical effect of this depended upon the strength of the monarchy of the moment.

Shan State

Sometimes it amounted to no more than a nominal yearly tribute; sometimes the center maintained garrisons in the principal town. Princesses resided at the court of Ava and Mandalay as wives or concubines of the “golden foot”.

There were frequent civil wars in their country one feudal prince would invade his rival’s territory next door, and tribes of savages who lived on the hill tops, like the Kachin, who are mainly Christians would swoop down and carry away heads and plunder, this area was constantly at war in the past.

Shan Population

Burma Shan

This disorder increased during the 19. Century. The population declined and wide areas of land went out of cultivation; walled towns were ruined und caravan routes closed. Such disasters, the cause of great suffering to the people were due to there being no effective central government. They had no king and the Central King was not strong enough to control the feudal chiefs, and was unable to extend his administration into.

When affairs were at this very low level the English entered Mandalay, took the Burmese King captive and annexed the country. As this nominally included the State their feudal chiefs became vassals of the English.

Burmese Shan

In this way the resident within the boundaries came into the British colonial empire. At that time their number was around two million. The British did not conquer them in the usual way since there was no invasion into the territory. Immediately after the fall of representatives were sent and assured when pay homage to the Crown their rights and privileges as hereditary princes were secured for them forever. In pursuance of that agreement they did not install their usual administration which was set up in in the other parts of the country.

Probably the best the British did was to prevent them from fighting each other and they got protection from raids of the savage hill tribes and adventurers across the Chinese border. That policy was enough to bring back prosperity. The population



increased and land was cultivated again, trade routes opened and the silver mines of Bawdwin started to work again.

To advice and assist the chiefs, who were totally ignorant at that time of the modern world, English officials were placed in the state. These officials became the Frontier Services afterwards. In 1922 the different counties were made into a federation called Shan State. A council of Chiefs was set up with an senior English official as President of the Council. This gave the state what they had lacked in the past to their unity. The sons of the old chiefs who had fought each other, now met round at the council table to discuss measures for the common benefits of the whole State.

This level was ousted and killed by the mad Ne Win under his similar lunatic communist ideas and today people still struggle but it looks (mid 2013) that things getting better.

Novitiation Procession

Novitiation Procession

Festival Annoncement
Local festival announcement

Shan Hill Peasants daily live
Shan Hills Peasants daily live is not easy

Shan Hill Peasants Boys and Buffalo
Peasants, Boys and Buffalo in the hills.

Shan Hill Cultivator
Hill Cultivator and the ox

Shan Myanmar Coach
Coach at Pin Oo Lwin

Shan Myanmar Rural Ox Cart Transportation
Rural Ox Cart Transportation is still very common.

Shan Myanmar Transportation Pick Up Toyota
Transportation by Toyota Pick Up

Shan People at Sagar near Inle Lake
People with colorful dresses at Sagar near Inle Lake

shan state farmer myanmar

Padaung, Palaung or Kayan villages
Padaung, Palaung or Kayan people living nearby, some of them fled to
Thailand more than a decade ago to escape the “civil war” in the border area. This
episode has ended long time ago.

Shan State Myanmar at Lake Inle


Pindaya Caves

Pindaya Cave Buddha Images Shan Myanmar
Pindaya Cave Buddha, I think nobody really knows how many are here.

Pindaya Cave Buddha Shan Myanmar
In particular since people add more almost every day.


At Pindaya caves are thousands of Buddha statues, close by is a typical umbrella factory, the cover is made from mulberry bark which is transformed into some kind of paper which is coated. There are several places they are made one is Pathein at the west coast on the road from Yangon to Chaungtha Beach.

Pindaya Cave limestone ridge overlooking lovely Boutaloke Lake Shan Myanmar
Pindaya Cave limestone ridge overlooking lovely Boutaloke Lake.

Manufacturing pretty umbrellas with handmade Shan paper
Manufacturing umbrellas with handmade Shan paper

Pretty umbrella and small Shan girl Myanmar
Pretty umbrella and small Shan girl

Pindaya Caves Pagoda at Shan State Myanmar
Pindaya Caves Pagodas housing thousands of Buddha images.

Buddha Statues at a Shan State Temple Myanmar

Buddhist Temple at Shan State Myanmar

Buddhist Temple and monastery