Mi Mi Khaing


Mongmit, South Hsenwi
& the Rest of the North
The Central and True Shan States
Mognai and the Southeast
River Valleys...and Nine States
The Myelat Area



These series of articles on the Shan States of Burma appeared as a serial in the newspaper Nation in the early 1950's. It was a unique time in the history of the Shan States --- Burma had just gained independence, and in the process the Shans, represented by their various chiefs, or Sawbwas, had willingly formed a union with the rest of Burma. However, unlike the rest of democratic Burma, the Shan States were still ruled by the Sawbwas just as in the days of British rule, and even before that, as in the days of the Burmese Kings. But this was just a brief period, for by 1958, the Sawbwas had relinquished their powers.

The author, Mi Mi Khaing, was born in the Tharawaddy District of Burma in 1916. She went to St. John's convent, Rangoon and then to University College from which she graduated in 1937 with First Class Honours in English. She then went to England with a State Scholarship to study at King's College, London. After working briefly as a lecturer at the University of Rangoon, and as a researcher for the British Ministry of Information in wartime India, she was married to Sao Saimong, son of the chief of Kengtung, the largest of the Shan States. Soon afterward she took up residence in Taunggyi, in the "most beautiful part of Burma". In 1951, she opened Kanbawsa College, a coeducational school for children, for which she was the principal.

Her best known work is Burmese Family which relates the details of her childhood and giving a view of everyday life in Burma.



Do the Shan States appear to readers of The Nation too much familiar ground, too near home, to merit a series or articles? If they do I ask forbearance. To me it seems that these regions of ours which now form the borders of trouble spots in Asia, actual and potential, have not been given an objective description since the turn of the century. Writing in English on the one hand, Maurice Collis was so thrilled at returning to a country and a people he loved after years of English climate and conventions, that he carried us along on his beautiful prose into an Arcady of Shan princesses sporting with visiting Englishmen in the intoxicating air of glades and laughing waters. Our own Burmese press on the other hand, usually, confines its efforts to arousing horror at the conditons of feudal oppressiveness and misery under a Sawbwa's rule.

In trying to paint a more comprehensive picture than either, I intend, after this first introductory article, to deal with State after State, dwelling on fact and legend, shortly or at length, purely according to my fancy and not according to the importance of the State. If therefore, in giving sidelights on what appears to me the most diverting aspects, I fail to spotlight what others consider more newsworthy features, I ask their pardon. This is not an official record.

A few inescapable physical facts to begin with. Nowhere more than in the Shan States has the course of historical and cultural development followed so inexorably along the bounds laid down by geographical features. The Shan States cover about one-fifth to a quarter of the area of Burma and contain not quite an eighth of its total population. The fact that this area, in contrast to the main portion of Burma proper, is a hill region, is due to the failure of the great Shan river the Salween, to carve out a broad bosom for the Shans to thrive upon, in the way that the Irrawaddy and Sittang have done. One of the long rivers of the world, and longer than the Irrawaddy, the Salween slithers along its whole course in a deep coiling valley, swift and treacherous as a snake, and attracting no sunny rice civilisation to its banks as even some of its own tributaries have done.


The core of the Shan country is a plateau averaging about 3000 feet above sea-level immediately to the west of this great river. To north, East and West of the plateau runs ranges in a north to south direction, some lofty and sharp-peaked, other broad and rolling. The ranges east of the Salween are massed together, high and jumbled, containing few valleys worth the name. To the north they still attain considerable heights, of about 6-7000 feet, but they are more spread out and the valleys between are broader and more numerous; while west of the plateau, Nature, becoming more gentle, lowers the mountains and rolls them out gradually on to broad plains. There is, therefore, for the traveller, much grandeur of scenery in the mountainous trans-Salween region and parts of the north, a sylvan beauty in the valleys both narrow and broad, enclosed by the ranges everywhere, and the most pleasant motoring country in the rolling downs of the central plateau and the western borders between Burma plains and the Shan country.

The true Shans live only in the valleys being in fact more of a valley people like the Burmese than they are hill-dwellers. In all these valley settlements, basing their economy on rice cultivations and the bamboo, holding five-day bazaars for their food crops and their traditional wares of iron, silver, cotton, silk and bamboo, including in their diet whatever else be omitted, the universal pebok, mohnyin-chin and to-hpu, centering their religious, social and political life around the rule of a sawbwa, which follows the traditional Buddhist pattern of royal administration, the Shans lead a life distinct from the other peoples around them who are more fittingly called hill peoples. These peoples, occupying the slopes above the valleys and descending only on bazaar days and feast days into the valley settlements, are of diverse races found in small pockets everywhere owing to migration and subsequent isolation, but found also to be predominating, each race in its own area. Thus the Taungthus in the southwest, the Palaungs in the ranges of the northwest corner, the Kachins in the far north, the Kaws and Lahus in the extreme northeast and east, the Was in the ranges of the northeast, the Padaungs in a certain corner of the southwest.


The anthropologist and census taker will tell you that among all these peoples the Shans form a little less than 50 percent of the total population of what are called the Shan States. Nevertheless it is Shan that we most call this territory, as indisputably as Burma is called after the Burmese. Historical events have decided it so. The Shans, migrating southwards from China in successive waves from centuries before Christ to the 13th century A.D., increased in numbers and won supremacy of the valleys which are the true ricefields, the slopes producing only limited quantities of rice and a diversity of less essential crops. As everywhere else in Asia, rice spelled mastery. The administrative authority of each Shan power was set up in the rice valley to extend over a territory of surrounding hills, the limits of which were set by conquest, negotiation or the decision of the suzerain Burmese king. It was in the stage of development that the British arrived and froze the whole system "in status quo", in order to administer the territory by an "indirect rule."

Thus we have the Shan States as they are today. The towns, most of them villages by other standards, built in the main valleys large and small, rich and poor, form the residing capital of Sawbwa or Myosa and give the name to the State which may or may not include within its territory other subsidiary valley towns separated from the capital by ranges. Of such states there are 33, seventeen ruled by Sawbwas, twelve by Myosas and four by Ngwekhunhmus.


The destinction in these titles dates from the days of the Burmese monarchy although the same states have not continued to hold the same titles for their chiefs during the centuries --- changes took place according to royal favour, results of battles and later, the decisions of the British authorities. But a distinction there certainly was, for in those days all privileges and titles were so much a matter of royal ordinance that every one of a Sawbwa's symbols of power was laid down in a special book of dispensations granted by the higher court. His regalia and clothes, the guilding and jewel decoration of betel boxes, spittoons, fly-whisks and such articles of use, the dress of ministers, the umbrellas, spears and horses in procession, the caparisoning of the royal elephant, the instruments for processional music, the gateways and the style of residence, all were rigidly prescribed to ensure that the dignity kept up accordance with the status of a royal chieftain, yet did not encroach on the special privileges reserved for the court of Ava itself. The British, whose success in administration was largely bound up with observance, of precedence in a hierarchy, listed states also as Sawbaships, Myosaships and Ngwegunhmuships, but in the general atmosphere of equality, fraternity, and shall we say, above all, "informality" prevailing in these days of our Independence, it has become customary to address all chiefs as Saophalong.

This title, meaning Great (Long) owner and Lord (Sao) of the Heavens (Hpa), so extraordinarly difficult to render in Burmese writing, so embarrassing for Burmese tongues to pronounce in any but the most inelegant tones, was decided upon for official use even when writing in Burmese, in place of the old and to Burmese ears more dignified title of "Sawbwagyi", in what might be called a fit of pan-Shanism engendered by interested parties in those hectic days immediately before the 2nd Panglong, and before Bogyoke Aung San arrived to work the miracle of unity which has made that camp of bamboo huts in the fields outside Loilem a great and historic landmark. Till this day it remains a miracle to those of us present, how from fervid Shan, Kachin and Chin discussions of old resentments, fears and defensive safeguards a metamorphosis took place overnight into a feeling of brotherhood which swept everyone off his feet.


There is a precedence of States still observed in Council. This is not necessarily according to size or wealth. Kengtung, the largest, does come first, but it is by no means the richest. Hsipaw is second and after this the remaining 31 follow in a set order. Two main administrative units, north and south, divide the states. Under North are the big states of Hsenwi, Hsipaw, Taungpeng, Mongmit, South Hsenwi, the Wa state of Manglun and the rich Myosaship of Kokang. Under South are Kengtung which takes up all the eastern part, the states of Kehsi Mansum, Mongkung, Laikha, Mongnawng and Monghsu in the north-centre and Mongnai, Mongpan and Mawkmai in the south-center. West of these are a string of little states running north to south (Mongpawn, Hopong, Namkhok, Wanyin, Hsatung) separated by the big state of Yawnghwe and the state of Mongpai in the extreme south-west from another packet of small states in and around the region bordering Burma proper known as the Myelat. These small states are Samkha, Sakoi, Hsamongkham, Pwela, Pindaya, Yengnan, Pinhmi, and, holding the place of honour as the smallest, Kyone (24 square miles). Bordering these little states are the larger ones of Loilong on the south, Lawksawk on the north and Maw on the west. Ironically enough, this mincing up of the administration takes place in the most accessible parts of the Shan States where communications are many, whereas in mountainous Kengtung where nature cuts up the country so cruelly and uncompromisingly, 12,000 square miles are united under one authority.


Besides these states there are the "notified areas", true hill stations built up by the British as purely administrative centres, outside the jursidiction of the Sawbwa in whose state they are situated geographically. These, better known to the outside world than the State towns are Taunggyi, centre for Central, and capital of the whole Shan State, Loilem centre for Southeast and Northeast, Kalaw, Centre for West, Loimwe, centre for trans-Salween, Lashio centre for the north generally, and Kutkai centre for the northern part of North Hsenwi State.

The status of these towns is the key to the dual system of government set up by the British, a form peculiar to "indirect rule". There was a water-tight state administration, that is, each state functioned as a self-sufficient unit, only giving a percentage of its revenues to a Federal Fund which was started when the states were amalgamated into a Federation in 1922. This fund paid for public works, education, medical and police services in the notified areas, and for roads connecting the states to one another, that is, for the expenses, generally speaking, of asoya, the other system in the dual set-up --- the channel for all interstate communications, running through the persons of the Assistance Superintendents, (postwar term being Assistant Residents) of the Burma Frontier Service. In theory the Sawbwa did all the ruling: the civil, criminal and revenue administration of the state was vested in him by the Burma Laws Act of 1898, subject to restrictions specified in the particular sanad or order of appointment granted him. Except for certain enactments which were extended from Burma proper, the law in each state was the customary law of the state "so far as it is in accordance with justice, equity and good conscience and is not opposed to the spirit of the law in force in the rest of British India." This administration of the Sawbwa helped by his ministers was done largely through Circle Headmen who were directly responsible to him. In certain States these Headmen had always been elected by the people; in others they are appointed by the Sawbwa.

Thus each state, no matter how small had its own ministers, police force, education, medical services and public works to look after from its own budget, no matter how meagre. All this though ostensibly under the Sawbwa and state authorities, was closely checked by the officers of the Frontier Service --- a system referred to by the people as the keeping of a little book in which the Assistant Resident marked down the delinquencies of the Sawbwa. Almost all the officers were British or Anglo-Burman (there was a few Burmans and no Shans until the admission just before the Japanese war, of Sao Kyaw An of Yawnghwe State) and as the officers came young to their posts, this writing in a little book was gall and wormwood to many Shans. The degree of rancour it engendered could be gauged by the fact that when in 1946, contrary to all precedent, a member of the Kengtung ruling family (Sao Saimong) was not only recruited but posted to his own home state as Assistant Resident, the sceptical, discounting the generous gesture, swore that now it was the "Sawbwa" writing in a little book about the Assistant Resident, Kengtung then being temporarily under a British Administrator.


In fact, looking back, a clue may be found here to the surprising unanimity of the Shan Leaders at Panglong to join Bogyoke. The humiliations they felt at this set-up were aggravated by the inferior quality of postwar recruitment to the Frontier Service, and culminated in the Frontier Area Regulation which set out, with incredible tactlessness, a hierarchy of administration as 1, Director or Administrator for Frontier Areas; 2, Deputy Director; 3, Assistant Administrators (i.e. the young A.R.'s most just recruited from England); 4, Sawbwas and 5, Headmen ...

Besides personal resentment, however, the system meant that no Shan Chief or "commoner" had much hope of playing a role in the overall administration of the Shan States. The Council of Chiefs resided over by the Commissioner, though it discussed the budget and was consulted in connection with the extension of Acts to the Shan States, was without legislative powers. Since independence of course, a great deal has been changed. The dual system is still kept up for convenience, (although certain notified area towns have been handed back to state administrations), with Shan officers largely from non-ruling families, to act as Post Offices between states and central authorities from Rangoon. Up to date, no service has been established to provide these officers, appointments being made from whatever personnel seems suitable to the authorities. The Shan Council, composed now of equal numbers of Chiefs and elected commoners, have full legislative powers. The Head of the Shan States, a ruling chief, has five of these commoner council members as Ministers who are expected to set the policy of the State. The Special Commissioner, holding a position in which decisive action in emergencies has been the main need during the past year of disturbances, has been chosen from among the natural leaders for the extent of his awza and the influence wielded by this personality.


These changes have made it possible for a representative section of the people of the Shan State to manage thier own affairs, and apart from the appointment of a few senior specialists from the Burma services, there has been no flooding of the administration by Burmans as the Shans had been led to fear would happen. Meanwhile, the old water-tight state administrations have been broken down to the extent that education, medical services and public works for every area (Kengtung excepted by reason of her own unwillingness to pool resources) has been centralized. This represents a considerable concession on the part of the Sawbwas, for it means that appointments, disbursements of pay and terms of service for the personnel in these departments are taken out of their hands and made uniform for every state. It also means that the big Sawbwas and their people agree to share with the poorer ones, some of whom cannot muster enough money for a decent school or dispensary in even the capital town. When this centralization extends further, the citizens of the Shan State will be under a rule no more feudal than that in Burma proper, differing only in that the symbols and offices of their administration fit their Buddhist social and cultural pattern more fully. "When ..." that is the burning question. It is true on the one hand to say that the Sawbwas are still securely and willingly enthroned by a belief in karma on the part of a majority of their people. It is also true that a section of people, especially those living in the nofified areas outside of any Sawbwa's authority shout "Down with them!" from time to time. But it is a Never Never land where a whole class of human beings with human desires and weaknesses will be seen to surrender of their own accord the houses, lands or privileges they inherit from their fathers under the existing laws of the world in which they live. Certain favourite items they will cherish feel they have done enough by giving away a part.



Much could be written to romanticise Kengtung, to describe it in terms of the escapist's paradise. But there is little tempatation to do that at present. During the past ten months uninvited guests from across the border have been raising panic and commotion there and even now have not been altogether disposed of. The very factors which gave Kengtung its romantic quality, its remoteness from any other big centre of civilisation and its situation as a courtyard into which the backdoors of four different countries open out, have made it a critical point of Burma's defences. Like Tibet, this other backyard of Asia must wake up now from the dreaming slumbers of legend to the harsh jangles of politics and martial clashes.

The fact is that Kengtung is the largest, most mountainous, most easterly, and culturally the farthest from the Burmese, of all the Shan States. Geography makes approach to it from the rest of Burma difficult for it lies not only beyond the Salween across which no bridge has been built and whose eastern tributaries have cut no easy routes through the serried north-south ranges, but nearer again to the Mekhong than to the Salween. Thus, the Salween being as we have seen a barren river, Kengtung has drawn its cultural inspirations from the bosom of the Mekhong, far from our own great mother, the Irrawaddy. And thus also, while from Taunggyi one must travel 300 miles, driving for two long days (sometimes four or five days) over a zigzagging route, the road to Siam is but 100 miles through comparatively open terrain. Kengtung as part of Burma is, in reality, a political anomaly, the result of astuteness on the part of Chiefs in the past, who elected to ramain under the suzerainty of distant Mandalay, to which yearly gifts of gold and silver flowers were all that were required, rather than under the yoke of Ayuthia and Cheingmai so much better placed for effective interference. From Cheingmai it is indeed, that the ruling dynasty and race of Kengtung has sprung.


This migration of the Cheingmai dynasty, made in the 13th century with the idea of founding a new kingdom, has resulted in Kengtung having a different type of Tai population from the rest the Shan State. The Tai here call themselves Khuns; their speech contains many variations from the western Shan, and their script is entirely different. The dress is also distinctive, in that the htamein of horizontal stripes is topped by a jacket with a crossover front and a side-tie like a kimono, and in that the hair style, which sweeps the hair up to the crown of the head with a sideways swirl, ends in a pointed chignon instead of a broad and rounded sadone. These echoes of a Japanese garb are not just interesting coincidences. According to Kengtung history, they are the result of actual Japanese descent from a bank of seafarers, (noblemen, they say, the editor of the present Kengtung newspaper naively referring the the leader as Captain Samurai) shipwrecked on the coast of Siam, held by the King of Aynthia, and then presented to the Cheingmai family whose Kengtung scions were finding difficulty in making the new kingdom prosper. Whether this tale be fact or legend, it is still possible for the imaginative to read in the features of certain members of the ruling family and other official Khun families a Japanese cast. The Japs themselves, missing no opportunity for establishing goodwill of a sort, claimed relationship with the Kengtung people during their recent four-year visit, often referring to the ruling family as their own lords.

These Khuns form about 25% of the population of Kengtung State. Before they came, the Was were in possession, and till today the crowning ceremony of the Sawbwa starts with the pantomine of driving two Was off the throne seat. The Khuns, like all Tai, live in the valleys. The home valley of Kengtung is about 12 miles by 7, and carries the legend, not uncommon amoung such completely encircled valleys, of having once been an inland sea. This is said to have been successfully drained by one of three hermit brothers, the sons of an Emperor of Chinese regions who had hundreds of other sons, and the islands of that old sea are still prominent in the town as sites commanding good views of the valley.

In this valley are the capital city and ten circles of villages, connected by extensive paddy fields and a few orange groves. Besides this valley are other big valleys in which the subsidiary towns of the State are situated. Of these the four largest are Mongping to the west, passed on the Taunggyi road 68 miles before you reach Kengtung; Monglin about 80 miles to the south-east, an hour's journey from the Siamese border; Mongyang to the north, near the Chinese border, also about 80 miles away; and Mongyawng to the east, another 80 odd miles away and near to the Indochina border. Kengtung town itself is thus roughly 100 miles equidistant from these three borders. The four subsidiary towns are all thriving, well laid out and withal very pleasant settlements --- one could cheerfully hide in them from the destructive blasts of an atomic age. They have rice-fields, palm trees, a river, shops, monasteries, and craftsmen.


These, then, are the the main centres of the Khuns. The western type of Shans live in the more westerly valleys of the state. For the rest, Kengtung is a great number of small villages tucked high or low among inaccessible ranges of hills. A diverse population is distributed among them. There are Was, of course; more of them when we come to Manglun, to the northwest, a predominantly Wa state. The hill-tribe most peculiar to and most numerous in Kengtung -- is the Kaw. These Kaws look quite different from the Shans. They are darker-skinned, though this is said to be due more to their dislike of baths than to a natural hue, shorter, with more pronounced noses and rounder eyes. They almost always wear a stolid, honest and somewhat stupid expression. The men also wear small pigtails. The women are the visiting photographer's delight. They bare their midriffs to a very large extent in the bitterest winter winds of their hill-tops, wear short kneelength kilts, smoke pipes, and indulge in the most riotus decoration of their blue garments. All hill women do this to a certain extent but not to that practiced by the Kaw. Shells, seeds, beads, coins and tassels. Nothing comes amiss to her, all are arranged in festoons, panels and circlets, with silver studs and bosses all over the skull cap of cloth or bamboo bands. In the former British bill-station of Loimwe, where the wind carries, and scatters the seeds from deserted English gardens of past days and covers all the hill sides with dahlias, gladioli, cosmos, cornflowers and poppies in their seasons, the Ekaw crowns herself still further into flowery fantasies which rival the most extravagant efforts of European milliners.

To the Shans down in the valley, the Kaws are distinguished not only by the exposed navels and knees of their women but also by their dog-eating propensities. Though several other peoples, among them the civilised Chinese, breed and eat dogs of a particular strain, the Kaws eat any kind. The Roman Catholic missionaries who have made them cover their navels have not rid them of this preference in meat. On a dog-shooting day in 1946, when sixty dogs were shot in an effort to rid Kengtung town, in which there is a large Roman Catholic Kaw settlement, of its pariah menace, all sixty corpses were removed before a clearance unit could be organised. But fastidiousness about animal foods is all a matter of habit. The Anglo-Americans squirm at our maggoty and aromatic ngapi, our crickets and snails, and we shudder at the bloodiness and meatiness of their chunks of beef, as suggestive of their own pink flesh. Those of us who, too fond of our stomachs, rate a civilisation by the development of its culinary art, put the Chinese with the glories of their food supplies, ranging from the ocean-deep octopus and slug to the saliva-lined nest of the swift in its airy bowers, above all other peoples, but the Hindu, brought up on plain living and high thinking, and exalted into the fine air of mystical theology by his bloodless vegetarian diet, recoils with physical revulsion at such filthy food habits ...


The other important hill tribe in Kengtung is the Lahu, sometimes called Muhso. Ignoring ethnological possibilities, one is tempted to render this as the Burmese mokso --- the Lahu is so often seen with his crossbow for shooting poisoned darts at small and large animals. He also appears very Burmese, and speaks a language very similar indeed in tone to Burmese. One of the Lahu histories relates that they originally came from the banks of the Irrawaddy, having accompanied King Anawrahta on his march to the borders of China in quest of the sacred Tooth, that having settled near the Chinese country they multiplied and moved further and further south and east with successive migrations; and that crossing the Salween they asked for more and more villages from the Shan Sawbwa who granted all their requests. Present day Lahus are specially proselytised by the American Baptist Mission, and though forming but 10% of the population of the Kengtung State, have become so conscious of their entity as a distinct race that, apparently following the example of their ancestors of the legend in "asking for more" they feel they might ask for an autonomous Lahu area.


Then there are the Shan-Chinese, negligible as regards actual proportion to the total State population, but an important factor because of their concentration in the capital town --- 4,000 of them in a population of about 20,000. These Shan-Chinese, though settled here for centuries still remain distinct from the Khuns, living by the butchering of meat, by trade and raising of garden produce. Like all colonies of Chinese in Southeast Asia, they provide an example of communal cooperation, industry and thrift, by which neither the Khuns here nor the other Southeast Asiatics elsewhere will profit or imitate. Perhaps here more than anywhere else the reason for the contrast in habits is obvious; the Chinese came from the most inhospitable regions of the Yunan where the life-struggle was hard, the Khuns have grazed on their most fertile valley so long. The wonder is that the Shan-Chinese do not get corrupted after generations into lazier native ways. Continuing their lives of quiet industry, they have even accepted, in the past, the position of inferiority to which the Khuns relegated them. Now times are changing; if truth be told the solid block of Shan-Tayoks is felt very much indeed as a presence whose true nature is unknown. The uncertainty of this became of burning import with the inrush of Kuomintang Chinese troops into the State. Were the Shan-Tayoks going to be Shan or Tayok? Luckily the Union forces pushed the invaders away from the capital before a decision was necessary. A large number of Chinese citizens were arrested, no doubt, for possession of arms and uniforms, but these were pure Chinese of recent settlement, not part of the ancient community.

There has always been a purely Chinese population in Kengtung, but during past centuries this has been migratory. The poor starving ones came across every dry season for building and road making. Even the modern British Government, and the still more progressive-minded Independent Government continues to use human labour on these roads when machines would do the job, and how much more quickly and efficiently! It is the commonest sight on the Kengtung road, to seek sickly blue-clad Chinese shovelling infinitesimal amounts of earth a few feet at a time from the mountainous pile that waits to be moved. More well-to-do Chinese come in to supervise poppy growing or in charge of mule-trains of goods for exchange. During the past decades more of them have settled firmly in the capital. Kengtung town is such easy prey for adventurers. Till very recently, passports, visas, tariffs, citizenship --- all these concomitants of the modern idea of a nation were unknown. Thus at one time you might have found the Kengtung hospital more than half filled by "alien" traders who got ill during a trip in. Or 200 Chinese in uniforms might march along to ask an interview of the Premier during his visit there. It was all in the day's news.

The mountainous character of Kengtung has left a very small proportion of arable land, compared to other Shan States. The rice in the valleys is barely sufficient for their surrounding areas. Though the soil has some quality in it which makes its oranges, its sapodillas, its crab-apples and even its tamarinds particularly sweet, no fruits are produced in quantity. A large amount of cotton is grown and it is the commonest sight to see the Kaw women walking around spinning the cotton by a twirl of a little spindle on a lifted thigh. Despite forested areas the only noteworthy timber is a small amount of teak near the Mekhong, and around Mongpulong on the Salween.

The wealth of the State from time immemorial has been drawn partly from the sale of opium which grows so beautifully in fields of dancing white, high on the slopes in the clear air of a fine Shan winter's day, and partly from the situation of Kengtung Bazaar as an entrepot for the trade of four countries. The opium is grown largely by Kaws and Lahus. The entrepot still exists. The mule-trains still tinkle in beside their trudging escorts from China and the Laos country; salt, camphor and ironwares, dried milk, nuts and even fruit from China are still exchanged here for cotton, opium, and manufactured European goods from Burma and Siam. But the roads west and south are now traversed by fast buses more than mules trains. And the stigma carried in modern times by the opium traffic, together with modern conceptions of tariffs and customs regulations have given the peculiar economy on which Kengtung has always subsisted a specially dubious character. There is a suggestion of sky-high profits, quick money exchanges, camouflaged cargoes of matches, petrol and American textiles pervading the air, and rapidly vitiating the race of traders. There is something faintly demoralising about a middle-man's trade, perhaps, in contrast to the agriculturists and craftsman's. In the race for riches, both agriculture and the crafts which had attained a high standard in lacquer, silver, and weaving are being given the go-by.


The visitor to Kengtung town will be struck by the air of progress compared to all other Shan capitals. Partly owing to Chinese influence, a great proportion of the buildings are brick. Owing partly to Siamese influence on the other hand, and to the Sawbwa and other ruling relatives being young, and progressive according to their own lights, a great desire for modernisation is to be noticed. A brick hospital and donated maternity home stand in trim gardens and are maintained in great cleanliness with the help of Roman Catholic nuns, true missionaries who are willing to serve under state authorities, with no quasi-political connections. The State School, a large and new brick building with cottages for teachers, beds of violets and children in Burmese uniform, is run by one of the Sawbwa's aunts in a manner which draws praise from all visitors. The bazaar is a model one, of roofed sheds and brick platforms, the shops, till the recent closing of the border owing to military situation, were always full to bursting. The monasteries, Kengtung's chief glory reflecting Burmese, Chinese and Siamese influence in an indefinable mixture, are freshly gilded, painted, walled and attended by their congregations, showing no neglect or dilapidations. The big Haw which is a rare composition of Buddhist pyathats and Islamic domes, of lime plaster and teak, the result of a visit by the last great Sawbwa to Moghul India, now forms the State Offices mounted by a guard who rushes out with commendable zeal to challenge all comers. The half-dozen houses of the ruling family in their large grounds are visited by streams of the common people every day, making it clear that the Khuns at any rate desire no change in their social and political life. In fact there is no mistaking the prosperity of the town and the generosity of the budget devoted to its upkeep.

Yet judgment made on this score that Kengtung is far in advance of other Shan States with their undeveloped capitals would be superficial. Outside the town, the villages even in the home valley, are sunk in their immemorial mud-bound poverty. Until very recently, with the training of villagers in a rough and ready scheme of the present Chief Education Officer, whose treks through elephant grass from village to village in these very areas drove him to start the project, until the return of these trainees, encouraged by the young Sawbwa also to set up one-teacher schools in their home villages, there was not one lay school among all these circles. In contrast to Hsenwi and Yawnghwe states which could boast 56 and 48 schools respectively.

The lack of communications in Kengtung was no handicap in the days of the old Sawbwa who used a horse and elephant even when he had several cars in his garage. Ruling for forty years he saw all parts of his State even at this processional pace. But the bogs are an insurmountable obstacle in a motor-conscious age.


Yet why do I dwell on these aspects of Kengtung? Mine would rather be a pen of fond reminiscence, of effusions even, than of a cantankerous criticism. The truth is that I love Kengtung and could write a volume on her charms. Somerset Maugham spoke of a meeting at sea with a man who spoke of Kengtung as one might speak of a bride. Was that man, so strangely withdrawn from the shipboard company, Theophilas? And wherein lies this charm which Kengtung exercised on those who have known her? Is it in looking down from one of the islands of the old hermit's sea, on the town spread out with its lake, palm trees, monasteries and deep-sloping roofs, and hearing from it the muffled hum of an ancient trading centre thriving all by itself, hundreds of miles away from anywhere and surrounded only by mountains? Is it in the contrast of the blue-clad mule-trains from China which still patter into town past the great banyan, with the same cargoes of camphor for the south of Siam or tea for far off Tibet, at the same pace as they have done for centuries, while one looks down from the "Club" with all its appurtenances in a flashy modern Thai style, of wicker, fizzy drinks, and shark-skin clothing? Is it partly, too in the paradoxical clinging of the Khuns to the old shikkho-ing ways and the entirety of their religious celebrations while they embrace without reserve the gadgets, the admiration for neon lighting, crinkled short hair and plastic goods filtered from the USA through Siam, to an extent undreamed of in any Burmese town? Is it in the massive gateways, the crumbling red machicolated walls, which threw back so many Siamese invasions, the red roads running at unexpected angles, into which the red sun-baked brick buildings merge with no dividing line? Is it in the diverse hill tribes who come into town once in five days with cross-bows, pipes and gala-dress, and stand withdrawn in silent groups, bringing echoes of pine forests and mountain winds from beyond the encircling ranges? Is it in the monasteries whose dim interiors of lofty trunks, suggestive as nowhere else in Burma, of the nave and aisles of Christian cathedrals, provide such strange background for yellow robed monks? Is it in the magical transformation of these interiors of cold Sabbath mornings when, with candles lit and the big drums beaten and the offerings before them of coloured cakes, all the people sit in their appointed places exchanging gossip softly, till the monks begin the chanting which, starting as such strange music to Burmese ears, soon gathers up thought and the distraction of all five senses and resolves them into one swaying concentration? or is it, after all, in the sentimentality of one's own associations with Kengtung and her people ...?



From Kengtung to Hsipaw takes one but a step in the order of precedence, but in geographical situation and cultural affinity, one moves right across the breadth of the Shan States and across the whole possible range of differences between eastern and western Tai. As Kengtung occupies the eastern most boundary, so the boundaries of Hsipaw adjoin Mandalay District and its environs of the west. As Kengtung has been influenced to an extraordinary degree by Siam, so Hsipaw is known to be the Shan State most Burmese in character. It is no mere whimsicality on this account to write of them in succession, however, for across these geographical and cultural distances, the two Chiefs who took succession soon after the establishment of British rule stretched their hands in friendship and family ties. Using their very differences as the reason for a cooperation which would supplement each other's strength, they appear to us looking back now, to have fostered just the kind of unity which everyone talks about so much nowadays.

Kengtung was the seat of a Yun-Tai culture and religion which drew inspiration from Ayuthia --- it should enrich and be enriched by the culture which Hsipaw inherited from its proximity to Mandalay. Kengtung had its vast area, its pride and prestige in a kingdom which had been virtually independent and a dynasty which had been continuously enthroned for centuries. Hsipaw which lacked a long history either as an independent unit, or a continuous dynasty, had the greatest wealth of all the Shan States and was eager to give with princely generosity to Kengtung. Kengtung had its greatest treasure in the elder sons of the old Sawbwa --- half a dozen handsome princes (of whom alas, the fairest two are now dead) of a discipline of character remarkable among the sons of indulgent chieftains. Hsipaw, singularly barren in male progeny, had its jewels on the other hand, in its royal ladies, famous among the Shans for their wit, their cultural accomplishments, and their readiness to grapple with any situation on life. So the long road of 400 miles laid by the Public Works Department of the newly established British authorities became a shwe-lan ngwe-lan across which traveled monks and musicians, sons, daughters and nieces, later grandchildren even, for adoption, marriage and education.


Hsipaw State, 4591 square miles in area consists of four sub-states which were amalgamated under one ruler only after British annexation. The main state of Hsipaw occupies about half this total area. To west of it the sub-state of Monglong (Burmese Mainglone) and Hsum Hsai (Burmese Thonze) are situated north and south respectively, while southeast of it lies the sub-state of Mong Tung (Burmese Maingtone). Each of these sub-states is ruled by a Myosa, and after amalgamation, the Myosaship of one or other served as training post for the heir or nephews of the Hsipaw chief. These four states are known in the chronicles as On Baung Hsipaw, from the older capital of On Baung, situated not far north of Hsipaw.

The whole area lies in a geographical fault which stretches from the Irrawaddy-Salween watershed westwards, creating a comparatively low-lying region which lies immediately north of the central Shan plateau, and which consists of one big valley and several smaller valleys among a mass of low spurs ill-defined and crossing each other all over. The big valley is that of the Namtu, which rising on the Irrawaddy-Salween divide and continuing westward as the Myitnge, flows into the Irrawaddy. Hsipaw is thus properly in the Irrawaddy basin and hence an approach to it from Mandalay via Maymyo takes one almost imperceptibly from Burma proper into the Shan States, In fact Hsipaw town is not unlike a town in the Burma plains, it has the hottest summer weather in all the states, and the Namtu at this point is a placid and swollen river, having just received two feeders. Further westwards however, in Hsum Hsai, the river cuts deep gorges of 2000 feet or more and offers as picturesque a hill scenery as anywhere else in the States.

Although you will hear Burmese spoken in all the towns of Hsipaw State and though there are a number of pure Burmese settlers, especially in Monglong sub-state, the Shans still form the majority race among the population of about 150,000. There are a good number of Palaungs in the hill-regions to the northwest, also a few Kachins and Taungthus, the latter here reaching the northernmost point of their migration.


Rice is grown extensively in all the valleys of the State, and the upland rice of the lower slopes is also of a high quality. The Palaungs grow tea on their hills but it is of a type inferior to the Taungpeng tea, perhaps because of lower altitudes here. The oranges of Hsipaw, among the sweetest in the Shan States, find a large market in Mandalay. There is some thanatpet, chiefly from Hsum Hsai, some teak forest, and, dating from the 30's, tung plantations which one passes on the road leading north from the central states. Notable are those of the East Asiatic, a Danish Company. The tung oil fever swept across the Shan States at the time, plantations being started in Kengtung, Mongkung, Karenni and other areas, but only in Hsipaw and in foreign hands has any prosperous fruition resulted. Out of the romance of tung emerged a colourful Shan State figure. One of the adventurer types which Britain sends out now and again, full of resource, eager for gain, and ruthless, but with a capacity to feel so at home with native ways and friends as to disarm most of their critics. Tung Oil Forbes, as he came to be known, ended his eventful life most dramatically on a tung estate. He was killed 1947 in a terrorist attack on his plantation, a most ugly and regretful episode; poor Mrs. Forbes who had never taken part in the hard tussles of his commercial transactions and who had just come out, was murdered along with him by enemies made in Tung.

The wealth of Hsipaw state lies not only in its diversity of produce, but also in its situation on trade routes. The old cart tracks saw an interesting and profitable succession of exchanges. The carters would take rice from the valleys to the hill Palaungs, bring down their tea, and turning westwards to Mandalay, would sell it there to Chinese brokers, bringing back cloth and miscellaneous imported goods by a more southerly route across the Namtu to the valley towns, in the bazaars of which they found a ready sale for Mandalay goods and were able to buy rice to start the round all over again. Today, also, Kyaukme, standing on the railway line from Mandalay to Lashio, at the crossing point of routes to Taungpeng as well as Mogok, is a great economic asset to Hsipaw State. Hsipaw is one of the few Shan States to be traversed by a railway. The famous Gokteik viaduct spanning the deep gorge which the Nam Hpa Se tunnels after its disappearance underground, is at the 83rd mile on this line. For the visiting motorist also, Hsipaw is a good centre. it adjoins Mongmit, North Hsenwi, South Hsenwi, Taungpeng, Kehsi Mansam and Mongkung, all within easy reach by roads which, except in the case of Taungpeng and Mongmit, take one over smooth surfaces and easy gradients.

Six miles west of Hsipaw town is Baw Gyo, centre of one of the big pwes of the Shan States. These Shan pwes, centered round a pagoda as in Burma, are not very different in pattern from a Burmese payabwe. the main difference is that they still form the focal point for economic, administrative and social activity of a very large surrounding area. Thus there are shops and camps of traders, there is the paying of respects by outlying officials to the Sawbwa and official business going on during the 7--10 days of pwe, and there is the actual zatpwe or anyein every night on the one hand and gambling every day and every night on the other. This is the general pattern of all pwes; the size and success of it depends on how central the situation is, how well served by roads, and how productive the surrounding area, of the economic function of providing an extra big market for exchange of goods is as important if not more so, than the social. The times for these pwes are the festivals of Tagu, Thadingyut, Tazaungdaing and Tabaung, but different centres concentrate each on a different one of these occasions, some busier centres on two of them.


At Bawgyo the main pwe, held at Tabaung full moon, enjoys a large patronage by virtue of its situation on the trunk road from Mandalay to Lashio. This position made it profitable for traders even in the old days to come right from the south of the States, for here they could meet Burmese and Chinese traders and exchange their wares of iron, cotton and bamboo for goods from China, Burma and the Kachin country. Formerly too, the splendour of the Hispaw Sawbwa's camp was a draw. To this pwe ground covering many acres for ten days and nights, the old Sawbwa Sir Sao Khe came in full formal procession of ahmudans and nebaings preceeding him on horseback in a V-formation, at the apex of which he rode on his elephant with all the trappings of umbrellas and giltwork. His son Sao On Kya came with a water cavalcade of equal magnificence. With the music and drama of a high quality, fireworks displays initiated by the Sawbwa himself the distribution of largesse to winning circles of villagers, and the prosperity of potential gamblers from every direction, it was no wonder that the gambling contract at Bawgyo always netted a magnificent sum.

The administrative function of these pwes is easily understood in the light of the poor communications which exist between the capital of each State and its outlying circles of villages, sometimes across steep mountain ranges. The handing in of the revenue by circle heads, the reporting and petitioning by them and other villagers of any business to the Sawbwa, and the issuing of instructions by the central authority are best done during a pwe, the other attractions of which make it a pleasure instead of a burden for the people to come such long distances by cart or even by foot in some cases. It is amusing to read the account, by a British officer in the earlier days, of administrative business thus disposed of by the Hsipaw Sawbwa at these festivals. "At the October festival," he relates, "the nebaings present an installment of the revenue collected, and at the March festival they are expected to pay in the balance. After having gambled with the nebaings and headman who generally lose heavily, the Sawbwa, before dismissing them, delivers a harangue on their duty, exhorts them to behave well and not oppress the poor, and then, after exhibition of the phonograph, they return to their homes." So simple is the administration of a personal rule, it is no wonder that it often runs more smoothly than the highly geared wheels of a complex bureaucracy.


Hsipaw town, as the capital even of the Hsipaw State alone, is comparatively recent. State chronicles of past times show a great deal of Burmese influence in the tales and Burmese association in the events, as is to be expected. They take us back right to the time of Abiyaza and Tagaung, From Tagaung, they say a descendant of Abiyaza came to found the old kingdom of Mong Mao, further north, which was the original Kambawza of the Shans. From here stemmed four sons taking rule over various North Burma capitals, one of them being Mongmit and On Baung combined. By this time the chronicle has reached 58 BC, and records thereafter a succession of rulers who spent their winters in Mongmit and summers in On Baung, and who had relations with Mong Mao, Prome and later on Ava. Thus the records bring us to the early 16th century when, during chaotic days in Burma following the end of the Pagan dynasty and establishment of a Shan supremacy in Upper Burma, the On Baung ruler, Sao Khun Mong, was invited to become King of Ava. Taking care to establish his brothers and sons over various Shan States, Sao Khun Mong accepted and went to Ava as King. His dynasty lasted only two generations however. He was succeeded by his son from Mongpai who before long was put to flight by an uprising. Mongpai went to King Bayinnaung of Pegu for refuge and found himself made prisoner instead. So he fled again, this time to his uncle of On Baung. This brought Bayinnaung with a large force to the boundaries of Hsipaw. On Baung greeted him with a submission which included that of all the other Shan chiefs behind him. Thus they all became tributary again to a Burmese king and boundaries were fixed which gave the King of Burma the Ruby Mines Tract and the gem city of Mogok. In return (so the Hsipaw chronicle has it) the Shan States were all placed under Hsipaw.

Thus the descendants of On Baung dynasty continued their rule till 1714 when they shifted capital to Hsipaw. From now on they had close marital connections with the Alaungpaya dynasty in Burma. In King Thibaw's time, however, Sao Khun Saing, 18th Chief since the surrender to Bayinnaung, decided he could take no more of exactions levied from Mandalay and fled south. He went to Siam, then Rangoon, did a jeweler's trade, got imprisoned and then expelled by the British, fled to Karenni, and there mustering a force returned to Hsipaw. He found it in chaos and took possession then went to Mandalay and submitted to the British as Sawbwa of Hsipaw, the first Shan Chief to do so. For this early submission he was given rule over the four amalgamated states --- and was later on presented to Queen Victoria.


The ability which this early submission gave to Hsipaw State, the social patronage of the British, and the wealth accruing from the enlarged territory combined to make the Sawbwa of Hsipaw, already influenced by his closeness to Mandalay, the natural inheritor of the Burmese court tradition which the capture of Mandalay had brought to such an abrupt and compromising end. Stories are still current in both Shan and Burmese circles of the glories of the old Haw whose throne room, modeled on Mandalay, was destroyed only during the Japanese war, of the modern comforts of Sakantha Haw, of the grandeur of the royal ceremonies true to all our old traditions, of the numerous wives of Sir Sao Khe and the princely generosity of both him and his son, Sao On Kya.

The lavishness reached its highest and most recent display in the marriage of Sao Khun Mong, one of the elder sons of Kengtung to Sao Ohn Nyunt, sister of the Mahadevi and cousin to Sao On Kya in 1934, when the programme of religious, social and charity giving festivities lasted for a month of days and nights. And when, a last backwash from the Society of the early 20th century in Burma whose ladies first learned the piano as an accomplishment, welcomed the Prince of Wales, wore shoes and stockings, ordered teas from the Vienna Cafe, and regarded the English title of "Lady" as the highest social distinction, when, as a last echo of these days, the solemn procession of caparisoned elephant and moving strains of sidaw were followed next day by a long drive past lake and camp of wedding guests, in a carriage and four, with liveried Indian footmen and coachmen. What fine days those must have been, the fine Shan weather untroubled by war clouds; how exquisitely beautiful the bride looked, how handsome the groom and his two attendant younger brothers. Alas, though the bride of that day has remained a sweet and lovely being all years, time tarnishes everything. Age writes wrinkles in all our faces, and the bloom of youth flies away to be forever an unmaterial thing.


But the Burmese court tradition was carried on in other respects besides lavish celebrations. The arts were all given patronage, above all others, music and drama. Did not Sir Sao Khe often give instructions that when he died, Mya Gun, one of his Mandalay wives, and her harp should be included in his coffin? And was not everyone so impressed with this passion for music that poor Mya Gun went trembling all the days of the short life which remained to her after the Sawbwa died, in case his spirit really could not rest without her music.

Sao May Aye Kyi, the music mistress of the BBS is another relic of those days, a high favourite of the Sawbwa's when her voice was at its most beautiful. In the angry moods of the Sawbwa the court knew but one method to bring back the royal good humour. All who dared would have fled from the throne room where he sat glowering, frantic searchings for young Mya Aye Kyi, protesting she was, pushed through the door and deposited in the ominous presence with instructions to sing: " Chit-tha-mya-go ...The extent to which I love", and though quavering internally the young voice would begin a strong and true declaration of love. As it soared along on "go-oh", the Sawbwa, his anger already taken along on the music to the ends of the four islands of the universe, would with his face still stern, chime in "{|it Myin-mo}" -- the highest Mount Meru to which the lover's imagination can soar. But this was the signal: back came the courtiers and sidled into place. Sao Mya Aye Kyi's voice continued binding the royal imagination with oaths of never-ending love, taking him linked with his beloved one, across fragrant oceans to the end of time and space, while one by one the musicians joined in and accompanied him. When he came back to earth good humour reigned again.

One is tempted to go on with such anecdotes of Hsipaw court life. But this is a newspaper column, not a cosy circle of friends, so exercising great self-restraint, one must desist.



Hsenwi, (the Burmese Thenni), bears a name which carries in its sound all suggestions of grandeur, mystery and romance. Most northerly of the Shan States it takes us, like Kengtung, to Burma's borders, but beyond these borders in every direction lie nothing but the mountains of Yunan. There they lie with impenetrable faces as you look from Kyukok eastwards and northwards, beckoning to the imagination as all undeveloped and unknown vastnesses do. To the Shans, however, they beckon for a stronger reason. Across these ranges one enters the routes into the cradle of the Tai race, the Szechwan Valley which bore the Tais long before China developed as a distinct power in history. Here one is carried as far back into the movements of these elder brothers of the Chinese, as the Tai have been called, as when history faces into nebulous probabilities, for it was across the territory now known as Hsenwi that successive migrations of Tai moved south and east to become known as the Shans of Burma.


The romantic associations of Hsenwi are also bound up with the personality of the Sawbwa, one of the few Chiefs remaining from the earlier decades of the century. Assassinations and deaths, timely and untimely, have removed one by one, the leading figures among the Shan Chiefs, till, with the death of Mongnai Sawbwa in 1949, only three big chiefs of the older generation, Yawnghwe, Taungpeng, and Hsenwi, remain. The rest are all young or of recent succession. Hsenwi Sawbwa is the most colourful of the leaders who remain --- a Shan Sawbwa with a solid body of Kachins among his subjects, forming in his personality a bridge between past days and the present, autocratic in the days of autocracy, magnanimous and conceding in these days of change, always positive, astute and daring.

The present state of Hsenwi comprises an area of 6442 square miles. It is bounded on the north by various Chinese Shan States, that is to say, states of Shans under the suzerainty of China; on the east by the Burmese Chinese State of Kokang, in which a population of Chinese have been feudatory to the Shan Sawbwa of Hsenwi for centuries back; and on the south and west by the State of Hsipaw, Mongmit and South Hsenwi. These present boundaries enclose what is more correctly called the North Hsenwi, because just before British annexation the term Hsenwi covered a far larger area, though in fact there was such chaos that the rule was merely nominal.

The southern portion of this old state covered in theory, the present states of Kehsi Mansam, Mongnawng, Monghsu, Mongkung, and Laikha, its central part the present Mongyai or South Hsenwi, and its eastern part the state of Kokang. In the general chaos, however, the titular Sawbwa had taken refuge in the Mong Sit valley northeast of his capital. A commoner with a strong arm, Khun Sang Tone Hung, took possession of the main valley, while other interlopers set up in the Mongyai area. Eventually the son of the Sawbwa, Sao Mong, who had been held prisoner in Mandalay escaped and raised his standard. He had some successes but was no match for Khun Sang Tone Hung who now marched south and occupied Mong Yai as well. Then with the advent of the British, he returned to the capital and submitted as Chief of Hsenwi. After a conference held at Mongyai with the British, Khun Sang Tone Hung, Sao Mong and Circle representatives present, it was decided to divide Hsenwi into North and South. The southern part, with its capital at Mongyai was given to Sao Mong (i.e., the original dynasty of Hsenwi) while Khun Sang Tone Hung was confirmed Sawbwa of North Hsenwi. The present Chief Sao Hom Hpa is his son.


Hsenwi falls very discernibly into three geographical units north to south. In the south and centre are the valley of Namtu and smaller valleys of its tributaries, interspersed by ranges, some of them with high peaks, but offering on the whole a great deal of flat land which is responsible for the main wealth of the State. North of this, rising sheer from the main valley is a table-land averaging 4000 feet above sea-level, consisting for the most part, of bare hills. North of the table-land again is the beautiful winding valley of Nam Mao or Shweli, which runs in a crescent of fertile rice lands along the very border of China and Burma.

The population of Hsenwi State is a little over 240,000, the highest of any Shan State. The majority are Shans who, unlike the Khuns of Kengtung are hardly different from the rest of the Shans of Burma, despite proximity to China. It is one of the great anthropological wonders how a teeming and absorbent race like the Chinese, living in such propinquity with the Tai everywhere in these border regions of Southeast Asia, have not succeeded in assimilating them nor even in changing their speech, dress or customs in any appreciable extent. The Tai in China, Laos, Burma, and Siam (18 million of them when grouped together by race from under the wings of four countries) are all more like each other than they are like the Chinese. Western missionaries from Siam who have traveled across jungle routes to Yunan have been surprised to find communication in Siamese possible to a certain extent with these Tai, left 1000 miles behind by their migrating brethren about 1000 years ago.


There are in Hsenwi also a large number of Shan-Chinese, but the plateau to the north of the Namtu valley is primarily a Kachin Stronghold. Among all these slopes the Shan population has almost disappeared (though coming out again in the Namkham valley) and disappeared within living memory, illustrating most dramatically the Shan preference for valley settlements, and the Kachin character as a hill people, for these Kachins have come via the Namkham valley from the area now known as the Kachin State to find here slopes to their liking. Racially, the Kachins are quite distinct from the Tai. They belong to the same group as the Burmese, Chins, and Nagas. Even to the laymen's eye and ear their appearance and language are similar to the Burmese --- it is only their hill life which has caused such differences as exist. Certainly the invigorating air of the bare Hsenwi slopes has given a vitality to the Kachin population living on them. Visiting their schools and their villages, one is struck by a great deal at self-help and cooperative effort. Considering the unscrupulous way which agitators thirsting for the role of leader have been misleading gullible "minorities" everywhere into a hysteria about separate states and minority safeguards, it speaks well for these Kachins who have found a home from home in what was indisputably Shan territory, that there is not more of a cry for a Kachin autonomy. A certain amount there will always be as long as disgruntled agitators are at work --- but it is worth nothing that when the Naw Seng Kachins captured the Chief last year, it was another band of Kachins who rescued him.


Within this area is Lashio, the railhead for the Burma Road, notified area center of Northern Shan State administration, and the seat of the Special Commissioner who is the Hsenwi Sawbwa himself, the state being administered at present by his brother and heir, Sao Man Hpa. Although the railway has been restored, the growth of Lashio which sprang up like the proverbial mushroom during the feverish supply days of the Burma Road, has, like the mushroom, lasted no longer than its day. Few traces remain now. Penetration of the communist victory to the southern parts of China has put a stop, temporarily at least, to any motor trade from the border. Lashio has lapsed into the quiet demeanour of a British civil station. Its bazaar and khaukswe shops emitting only the subdued hum of an ancient trade which has crossed China on the mule-pack. But the hum is in a Chinese strain, despite a few Shan overtones imposed by present political control.

Driving northwards from Lashio along a good metalled highway, the Burma Road takes one 32 miles further into the valley of the Namtu and the capital town of the State. The valley is three to four miles broad, enclosed by lofty hills all around. Viewed from a central prominence on which the old Haw was built, its pretty rurality contrasts charmingly against the sombre encircling peaks. There is very little left of the town owing to Allied bombing. Even the Sawbwa, whose family lost a dozen houses, lives in a bamboo Haw; and the president's son got married here in 1948 to the niece of the Sawbwa in all the magnificence of bamboo architecture.

One thing about bamboo, you can do what you like with it --- make vast halls, arches and platforms, cut doorways and windows here you will, lift the roofs to lofty proportions, and with a week's work; there can be no cramping of the style as might be imposed by permanent structures. With carpets covering the bamboo floors, with silver utensils everywhere and gold and diamonds covering the bosoms of the lady guests, with the armfuls of gladioli brought in from all surrounding gardens to mingle with the coloured paper and tinsel decorations, with the arrival of the President from his immuration in the red brick pile in Rangoon to be again a Sawbwa among his brothers and sisters for a short respite, with conches blowing and with the demure winsomeness of the bride in the very center of the square hall to give everyone a view, the wedding guests from all over the Shan States did not feel unrewarded for their long journey. Of course, the carte blanche order given to an army of Chinese cooks helped, yet it is amusing to recall that after three days and nights of such banquet fare there were few among the august company who did not join the search for pebok and chilli.

From this valley northward, one climbs without much ado, steadily for 2000 feet, till the top of the table-land is reached. Kutkai, 16 miles from Hsenwi and a notified area station for civil and military, offers a typical sample of the scenery of the region. High and bleak, the slopes roll away treeless, as far as the eye can reach. These hills follow the car northward right along to the border. Mongyu, at 105th mile from Lashio, is the customs post with bamboo gates at a junction which leads one eastward into China and westwards into Namkham valley.


The branch east is now only 12 miles of maintained road. Journey's end is Kyukok across the imaginary line, a collection of huts lining a street which becomes a bog with the slightest shower. Beyond is only mule-train tracks now. Immemorial China is in the complete indifference of the Kyukok inhabitants to mud which they make more muddy with floods of washing water just as they do in Rangoon Chinatown, perched all the while on wooden clogs as outsize as the great square knives they chop their pork with. Until the end of 1948, however, the prospect of bales of white silk of a washable and wearing quality at Rs. 25/-- for twenty-four yards made it worthwhile to plough through the mud. There was always excellent food in the little restaurants as further reward, and an assortment of American bedspreads, sheets, toilet and sundry, and other articles at cut prices. It is remarkable how the present-day value of dollars and tariff regulations have caused an outcrop in these remote corners, of incongruous American goods beside genuine bargains of the regions such as hand embroidered satins, great cast-iron cooking pans, Chinese bowls and plates.

Turning westward from the diversion at Mongyu gate for a few miles brings one to Muse airfield, and just before reaching it, a fleeting glimpse of the Namkham valley. The contrast with mudbound Kyukok is startling. The forbidding mountains have receded into the far distance till they appear as airy towers and legendary fastnesses. In the foreground lies a promised land whose approaches are verdant mounds of a bright green, among which the river winds, to emerge a shining silver, tree-lined in the sunlight. On either side of the river lie rice-fields, wearing, in their segmented patterns and their even growth of young shoots, the unmistakable signs of a loving human care through centuries. Everything beckons with a gentle lushness, as it once did to the Tais coming through the barren mountain passes.

Coming down into the valley itself one is not disappointed. The magic quality which distance lent it has disappeared, but a rustic charm pervades the whole valley. On the right as one bumps along the corrugated road, are the rivers, the paddy and the dreaming mountains; on the left are gentle slopes with clumps of bamboo rising fanwise, brick wells with upward tilting covers, and groups of huts to form villages, all set at intervals with the most perfect balance and placing.


Namkham town is famous for two things. One is the American Medical Center, the hospital where Doctor Seagrave trained nurses for the hill areas. Renouncing his connections with the American Baptist Mission, perhaps in order to reassure the Sawbwas and people of his disinterestedness in promoting medical service without the corresponding proselytization for Baptists Christianity, Dr. Seagrave had trainees sent to him from every Shan State, from Karreni and even a few from the Chin Hills. The Center occupies a hill overlooking the town, with a fine hospital Nurses' quarters, a small chapel, Dr. Seagrave's house, quarters of other doctors and a post-primary school for those trainees who, owing to the general low standard of education prevailing in the hill regions, needed more schooling during their training. Patients were drawn from all over the Shan States and surrounding hill regions, where the Doctor's reputation was so great that processions of surgical cases waited for months in all the areas to which he paid his periodic visits; finances from the Shan States stipends for nurses, from Dr. Seagrave's personal efforts to raise money from U.S.A. and from the Fulbright foundation. With such self-sufficiency, set in this beautiful valley right on the borders of Burma, backed by mountains and facing only the mountains of China, it was no wonder that Dr. Seagrave and his helpers operated in a world of their own, as it were. While much of the training was unorthodox according to the conventions of the British Medical Association, most of it was peculiarly suited to the needs of the hill areas.

Alas, despite Dr. Seagrave's disavowal of those very influences so suspect by the Buddhist majority in this country of encouraging minority disaffections, circumstances have developed so that the Shan State trainees have all been withdrawn from there for various reasons, and Dr. Seagrave himself arrested.

Namkham's more ancient claim to fame rests on its bazaar, second only to Kengtung in size. This is because of its situation on a meeting point of trade routes,. Three miles from here a bridge spans the Shweli River. From here the motor road runs 70 miles to Bhamo and thence northward to Myitkyina.


Thus the motor follows in the steps of ancient migrations. According to local chronicles these migrations started in centuries before Christ. There is no certainty about such ancient records. What is fairly certain, is that a Tai Kingdom was existing in Nanchao (southwestern Yunan) in the 7th century AD., and that there were great migrations in the same century. The Shweli and adjacent areas became the chief political centres of the first sizable Shan kingdoms. This early Shan power, known in various records as Kawsumpi (turned into Ko Shan Pyi by the Burmese) or the Mong Mao kingdom is claimed by the Hsenwi chronicle to have had its seat in the present Hsenwi valley, by others in an abandoned site near modern Se-lan 14 miles east of Namkham. Whatever the truth, there is no doubt that the Mong Mao power was centered somewhere in the present Hsenwi State.

From there the Shans spread southeast over the present Shan States, northwards into Khamti region north of Myitkyina, and west of the Irrawaddy into the country between the Irrawaddy, Chindwin and Assam. (Centuries later, Assam too was conquered -- hence the Ahom Shans there of present day). By Anawrahta's death the Mong Mao power was still independent, till the 13th century we hear of its extensions southwards till Moulmein and eastwards beyond Kengtung, westwards to the over-running of Arakan and the invasion of Manipur, Assam being subjugated in 1229. As if in punishment of such aggressiveness, the army of Kublai Khan came down in 1253 and after hanging about the frontier for some thirty years, Chinese forces swept down on Pagan. When the last of King Anawrahta's dynasty died, however, the Shans were still going strong and divided Burma between them, holding sway for over 2 centuries. But soon after this power waned, and from King Bayinnaung's time till the turn of the 19th century, the Shans have steadily spent themselves fighting, valley against valley, principality against principality, ...



Adjoining Hsenwi on the west is the state of Taungpeng. Hsipaw and Mongmit bound it on the southwest and northwest, enclosing thus an area of 938 square miles. Taungpeng has the distinction of being a "Shan" State inhabited by a majority of Palaungs and ruled by a Palaung dynasty. Its geographical formation has determined this as we shall see.


The Palaungs are of a different stock from the Shans. They belong to the Mon-Khmer family which settled in Burma much earlier than the Tai migrations. Their brothers in this family are the Was, who, as we have seen, preceded the Khuns in Kengtung and are now concentrated in their own territory further east, and the Padaungs of Mongpai and Karenni far down south, whose women traveling across the world in Bertram Mills Circus, and penned into an enclosure at the Glasgow Exhibition, have interpreted to a gullible section of the western world the beauty of Burmese women as a whole.

The Palaungs have also contributed to this type of advertisement for Burma, but in a much more obscure corner. One edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica (which despite the name is an American production) contains, the section on Burma, an illustration of the Burmese woman's dress. This shows, rather vaguely outlined, a figure in long draperies, the chief of which is a hood reaching from the head down to the knees. Perhaps this was inspired by the Palaung woman's costume of which the most distinctive feature is also a long hood. But the Palaung dress in real life is a most elaborate and gay, even gaudy affair. There is a dark-blue jacket, and apron over a skirt, and leggings under and lower again than the skirt; and on these garments are panels of bright blue, scarlet and white. On the head is set a small red velvet hat decorated with shells, and over this hat is thrown the long hood, consisting of the patchwork of blue, scarlet and black velvet bordered with white. On the wrists are varnished bamboo hoops decorated with girdles, bangles and a general profusion of silver complete the picture. There are many different clans of Palaungs with minor differences of dress, but to the outsider, they all appear the same.

Actually the Palaungs will tell you that the reason why they wear such a large hood as part of their dress is because of their descent from a naga Princess. This princess, Thusandi, who was sporting in a tank on the Mogok hills three centuries before the time of Buddha, fell in love with the Sun prince, and having an affair with him, was in time delivered of three eggs by him (the semi-divine confinement of those days being always after this convenient and sanitary fashion). Before the eggs could hatch out, however, the father was summoned back to his home. On arrival there he sent Thusandi, by two parrots messengers, a loving letter in which was enclosed a precious stone. The two parrots loitered on the way with other parrots, and during one of their dalliances, a Taungthu and his son removed the jewel and enclosed some bird's droppings instead.

When Thusandi received the present she was so angry that she took the eggs and threw two into the river and one at Kyatpyin, near Mogok, on a rock. This third one broke, and scattering its contents around Mogok, produced gems of all kinds to this day. One of the ones thrown into the river floated down to Pagan where it was saved and in time hatched to produce Minrama, a King of Pagan. But the other one floated miraculously upstream to Bhamo, where it was nursed in a golden casket. It hatched a male child who grew up and married the daughter of the Shan Chief of Se-lan. He had two sons; the elder became the Emperor of China and started the Burmese name of Udibwa (Born of an Egg) for all the emperors of China in the chronicles dating from those days. The younger son had a kind of leprosy which improved only by contact with cold mountain air. Hence he founded Taungpeng on the crest of a hill, and to this day his descendants, the Palaungs, wear a patched cloak in memory of his grandmother's scaly skin.

It is because the Palaungs are hill-dwellers that they have dominated this State. Taungpeng is watered by the Nam Tu as it continues westward from Hsenwi State but its north-south course throughout the state lies only ten miles from the eastern border. This ten-mile strip contains valleys and undulating hills, but all the country to the west of the river is excessively hilly. Except in the southwest corner where some valleys exist, the lowlands in between the ranges are mere gorges offering no rice fields or hospitable habitation to the true Tai.


The position of the capital, Namhsan, in this hilly mass is interesting geographically. There is a main ridge running roughly along the centre of the state northwards from Hsipaw valley, increasing in height as it goes, till it reaches about 6000 feet near the middle point of Taungpeng. There it bifurcates and sends two arms down southwest and southeast, while spreading northwards into a mass of hills (as high as 7000 feet) and gorges (as deep as 3000 feet). Standing between this northern mass and the southern bifurcations which enclose valleys, at a point which has always been known as Hpak Tu Mong, the gate of the country, is the capital of Namhsan.

The town was founded in 1865 by one of the rulers. It is built on a ridge and follows the narrow, confined pattern dictated by its site. Here, as in Hsenwi, allied bombing during the last was has wrought great havoc. The Sawbwa, who lost his Haw and valuable property by bombing in other towns, also lost one beloved son in a Liberator bomber flying over these very parts. Sao Khun U will be long remembered by us for all of his companionable qualities and his record in the RAF; if not for having had to change his name, on request by Oxford authorities, to U Khun Sao, on the grounds that the signature of his original name, producing S.K.U., was often mistaken for casual initialing where initialing was out of place --- a change which Sao Khun U made most obligingly but which, I remember produced the most violent rage in his English foster-mother Mrs. MacCallam, wife of a Commissioner of the Shan States, who ran the Cheam Ethical Society, sponsor of all sorts of causes, and who demanded to know where was the intellectual comprehensiveness of Oxford that it could not take a Shan name in its stride ...

It is interesting to remember that the Haw at Taungpeng was designed in a long rectangle to conform to the ridge and the town, and incidentally to provide a long long verandah along which exercise could be taken when, as during the monsoon, Taungpeng is shrouded in mist and rain clouds, and the perambulators of the Sawbwa's numerous progeny could be wheeled within the shelter of its roof. For the Taungpeng Sawbwa is blessed with many, many children, all rosy looking Palaungs, and despite these hostages to fortune in a world so uncertain of the future he remains himself, the most cheerful-looking man in the whole of the Shan State. To see him is to love him.

From Namhsan on a clear day it is possible to see evidences of the oldness of the Palaung race in Burma as a civilized Buddhist people. Villages and monasteries dot the horizon in all directions. The administrative circle in which Namhsan stands is about the richest in the state. Here, as with all the Palaungs, the economic life is centered around tea cultivation. It is the staple crop for this hilly state and its importance in the life of the people can be gauged by the linking of it with a semi-divine origin. The legend says that when King Alaungsithu of Pagan was on a tour of the Shan States he sailed down the Nam Tu and stopped at Taungpeng to build a pagoda, the Taungme Zedi. Having completed this he camped a little to the east of Taungme where another pagoda the Loi Sawng was, and kept up a festival of seven days and seven nights. During this pwe he brought out certain seeds which he had obtained from a bird which had miraculously preserved them in its throat, and, sending for two of the hillmen, he handed them over to be planted between two images of birds which stood to the northwest of the pagoda. The seeds sprouted and became the first tea-plants in Taungpeng, providing it with such riches that it came to be called, frequently natthiywet or the leaf of fruit given by the nats. But at the time of bequest the two receiving Palaungs, being unpolished and democratic hillmen, held out only one hand to receive the seeds instead of cupping both hands reverently. Hence the more common name of lapet (for let-ta-pet, one hand), and hence more important still, the Palaungs have as punishment, never repeated the full prosperity out of the cultivation, it being carried to Mandalay by profiteering middlemen.

Tea cultivation is easy compared to rice cultivation, especially the way the Palaungs engage in it. The plants are left to grow with only a few weedings at the beginning and end of the rains. When after ten or eleven years, the plants weaken and the crops become poor, the garden may be cut down and burnt; then fresh shoots will spring from the stumps and in three year's time the Palaung has a new tea garden. He picks the leaves four times a year. Kason to Nayon, Waso to Wagaung, Tawthalin to Thadingyut, and Tasaugmon, and after steaming and rolling them, makes of them lapetso as well as dry tea, by either pressing them in baskets or drying in the sun. In picking and curing he needs experience and skill which he possesses in superior degree to cultivators of other reaches.

These other races in the state are chiefly Shans in the valley in the east and southwest, and Kachins who are steadily pushing down from the north.


The big hills of Taungpeng hold far greater riches than tea, however. Bawdwin, the great "silver pit" of Burma contain lead, silver, zinc concentrate, copper matte, nickel speiss, gold and antimony lead in quantity. This rich storehouse lies to the northeast of Namhsan and is approached through the town of Namtu, 40 odd miles from Lashio. Nam Tu lies in a very pleasant little hollow --- one looks down from the Inspection Bungalow on gentle undulating contours carrying trim houses and tree-lined roads. It is the living quarters and the marketing town of the Burma Corporation Ltd. which works Bawdwin and has been much in the news lately in allegations and counter allegations.

The truth is that all mining seems, to an unprogressive and unstriving temperament like mine, an ugly way of getting the riches out of Nature, necessary though it be. It is going against the face of Nature so to speak. Where the cultivator tends the earth gently and waits for the seasons to enrich the seed in her womb until she gives forth fruit with a smile of achievement, the miner must hack and burrow and sweat to wrest what he wants from its lodging place. The story of Bawdwin which a Thakin labour leader told over the wireless is not merely one of exploitation of a brown proletariat by white capitalists. It is a story similar to that witnessed in the slag heaps which disfigure the beautiful gold of autumn leaves in the Welsh countryside, the weeping women crowding round a pithead in the Ruhr, the ugly propped up houses against the steep hillsides of Mawchi, the corpse of a British assistant brought in from there to Taunggyi, not long ago, in search of a Christian burial far from his home. The mine once set up, is master --- of the sweating workers diseased or fatigued, and of their superintending officers too, who live in well-appointed bungalows and drink whisky or gin at sun-down for there is an idleness of the spirit, matching the poverty of the workers in a mining town, set as it usually is in a surrounding with the economic life of which it bears no relationship. The sahibs are engrossed in technical problems only, human contacts are confined to a small company of colleagues, they have not the administrator's pride in bearing the white man's burden to compensate them.


Bawdwin itself is 19 miles from Namtu and reached by the Company's rail trolley. Bare hills, deep ravines whose sides the railway must perfore hug tenaciously, the Nam Tu rushing swiftly downwards, with its waters a foamy yellow from the washings of ores, and latrines for workers built at intervals of this flushing waters, are my most vivid impressions of that ride. Tiger Camp is passed on the way; it is a row of lodging and bazaar sheds shut in cruelly by the impinging hillsides, an aspect which was no doubt responsible in part for the damning description given of it by a visiting labour leader. Yet a little further on, a swimming pool and parking place for the communal car of the Sahibs, carved out of a slight rounding of the V's formed everywhere between the ranges, though eloquent enough of the difference in amenities provided for superintending staff and workers, was even more strongly suggestive of the common bondage imposed on all by the clefts in which the search for metals forces them to live. When there are, in the beautiful Shan countryside, all the glorious stretches of upland down and sylvan valleys to wander on, the men serving the mine must remain cooped under the shadow of the overhanging hillsides. The "silver pit" town itself is no exception. The barracks of the workers are echoed by the row of sahibs's houses side by side. The railway runs along the bottom of the left, and at the far end of it is the whir of the mine night and day. We had Shan tea with the schoolmaster and a citizen of the town, prominent among those voicing the grievances of labour, and then coffee and cakes with a minute and golden-hearted memsahib in one of the houses. Her father had worked all his life in the mine before she herself married into it, and she had lost her two brothers also in the mine where the whirring went on as she spoke to us, just as it had done on the days when her brothers' bodies were brought home.



One of the features of our independence is the way Shan Sawbwas have emerged from their seclusion to take part in the offices of either the Shan State or the Union as a whole. There is the President, Sawbwa of Yawnghwe; the president of the Shan State Council and prominent leader in religious affairs, the Sawbwa of Samkha, and there is the head of the Shan State and Shan minister, the Sawbwa of Mongmit, who alone of all the Sawbwas, has been merged with the Union Cabinet all along, over whose shoulders the mantle of foreign affairs hovered from the first, alighting awhile as if to see how it would fit, and now finally settling down comfortably and sleekly like what the Americans call a custom-made garment.

Although the duties of the Head of Shan State as Shan Minister naturally bring him into the Burmese Cabinet, it appears to many a most suitable personality to fulfill the role --- he looks so Burmese and has such a true Burmese accent unattained by any other Shan that the last syllable of his name is often mistaken for "Cho", sweet in all ways, instead of the "Khio" which means in Shan, green, as emeralds perhaps, for Mogok and its rich valley of precious stones was once part of his State and though it was taken away a long ago the connections remain, and the dowager Mahadevi, the Sawbwa's mother was one of Mogok's most be-gemmed daughters.

What I set out to say was that the differing aspects of these three big Sawbwas, and even more, that of a fourth frequenter of the Rangoon social round, the Myosa of Kokang, often lead people to ask what the background of their states is. They know about Yawnghwe, but little of Samkah, Mongmit or Kokang.

The state of Mongmit lies immediately adjacent to Taungpeng on the northwest, but it is a difficult task to get to its capital from Namhsan because of the hills intervening. One has to come south again to join Mandalay road at Kyaukme; from there it is necessary to motor 77 miles to Mogok, and then curve round again northeastward for 24 miles to Mongmit. In fact, from anywhere in the Shan States this is the only approach to Mongmit town. This lack of a direct route and past wars have left it a disproportionately small and undeveloped center for a state which is wealthy and a major one among the Shan States.

Actually its present area of 3733 square miles is the result of successive reductions. On the north the area which has Mohlaing as its center was in past days united under the same Sawbwa as Mongmit. After British annexation this area was attached to Bhamo district as a subdivision. On the south again, the gem-studded Mogok township and the Ruby Mines District as a whole was once under Mongmit state but was exchanged in 1607 with the Burmese king for Tagaung. Not only was the state larger, it held authority over eight minor Sawbwaships including Hsipaw and two of its present sub-states. From those glories Mongmit actually lost its privilege of being a Shan State under indirect rule after British annexation and was directly administered as a subdivision of Ruby Mines District for a while.

The reason for this was perhaps Mongmit's position on the edge of the Shan States proper, which made it almost a free-for-all territory as far as raids and depredations were concerned. At the time of the annexation it was estimated that the population held 50% Kachins, 20% Palaungs, 20% Shans, and 10% Burmese. No ruler could last long with these different elements being played up by his usurpers. When the chaos became too great, the Burmese King, and later the British authorities, would put an outsider to try and restore order.

Strangely enough the state is said to have been founded in 1238 by a Sawbwa from Kengtung hundreds of miles away. Although at present, Kengtung and Mongmit are not connected by marriage relations in any way, an unusual fact among big States, the hand of Kengtung has appeared more than once in the past centuries of Mongmit history, and one wonders why in modern times the connection has not been renewed in the customary fashion ... The Kengtung Sawbwa who founded the state installed his son as first Sawbwa of Mongmit, but this son soon had to return to rule his own state and handed over Mongmit to Sao Kai Hpa. Sao Kai Hpa built his capital town with a great deal of very stout fortifications but whether in the ensuing five centuries these fortifications were of any avail the records do not say. Certainly by the time the records speak there was absolute chaos; a ruler would set up, usurpers would attack the town and burn it down. In three years from 1837 to 1840 for example, nine Wuns were sent down from Mandalay, one after another, as each was killed or driven out by rivals.

The Burmese King exasperated by such goings on, fetched a Kengtung Sawbwa westwards again and installed him as ruler. There was comparative peace for three years, then the Sawbwa like his ancestor, had to return to rule Kengtung and the free-for-all fights started again. Now each successive aspirant had Kachins behind him, and after victory the Kachin soldiers broke up the pagodas and sacked the town as their share of loot.

After annexation therefore, the British installed Sao Maung, later Sir Sao Maung, of Yawnghwe as Regent. He was placed under the deputy commissioner of Ruby Mines District and an assistant commissioner was stationed at Mongmit to advise him. Punitive expeditions were also carried out by Gurkha Military Police on disorderly elements. Still Sao Maung failed to keep order, so in 1892 the British took over the state as a subdivision under the direct administration of the Assistant Commissioner.

Meanwhile, despite all vicissitudes of war and assassinations, the direct line of Mongmit Sawbwas had continued. An infant son, Sao Khin Maung, had been left by the last of the line and as being educated in Rangoon during Sao Maung's regency. After leaving school he was trained as a Myo-ok, and was installed as chief in 1906. The chaotic days of Mongmit were ended. Sao Khin Maung received the KSM in 1912 and the CIE in 1933. Mongmit entered the federation of Shan States in 1923 soon after Federation was instituted. Sao Khin Maung died in 1936 and was succeeded by his son Sao Khun Hkio, our head of state, "Shan Min" and foreign minister. Mongmit State, which suffered exclusion from the company of brother states for a period and looked to be even more excluded when the Sawbwa married an English wife, has staged a come-back into the forefront of the Council of Saohpas.

The main wealth of Mongmit State is in its timber which is the highest output in the whole Shan State. The B.B.T.C., Steel Brothers, and Messrs. Darwood and Co., all had workings there before the days of State Timber Extraction, and the royalties accruing from timber to the Sawbwa makes him one of the wealthy chiefs among the States. Mongmit also grows a fair amount of rice and used to supply Mogok area and Taungpeng from early times. But now the Mogok people begin to think the Mongmitters keep the best paddy for themselves and sell the worst, so they buy Namkham rice to a great extent.

The capital is at present little more than a village. It lies in a hot malarial valley which is, moreover, cursed with gnats during the greater part of the year. These gnats are so ubiquitous in Mongmit State as to have brought forth the old adage that he who sails on the Shweli River in these parts must learn to dance --- a St. Vitus' dance if possible, to ward off the insects. The Shweli river runs through the whole State.

Mongmit town though small now is really set among extensive ruins. Two streams enclose it, the Nam-Maung and Nam-Meik which join up later and flow into the Shweli 16 miles south of Mongmit. Of the Nam-maung a tale is told, accusing it of such selfishness as has banished a bigger river the Nam Pai which might otherwise have crated a more fertile valley in the state. This river, the Nam Pai rises in Mongmit State and was keeping company with the Nam-maung. When an elephant strayed to its banks one day, the Nam Pai caught it and with great generosity shared the carcass equally the Nam-maung. But when, a little while later, the Nam-maung caught a porcupine, it proffered but one quill to the Nam Pai and ate the rest. Disgusted at such behaviour the Nam Pai forswore the greedy river's company and made a detour through Mong Long where it has created a fertile valley.

A road is now under construction from Mongnaw on the Mandalay-Lashio road to Mongmit, so perhaps a more prosperous time lies ahead of the town. Its name, which means "the place where the dah fell" has not been one of good augury for the hacks of Kachin soldiers in search of enshrined treasure are still visible in the pagodas around.

There remains one other big State among the Northern unit. South Hsenwi, which now more commonly takes its name from its capital of Mongyai, is, as we have seen, the central division of the old state of Hsenwi, although the ruling family is actually the continuation of the original Hsenwi dynasty. The separation, effected in 1888, gave the new state an area of 2351 square miles.

Since South Hsenwi did not have an independent existence till 60 years ago there is not much history to it. The state contains a lot of high land; a big mass in the north-centre of it contains Loi Leng, the highest mountain in the Shan States (8777 feet), but the rest of the high land is rolling uplands rather than sharp ranges. These undulating downs are well-watered, capable of raising cattle, tobacco, and diverse garden produce if the state, which was recorded in 1942 as having made "quiet progress" were to be developed further.


Mongyai, the capital, is itself a healthy spot. It is quiet but there is neither dereliction nor sadness in the air as at Mongmit. Perhaps at Mongyai the air is infected by the spirit of the Sawbwa and Mahadevi, a young couple who are the happiest example of the monogamous marriages which is more and more replacing polygamy among the Sawbwas today. This particular marriage was, according to all Hollywood recipes, of handsome youth meets beautiful maiden, a love marriage begun in early years, but blessed also by the full sanction of Sawbwa traditions. No "arrangement" could have been more satisfactory, for the Mahadevi was the eldest daughter of the Sawbwa of Lawksawk, another monogamous marriage, whose mother in turn was a daughter of Kengtung Sawbwa. And what fruits it has borne! The Mahadevi, still a beautiful girl, has six little daughters all in a row, and now faces the difficult problem: Shall the seventh child who will have arrived by the time this is in print, be a daughter to make her the blessed mother of Seven Gems before she starts a line of seven sons, or should it be the long-awaited heir?

From a little north of Mongyai, a road runs 32 miles to Tanyang, and from there a mule-track leads into the country of the "wild" Was. South of Mongyai, another road runs to Mongkao and from there, another mule track to Pangyang, seat of the "tame" Was of Manglun which is included in the Shan State. More of the Was Anon.


The other remaining part of Hsenwi which has been detached into a separate state is Kokang, formerly the a-she-let, the East Riding, which lies wholly east of the Salween and reaches the China border. Indeed, Kokang may be said to be Chinese state within the bounds of Burma. The Shans used to list the number of villages in Kokang as 600, of which they said that five were Shan, and 455 where Chinese, the remainder being Palaungs, Was and Mengs. Not so long ago the wife of the Chief had bound feet, and the family spoke only Chinese. But still, this territory has always been under the suzerainty of Hsenwi, and made a separate state only after the recent Japanese war.

There is hardly a square mile of flat land in Kokang (you still cannot drive to this state but must approach it on a pony) yet the State is very densely populated compared to most parts of the Shan States and is also disproportionately wealthy. The inhabitants have spent incredible patience and labour in carving out terraces for rice cultivation out of the hill sides. In parts, each terrace, no more than six feet wide, may be six feet higher or lower than the next. The proverbial industry of the Chinese, you might say. Yet what will you say to the universal opium habit that prevails? Moral strictures seem beside the point when everyone smokes habitually and at all hours. It is like the Frenchman and his wine, and like the vineyards of France the poppy fields of Kokang, no less beautiful and no less a part of the people's life, stretch all over the State. Thousands of acres have been planted from earliest days. One cannot say that the essence so potent for such fragile flowers, has killed the race which has laboriously made those rice terraces. The moral appears to be, Work only when you must!


The Kokangese sits by with his pipe of opium while his paddy is husked by a stream. He makes the water flow along a bamboo runlet and through one hollowed-out end of a log. On the other end is a pestle poised over a mortar filled with grain. When the water is in the trough its weight presses the pestle down, when it runs out the pestle is raised again. Meanwhile, on hollowed out logs which he has hung around his house, the bees which have returned from sipping one particular white flower which blooms on these hillsides, make honey of a strong and simulating character.

Thus, "far above the years and nations", separated from the western world by the unnavigable Salween, the Kokangese sits with his pipe of peace, outside of all the striving trepidations and decisions of our clamourous times. Swinburne has described this empty tranquility of another poppy land: "There is an end of joy and sorrow / Peace all day long, all night, all morrow / But never a time to laugh or weep. / Their end is more than joy or anguish, / Than lives that laugh or lives that languish, / The end of all the poppied sleep." But who knows, there is an approach from the east also, and Kokangese may yet be awakened from his sleep to a new life of action, fears and blooded strife.

The Wa State of Manglun has, like Kokang, a non-Shan ruling dynasty which has been feudatory to a power in Burma for as far back as the records show, paying tribute at times to Hsenwi, at times to the Burmese King direct. Indeed Manglun, though commonly considered a Wa state, has more Shans living in its western half than Was. These east and west divisions are formed by the Salween which bisects the State from north to south.


Pangyang, centre of the western half is the seat of an Assistant Resident, who was, till recently, Harold Young, born into the American Baptist Mission of old Marcus Young, one of the great missionaries of the Burma-China borders. But Harold is, more than anything else, the Big White Shan to us. Is it telling on him to missionary authorities to recount his beliefs in were-wolves and similar ghosts of the Shan countryside, his sympathy with all magical manifestations which are so much a part of the Shan life? They are but aspects of his thorough soaking in a Tai environment. I remember cycling along the Alipore Road one day in Delhi far from the reaches of the Tai, when suddenly we were startled by a stream of imprecations in bawdy Shan flung out of an open window. It was Harold returned from some wild place and lodged in the roadside annexe of a hotel, trying in vain to get an hour's sleep in a noisy city.

These imprecations, like his bug "husky" frame belie Harold's tender nature. When a few of the Was of Manglun were brought, with Harold, to Lashio to be shown to Thakin Nu during his Shan tour, our gentle Premier, impressed by the somewhat wild appearance of these co-citizens of his country, is reported to have said: "We must invite them down to Rangoon --- but we had better have their guardian along with them too." That of course may be just a story about the Was and Harold Young ...

In east Manglun is the residence of the Sawbwa, a Wa, and the main state of Was. These Was have long since given up head-hunting and are said to be Buddhists. The heads on the posts of their villages are always animal heads. The "wild" Was of the Wa State proper to the north are the actual headhunters, are not cannibals either, as popular legends used to make out, especially in the tale that their old folk ascended trees to escape being eaten, only to be shaken down by the young like so much ripe meat for the pot. The heads were needed for productivity and for blessing on all important occasions of life such as marriage deaths, the founding of a new village. The reason is that their ancestors, two tadpoles call Yatawm and Yahtai, were barren until they wandered one day into a country of men and ate of human flesh, after which, the couple old as they were, produced nine sons and ten daughters all in a row.


The tame Was of Manglun appear not to relish tadpoles for ancestors, and substitute the gourds of the boothi plant instead. But their version also bears some grotesque touches. According to them Yatawm and Yahtai were a cross between nats and humans. One day a pair of gourds fell to them from the skies. They ate the gourds and planted the seeds. Within three years, the boothi creeper entwined itself over hill and dale and bore two fruit each as big as a mountain. Meanwhile Yahtai, after having eaten the gourd became pregnant and was in time delivered of a daughter with the ears and legs of a tiger. In the eyes of her parents, however, she was a beauty. They declared she should marry no man except one strong enough to open the gigantic gourds. Meanwhile from within the gourds great booming noises were issuing. They were by what biological connection with Yatawm and Yahtai one knows not, also pregnant.

In time a Nat, Kun Sang L'rong came down to earth and was unable to fly back. He wandered to the region of the boothis eventually, and seeing the Tiger Girl, fell in love with her. He sent for a heavenly sword and cut open the gourds. From one, tumbled out all kinds of animals, from the, other all kinds of men including Shans, Chinese, Kachins, etc. But Khun Sang L'rong declared that the race started by him and the Tiger Girl were, however, the Was, the original human beings, and that their country should always be independent of powers north, south, east, or west.



South of Mongyai and Manglun, we come to a group of five states which together once formed the South Riding or Taunglet of the old Hsenwi power. But it is not by reason of their common subordination in the past that I consider them as a group. It is because of the fact that together they can be said to form the heart of the Shanland. Geographically they are centrally situated, forming the greater part of the old plateau which as we have seen, is the core of the Shan States. The Salween runs its north-south course to the east of them, having only the jumbled ranges of Kengtung on its left bank. About 80 to 100 miles west of the Salween, a great range starting a little south of Hsipaw and running south all the way down the borders of Karenni marks off the limit of the plateau proper. Within the area enclosed thus by the Salween and this western range lie the States of: Keshi Mansam (bordering on Hsipaw), to the south of it, Mongkung in greater part and Monghsu in the eastern corner; to the south of this, the state of Mongnawng, and to the south of this again, the state of Laikha. The Nam Pang, biggest tributary to the Salween, flows roughly north to south through the whole region, with many sub-tributaries entering it along the course, while from the western range rises another main tributary of the Salween, the Nam Teng.

Ethonlogically also, these states are, "par excellence", the Shan States of the Shans. The Shans who nowhere form the sole population of any state reach here their highest proportion to the total population --- 47 percent in Kehsi Mansam and a similar percentage in the surrounding states. Moreover, they, unlike the Khuns of Kengtung or the Shans in Namkham or of Hsipaw and Mongmit, have no adjacent areas of a different people to influence them --- they are the Tai of Burma unadulterated --- the true Shan.

This is the region too, of Shan romances, in particular that of Khun Sam Law, a lover hero who was forcibly separated from his wife and who traversed the tracks along these river valleys in search of her, singing his quest of her wherever he went, marking the spot where each incident of his love story took place as momentoes for the Shan race.


The story of Khun Sam Law, unlike so many other legends handed down, has no Burmese or Hindu-Buddhist classical threads in it; it is no tale of King, nat or princess, but comes straight out of the Shan countryside, with the age old theme of wife and mother in conflict over a man's love. Though the theme is universal, however, the incidents are so typically Shan that I recount the story at some length.

Khun Sam Law, like most Shans of substance, came of a trading family of Kengtawng, a dependency of Mongnai State to the south of this region. Besides being rich he was handsome and all the women in town were bent on marrying him. In particular, one spinster, an ugly woman full of wiles, had won his mother over into pressing her suit. Khun Sam Law tried indirect methods of refusing his mother's plea -- he asked for 500 red cows and capital to try his hand at a trading venture, and thus left home.

The next few years were spent in visiting the northern towns as far as Taungpeng, and then he retraced his steps. While passing through Mongkung he went into a house to settle a business deal, and there saw the daughter of the house, Nang Upem. She was beautiful and he fell in love at once. Very soon, they were married. A year passed in all the joys of a happy marriage and Khun Sam Law forgot his parents and the spinster from Kengtawng.

One day, however, he remembered his mother, and suddenly overcome with remorse at his forgetfulness, he decided to go home for a visit. His wife, though pregnant with child, did not stay him. Arriving at Kengtawng, Khun Sam Law was forbidden by his mother to return to the wife whom she hated already for having estranged her son as she thought.

Nang Upem, waiting in Mongkung, grew worried at his long absence, and deciding that her child should be born in his father's home, she set forth with her servants, her cows and all her possessions.


Her mother-in-law received her with smiles in Khun Sam Law's presence, but soon found a pretext for sending her son out on another trip. Then she began to torture Nang Upem. She hid knives in the rice basket, so that the girl, in scooping up rice for the daily pot, cut her hands. She stuck other knives in the balustrade of the bamboo stairway, so that Nang Upem in fetching water and balancing her hand along the balustrade, cut her hands again. She fried foods all day so that the smell of oil cooking made these cuts into sores, and she served pickled sour dishes to make the sores fester.

Unable to bear more, Nang Upem set out, in advanced pregnancy, to return to Mongkung. Her child was born on the way, a son, and still-born after all his mother's sufferings. Nang Upem cried with the infant body in her arms: "What shall I do with you, my son. I do not want to put you in the river for fear you become a fish. And I do not want to put you into the earth for fear you become a frog. Let me put you on the branch of this tree. Become a little bird and call to your Father all you can. Tell him to come quickly after your mother." So the baby became a koel, which calls "Paw Hue, Paw Hue," all through the spring and summer, "Oh Father, Oh Father", the heart-rending cry of a lost firstborn. Nang Upem went on, and on arrival at Mongkung she died.

Meanwhile Khun Sam Law returned, and finding his wife gone, he got his fastest horse to follow her. He asked all he met on the way, even little children playing on the sands of the Teng river, for news of his wife, and everyone made the same reply. "Yes, she has gone, she has passed us. A long while ago. She passed us twice. The first was when she wore the lotus in her hair and she laughed at every step she took ... The second was when she wore `mawk mai,' and cry, cry she did at every step. Hurry, hurry or you will be late."

Khun Sam Law made more speed but he was too late. He arrived at Mongkung when his wife was already laid out. The house was crowded out and he could not get to her side. How could he see her? He took out all his money and threw it into the air. People scrambled and he passed through. Arriving at his wife's side, he looked at her, and stabbing himself, died.


They laid the two corpses in the same coffin, but his parents having followed him, his mother more revengeful than ever now, thrust a bamboo carrier's pole between the bodies to separate them even in death. But Khun Sam Law and Nang Upem like all true lovers, had prayed together, and after death they were taken together into the sky. If you look at the constellation called, in the West, Orion, you will see the bamboo pole with three stars to show the notches of the bamboo; on one side the red star which they call Betelgeuse is Khun Sam Law, and on the other side is Nang Upem, the star now called Rigel. The evening star is her little dog, and the Plieades her chickens. Her loom, her cows and other heavy possessions she left in Mongkung, where, as rocks, they always have been respected by the Mongkung people.

While Khun Sam Law sounds the keynote of the Shan spirit in romance, there are also the more material symbols of the Shan culture which are common to all the settlements no matter in what area. I refer to the dah, the Shan Khamauk, and the Shan bag, the characteristic lacquer and paper, the animal dances performed at festivals, and the music of the " Shan-bey-hton!" Some of these features have Burmese equivalents, but whereas they have disappeared from use in the towns of Burma and figure largely only in rural life, they still dominate the scene in all Shan centres including the capital town; nowhere have Shans become urbanised in the modern sense.



Down in the big towns of Lower Burma, our picture of the characteristic Shan is a trousered gentleman, rather untidy with a turban, a moustache, long hair, tattoos and a dah, many features in fact which were common to Burmans but are now relegated to the realms of the Shan by a cropped and blazer generation. The picture is a true one. This old gentleman may be seen walking to the bazaar in Taunggyi on a bazaar day, shikkho-ing a Sawbwa in a haw, or trimming a hedge in any village with his dah. But over and above the dahs of some other bamboo civilisations, the dah of a Shan is something special. His personal dah, that is, not the domestic one for chipping and hacking, but a finer one, the lethondaw which the humblest Shan has, for fighting, hunting and for dancing.


The best dahs come from Kehsi State, one of our middle group. And what is a best dah? My husband, a true Shan, says that "It should be heavy but not too heavy, light but not too light, in fact a good dah!" One which moreover, does not rattle in its hilt and whose sheath is wound as tight as possible with string. Such a dah may be bought for about Rs 20 to Rs 30, for that price you would not get a stout cord wound round the sheath with the loop for slinging over the shoulder. Good cords like these, of green or red wool from Laikha may cost as much as Rs 10. A good Kehsi dah with one of these stout Laikha cords, with the tip of silver by a local smith, matched by a few, a very few more bands of silver around the bands of string, and the whole oiled with linseed oil is a handsome memento of the Shan States.


Sometimes three, or even four of these swords are used to dance with, but this to my mind, smacks too much of ingenious contrivance and jugglery to add to the virtue of the dance. What is most enjoyable is a "straight" two-sword dance. Performed by a lithe tattooed Shan, from Laikha perhaps, the lightning flashes of movements from one attitude to another, the play of the taut muscles during the holding of a pose, the quick brushes of limb against limb in the passing by hair's breadth, which interpret the brushing of sharp steel against the vulnerable flesh, and the underlying all, the insistent drumming which corresponds with heartbeat, all add up to perfection of grace with virility. It is easier with such dancing and its unvarying accompaniment than it is with the Burmese stage dancing, entrancing though that is, to feel the possession of the dancer by a supra-natural exaltation; and his shikkho-ing and silent invocations before commencement have more continuity with his performance than the similar prostration's of an anyein dancer distracted by cosmetics, chit-chat, and bawdy witticisms.

The drums which are the most distinct feature of the accompanying music for these dancers (the rest being only cymbals and gong), and which are produced in three of this group of States, Mongnawng, Kehsi, and Mongkung, contrast greatly with Burmese ozi in their long stems, sometimes ten feet long, perhaps for the greater reverberation demanded by the primeval nature of the music which is pure rhythm, no melody, and which never fails to hit the blood to an uncontrollable pounding.

As for the familiar Shan bag, surely its design is a touch of genious; one of those obvious inventions, like the kinks in the hairpin, in the weaving and fitting together of the pieces so that there are no seams in the part which must bear the load. People who collect Shan bags should not be satisfied with the Lake area products of silk and wool most commonly sold, nor even with the thickly woven Kachin bags which never cost less than Rs 16 nowadays, but should try to get also the less familiar Lahu, Khun, Palaung and Black Karen styles.


Another characteristic Shan product is the excellent paper made of the mai-hsar, a species of the mulberry. This paper is strong, aesthetically pleasing, can be used for wrapping, writing and for decorative purposes. You can watch women even children, making it in many Shan towns. They boil the bark after the outer rind has been removed, pound it till it becomes a real pulpy mash. Then dividing it into little balls, each ball to make a sheet of paper, they fill a little cone or bamboo cup with it and pour it on to a tray made of pinni stretched tightly on a square bamboo frame. This tray lies submerged in water so that it is easy to make the pulp lie evenly all over. Then they lift the tray out, letting the water drain off, and lean the frame against something to let it dry. With sunshine, the pulp hardens in a few hours into a large sheet of paper which can be lifted up.

Inseparable from this paper are the folding books made of the thicker variety of it, still used in every cultured Shan home for copying verses, family legends, state chronicles and religious sermons. When the covers are lacquered and gilded such folding books are permanent treasures. Inseparable again from these books is the chanting which is the Shan's only true expressions of music. If he wishes to sing "songs" as we understand them, he sings a Burmese song, that is, provided he knows one. Otherwise he picks up what he considers to be a sufficiently poetic rendering of any theme, such as material copied out in these folding books, and chants it in a rhythmic intonation of which there are at most half-a-dozen established forms.


Of the origin of the animal dances no one is sure. Perhaps Tibet? Certainly they are not danced in Burma or Siam. Here is a funny thing about them. Chief among the traditional animals are the winged horse and the to. This to is a long sheepish animal, and might be thought in fact to represent a sheep, the Shans being unable to render the Burmese tho correctly. But no, the Shans who speak English, the same Shan suggest Tibet as a place of origin, say it is a llama, an animal not to be found in the traditional mythologies nor among the actual Shan State fauna, and the result is rather confusing; because there are lamas in Tibet, but not this kind of llamas, which are found in South America, and what connection is there between the Shans and South America? Perhaps my ignorant speculations here will bring forth an answer.

It is only to be expected that the Shan culture of which these dances, chants, folding books and swords form the most prominent features should be channeled through the group of states we are now discussing. They lie directly on any route which traverse the Shan States from north to south. Entering from the southern end through Taunggyi, the trunk road comes east to Loilem (in Laikha State) and then turns northward through Mongkung to Hsipaw. An alternative route branches off near Pangkitoo to Kehsi, and passing through Mongyai, goes to Lashio.


These motor roads are but following the tracks of centuries ago. One might therefore have expected that the capital towns here would have developed from being on the highroad of emigrations and commerce, but alas, the warring habits of past days made the position of these capitals the very reason of repeated destruction. Not only the particular Shan predilection for intestinal wars, but also the Burmese armies marching south or east to subdue revolting tributaries or aggressive Siamese across the southern and eastern borders had to pass this way. It is no use to count old scores and remember that the Burmese burnt here and the Shans there --- wars were the fashion in those days all over the world, a luxury which power-seeking nation makers could afford better than their modern counterparts because their weapons were less cruel and destructive.

A glance at the individual histories of these central states in very recent times will reveal two destructive campaigns, typical enough of all that went before.

Kehsi Mansam, in Burmese, Kyethi Bansan, has an area of 551 square miles. Most of this area is open rolling country, almost treeless except for the hills towards the west. The people have lived by agriculture. They get their rice from neighbouring areas and carry it to Taungpeng where, like the Hsipaw and other traders they exchange it for tea which is carried to Mandalay and realises money to bring back Burmese and imported goods for sale. As we have seen, the dahs of Kehsi are famous; good quality hats are also produced.


Kehsi is really a Myosaship. It was created as such in 1860 by a Royal Order of the Burmese King. Till then, it had been a part of Hsenwi. In 1882, the Sawbwa of Mongnai, an important state just south of this central group, rebelled against King Thibaw. The states all around Mongnai had to decide which side they would be on, not only in the Burmese expedition sent out to deal with Mongnai but in the subsequent Limbin Confederacy got up by Mongnai and other Sawbwas after the British conquest of Burma. These Sawbwas fled east from the Burmese King and were given refuge by Kengtung. When they returned after the rumpus had died down, however, they found that the Burmese power had fallen to the British. Some stayed in their states and gave allegiance to the new rulers, but others, notably Mongnai and Lawsawk, returned to Kengtung and invited the Limbin Prince, one of King Mindon's sons who was then in Moulmein, to come to them via Siam. They raised an army for him in Kengtung and marched westwards in a gallant attempt to restore a Burmese king at Mandalay, but were defeated by British punitive expeditions, when the whole thing fizzled out.

To those who are familiar with the environs of the Kengtung mountains and the personalities of many who lived in those times, the attempt is as sad and romantic as the adventure of Bonny Prince Charlie. At the time the Limbin Prince was as debonair as the Young Cavalier, "As he cam' marching' up the street, the pipes played loud and clear, / And all the folk cam' running' out to greet the Cavalier, Oh-Oh!"


Elder Aunt Tip Htila, then a young girl more interested in attaining masculine prowess than maidenly beauty, and getting in the hair of the officers in charge of the recruiting centres set up at the south and east gates of Kengtung Big Haw, trying to get herself tattooed along with the recruits, in which she did not succeed, being fobbed off with drawings on her legs in blue writing ink, and to get the invulnerability charms of gold and silver let into her flesh, in which she did succeed, thus getting two men sacked in wrath by her father, Aunt Tip Htila's imagination too was fired by the Royal Personage years --- many years --- later, however, when she was on a visit to Rangoon she met in the shop of P. Orr and Sons, a stout and middle-aged gentleman who greeted her.

"Don't you remember me?" It was the Limbin Prince, complacent enough without a throne.

"Had we succeeded them," he said, "I would now be King of Burma and you would be the Chief and only Queen. What a fine place we might have made it!" Aunt Tip Htila has been used to such gallantries all her life, her masculine spirit has never succeeded in hiding her beauty; and how she flips away all the compliments with her wit!

I must, by the way, introduce the Limbin Prince to American readers as the grandfather of Miss Junerose Bellamy, with many apologies to the venerating spirit of Burmese tradition for putting the cart before the horse as it were.

Now I have used a most unfortunate metaphor, as though I likened the young lady to a cart, but she will forgive me if she is familiar with that endearing character Ma Bokeson in the old Burmese jingle: "Miss Plumpity, with buttocks so round and in pair, Makes of them a cart to ride her to the fair ..."

Anyway, here was the rebellion of Mongnai and the central States had to take sides. Three of the five in our group (Kehsi, Laikha, and Mongkung) decided to stick to authority both times: The Burmese first, then the British to whom they sent representatives in 1885-86. For this decision they suffered ravages at the hands of their neighbors.

Mongkung, to the south of Kehsi, is a much richer area. Though the state is not very much bigger, it contains a large and productive valley made by the Teng, in which the capital town stands. This valley is one of the characteristic Shan valleys. You see it lying spread out with paddy fields as you top the ridge from the south, with enclosing hills on which pines and oaks grow. Where the hills rise higher and recede into the dark blue mass overhung with clouds and called the Elephant's head, are headwaters of the Teng which winds across the plain. You see bamboo clumps, pagodas, and monastery roofs, and the grouping of houses to form a town while smaller villages dot the distant horizon. All around in the fields here and there are flashes of water in sunlight, buffaloes and cultivators with bamboo hats. This is the complete picture of Shan valley settlement and the towns and villages which you meet after miles of uninhabited hill road may or may not contain all of its features. In Kengtung, Mongkung, Namkham, and Hsenwi you see the fairest, most beautiful and smiling examples.

The Teng River flowing through Mongkung, though so near its source, is a quiet stream, only rippling. That is because Khun Sam Law, meeting with Nang Upem along its banks and fearing that his words of love would be echoed by the waters, told the stream to hush. It is this same Teng, which having perforce to be silent here, lets out all its strength in a magnificent roaring drop further south in Mongnai, creating one of the biggest falls in Asia.

There is plenty of good rice, very sweet oranges, very juicy and delicious pineapples which will no doubt find their way into Mrs. Hunerwadel's cans in Taunggyi next year, and some take in this rich Mongkung valley. Good pottery and dahs are made in the villages surrounding the town.


Mongkung also has the distinction of still possessing a Haw from pre-war days. It is built of wood and though not an exact replica of any particular structure in the Royal City of Mandalay, it recalls the palace very strongly. Low and single-storied, it is approached by a vast open "room" supported on lofty round trunks. Leading in from that is another big square hall similarly supported on pillars, at the far end of which is a railed-off dais and on that the yazapalin. With the exception of Kengtung, none of the Shan Chiefs sit on this yazapalin or high throne. They use a thalun in from of it, reserving the higher seat as an altar. Behind this, in the central and two side-wings are the living quarters.

We had the rare treat of seeing in the open hall of this Haw, the Sawbwa mobilising his men to fight the KNDO on our way north from rebel-bound Taunggyi in August 1949. What a change coming from there, where buildings had been turned into "War Office" and "area Commander's Officer", passes issued with a stamp in English saying: "The Karens, Taunggyi," and streets full of very young khaki-clad figures hardly old enough to raise a down on their cheeks, to see in Mongkung so soon after, the traditional personal retainers of the Sawbwa called in. There they were, moustached Shans of the old gentle type, with turbans and pinni boungbis, siting on the floor of the Haw, receiving each his rifle from the Sawbwa's own stock, while bags of rice brought in by headmen were being loaded with rolls of bedding on to lorries; and the Sawbwa himself, who has his own eccentricities, was holding a rifle as he rushed about giving orders with his gaungbaung awry. Where the Union army could not reach out far enough or soon enough, the very same apparatus which had got up expeditions for or against the Burmese king had to be set creaking again.


Actually, it was a memorable trip, to see the Shan countryside waking up to this sort of activity. We had slept at Loilem the night before, the night during which the Shan officer sent by the KNDO to propose "Karen-Shan amalgamation against the Burmans" to the Hsenwi Sawbwa at Lashio, had returned. We woke up at the noise of the returning car, which had driven without a stop all night, at the house of Brother Sao Huk, who sheltered everyone during those few nights to be told (in hushed tones as the KNDO officer was in occupation of the Circuit House nearby) that Hsenwi had given the answer: "No Amalgamation, We will fight"; had sped onwards as soon as it was light to see Hsenwi if only gratitude for having declared his intention so uncompromisingly when all sorts of wild rumours started by the KNDO that the Shan Sawbwas were in with them had been poured into our ears during the five days we had been "under" the rebels, and a little further north had run into Kehsi Sawbwa who was rushing through the states to tell each Chief to mobilise. It was this order of the Special Commissioner's that we saw the Mongkung Sawbwa obeying in his own inimitable fashion.

The chief figure in commanding these levies raised from all the states, who later did such a fine job was the Sawbwa of Laikha, adjacent State to Mongkung and third partner in the group which had stood up for Mandalay and the Pax Britannica.


During the 19th century also, Laikha had had a prominent military history. In 1794 the State was ruled by Khun Lek who was a great favourite of Shwebo Min, and who held his throne for a record 60 years. On one occasion he took command as Bogyoke of a conglomerate army of all the races under the Burmese King, including Manipuri horsemen, and marched south to subdue the Karens of Karenni who had just begun to consolidate themselves as a border menace and rebels against the Burmese King. His son was also a military leader. He succeeded in raising a Siamese siege of Kengtung and as a reward was given the administration of Lawksawk, Mongping, and Mongkung by King Mindon. When the Limbin Confederacy attacked the three non-cooperating states, however, Laikha was ravaged from end to end. And then followed a year of famine, so the State has had to start its prosperity again only after British Annexation.

Laikha has always been noteworthy for its iron ore which supplied material for all the dahs of surrounding areas. The iron implements of all kinds such as spades, axes, swords, scissors, and tongs made in Laikha itself were famous for their quality and found a sale as far off as Chiengmai. Laikha lacquer and silverware also have high reputation. Thanapet is produced in quantity. Panglong of the Panglong Conference is in this state, a pretty village six miles outside Loilem. It was chosen for its central position for states north and south, and is the site of a big bazaar dating from olden days. At present an Anglican mission maintains a hospital with a very good doctor and nurse in Panglong.


Mongnawng, to the east of Laikha became an independent Sawbwaship after its ruler had driven back the Laos of Chiengmai from the Kengtung border during Pagan Min's reign. It enjoyed peace and progress until the time of Mongnai's rebellion. The Mongnawng Sawbwa then was brother-in-law to Mongnai and decided to throw in his lot with his relative. He fled to Kengtung and Burmese troops entered and ravaged the state. Mongnawng is mostly open undulating country, with jagged limestone hills sticking up here and there. The capital lies in the fertile Nam Pang valley. The finest bamboo work in the Shan States is done here. Boxes of all kinds, with minute designs in coloured and natural spathes, and khamauks. The essentially rural character of Shan society to this day is seen in use made of the khamauk by all classes, even the towny non-agricultural strata, rather than of the sunshade. A Sao may, if he likes, line his khamauk with silk, stitch a band of velvet for holding the cord, or enclose the tip of the crown in silver. But a khamauk it remains, woven to shield the peasant majority against sun and rain.


To the east of Mongkung lies the small state of Mong Hsang, once an independent state. The two states joined the Limbin Confederacy but only in name. The country here is largely rugged and with barren hills, but none are very high and after crossing the Nam Pang on a floating bridge, a bamboo marvel which spans the entire stream, its submerged layers like the pipes of a giant organ for water music, you drive, ten miles further on, into the village of Monghsu, indescribably quiet and peaceful with its old pagodas and tiny stream, the journey's end of an excursion along the byways of the true Shan country.

If in this chapter I have written very little under the heading of individual states and instead, a long preamble, it is because the people and the life in these states is best pictured by a description of the Shan environment. There is not a single big town in this whole region, only villages all over, in which people cultivate their patches, visit the bazaar on every fifth day, and for the other four, either live in their homes with their iron and bamboo wares, their khamauks and their Shan paper, until one of the four pwes comes around with gambling and kadaws and dancing, or else go forth to trade with a bullock cart like Khun Sam Law, chanting all the way of the pleasures of reunion with wife and children.



Continuing southward from the central states on the extension of the Shan plateau is the State of Mongnai. Mongnai belongs to our central group in its essentially Shan character, but it also stands apart by reason of its greater importance. Today it takes fourth place in Council, a high rank which has been handed down from the days of the Burmese monarchy.

Right through the 19th century, Mongnai was the seat of the Burmese King's Viceroy. A sitkegyi sent from Mandalay held court here, his chief duty being to gather in revenues from the chiefs of the southern Shan States. Attached to his court was a Bohmu and a garrison of Burmese soldiers, not only to keep the peace generally, such as it was, but also to deal with constant encroachments on the border from south and east of Mongnai by the Siamese from Chiengmai. There were about 400 of these soldiers and they had to be fed by the Sawbwas of the states surrounding. For pay they were sent Rs. 10 each per month from Mandalay, and as perquisites they had the pillage of the countryside ...

The garrison and sitkegyi's entourage naturally made Mongnai a prosperous town. Probably the largest then in the Shan States, for contemporary estimates put it at 5,000, 10,000, and once even 16,000 households strong. The campaigns just before and at the start of the British annexation have reduced the smallest of these figures by about two-thirds. In fact, with all Shan capitals, the glory is of the past. Not only did internecine wars destroy them, but also disease, for these valley sites are never the most healthy spots. The Shan race today, is not only spent by the constant warring of the past but also sapped to its vitals almost, by malaria.

Of the antiquity of Mongnai, there is no doubt. The traces of old cities found so often in the Hsenwi area, cities of which nothing is known, not even surmised, merely brickwork in jungle as they are now, are found again frequently in Mongnai State. Burmese records put the founding of the capital city at 519 BC, and assigns to it the classical name of Kambawza. The king was probably feudatory to Mong Mao; all is obscure, but it was certainly a large power, rivaling Chiengmai and extending at one time over Yawnghwe right to the Myelat area.

In a refixing of the boundaries in 1802 when much of this area was taken away, the sub-state of Kengtawng was added. Kengtawng, you will remember, was the home of Khun Sam Law of Shan romance. In more recent times it produced another son, a very different reputation, who is responsible, indirectly at first, and directly later, for all the carnage which left these central states a ruin at the end of the 19th century.

The real name of this man is obscure. He became known by his exit from monkhood, being a phongyi-lutwet, a monk become man as we say with an opprobrious "Nga" thrown in for his war-mongering habits.

Twet-Nga-Lu, having made his debut by an attack on Mongnai town, was later appointed Administrator of Kengtawng State by King Thibaw. Mongnai Sawbwa, objecting, petitioned against the appointment. King Thibaw flew into a rage at such officiousness and sent for the Sawbwa. The Sawbwa sent his sister instead. Vain sacrifice of a girl --- she was arrested, not honored, and Mongnai was summoned again. He shilly-shallied and the Sitkegyi, interpreting this delay as an intent to flee, instructed the Sawbwas of Mawkmai and Kengtung not to harbour Mongnai if he fled to them. This drastic order touched off a Shan rebellion led by the Sawbwa. Wholesale massacre of the Burmese followed; no hiding for nay Burman, the Shans had a formula for detecting all masquerades. Pointing their dahs they ordered every man to say in Shan "Tomato!", "Makhersohm" it was, but alas, no Burma can produce any such sound, and all their broad renderings of "Makaisun" and such like were cut short with a thrust. It was a bloody debacle. Five Burmese regiments were rushed down from Mandalay together with auxiliaries from the loyal states. Mongnai fled.

After the Burmese ravages, Twet-Nga-Lu took power and some other leaders ganged up with him, but they were defeated by neighbouring Mongpawn who handed back the State to the Sawbwa's adherents. Twet-Nga-Lu made more attempts, getting Siamese soldiers for raids not only on Mongnai but on nearby states also. Meanwhile, the British had arrived, and recognising him for a nuisance, they sent an expedition which caught him actually in his bed having a nap, from which he was aroused and arrested by young Lieutenant Fowler, officer in charge.

Mongnai State today has an area of 3100 square miles enclosed between the Salween on the east and the range running south from Hsipaw on the west. The Teng is the chief river of the region, creating a broad and long valley in which, however, the capital is not situated. The big waterfall on the Teng is in this region, but is difficult to approach for visitors. A car can go only as far as Hsai Kao to the north of the falls and from there a detour has to be made on foot.

A smaller valley is the Nawngwang, mistier even than the average Shan valley into which the winter sun, as soon as it kisses the mountain tops, rolls down the mist, to lie uncomfortably damp over the enclosed valley, till a late hour in the morning. Here and in the Ho Na Long Circle, is grown good tobacco, second only to the Langkha tobacco of Mawkmai State and, in the past, a great draw for traders to Mongnai.

What a race of traders the Shans are! The picture of a feudal peasantry evaporates before this more prominent aspect of them. No villains yoked unremittingly to the soil, the humblest peasant must by ancient usage stop producing every fifth day and carry his produce to the market to be exchanged for something else. Be it only bundles of pine resin for kindling wood, or as here in Mongnai, bamboo containers of Kyein-ye, rain water which has been allowed to drip into these containers from the leaves of the cane plant all during the monsoon, and is sought by people from all over as hair restorer and promoter; be it only such paltry produce, the Shan still walks miles to bazaar with it and brings back a fair exchange. But the Shan who works harder, let him, after a series of exchanges, amass a cart and oxen and sufficient money only to buy a cartload of anything, he is off on a trading venture to north, south, east, or west of the whole Shan country. The lone carter chanting his way along the winding hill-roads in the lazy happiness of feeling himself his own master, or the ones who preferring company, bivouac with their night fires offsetting the sound of waterfalls and the cold pine-scented winds, are as age-old a feature of the Shan countryside as they are true of today.

The five-day bazaar, the big markets at pwes, and the preference of the Shan for individual effort have caused this habit of trading. Also the peculiar reluctance of the hill tribes to leave their fastnesses for long or to grow other than their traditional produce. The Shans are their natural suppliers. Take only the case of the Palaungs of Taungpeng and their tea. Shan traders from every state, Hsipaw, Mongyai, Kehsi, Mongkung, Laikha, and as far south as here at Mongnai take rice or other produce north-westwards and going up to the Palaungs, get tea which they take for exchange at Mandalay. A great deal of this trading is done by motor now but its essential character remains the same.

Mongnai town is situated about 30 miles southeast from Loilem on the trunk road eastward from Taunggyi. Its tall double gateways stand bereft of their arches, gates, walls and all, yet driving through them you enter at once into the unmistakable air of the antiquity which rests over Mongnai. An air which is curiously reminiscent of the old capitals of Upper Burma. Like them, those centres of our past history fashioned in teak and expressing in the ascensions, foliations and perforations of this beautiful and malleable material, a joy and wonder at the life of woodland beasts and celestial beings alike, and shading them when finished in fragility and loveliness to be immolated by the buffeting of yearly monsoon and never-quiescent war, pervaded also by the doctrine of annisa which makes vain endeavour of the attempt to perpetuate in stone and careful repair, the achievements of a life which is but one short period in a recurring cycle of lives, like all our past cities, founded, lived in and abandoned under these influences, Mongnai shows little or nothing of its past glories.

Yet, as in those other capitals, something persists. Who but the most insensitive of materialists will say that Mandalay is nothing more than a name now because its glories of teak and gold and mosaic are no more? Who can deny the suggestion of an intangible beauty which rests above the decayed and brunt city, above the dusty plain, a suggestion which, moreover, would be felt without a sight of the solid monuments of pagodas which do remain?

The human spirit does not vanish into nothing at the dissolution of its shell it seems, but leaves behind a faint emanation, so faint that only with the accretion of myriad emanations through the centuries it whispers, evoking, saddening or reminding --- who knows? --- of past lives lived here.

In Mongnai, if one must count the factors which suggest such a spirit, there are the layout of the old streets, the great trees, pipul and tamarind, the profusion of old roofs of monasteries and pagodas, the grouping of palms.

The Sawbwa, Sao Pye, the man with the most famous laugh in the Shan States, a full-hearted guffaw that finds causes to be heard every few minutes, succeeded his father not long ago. The old Sawbwa's funeral in January 1949 was the most recent one of a big Sawbwa of the older generation. There is always a great to-do when a big chief dies. People, especially other Sawbwa's families from every state have an obligation, amounting to a family duty, to attend and most officials motor from whatever area they are in, as a mark of sympathy. A camp of bamboo bashas, called tawmaws here, must be erected, a mess hall put up, food laid on for a week, pwe and gambling provided, besides all the arrangements for observance of funeral ritual, including provision of white mourning for guests who come unequipped.

Mongnai Sawbwa's funeral was attended by the Premier and his entourage and in the traditional Shan style the gathering for religious and social observance was utilised for administrative discussions. One wonders who translates the Premier's speeches for the benefit of the English press. Sometimes a good job is done --- although the admonitory Burmese idiom must always sound a little peculiar in English, some admirable quality, of the earnestness of the speaker perhaps, comes through. At Mongnai, he was reported by one paper to have begun his address to the Sawbwas by saying: "Don't be fools!" Surely not.

No visitor to Mongnai should miss a visit to Maung Nyun, the carver who fashions the little wooden carvings painted in bright enamel paints, the better to show off tribal costumes and attitudes. So many people importune ask for these carvings and cannot understand why they are so hard to come by. A visit to Maung Nyun would explain why. He works alone; the figures sold in the Main Road of Taunggyi are travesties of his work. He works holding the piece of wood between his two feet as a vice, and crouching down to reach it, works with an ordinary knife and chisel. It is a great strain on his eyes, and no wonder that he finds it easier money to mend watches, and will turn out a series only to oblige the Sawbwa, the Chief Education Officer in Taunggyi, or U Hla Pe who keeps an art shop. And then, not always!

To the southeast and southwest of Mongnai lie the states of Mongpan and Mawkmai respectively. Though both large they are of relatively recent origin.

Mongpan is interesting as a rare example of deliberate colonisation by a Burmese power, a colonisation which put settlers on jungle land and has yielded a surprisingly rich harvest. In 1737, King Alaungpaya returned this way from an expedition to Siam, for Mongpan, which straddles the Salween, marches with Siam on its southern and eastern boundaries. The King created a Myosaship but only of the territory west of the Salween. Then in 1867, King Mindon ordered the Myosa to colonise east of the river. It was wild there --- only Burmese patrols sought out transgressing Siamese in the jungles. The Myosa got settlers from among his subjects and from Mongnai. The jungle was cleared in two river valleys, and villages were founded. Four administrative circles of Mong Tong, Mong Hang, Mong Kyawt and Mong Hta were marked out. Then valuable timber was found. Teak, padauk, thitsi, etc. could be obtained in quantity. Individual workings began at the end of the 19th century and were succeeded later by T. D. Findlay and Company. Now the state Timber Board finds Mongpan the richest timber area in the Southern Shan States, capable of sufficient production in a short time to buy out the assets of the Company.

With the closing of the Siamese frontier at Kengtung, cheap textiles obtainable in the shops of Taunggyi are trickling in by this Mongpan border, and the State, hitherto prominent only for timber and a little mining of tungsten, may yet become a trader's paradise like Kengtung.

But before passing on all of its Siamese frontier trade, Kengtung has, already pushed its burden of Kuomintang Chinese troops this way, where, it is rumoured the KNDO remnants skulking in neighbouring jungles have sent contacts to make common cause with them.


Mawkmai, also straddling the Salween, became a Shan State only after 1800. Before that it was not clearly defined as either Burma or Siam. But a certain Hsai Khiao of a family from Chiengmai which came and settled here in some position of authority proved of such help to the Burmese King in putting down rebellion and dacoity that he was created Sawbwa of the area.

Mawkmai, the capital, is situated in a big valley twenty by six miles broad, of the Nam Nyin, a tributary of the Teng. Rice, oranges, cotton, and other crops are produced in quantity and quality. Coconut palms are a prominent feature here as in Mongpan and Mongnai. This fertile valley was the chief target of the raiding Karens who issued from their fastnesses periodically to swoop on the valleys and replenish their food supplies. "The mountain sheep are sweeter, But the valley sheep are fatter. And so we deem it meeter to carry off the latter." I quote from a faulty memory perhaps. But this spirit of raiding has gone on without a break since ages past. In ancient days for human captives to sell in Siam as slaves. In more recent times for wholesale replenishing when the British authority, being already established, forced Karenni to pay Rs. 60,000 as compensation to Mawkmai. And even more recently, in 1948, by other Karens occupying these same fastnesses, in Taunggyi for money and ammunition. Finally in 1949 for ammunition, rice, clothing, money, building material, vehicles, fuel, etc, etc. May that be the last.

The Teng river flows through Mawkmai State after leaving the Mongnai area, and in the long valley created by it lies Langkho where the finest tobacco in the Shan States is grown. Before the war, this tobacco was packaged in tins and sold as Blue Band pipe tobacco. It was a successful business, the army giving it considerable custom. This tobacco is no longer obtainable now owing to the difficulty of importing tins. Another industry lying idle for lack of encouragement.


Langkho is a big village by Shan standards. A Christian missionary centre is maintained by an Anglican missionary with three little daughters, golden like daffodils, but being transplanted on to the low-lying Shan soil of Langkho, known instead as Nang Naw, Nang Noom, and Nang Wo Kham, that is to say, Tender Shoot, Youthful Bloom, and Golden Lotus. Langkho is an extremely hot place, and malarious. One wonders, despite the present missionary's twinkling eyes and sense of humour, whether the original choice of location was not made as an attack on the hottest bed of "Sin" so to speak. For in Langkho, alone of all the Shan settlements, the men and women bathe openly in unashamed nakedness. A local male going into the water with a wrapping round his loins would soon bring the women around to ask if he were hiding a disease. In past days, the British officers touring these regions and, too shy to go near, using their binoculars for a good view, could justify their action as an observation of wild life. Indigenous visitors unable to use such a ruse end by giving a wide berth to what is the chief sight of Langkho.



Westwards of the south central states we come, across ranges to three river valleys which run north to south and roughly parallel to each other. They are the valleys of the Nam Pawn, one of the main tributaries of the Salween, the Nam Tam Phak which is a tributary of the Nam Pawn, running parallel a little west and south of it, and the Nam Pilu, another tributary further south and west again. Within these valleys are the States of Mongpawn in the first valley, five little states of Hopong, Namkhok, Nawngwawng, Wanyin, and Hsatung in the second, and the three states of Samka, Sakoi and Mongpai in the third.

In coming westwards to these states we leave not only the open main plateau for narrow confined valleys, but also the states where the purely Shan population predominates without question for those where the Taungthu population is very much in prominence. The Shans further east may also have Taungthu blood but it is not obvious in most cases, the Taungthu women having discarded their dress and settled alongside their Shan neighbours. But here, the Taungthus, retaining their dress, their separate villages and their particular pursuits are also found to be sometimes equal to the Shan population, and in the case of Hsatung, actually forming the majority and the ruling house.

The Taungthus, called by the Shans Tawnghsu, are very closely related to the Karens. Their speech is not unlike Karen dialects, and a pre-war census actually listed them under the same heading as Karens. The belief generally held in the Shan States is that they migrated northwards from Thaton in Burma after King Manuha was taken captive to Pagan by Anawrahta Min. A settlement of them was started at Hsatung while others settled in the Myelat further to the west. This migration appears to be a backwash northwards, for the Taungthus migrating southwards into Burma earlier than the Shans had already been pressed southwards as far as Siam and Cambodia and the Lower Mekong. Here in the Shan States they do not go east of the Salween nor north of Mongkung State in any large numbers. The western range of the Shan plateau proper appears to be their chief habitat.

Even casual visitors to the Shan States will be familiar with the appearance of Taungthus, for they live in the villages surrounding Taunggyi and the Myelat valleys and come into the towns on every bazaar day. The men all wear Shan dress, but the women when decked out in new clothes round Thadingyut or Tabaung still put out a magnificent show of tribal costume. The black smock has slashes of purple or green velvet let in at the elbows, the black leggins similarly decorated, the earplugs of a reddish alloy richly chased; the black wimple hung with coloured tassels shows the silver hair ornaments, and the whole is set off by the pink cheeks and sturdy gait of the average healthy Taungthu girl.

This is of course the finished product which enters the bazaar grounds after a five-mile walk from the village. What a natural beauty these hill women show, one writer has exclaimed, forgetting that the instinct to adorn is one of the most primitive. The Taungthu girl's fine showing on pwe day is altogether calculated. Those earrings have been soaking in tamarind water and a dash of turmeric all night. Half a mile before she arrives at the bazaar, at the stream under the banyan perhaps, where the muddy village lane comes out to join the town road, she has stopped to wash her feet and legs and don the brand new leggins, has chewed a handful of uncooked rice, and rubbing it between her palms has applied it to her face to take the heat and sweat off.

Most Taungthus are cultivators of taungya rice and wheat and diverse garden produce, their industry and folk knowledge resulting in fine vegetables of all kinds. They are prosperous by the standards of Shan States agricultural economy -- many Taungthus when they have bought a stock of heavy silver jewelry, run to a stock of gold set solidly among their teeth.

Buddhism is the religion they profess, but it is a Buddhism very largely overlaid with spirit worship as is only to be expected from a purely rural population who have no literature of their own though they do possess a written character. Of their fervour for the religion there is no question. When the relics of the Buddha were scheduled to be brought up to Taunggyi early this year, the feeling everywhere that the visit of such sacred objects could not help but bring blessing to the people, perhaps in the form of peace, was justified most signally in the surrenders by Taungthu insurgents here and there, surrenders made with the idea of being able to come into town to worship when the relics arrived.

As it turns out, however, the beneficent influence of the Relics brought about a truce, rather than the peace hoped for. Despite the efforts of a peace negotiation committee the Taungthus, the "bad ones" that is, are still giving trouble. In the Shan States they are, in fact that baffling elusive 5 percent that is withholding our millennium of gold and silver rain.

And what is the aim and object of the Taungthu "revolt", such as it is? People who like making capital of human stupidity and vanity will tell you that there has always been bad blood between Shan and Taungthu, that the Shans look down so much on the Taungthus that they have a rhyme: "That oafish Taungthu, he will worship the little ridges of the paddy field in mistake for high towers, the piled up coils of chicken's droppings in mistake for pagodas." In the face of this bad blood, it may be said, the hardy Taungthu resents living under the rule of the effete Shan and desires separate states where the Taungthu population is large, to wit, most of the southern Shan States on the west of the range which runs south from Hsipaw.

Yet the Taungthus voiced no desire for a Taungthu autonomy in British times. None of the states in which they predominate are large, nor, except in the case of Hsatung have they had histories of longer than a century as independent states under Chiefs, Taungthu or Shan. It was after independence that a Taungthu desire for increased representation in the Shan State Council was first heard. The quota allotted was three out of a total of 25, and this remains the quota today.

Actually, there has never been a regular Taungthu revolt equivalent to the KNDO affair. Violence started only as an aftermath of the KNDO occupation of the Shan States. Recruitments of Taungthus were made by the rebels; in Taunggyi for example, they were offering Rs. 100 cash down and a rifle in hand to any who joined, plus the prospect of so much loot later. A greater impetus was given then by the appeal to them as blood brothers of the Karen, to unite against an old enemy, the Shan. When the KNDO scuttled, these armed Taungthus were left behind, and they harry the countryside levying protection money on stray settlements of Gurkhas, collecting food sums from villages by a mile or two outside the town, dashing into the towns themselves in smash and grab raids. All the refuge given by woods and hills and jungle paths are theirs, and the anonymity given by picking up a hoe and digging at an isolated taungya.

Mongpawn, the most easterly of the states in which the Taungthu population is prominent is 366 square miles in area. It was set up as a Myosaship in 1816 but given back again to Mongnai later. Only when Mongnai fled from the Burmese wrath and the Mongpawn Myosa went down to Mandalay, was he reinstalled as an independent Chief. He showed great level-headness and loyalty all around in the confused years that followed, defeating the usurper Twet-Nga-Lu and handling back Mongnai to the exiled Sawbwa's followers, yet keeping out of the Limbin Confederacy and maintaining peace in his state. He was created a Sawbwa by the British, and found occasion to stand up for authority again about 25 years later under very different circumstances.

In the early twenties the strike fever initiated down in Rangoon by the University Boycott spread all over the country and apparently came up to Taunggyi and into the Shan Chiefs School. This Shan Chiefs School, though it was by the 1930's not much different from any other good boarding school in Burma, was in the first two decades of its institution a rare and wonderful place. Its purpose was to impart some sort of Western and modern education for the sons, nephews and more distant relatives of ruling families and the families of high officials. For this, a sum of Rs. 100 per boy was allotted by Government. The curriculum was the old Anglo-Vernacular Code, Vernacular meaning Burmese, however, and not Shan. The Headmaster was British as was a good deal of the controlling policy. But the atmosphere prevailing in the school was pure Shan of the late 19th century. The high age of the boys for one thing; there were many pupils with moustaches. Then the boys were allowed private servants and private furnishings. Aunt Tip Htila says that she sent her son to boarding school with eleven retainers and his own piano. But Aunt Tip Htila is a notorious exaggerator. Most notable of all, arms, dahs, and firearms, were allowed.

Yet let it not be thought that this old Shan Chiefs School was therefore a wrong sort of institution. These things were but a reflection of the social conditions prevailing. Outside of such concessions a much stricter discipline than one sees in the schools these days was enforced. The British Headmaster carried over many of the austerities of a British public school. Baths had to be taken under a cold tap out of doors in the bitterest winter's frost, long walks and hours of organised sports were prescribed; on the other hand, formal Shan dress of trousers, jacket and turban, even for small boys was insisted upon.

It was at this institution that a strike took place in the 1920's for some cause forgotten except that it had to do with religious observance or a Shan national spirit. The strikers decided to quit school as a protest against British authority. Fully armed and descending by jungle paths they made tracks for Mongpawn, 38 miles away, Sao Sam Htun the Mongpawn heir, who twenty-two years later was assassinated in Rangoon being among them. Arriving at Mongpawn, they went to the Haw still fired by a pride in this revolt of Shan chiefs and chiefs-to-be against the ruling authority. Alas for their patriotic fervour. Old Mongpawn called his son to stand out, and pointing to the dahs which hung by their read and green cords along the wall, he said: "I put you in school and you have run away. Now which one of these am I to use on you? You have the choice of the green on the red."

The upshot of this was not an execution, however; merely that the strikers, now feeling very flat and exactly like school boys once again were sent back to Taunggyi. Here an expulsion order awaited them, but old Monpawn said that as he had captured the prisoners and granted them his pardon, no one else could punish them. He got his way because he was always right. Only old Aunt Tip Htila seemed to have little respect for his judgment. Taking great offence during a visit to India of Sawbwas with their wives, when he went without wife and she without husband, and he quipped, while cocking a thumb at her turned back, that in fact he did have a Mahadevi along, she hung a notice outside her Haw for years, saying "Mongpawn Sawbwa Not Allowed."

The Mongpawn Sawbwa who was assassinated in 1947 succeeded his father at a very young age after training as an administrative officer in Burma proper. The qualities which led to his election as the first Frontier Areas Minister were his from the beginning, but under the old system which gave no scope for any Chief to play a prominent role in Shan affairs outside of his own state, the first 19 years had perforce to be spent in obscurity; for Mongpawn unlike other more fortunate states is a small and poor area yielding insufficient revenue for any development schemes.

Sao Sam Htun spent his time studying deeply, especially of politics and government, and in working personally at agricultural experiments which might benefit his poor State. Grapefruit, avocado, olive and other foreign trees as well as improved strains of native crops were planted and tended by himself. When Bogyoke Aung San presented at Panglong in 1947 the scheme for a union of the hill peoples with the rest of Burma, Mongpawn was chosen by Shan, Chin, and Kachin delegates as Counselor for Frontier Areas, in spite of being a small Chief, for his reputation as a hardworking and studious man, his close touch with all Frontier problems, and his easy and affectionate disposition towards all. The jubilation with which he and his friends greeted this appointment at last giving him an opportunity to use his talents can be imagined, so how just more their greatest sorrow at his untimely end.

Mongpawn lies in a long and narrow valley. The population of the state is almost equally divided between Taungthu and Shan. There is believed to be mineral wealth but nothing of importance is worked up to date. Cotton is grown, and thanapet of a fine quality, but not much rice. The town itself is an unhealthy spot and when one passes it now on the 38th mile from Taunggyi to Loilem, it wears an air of wretchedness and poverty. Its glory is in the avenue of Butea trees which form a flaming highway of red blossom as you descend into the valley from the west during February and March.

27 miles from Mongpawn is Hopong town. It is situated in an area which according to its name, was once more thickly covered with elephant grass, until in the middle of the 18th century, a Taungthu and his brother migrating northwards decided to settle and found a prosperous state. During the dissensions of the Limbin Confederacy when the Myosa had fled, an official of Taungthu extraction was appointed to the myosaship and did so well that he was confirmed in the appointment. Thus Hopong is a strong Taungthu area, although the present Myosa, his extraction ignored, is not regarded as Taungthu by the Taungthus.

The whole state is but 18 miles from north to south and 15 miles at the widest. Though it is very hilly towards the north and east a good proportion of the land is cultivated. Rice, oranges, thanapet, tobacco, and onions are raised, but chiefly the value of Hopong lies in its situation as a crossroads. It is only 11 miles from Taunggyi the capital; the road from Loilem which is a continuation of both the northern Shan State road and the Siam-Kengtung road, as well as of the branch from Mongnai, meets at Hopong the road which runs south through the rest of the Tam Hpak valley to Karrenni and from there south through Loikaw to Toungoo. Thus the pwes and bazaar at Hopong are certain of attracting a good attendance, and the Hopong Myosa is the outstanding target for critics who disapprove of gambling or the enrichment of the "Privy Purse" by the large sums (anything up to Rs 40,000 a pwe) paid for the gambling contracts at these pwes.

This "gambling money" has been perquisite of the Sawbwa from ancient times and contributed largely to his wealth. For despite popular belief, a Sawbwa is not really rich in the modern sense. Unless he is one of the few big Chiefs, his cash income is small. Unlike absentee landlords he can enjoy his patrimony only when he resides in his state as a country squire surrounded by his fields, his cattle, fuel and food supplies, his retainers and his tributes of perishable goods.

But this in parenthesis. The "gambling money" in some states these days is kept, in part at least, for religious, educational, social and medical expenditures. In others, it may pay for the education of the ruling family. In others again, it may drop, solid as a nugget, into the Sawbwa's pocket which is lined with a stout material resistant to pressure of any kind. Whatever its use the whole matter is one of the thorny touch-me-not problems of the Shan States, and I might have been wise enough too, perhaps, to have made a big detour round subject here.

But I cannot help contributing my bit. As one who enjoys a quarterly fling at a lay-gaung-gyin, who has seen the enjoyment of the peasant crowds in the pwes of which the gambling though but a part is an inseparable part, and who believes in the superiority of this social pattern of a rural population to the teashops and night-clubs of the town gyabos, I wish the critics would clear their minds on the points at issue and refrain from inciting young men to lie across the gambling tables in protest or even to throw hand grenades into the crowds as they have done at this Hopong pwe. Attack the use of the money certainly where it goes to enrich one man indiscriminately: this whether done from jealousy or from social idealism is a commendable act; but leave the gambling alone. The pwes come no often than the State Lottery, and are over after a few days with a clean break unknown to the weekly or daily poker parties. The people go back to their fields, and looking forward to the next pwe, must produce enough to exchange there, or squander there if they like.

In the absence of an efficient form of taxation, this gambling money, if properly controlled and spent, perhaps pooled, could be a boon. Early this year, the UMP in Taunggyi, in need of amenities for the men, were "allowed a pwe" and got Rs 40000 from the gambling contract. If schools and hospitals or the Taunggyi Maternity Home which is always in need of money though and its wards full of poor patients, could be "allowed a night's gambling" at pwes each year, they would do fine.

Hopong valley is a particularly beautiful spot for the motorist or anyone to pause in. Looking down form the west you see the whole panorama of the plain spread before you, as though Nature is out to display every form in which she can show beauty. The afternoon sunlight shines on the emerald of cultivated patches, is absorbed into the deepness of thick groves whose verdure suggest springs and gurgling water, and comes out again over the great spreading trees whose domes it touches into glory. Bamboos bend as sweetly as always over the meandering streamlets while along the lanes "?Nun" trees flutter their white veils with demure coquettishness. Here and there are isolated hills and, some humped over with smooth green, but others with rocky faces and jagged towers hung only at strategic points with climbing creepers; and behind, the mountains are sharp grim peaks, of which the traveling clouds puffing as they go past above, make volcanoes out of them. A breeze comes from right across the broad valley and the bells of Hopong pagoda round whose slender taper and attendant spires the gamblers flock three times a year. All around the view suggest good land for farmers, good camping grounds for traders coming to the pwe.

The road from Hopong is a decent metal surface of 96 miles running south to Loikaw the capital of Karenni State. This was the road which kept the KNDO supplied and able to hold on to Toungoo for so long. Along it are situated the little towns which form centres of sub-states, all of them except Hsatung being included at one time in the state of Nawngwawng 20 miles south of Hopong. First comes Namkhok, a state of about 15 miles by 8, so small that the Royal Order which created it defined its boundaries by using such localized landmarks as rocks, trees, and chaung. But the parent state of Nawngwawng is even smaller today: 28 square miles on which is grown mostly paddy. In these two areas very few Taungthu live, increasing again only at Wanyin the next one south of here, where they are in a proportion of about five to three to the Shans. Probably this is due to the rising of the gradient there. Wanyin has rolling downs bounded on the east by a high range with peaks attaining 8000 feet and Rice. over, garlic, good ranges, cotton and thanatpet are produced in these areas and marketed easily along this motor road.

12 miles south of Wanyin is Hsihseng, capital of Hsatung State and headquarters proper of the Taungthu race. Its boundaries with Wanyin is the only artificial one. East of it is the Nam Pawn, south of it the Nam Tam Hpak takes a bend across to the east to join Nam Pawn, and thus gives a barrier against the raiders of Karenni in past days, while to the west a high range separates it from the Pilu valley. Hsatung has thus had a relatively peaceful history, and together with Taungthu industriousness, the villages here have been able to develop their prosperity. A great deal of the state is rolling downs within woods. There is teak forest, a good output of rice, and cotton.

Sao Khin Kyi, the last Myosa, was one of the prominent figures in the Shan States. A big-made handsome man with a strong temper, and the only Taungthu Chief, he seemed cut out to lead the Taungthus into anything which would have advanced their cause. As if in vindication of their original home also, he found a wife from Tennaserim. She was as rich as she was beautiful, and it was good to see the prosperity of this well-matched pair as they develop with her wealth and the resources of the state into the ownership of a row of shops and cinema hall in Taunggyi, right in the midst of Indian and Chinese, the only indigenous effort in the middle of an Indian and Chinese street front. But an end came with dramatic suddenness. The few bombs which hit the main street of Taunggyi picked out all the Hsatung Myosa lot, wrecked it to the foundations, and soon afterwards in 1945, just when political schemes were in the melting pot and minority leaders were to be called upon to extricate and fashion the particular part belonging to their peoples, the burly Taungthu Chief was stricken with a paralytic stroke which kept him prone for a painful and frustrated year and then killed him. The use made of Karenni and the Loikaw highway further rendered the state unsafe for his family or for any economic efforts. The Hsatung children were sent to Rangoon for education, the heir had perforce to go through his shinbyu ceremony in Moulmein, and the Mahadevi, who strove to keep up a life with the state all the while and is now reviving the timber work, remains in Taunggyi, still beautiful but with eyes which have shed the tears of a lifetime.

The Pilu River which has carved its valley to the west of this area flows out of the Inle Lake as a reedy stream hardly definable from the marsh of the surrounding lake area. Soon the banks begin to take shape, however, and sometime after the Pilu has become a river again when the state of Samkha is reached. Samkha, called Saga in Burmese perhaps from a pagoda of saga wood said to have been built there by Asoka, was once a fairly prosperous paddy growing area. It is shut in by high hills which send down heavy morning mists and make of it an unhealthy place. The highroads of trade now running east and west of it are cut off by the enclosing range and Samkha's only means of communication with anywhere is by slow boat. Thus it has become a deserted town, showing the quickest depletion of population within the last 15 or 20 years; as final sealing of its doom, the rebels have been running in and out of it, burning and scaring away what few settlements remain about it. To sail down the Pilu to Samkha take you a sad journey past a profusion of dilapidated monasteries and zedis standing amidst parched and uncultivated fields.

Yet the family of the Sawbwa is strikingly resurgent against this background of moribund dereliction. Its members are numerous and widespread over the Shan States, with considerable artistic talents. The Sawbwa himself, as if he has absorbed too well the doctrines of annatta and anicca, is a prime mover in religious affairs. Sakoi, next to Samkha in the same valley is equally neglected and unproductive.

Among the ranges to the south and west of these two states is the watershed between Sittang and the Salween systems, and thus we find here in Mongpai State the most farthest south-western limit of Shan settlement. It is surprising indeed how the State continued to exist a Shan power for so long. The capital and its environs are in the valley of the Pilu, but all the rest is a confusion of highland, and among the country and across the borders of the state, is an area of great diversity and a number of "wild tribes". The population of the State itself contains about an equal number of Shans and Taungthus, numbers of Red Karens, White Karens, Yinbaws, Inthas, etc. but forming the great majority are the Padaungs, for this is the Padaung stronghold.

The Padaungs belong to the same family as the Taungthus and are thought by some to be part of the Taungthu migration northwards from Thaton. To the outside world they are known for their long-necked women. The hard-working men who are zealous agriculturists growing irrigated crops such as maize, millet and cotton, and raising cattle and pigs are not very distinguishable from the Shans. The women look oddly attractive: many of them, slim girls with loose smocks, short striped skirts, their famous necklaces of brass-rings added year by year and in their late teens lifting up their faces into a youthful tilt and giving their eyes an amused and quizzical expression.

It was not from this Padaung majority, however, that the Shan power, first set up in the 16th century by the ruler of On Baung Hsipaw when he was invited to become King of Ava, received the greatest harassment. The Karens in the south who had consolidated their strength by the 18th century were the main aggressors, raiding, breaking the water-wheels used for irrigation, drawing down the Burmese armies to fight them. Sometimes the Padaungs came down and joined the fight. It was they, who coming in 1837, chose a candidate for this Sawbwaship, a Shan, who, set up by Padaung support, held his throne through the reigns of Burmese kings and resigned only in 1890 in favour of his son, after the British had come.

But who the Padaungs had appointed the Padaungs could depose, it seemed. Before the British regime could expire, in 1946, this Shan ruling house had again to flee before Padaung opposition and are in exile today, while Mongpai is regarded as part of Karenni. The state was taken over by Dai Bahan, a Padaung leader who, to add to the confusion, had been converted to the Roman Catholic faith; for now with the intrusion of Karens from Burma into Karenni politics, a religious feud was added in these region. The Roman Catholic missionaries, as well as the American Baptist Mission, arrived in Karenni in the 19th century, and as is the habit of Christian missionaries among the hill peoples, their spheres of operations were defined, so that, generally speaking, the Roman Catholic convert majority are Padaungs and the American Baptist Mission convert majority are the Red Karens.

When the politics of Karenni split people into factions, Dai Bahan Mongpai, the leader of Catholic Padaungs, siding with the established Loikaw government, were in opposition to the KNDO sympathisers whose leaders are far more closely connected with the American Baptist Mission as everyone knows. Dai Bahan after fierce tussles, reversals and victories all over these barren hills, was pushed out from Karenni, and arrived in 1948 at the Kalaw Circuit House, a very sick man, a victim of blackwater fever. A handful of followers were with him and they mounted guard round the Circuit House and kept watch over their dying leader. Such faithfulness of followers when a leader has nothing more to offer is the most touching thing, and makes up for the stupidity of men on other occasions when they will no sooner have installed a man in office but will shout him down at the instigation of someone who wants the office.

Mongpai today is still one of the "unsafe" areas, and the road running through it from Loikaw to the Myelat is not to be recommended to travelers.


Against the background of small states found west of Mongnai, either strung along the river valleys or segmented together in the Myelat area, it is not surprising to find the important state of Yawnghwe standing out distinctly. All this western portion of the southern Shan State was, as a matter of fact, divided up between Mongnai and Yawnghwe, the Nam Pawn forming the boundary. A royal Order of 1808 stated:

The limits of Nyaung Shwe State are hereby declared to be, on the east of Pon Chaung (Nam Pawn) and Mone (Mongnai) State; on the south, Mobye (Mongpai) and Toungoo; on the west the Sittang and Paunglaung Rivers, Hlaingdet and Yamethin; on the north, the Mintnge, Thibaw, and Mongmit as shown in this map submitted by the Nyaung Shwe Sawbwa.

Appointment orders of all subordinate ranks are hereby withdrawn, such appointments are now vested in the Nyaung Shwe Sawbwa.

I quote to show how close we have approached to Burma proper in the mention of several of its districts as southern and western boundaries.

Now, the area of the State is about 1400 square miles only, the most conspicuous detachment being Lawsawk to its north, which has an area bigger than that of Yawnghwe today. The present area includes a number of substates under Myosas, such as Tigit, Heho, Naungpalam, etc. It includes also a diversity of natural features of which the most prominent is the Inle Lake in the eastern half of the State, a magnificent expanse of water about 70 square miles in area. To the east of this rises steeply ranges which runs the entire north-south length of the State, and at the northern end of which is situated at 4700 feet above sea-level, Taunggyi, the capital of the Shan State. This range divides Yawnghwe State from the Nam Tam Hpak valley. To the south of the lake is the plain of the Pilu, merging into Samkha and Sakoi, while west of the lake is the undulating low hills and valleys of the Myelat country, rising gradually into high elevations in the south. With no great mass of highland except for the eastern range, Yawnghwe State is the most densely populated in the Shan State if we exclude the little states which have an area consisting largely of their capital towns and environs.

The total population of 126,000 is composed of Inthas, Taungthus, Shans, Taungyos, Danus, Burmans and Danaws. Tanugyos are very similar to the Taungthus, perhaps the difference is that they have more Burmese blood where the Taungthus have more Karen. Of the Danus and Danaws, more when we come to the area in which they predominate. Here in Yawnghwe state, it is the Inthas who form the most outstanding people.

It is generally agreed that these Inthas are of Tavoyan descent. On the exact manner of their transplantation here from far Tenasserim, two accepted accounts are given, one more fanciful than the other. The more historically interesting version states that when the present town of Yawnghwe was built in 1359, two brothers, Nga Taung and Nga Naung came from Tavoy and took service under the Sawbwa. With his permission and help they made a trip to Tavoy and brought back 36 households. These were settled a little north of Yawnghwe, but soon multiplied all over the Lake District.

This spreading of Inthas is not surprising if the forbears were as industrious as their present-day descendants are. Together with their different racial origin from the Shans around them, this industriousness and a great zeal for religious works has produced a life pattern distinct enough to be called Inn culture.

The very language of the Inthas sets the key to this cultural pattern. It is Burmese, but by now incomprehensible to any but themselves. One authority thus traced the history of the confused mixture of influences which has produced the Intha dialect: The Tavoyans are believed to be descendants of an Arakanese colony. During their sojourn in Tenasserim, their dialect, with its Arakanese echoes was affected by Siam influences. Whey they came to Yawnghwe, the eastern Tai ones were further modified by Western Tai, quite different tonally. Thus no Burman who does not know Shan can understand an Intha wholly, while an eastern Shan would fare worse. The Inthas say that during one of the Burmese reigns an order was issued to them to speak Burmese, and not knowing it well enough for all purposes they nevertheless were forced to obey by inventing terms of their own. Today, the Burman can appreciate the directness, even a poetic directness, of certain Intha-composed terms --- unfortunately the choicest examples quoted have bawdy meanings, so my word must be taken for this.

Although here in Taunggyi, the Inthas are known as great producers of vegetables, a good part of the labour of lake life is devoted to rice cultivation. There are no extensive paddy-fields, but every available acre is put under cultivation. Early rice is the main crop and in some villages, a second crop is put down after this early paddy is reaped. In certain villages again, the paddy land is actually submerged during a part of the year. In the summer months when the lake goes low enough, you will see the men laboriously paling out this water --- standing in line alongside a device which flings out the equivalent of a bucketful at each tread of a foot on a pedal, a sight beautiful to watch in its steady rhythm, but actually spelling so much sweat and toil. Such patches are too wet to be ploughed by a buffalo, the spade has to be resorted to, to cut out weeds and then the soil is stirred about until it is fit to receive the seed. Despite all this effort, Yawnghwe state has to import rice from neighbouring Hsihseng to feed its Inthas.

Where the marsh becomes more solid ground, tall lattices of betel vine line the water channels in the villages. These village gardens produce a great variety of vegetables and flowers. Much further back where the first slopes begin, groundnuts, garlic, bananas, and onions are grown; and above these again are the taungyas with their paddy.

The other large product of the lake is of course, fish. Not very good fish, being chiefly nga-khu, nga-hpe, and nga-hpein, full of little bones. But large quantities of it get sold every bazaar day in Taunggyi and other nearby towns. The fastidious eschew Inn fish because of the dearth of cemeteries in the lake area point to where the dead lie. But the Intha make very solid coffins for their dead before submerging them. All matter undergoes metamorphosis anyway. The latrines which overhang vegetable gardens in so many villages send their waste waters seeping through the subsoil to be drawn up in time by Nature's wonderful filtering process into the juicy insides of melons and cucumbers, and the harmless nga-hpein is probably no different from any other fish.

The lack of extensive solid land for cultivation has caused an increased industry in the Intha instead of providing him with an excuse for idleness. In villages which are built wholly on the water, handicrafts are intensively practiced. Here is the second largest silk weaving centre in Burma after Amarapura. Getting raw silk from China, centres in the southern end of the lake, at Nampan, and Impaukhon especially, have been productive since old days. The industry has kept up so well with modern times that the "Bangkok" longyis now produced here are quite indistinguishable from the ones formerly brought from Chiengmai and Korat. The clack of looms from every house in Impaukhon come right across the water all day and every day. Each loom produces one double piece every bazaar day, with 2000 workers operating, this village of bamboo huts handles many thousands of rupees at every bazaar period. Alas, the weaver who sits at the loom all day gets but a few rupees out of the sixty odd that are paid for the piece. Towards the north end of the lake are also villages which produce good quality pinnis or cotton homespuns worn by Shans and Taungthus.

Weaving is of course the work of women, and the chief industry of the lake area and thus leave the men in certain villages all the leisure for playing cards. But male craftsmen in other villages produce large quantities of silver, brass, and lacquer ware, pottery and Shan bags.

With all this industry in the fields during half the year, in the cottages during the other half, the Intha lives frugally, using his savings chiefly for religious expenditures. Quite a lot of his sweat has, however to be spent in rowing himself from point to point. No doubt the leg rowing was evolved to save fatigue --- it is only an alternative form, not the sole one. Rowboats traverse the entire length of the lake, about 12 miles every bazaar day, to take goods either to Yawnghwe or right up to Taunggyi from there. Outboard motors have been bought by a good number of boatmen, but the constantly recurring petrol shortage during disturbances, lack of technical care of the engines, and worst of all, the choking prolific water hyacinths all over, still make rowing the chief propelling power.

Entrance to the lake is through a narrow channel which takes about an hour to traverse. Land and water are hardly distinguishable here; it is a kind of fenland, but a busy, almost jolly, fenland. The haphazard juxtaposition of land and water in the warm and languorous Yawnghwe air appeals to a play instinct of long-forgotten days. The monasteries stretch in a long series of rooms connected by little bridging steps over the water and boys run up and down. The houses grow hedges to fence in their particular bit of water, it seems, in which pool their ducks and buffaloes sport, while cows, pigs, and poultry crowd companionably on the drier patches above. The water lane has no banks, no boundary, it merely connects the houses on the left to the paddy fields on the right, where cranes and transplanters stand knee-deep in mud. On dry perches provided by the gazins, paddy birds more dainty, and beside them little boys, dipping conical baskets in the mud for fish. Flat boat after flat boat maneuver past with pots, melons, rice, firewood, vegetables or a moving householder's goods. This is the bottle-neck of the whole Inn with its dozens of villages and its 60,000 inhabitants. And everywhere the water hyacinths lay their stringing web --- paying a higher price for a boat with a motor, you are forced to turn off the engine and pole the boat, until buffaloes wading across at ease, hold up even such slow motion.

Going thus through the orifice, the lake bursts on one in a sudden vision; with no warning the last obscuring reeds disappear; the open sea is before you, choppy and devoid of any landmarks. The haze so common in Shan valleys blots out the distant scene. Through the binoculars, however, green shores spring up, and folds in purple mountains, and villages roofed with thatch or sheets of dazzling corrugation, with orange-tinged fishing baskets drying in the sun, while ducks and teals in squatting myriads enliven the bays and inlets.

Racing the engine to the full in this expanse brings you in ten minutes time to the mid-lake bungalow. Here it is possible to camp a few nights. There are some chairs, a couple of beds, several rooms and kitchen. The floor boards gape, but the old durwan is expert at fishing things out of the water for you. The water is disconcertingly clear under the lavatories: you can watch the fish making their meal ... another delinquent action of the incorrigible nga-hpein.

Approaching the bungalow a peculiar sight of the hazy horizon is what looks like a series of battleships row upon row, with funnels sticking up it seems. These are little "floating islands", patches of reeds towed along to mid lake and staked in place row by row, to provide seats for the fishermen.

All about the lake these fishing Inthas provide silhouettes of a beautiful rhythm. The standing rower, tall at one end of the flat boat, as he kicks back the leg which is hooked round his oar and thrusts his chest forward with each kick. The fisherman journeying to his perch with his great basket lying in his boat, is bobbed up and down steadily by the lapping waves; the fisherman already at work has his basket down in the water and prods into it with a steady beat; and the drifting boatman standing at another boat's end breasts the wind which blows back his wide hat and baggy Shan trousers with a recurrent flapping and reveals the outlines of his limbs with each flap.


The villages are either completely aquatic like the weaving Impaukhon, or semi-aquatic like Nampan, or altogether dry like Thale-U. Going everywhere by water, the tracks to and around these villages come in time to represent lanes, roads, highways or great squares. At Nampan especially, the great bazaar center of the lake, several broad avenues meet to form a great square or place which forms the parking area for the boats attending the bazaar. It is a mystery, seeing the great collection of empty boats before it, how the owners identify them as readily cinemagoers their cars in a big town. Even the oars have been removed, for carrying the big baskets on, and are thrust into the fencing all around the great bazaar square, a pair behind each seller.

Nampan is also important as a religious centre, for at the village of Namhu near it are kept the sacred images which are carried to Yawnghwe town and all around the lake in a grand procession of boats every Thandingyut in the Hpaungdaw-U festival. The story of these images incorporates the more fanciful of the two accounts of how Inthas came to Yawnghwe.

During the 14th century when magical events had not yet been banished from this part of the world, Prince Padrikhaya of a certain kingdom of India, hearing of the beauty of Shwe Einsi, the Burmese Princess of Pagan, decided to come across and woo her. He obtained a piece of quicksilver which if kept in the mouth enabled one to fly, and thus he made, straight as the crow files for Pagan. Just outside the city, however, he learned from a departing rahan, also in flight, that the princess had just got married. His open-mouthed dismay at this news caused the quicksilver to fall out. The prince's human weight made him fall into a clump of bamboos which killed him outright. But by this time, the Princess being on the point of conceiving a child, his spirit flew right into her womb, and was later born as the child who became King Manisithu.


Meanwhile, the quicksilver had fallen into a thinganet tree in which it was buried and though the growing Manisithu who knew about it caused many searches for it to be made, it was never recovered. Years later, however, the tree into which it fell was cut down and it was reported to the King that the wood possessed the same magical properties as the quicksilver had done. A barge was ordered to be built of it, and in this Manisithu voyaged to the Shan States. But first he went to Tavoy to get some artisans for pagoda building. With these he went up to Mongpai and from there sailed into and all around the lake District, building a pagoda at each place that he came to. When he left the Lake he left behind five images which are the images carried around at Thadingyut, and also the Tavoyan artificers who multiplied and live in the lake till this day.

Indeed the dominant features of any solid piece of land, however, are the big and numerous monasteries. The Inthas, after all their hard work, eat very frugally and give their wealth to religious works. But this philanthropy is extending now to lay schools, usually promoted cooperative effort though set up by the State authority. Yawnghwe, has, along with Hsenwi, the greatest number of state schools in the Shan States, Whether because their great expanse of water has an equalising effect or because they live on the edge of the highroads of commerce with Burma Proper, the Inthas also show a more democratic outlook and a more homogenous economic development throughout the State than anywhere else in the Shan States.


The lake area of Yawnghwe is so fascinating that one tends to forget that there is a large part of the State outside of it. There is Tigit where a Soil Conservation Demonstration Centre has been set up; there is Taungni seven miles from the main road to Taunggyi where a big bazaar is held and where some large planting of wheat is just being started: there is Nawngpalam to the northwest where Mr. Hackett of the American Baptist Mission has set up a farming centre with school and dispensary and where Taungthus form the majority population: there are Kyaukhtat and Bawsine where mining of lead is being done, and although with only simple implements so far has already enriched the mine owners before communications by rail were interrupted. There are other areas too, but chief of them is Heho, the air terminal, and before that as it is now, an important cross-roads in the Myelat.

Taunggyi, the capital of the Shan State is geographically in Yawnghwe State. It was built in 1896 as a British hill-station to replace Fort Stedman (Maingthauk down in the lake) which was too hot. 1500 feet above Yawnghwe valley, the greatest asset of the town is the beauty of its site. There is a dramatic quality about the way the Taung Gyi or Big Mountain, the Crag it has come to be called, dominate the town: rearing its head exactly like a lion, with its paws stretched out at the southern end, and its long body extended in a succession of spurs which open out at the northeastern end into rolling downs for villages, guarding the hills into the Shan country proper from the ledge on which the town is built.


As an administrative centre for the Shans, Taunggyi has just happened. It is no doubt near the Thazi-Mekitila railway line, but this as we have seen is the very edge of the Shan country, and State representatives have to make long journeys to attend conferences there. Now and again more central places, such as Mongkung and Loilem have been proposed as capital, but with not much conviction. Meanwhile, Taunggyi progresses by leaps and bounds.

As a resident of Taunggyi who would choose no other place in preference to it, I should not embark on the beauties both of Nature and of human life which compose it, for fear of filling too many columns. Instead I will remark that the aspect which strikes a stranger most in the main Road of this Shan capital is the great Indian population. Lashio is more Chinese, but the Chinese here, though they have just built an impressive community school, cannot compete with the Indians. The streets appear to be full of black beards and turbans; then again there must be many many Muslims because there are four mosques; then again there are all the rich Hindus surely, for our houses overflow with gifts of delicious sweets at Diwali time. Perhaps that is why the ashes of Gandhi were carried here and across the Shan hills to the Salween, the great Tai River, which at first sight appears to have very little connection with India, except its rising in those everlasting Himalayan mountains in whose awesome depths and heights the supranatural world is imagined by us and all Indians alike. For whatever reason the ashes came, they do us an honour. His voice, so true to those who could hear, was regarded by a great part of the western world as that of an unpractical, almost cranky sophist and "fakir". Yet where have the "practical" realists so experienced in world statesmanship landed us now? On the battlefields where the big nations are going to fight their battles with each other.

The main interest of Yawnghwe town are in its two old pagodas: the Yadana Man Aung said to have been built by Dhamma Thawka Min and the Bawrithat just outside the town, said to have been built by King Anawrahta. The Haw is the only solidly built Haw besides Kengtung's left standing in the Shan States today, and Kengtung's is no interpretation of the past. Yawnghwe Haw is modeled on a rectangular pattern from Mandalay: the long main body in which are audience halls and throne-room, and four wings for separate living quarters, to house if desired, the queens of the north, south, east, and west.


Visitors should not miss a sight of it. The great space of the throne rooms with their highly polished floors, raised dais, lofty pillars, are perhaps the only example in Burma today which can hint at the splendours which have fallen into dust and ashes. The unfinished ramparts which suggest castle ruins as you drive in are said to be left thus owing to the belief that the completion of a Haw is the completion of the dynasty. Actually, the Sawbwa who is at present the President of the Union, can safely finish his Haw. His two adult sons are, in the opinion of this writer, intellectually the fairest flowering among the Saos or even of all the Shans of today; and he has five or six more in the Presidential House to follow. Their mother comes from Hsenwi in the far north, bringing from those northern mountains all the animation, shall I say even the irrepressibility of Tai women. The wife of the heir also comes from that State.



The little States in the extreme southwest corner of the Shan country are, if one likes method, a fitting subject for this last chapter of the series, for the territory they comprise is called "Myelat", suggestive of a returning to Burmese territory whichever way you interpret the term.

No one is certain as to the exact meaning which this name was first intended to express. The most correct etymologically would no doubt be "empty" in the sense of "uninhabited." But history contradicts this. May be a no man's land between Burmese and Shan territory was denoted; or may be an altogether different "lat" meaning middle, the middle country between Shan hill and Burman plain was intended?

The term, as a unit of administration anyway, existed from the time of the Burmese Kings. At first the states in this region, like the rest of the southern Shan States, came under the authority of the Sitkegyi at Mongnai. This authority, being chiefly concerned with the collection of revenue as tribute the Burmese King, has left behind an echo to this day. The chiefs in this area who were placed one grade lower than Myosas were styled Ngwekhunhmus, or Chiefs of Silver Revenue, as contrasted to certain Shwehums, the chiefs paying golden revenue, on the west bank of the Irrawaddy.

The silver revenue from the little states of the area was sent to the King through the representative at Mongnai till the time of King Mindon. Then one of the royal uncles came to attend a durbar at Mongnai and to discuss the question of revenue at some length. He discovered that the politically insignificant states of these area could between them total a considerable amount. On return to Amarapura, therefore, he advised the King to install a special representative at Myelat, to make sure of efficient collection, suggesting that the amount obtained would easily make up for the expenses of a new post.

Thus a definite administrative term, the Myelat, was created, and a Myelat Wun appointed and stationed in the Lake area, for the jurisdiction marked out stretched as far east as Hsatung and Hopong. This authority was independent of Mongnai and was directly responsible to the Hlutdaw at the Burmese capital. It did not interfere greatly with the rule of the chiefs, confining its duties to revenue collection and the settling of more important criminal cases.

To interpret Myelat as the middling country, though least correct etymologically, would be the most apt from a geographical point of view. The terrain is halfway between the hilly eastern Shan country and the plains of Burma proper. Apart from the hills bordering Karenni on the southern and the actual climb from the Thazi plain, the whole territory is one of gentle undulations and of roads with gentle gradients.

It is in fact the ideal motoring country for visitors. Though the central and northern states offer more real beauty, the tiresome 60 miles of excessively winding road to Loilem lie between them and an approach from the southern end. Here in the Myelat, a diversity of scenery opens out to you immediately after ascent from Thazi, in the pine groves of Kalaw, the 44-mile succession of rounded spur and hollowed valley to Taunggyi which homesick Englishmen describe as a bit of Surrey, the rural lanes branching off to less well-known western corners, the drive through a plain with occasional lotus pools to the secluded valley in which Lawksawk town is situated, the lake at Pindaya backed steeply by mountains and caves, or the open plateau of Tigit and Pinlaung which you ascend imperceptibly but which offers a racing road in the invigorating air of 4000 feet above sea-level. This diversity of scene is traversed between towns near enough to provide stops for lunch and tea and night camping.

One of charms of Nature in the Myelat is the way she reveals her soft contours. All the gentle slopes are almost bare of trees. But it is this very distinctive feature of the landscape which gives the soil experts such cause for worry. We hear a great deal nowadays about he impoverishment and loss of soil all over the earth by exhaustive and reckless cultivation; in Burma, the Myelat is the prime example pointed out by the soil conservationists. Indeed the zeal of the Shan State Soil Conservation Officer, U Ah We Nyein, is so great that he had the Premier's eyes pop alarmingly, when a born orator, he described and demonstrated the erosion that was going on and that would very likely make this area an uninhabited one, a true Myelat, in 60 year's time.

But let me quote from my own description of a past journey made on this very stretch, both as a guide to Myelat scenery as well as a lesson in how the present-day soil conservationist reads the beauties of landscape.

Five miles from Aungban we passed a hillock marked Soil Conservation Centre, ridged into contour furrows and planted with trees at the top. All around were the potato fields of peasants, little ant-heaps of red mud round each cluster of plants, and an occasional figure in loose black smock at work. We were racing fast. The road was of good metal, the country so pleasant and rolling. The gentle slopes around us were bared to show lovely curves and roundedness, and the shadows in each hollow. The light from the sky across which clouds with their "goings-on" made now here, now there, coquetted with both slope and hollow; now kissing the brow of the hill, now playing of the bosom of the plain. Great trees so few as to show their girth stood here and there, their spreading graciousness smiling indulgence. Ditches with exposed red earth made bright colour on the new-washed green, accentuated the faint delineations which seemed to cross the surface of the land everywhere. And under the shade of the great trees, bunched cacti, the agave, sprouted, spreading out like big lotuses arranged by Nature to suit the scale of her landscape gardening.

Then coming over the last spur looking down on the Heho plain we saw a sea of green, shimmering and fair with youngness of the green, without tree or bush to break the surface, but in its centre a white pagoda, small, looking for all the world like a sail on the green sea. Entranced it held us in the still air, as it stood there "without a breath of motion, as idle as a painted ship, upon a painted ocean."

Alas, beneath the fair face was a sinister story, which shows how we thoughtless admirers of scenery are misled. To our soil conserving guide in the back seat all the marks of beauty were but stages in a tale of horror. Those great trees, he said, show by their girth that within living memory this region was all forest, thick like the virgin fortes we saw on the slopes up to Kalaw. The faint delineations and bare slopes were all that remained of that now, after patch after patch for easy crops, easy come and easy go. The land was so plentiful and the water so conveniently flowing from the top down through the furrows, eroding the soil. All those ditches of brave red were, after all the gullies which cut like ever-deepening gashes into the richness of soil (and stab deep into the heart of every soil conservationist); they were the ends of slopes into which the reckless peasants drained their fields. And even that fair lustrous plain, though free from slopes of running water, had a dreadful fate awaiting it, for stone and gravel washed down from the eroded slopes would come and bury all its fertile top soil. Burial erosion it would be.


All the land would then be useless for men's crops and even the grasses which could grow would not nourish cattle, man's first and last hope. For as a soil conservation pamphlet from elsewhere states, civilization lies in a few inches of top soil ... So, in 60 years' time such things continuing, all life will have fled from the Myelat as from a plagued land. Only the agave and the soil conservation centre were symbols of a future. The agave which you often see planted in rows across is being used as a means of conserving soil.

However, discounting levity, the Soil Conservation Centre is trying to instruct the peasants, demonstrating contour planting, green manuring of the soil, planting of trees to conserve water supply, selection of grasses which will cling to the earth as stickily as a certain type of love (after which they are therefore called), as well as producing the stock farm crops of the region by a soil conserving type of agriculture, marking out plots where the more cooperative peasants grow crops under instruction from the Centre. Besides the main centre at Hsamongkham on the 33rd mile between Kalaw and Taunggyi, are centres at Tigit, Pinlaung, Poila, Pindaya, Kyone, and Pinhmi.

These centres are under the immediate care of the Soil Conservation Officer who works with indefatigable enthusiasm and is, as I have said, a great orator (for oratory is needed to make people's hair stand on end at the thought of the dusty and wrinkled desert which will soon succeed the beautiful Myelat if soil is not conserved), and the whole programme which aims to follow up the word all over the Shan State in a Five Year Plan is overseen by the State's Principal Forest Officer, U Kyi, who has recently added to his original brilliant approach and his forestry knowledge of long standing, a survey, coastwide as they say, of Soil Conservation work in the USA.

Wasteful methods notwithstanding the Myelat is the greatest farm crop area in the Shan States, and the cultivators working along their own lines are still in the heyday of productivity. This is the area which has identified the potato with the Shan, almost as completely as with the Irishman. Grown in little mounds in almost every garden and in more extensive fields throughout the states of Hsamongkham, Heho, Maw, Yengan, Poila, Pindaya, Tigit, and Lonpo, that is to say, almost every state of the Myelat, enough potatoes are produced to have exported in 1939-1940, over Rs 30 lakhs worth. But this is also the cabbage patch of Burma. I have seen some prize heads of 20 inch diameter from Lawksawk, and equally impressive are the trucks loading up about October and November round Pindaya and Poila with tight firm heads, 2000 to a truck. When Pindaya plays Aungban at foot ball the fans do not shout the names of the states. Their parochial fervour runs along more horticultural furrows. "Potato!" and "Cabbage!" are the stirring calls which arouse maximum competitive efforts.

The other main crops of the Myelat are also capable of being raised in quantity. Groundnut is already grown on an extensive scale, and wheat, though it has just started as a large area crop, has caught on in almost every private garden as a winter crop after the groundnut or maize has been cleared.


It might be thought that the inhabitants of this border country would be a Shan-Burmese mixture shading off into a stronger Burmese strain as the western boundary is approached. But not so; the small Shan population found in this area remains distinctly Shan. Crowding on them however, are the Taungthus, spilling over westwards from the stream which pushed north along the Tam Hpak valley to the east; Taungyos, who to the observer can pass for a kind of Taungthus except that a red smock is substituted for the black and that the speech is more Burmese where the Taungthu is more Karen in character; Zayeins and other types of Karens in the regions of Loilong immediately next to Karenni, Inthas from the Lake area; a greater number of Indians, Chinese and Burmans than in most other parts of the Shan State as is to be expected; and then peculiar to the Shan-Burmese border areas, the Danus. The Danus are found also in the Ruby Mines District, Hsum Hsai district of Hsipaw and around Maymyo, but most particularly they are associated with this Myelat region, especially Yengan, Maw, and Lawksawk.

The origin of the name Danu is obscure, and some sources record that they were not found in the Myelat before the Taungthus came, thus linking them with Karens and Taungthus; otherwise they might be classed as undeniably Burmese in origin, with certain changes in speech and customs consequent on living in an undeveloped and hilly border region. Sir George Scott, that wonderful British gentleman who recorded the local lore of every district in which he served, has translated the account discovered in a Burmese narrator from Meiktila. According to this account the first that was ever heard of Danus was when King Anawrahta went up towards the Shan States and "met with a wild and jungly man of a strange race between Burma and the Shan States."

"Now these Danus," says the narrator, "drank water from the valleys, so they spoke very slowly ... When Danu bachelors courted a maid they took with them a betel-box to the girl's house and each young man placed his betel-box in from of the maid, and when the lassie took a betel-leaf, the lad from whose betel-box she took the leaf knew that she loved him and he took up his betel-box and went home ... The religion of the danus was like the Burmese but they were very wild ... They used to sleep around the fire and they had no other blanket but that, not even in their houses. And as they had no pillows they used to sleep with their heads on each other's bodies like kittens or puppy dogs."


To confuse matters further there are also Danaws in the Myelat, something like the Danus but they wear Taungthu dress. But short of writing an anthropological treatise here, one must draw the line somewhere about delving into minutely differing racial origins. Otherwise I might have described the Ying Hsek and Ying Lam, the Mepu, Zayeins and Bres, the Liu and the Lao, the Lisaws, the red and Black Lahus, the Mungs, the Yaos, the Da-yes, etc. in this series of articles, in addition to the Khuns, Shans, Palaungs, Was, Padaungs, Kaws, Lahus, Taungthus, Inthas, and Danus as I have already done. To most people it will appear that the Myelat inhabitants are a border mixture looking more Burmese than they do Shan, and speaking Burmese with a very peculiar accent, and that it is unreasonable to laugh at them because they can speak neither Shan nor Burmese correctly.

The States occupied by this diverse population, together with their areas in square miles are as follows: the state of Hsamongkham (449) commands the whole area as its capital town of Aungban is at a junction of roads to all other states. Radiating from here like Kyone (24) immediately north; Poila (178), Pindaya (86) and Lawksawk(2362) curving northeastwards; while Yengan (359) and Maw or Baw (capital Ye-U 741) curve northwestwards; Pinhmi (3) a few miles south; Yawnghwe sub-state of Heho adjoining west; and Yawnghwe sub-state of Tigit and the large state of Loilong (1096), capital Pinlaung) curving southwestwards.


The state of Hsamongkham, whose small-sized ruler Sao Htun Aye is prominent in Shan councils and is now acting as Resident of the Southern Shan States, also contains within it the town of Kalaw, a notified area British station out of all proportion to the rest of Myelat towns in the extent of its built-up area, but for all intents and purposes this built-up area is like a disused appendix to the main highway of commerce which runs past it from the Myelat down to Thazi.

Kalaw is too well-known as a summer resort and the sancturary of retired British and Eurasians of former days to need description. It has a certain beauty in the glades and nooks afforded by its innumerable hillocks and pine-groves, in its fertile soil which raises far more beautiful gardens than is possible in neighbouring Taunggyi, and in the air of quiet among high mountains. It is a beauty which must appeal particulary to old people, a world of cosy green lawn bounded by the bend of a spur and the crowning of a pine grove.

But the eyes of youth require longer views, more boundless horizons, less enfolding. Give me, instead, the open aspect of Taunggyi where all human inhabitants are crowded together in the limited area of the level platform edge, but have in front of them the sheer drop into the Yawnghwe valley, and across its gulf, the prospect of seven ranges of hills on a clear day, young green and dark green, blue and purple and pink, dissolving into the radiant light at the farthest. Now especially, Kalaw is dead, the charming houses which people won't buy are becoming dilapidated, and the only sign of a living spirit is that the Hotel Kalaw, previously the sanctum of a Gymkhana type of European social life, now offers tooth-picks on the table in recognition of a new clientele.


This hotel deserves to see better times before long because of its gallant perseverance through seasons when but one guest or two frequented it. Kalaw though offering little life within its own area, is an ideal point for excursions into the Myelat country. Aungban town itself would be more central but it has no bungalow for visitors. The motor route offering a "round trip" is by a fortunate coincidence the most interesting and worthy of visit --- from Kalaw through Aungban, with Poila on the right to Pindaya, thence to Lawksawk, a total of 64 miles; from there a curve round in the other direction through Lawksawk valley to meet the Taunggyi-Kalaw road, and passing through Heho, back to Aungban. Two other trips, one to Tigit and Pinlaung, and another branching off the Pindaya road to Yengan and Ye-U suffice to cover the Myelat. The trip to Yengan and Ye-U in keeping with the undevelped aspect of its area, is the dullest but a road under construction from Ye-U straight down to Kyaukse on the Rangoon-Mandalay will provided a short cut through its state from Mandalay to the whole Southern Shan States.

[ One page missing here, describing the approach to the Pindaya caves]

... in squares of grass, and in its right corner stands a small garden patch --- a veil surrounded by bushes of gardenia, magnolia, croton, oleander, hibiscus, and rose, restrained as to number but carefully tended so as to produce each a perfect blooming. Within the rectangular monastery building of wood, however, a profusion of ornament in carving, gilding and glass mosaic, reflect the dim religious light. Only at the end window there is bright light, and there the abbot sits with his back to the world. The high wall against the steep hillside prevents sight or sound arising from the road, only the drop down to the plain is in front, a mass of impenetrable green.

This approach up the hill past images fallen from their niches in the rocks, decapitated and detruncated, brings you first to the two lower caves, in the second of which is a huge and gilded image, nothing very out of the ordinary. The last bit of ascent is steep, going up sheer to a small built-up platform which juts out, swept by strong winds. A dog barks at your arrival; the Chinese monk who lives there alone emerges from his cell and calls to his boy to open the door of the cave. These are now the real caves of our imagining, leading into the subterranean worlds and revealing their content to an Open Sesame.

When the boy throws open the gates you see at first only the altar and images, perhaps a dozen, on which the daylight strikes, but he gets a flaming pine torch and leads you in. You see then that the cave is full, but incredibly full of images, fashioned through many centuries, of stone, brass, wood and stucco, recumbent, seated and standing, brought up the long and tedious climb and crammed into every available space, right up to the cavernous heights and down labyrintine passages, down in more caves till even the devout, following the boy with his flaming torch, is forced to brush irreverently against the knees, heads, and shoulders of images and more images pressed and jostled against each other. At last the galaxy thins into dripping caves with stalagmites. The peoples say these lead on to Popa Hill, to Pagan, and no one may dispute them.

Legend connects the caves with the lake below. Seven princesses bathing in the lake took refuge here in a storm and were imprisoned by an enormous spider who blocked the entrance. This spider had once been shot by a prince of Yawnghwe who later married the youngest princess, and he thus became the mortal enemy of the couple through a series of reincarnations. Metamorphosing from gryphon to spider, to carnivorous giant and sorcerer hermit, he continued to separate the pain; no magical bows and arrows, no help given by other beings availed against him; till one day the Princess pushing him into the Zawgyi River and finding in dismay that the water there drained away at his incantations, lifted her longyi and covered his head with it. This laid him out at once. Hurrahs for being the weaker sex, the lower sex, which can by a fling of the contaminating, defiling longyi, dispel all manhood, all mental powers of those vaunted superior beings, the Men!

From Pindaya northwards orange groves line the road to Lawksawk, of which state oranges are indeed the most famous crop. This approach to Lawksawk town is the more commonly used one, but entrance from the other side explains at once the former importance of this now quiet valley as a region of plenty marvelously defended by nature. In the level road there arises suddenly a series of bends, of hillocks and jungle cover, as an outer perimeter of defense. Rounding the last bend the beautiful and fertile rice plain opens out, and across this plain the white towers of the Lawksawk pagodas, giving the illusion that a great city still exists, rise from a walled and wooded prominence which served as the inner defense of the capital town. For the town, built on a prominence has a natural moat. A stream goes meandering round the hillock in an extraordinarily roundabout fashion, and a few diversions sufficed to form a perfect encirclement from which brick walls were built up.

The old Sawbwa of Lawksawk who died in 1943 was of a militant character and stature in keeping with those fortifications. He was really from Tam Hpak, a sub-state which became merged in Hsatung State, and having made himself useful to the British in sorties made during those unsettled years of pacification, he was given Lawksawk State by the recommendation of Sir George Scott when its Sawbwa, a prominent figure in both the Mongnai and Limbin Confederacies, refused to make submission but returned once more to Kengtung in the hope of raising another standard for a Burmese prince, after which he died far away in the mountains bordering China.


Having been given the Sawbwaship of Lawksawk, Sao Khunsuik made short shrift of raiders and attackers. The Padaungs who made forays as far as Lawksawk in those troublous days had their heads cut off and stuck on these walls not so very long ago. But it is said that his fiery temper drove away many settlers also; Lawksawk valley in which an old saying allowed no perch for a visiting crow, is now deserted; but mainly because the high road of commerce running through the Myelat is now well away from it. The State as a whole is very productive, in timber, rice, oranges, groundnut, surface ores, but till a road is built from it to Hsipaw which adjoins it on the north (how tricky these modern car-roads, or rather the roads laid by the British to serve administrative units are). Having driven 262 miles into the southern States through Loilem and Taunggyi in order to get from Hsipaw to Lawksawk, one never realises except by a map or by an extraordinary feeling for compass points that one has traveled back again almost to Hsipaw --- a cart could do it in about 100 miles); till such a road is built, Lawksawk continues to be left severely alone, a smiling valley which waits for the traveler to go out of his way to notice it. A reflection in fact, of its Chief, the son of the militant old stalwart no doubt, but injured from his falling off an elephant in childhood so they say, into losing both stature and pugnaciousness.


Lawksawk was formerly known as Rathawadi. The present name, a corruption of Burmese Yatsauk (built standing), is said to have been given when Narapathi Sithu Min, coming to build a pagoda, sowed the seeds of a jack-fruit with his toes while remaining erect and standing before the pagoda.

The pagodas are still impressive. Especially the one built like a tower and said to date back to the Pagan period. Near it are more common-type zedis, among them one built by the Sawbwa who fled into the Kengtung mountains, another fierce old man. It is said that he caused to be built into it, as guardian spirit, a little girl dressed in all her finery. Sao Hom, who in the fragrance of her name and the innocence of her quiet beauty, infuses into the relationship of niece, a particularly sweet quality, first showed me round these pagodas and said that in her childhood she could still hear the jingle of the little girl's bangles every evening as she cried to be let out. Dear Sao Hom, princess of this enchanted solitude, and dreaming in your retreat, alone among the silver oaks and the jasmine bushes, only waking up to a flurry of housekeeping when a stray visitor makes rude interruption; was it not just the tinkle of the pagoda bells that you heard? Spare your tender heart, the little girl must have died long since, and you yourself have been awakened now finally to a life of mundane matters, of a young wife's busy-ness with write-ups in The Nation and trips to Rangoon ...

The trip southwest from Aungban to Tigit and Pinlaung takes you through a different country. The air is cold and bracing, you race along a stretch of plateau at 4000 feet above sea-level, till a stream coming down and crossing the plain shows you Tigit, all laid out in the palm of your hand as it were, and then 20 miles further on, descending into the narrowest valley, Pinlaung, the capital of Loilong state. From here the road continues to join Loikaw in Karenni 80 miles southward, but this is not to be traversed owing to insurgent fear. In these regions the small bazaars show great numbers of Taungthus and Karen types coming down with sweet limes, tobacco, danyinthi, and fascinating basketware of all designs, but at least of equal interest to the visitor will be the tiny brick bungalows, identical at both places, providing cosy shelter equally in the open prairie and in the narrow valley --- destinations for second or third honeymooning ...


Copyright (C) by Mi Mi Khaing.
All Rights Reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced or copied without prior written permission of Sao Khai Mong.