Some historians claim that Tai people are, in BC 3000, the inhabitants of Asia, central part of the land now known as China. Rev. William C. Dodd, a Christian missionary, stated that the Tai settled in the land now known as China before Chinese arrived, based on Chinese annals of 2200 BC. The history of contact between the Tai and Han (Chinese) peoples dated back to 109 BC, when Emperor Wu Di of the Han Dynasty set up Yizhou Prefecture in southwestern Yi (the name used to signify the minority areas of what are now Sichuan, Yunnan and Guizhou provinces). The Tai, in subsequent years, sent tribute to the Han court in Luoyang, among the emissaries were musicians and acrobats. The Han court gave gold seals to the Tai ambassadors and their chieftain the title “Great Captain.” According to Chinese documents of the ninth century, the Tai had a fairly well developed agriculture. They used oxen and elephants to till the land, grew large quantities of rice and had built an extensive irrigation system. They used kapok for weaving, panned salt and made weapons of metal. They plated their teeth with gold and silver.
According to Chinese annals, the “Ta Muong” (Great Muong) lived in the northwestern part of Szechwan province, in western central China, even before Chinese migrated from the west. Ta Muong would have been the ancestors of the “Ai Lao ” or “Tai ” race known as Pa, Pa Lao or PaYi in China who later founded the powerful “Nan Chao Kingdom ” in Yunnan province. In BC 1558 the Tai had spread over a vast territory almost across the whole width of modern China. Tai have never been called Chinese, nor claimed to have any ethnic links with the Chinese race. Throughout Chinese historical records the Chinese name for the Tai has constantly been changed. According to American Missionary Rev. William W. Cochrane, Tai means Free. Shan had their country and ruled by King since BC 2000 up to 16th Century AD when the last Shan kingdom was overthrown by Burman King Anawrata. There were nine Shan kingdoms recorded in early history.
- Tsu Kingdom (rldif;old0f) (BC 2000 - BC 222)
- Ai Lao Kingdom (rldif;nBmjvm0f;) (AD 47 - AD 225)
- Nan Chao Kingdom (rldif;vmefhq0fj) (AD 649 - AD 1252)
- Muong Mao Lone Kingdom (rldif;rm0f;vlif) (AD 764 - AD 1252)
- Yonok Kingdom (rldif;vmefheM;) (AD 773 - AD 1080)
6. SipSongPanNa (rldif;odyf;o.ifyef;eM;) (AD 1180 - AD 1292)
7. Waisali Kingdom (rldif;wlefjo.ef;crf;) (AD 1227 - AD 1838)
- Sukhothai (rldif;xB;) (AD 1238 - AD 1350)
- Muong Mao Kingdom (rldif;rm0f;) (AD 1311 - AD 1604)
Muong Mao Kingdom was the last kingdom of Shan.
The Kings of MuongMao were:
Hsu Kan Hpa (old0fcmefbZMU) (AD 1311 - AD 1364) (founder of Muong Mao)
Hsu Pem Hpa (old0fyArfbZMU) (AD 1364 - AD 1366)
Hsu Wak Hpa (old0f0mufjZMU) (AD 1366 - AD 1367)
Hsu Hzun Hpa (old0fqkdefjZMU) (AD 1367 - AD 1368)
Hsu Hom Hpa (old0f+rfbZMU) (AD 1367 - AD 1371)
Hsu Yap Hpa (old0f,AyfbZMU) (AD 1371)
Hsu Hum Hpa (old0f=rfbZMU) (AD 1372 - AD 1405)
Hsu Ke Hpa (old0fcDbZMU) (AD 1405 - AD 1420)
The first migration of Shan was said to be taken place in 1st century BC when wars in central China drove many Tai people from that area. Those people moved South founded ancient Shan cities such as “MuongMao ” (rldif;rm0f;) “MuongNai ” (rldif;eBm;) “HsenWi "HsenWi" ” (oFefj0D) and “HsiPaw "HsiPaw" ” (oDDbayMU). All of them are in Burma today. The second migration took place in 6th century AD from the mountain of Yunnan. They followed “Nam Mao River” (erfhrm0f;) (ShweLi River) to the South and settled in the valleys and regions surrounding the river. Some continued west into Thailand. A second branch went north following the Brahmaputra River into Northern Assam, India. These three groups of Tai migrants were; Tai Ahom (Assam), Siam (Thailand) and Shan (Shan State ), came to regard themselves as “Free People.”
Shan live in Burma, China, India, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam under different names but always one and the same people in different countries. Tai people in Burma are called Shan . There are five million Shan in Burma. Their land is called Shan State . Shan people in Burma are also known as Tai Lone, Tai Lai,Dai Nua, Dai Mao , Tai Dome, Tai Ding, Tai Sa, Tai La, Tai Wan, Tai Hume, Tai Lamm, Tai Kwan, Dai Lu, Tai Sam Tao, Tai An, Tai Khun,Tai Ngam, Tai Hai Ya, Tai Yang, Tai Loi, Tai Leng, Tai Khamti.
In China about ten million Shan live in Yunnan, Hainan and Canton. They are known as Dai . There are three main Tai groups in China such as Dai Nua, Dai Mao and Dai Lu. Other Tai groups in China are known as Dai Yangze, Dai Nam (Sue Dai) or Dai Nung, Dai Lai, Dai Lone, Dai Chaung, Dai Doi, Dai Lung, Dai Kai Hua Jen, Tuo Law or Pa Yi,Pu Tai, Pu Naung, Pu Man, Pu Yu, Pu Chia, Pu En, Pu Yai, Pu Sui, Dai Ching, Dai Pa, Dai Tu Jen, Dai Doi, Dai Tho, Dai Hakkas, Dai Ong Be,Dai Li or Dai Lo.
In India Tai live in Assam State. They are known as Tai Ahom or Tai Assam or Tai Khamti.
In Lao they are known as Lao-Tai, include local groups such as Black Tai (Tai Dam) (Dai Lum) and Red Tai (Tai Deng) (Tai Leng) and Tai Nua.
In Thailand they are known as Tai Yai, literally means Great Tai.
In Vietnam they are known as Black Tai (wB;vrf@) and White Tai (Tai Khao) (wB;cm0f) numbering about five hundred thousand. Some other Tai in Vietnam are; Tai Tho (wB;xl0fb), Tai Nung (wB;ekif;) Tai To Tis (wB;xl0fbwdwfh), Tai Yang or Tai Nhang (wB;,mif;? WB;emif;), Tai Leng (wB;vFif@), Tai Pong Toa (wB;z.if;xl0fh), Dai Lu (wB;vkd0fh).
According to Encyclopedia Britannica, the estimate total number of Tai in the late 20th century is about 75,760,000 (including 45,060,000 Thai in Thailand, 3,020,000 Laotians in Laos, 3,710,000 Shan in Burma, 21,180,000 Dai in China, and about 2,790,000 Tai in Vietnam.) (Tai in India, Assam State, are not included in this statistic)
Independence of Union of Burma
After annexation of Shan countries by British in 1887 the British sought to govern Shan countries and its people by SaoPha . SaoPha had to acknowledge British supremacy, maintain peace and not oppress their subjects. Between 1887 and 1895 the SaoPha pledged their allegiance to the British crown and their domains were placed under the supervision of British Assistant Superintendents. The formal administrative entity known as the Federated Shan States was not created until 1922. Under British government, the 40 Shan States were combined and then divided into three general sections: the Northern Shan State, the Southern Shan State and the Eastern Shan State; altogether they formed the Federated Shan State. Federated Shan State was formed under British colony on October 1, 1922. There are three Shan States until today. All these Shan States gained independence on January 4, 1948 together with other States but they all are now under Burma Military Government since 1962.
Before meeting with General Aung San, all the Shan leaders and peoples of the Shan States got together to adopt the Shan Flag and the National Anthem. February 7, 1947 was marked as Shan National Day. A conference held at PangLong, Southern Shan State, attended by General Aung San, members of the Executive Council "Council" of the Governor of Burma, all SaoPha and representatives of the Shan States, Kachin Hills and Chin Hills on February 10, 1947. General Aung San explained to the Shan SaoPha that he was going to London very soon and asking for independence. He also wanted Shan States to be independence at the same time. The Members of the conference believed that freedom would be more speedily achieved by the cooperation of Shan, Kachin and Chin with the Interim Burmese Government. Shan States together with Burma proper, gained independence from British on January 4, 1948 and formed Union of Burma. The first President of Union of Burma was Sao Shwe Thaike, (q0fjolpfbwFufh) Shan SaoPha of YaungHwe. In the past a Muong (rldif;) (Territory) was governed by a hereditary chief called “SaoPha ” (q0fjZMU) literary means Lord of the Sky. The political and geographical situation of the Shan States changed in 1886 when Burma became British colony. The Shan States with other “Hill States” were allowed to remain autonomous, which meant that in the Shan States the SaoPha would still rule over their States or Muongs. The British Government respected and recognized the authority of the Shan SaoPha. Small States were absorbed into bigger ones, old States dismantled and new ones formed. A SaoPha ’s salary was depending on a fixed fraction of the State revenue. Thus, a SaoPha with a bigger and more prosperous State earned a salary higher than one with a smaller and less prosperous State. About thirty-five per cent of the revenue was contributed to the Central Government and the rest was used for State Administration.
Before World War II, the Shan had been content to be ruled by the SaoPha. After the war SaoPha found themselves having to deal with activists in their own States, some were anti-SaoPha and others anti-British. The people’s demonstrations were putting pressure on the SaoPha to relinquish the power. In 1958 the SaoPha agreed to the demand of the temporary military government led by General Ne Win and relinquish their power and hereditary rights. No more ruling SaoPha since 1958.
Belief and Culture and Literature
Shan have their own language, literature , belief, dress, festivals and practices, which they proudly called “Shan culture .” However it is difficult to say whether it is an “Authentic Shan Culture ” or “Buddhist Practices.” For instance, the novice ordination festival (y.B;omifbv.if;) normally held in March is, as claimed by the Shan, a Shan culture. It fact it is a Buddhist customs to make their sons becoming monks for a month in monastery to obtain merit for better future. Since Shan people have adopted Buddhism for almost two thousand years, all Buddhist practices have naturally and automatically become their culture. Buddhist festivals, activities and practices are sometime identified or assumed or considered or claimed as Shan culture. Sometime they call it “Buddhist Shan Culture.” Shan people claim that Buddhism is Shan religion, Shan are Buddhists and Buddhism is Shan culture. People have been identified with religion. Thus it makes Shan very difficult to become Christian or belong to other religions.
The Tai people in different countries and places still have many words in common although changes in dialect and accents. There are common languages and terms among Tai, Thai , Lao , Shan , Dai and Tai Ahom in spite of their separation for hundreds of years. For instance they all call “rice” as “kao” (c0fj), and the “spirit” as “Phe” (zD), “water” as “namm” (erfh)? The number, one (ekdifj), two (o.if), three (omrf), four (oDb), five ([Mj), six (=uf;), seven (qAwf;) eight (yFwfb), nine (u0fj), ten (odyf;) are the same. They also have similar dress and same method of cooking, dressing, life style and common food. Shan language belongs to the Tai linguistic group, which also includes the Thai , Lao and Zhuang languages.
Shan language is different from other languages in Burma. In their own language the Shan call themselves Tai (wB;) and their country Muong Tai (rldif;wB;) and their language Tai language (ugmrf;wB;). The Tai languages are a subgroup of the Tai Kadai language family.
The Shan have their own calendar since ancient days started in AD 638. There are books in Tai script for calculating solar and lunar eclipses.
First Waxing Moon of the First Lunar Month, Lern Seign, (vldefqAifrfgb0ef;ekdifj)is considered Shan New Year Day according to Shan Calendar. There are three supposing reasons about the existence of Shan New Year.
1. The Shan Kingdom of Muong Mao was founded in 450 Buddhist Era (BE).
2. The Abbot of Man Hai, SeLan, had written that in the year 450 BE there was the assembly of 150 learned Buddhist monks where they re-wrote the three divisions of Buddha’s doctrine (i.e. the Buddhist Synod).
3. Sao Khun Sai @ Sao Khun Hong, the son of the King of Muong T’sen (modern Yunnan) (rldif;oFef) with his four followers went to fetch the Buddha’s doctrine in the land of Phar Tang Phar Taw and returned home in the 450 BE in the time of new harvest.
That is why Shan calendar year (yD@wB;) is based on the 450 BE.
The Shan year is equal to Buddhist calendar year (Burmese year) minus 450 years.
For example, 2545 (Buddhist year) - 450 = 2095 (Shan year) = AD 2001
Shan are festival loving people. For the Shan life is meaningless without festival . There are festivals all year round in Shan States. Traditional ceremonies take place throughout the year. Most of these festivals are related to Buddhist calendar and very similar to Burman’s festivals.
The water-splashing festival (Swan Nam) (y.B;o.ef;erfh? y.B;omif;usmefb) during which time the people splashing water to one another and to Buddha statute, prepare sticky rice food wrapped in banana leave(c0fjwlrfjulpfj) and make offerings to earn merit for the Buddhist New Year. Shan people claim this festival as Shan culture but Shan Christians in Burma see it as a Buddhist festival and do not allow its members to join festival.