About Tai (Shan)

The Shan who call themselves the Tai are found primarily the Shan State of Burma. The Burmese word "Shan" (referring to the Tai) is variously spelled Syam, Syaam, and Syan in the inscriptions of the Pagan period (1044-1334) and in old Burmese texts. In modern Burma the Tai people are called Shan, as are various other branches of the Tai people of Shan state in Burma.
The Shan are a branch of the Tai race. Historical accounts maintain that Upper Burma was the place of the Pyu and the Shan before the establishment of the Pagan kingdom by Anawratha (1044-1077). In Yunnan the Mao kingdom of the Shan existed until it was subdued by the Ming court. From that base they often sent forays into Upper Burma and Assam. Later they had Shan colonies in some parts of southern and northern Shan state, Kachin state, and Sagaing Division in Upper Burma, and all these colonies were under the suzerainty of a Mao chief. Eventually the Shans also controlled almost all Upper Burma. This Shan period of Burmese history lasted from about 1300 until 1540. The Shan of Yunnan, however, were subdued by the Chinese after three successive wars (1441-1448). The final destruction of Shan power in Yunnan occurred in 1604 when the Chinese troops swooped down on Mongmao. After the collapse of the Mao kingdom in Yunnan, the power of the Shan in Burma also weakened and the group finally disintegrated into many small Shan principalities. The development of the Shan in Burma depended much upon the political history of Burma which eventually divided the Shan into such groups as:

a. the Khamti Shan (the Tai in the Khamti region of Sagaing division in Upper Burma)
b. the Mao Shan (the Tai in the Mao River valley in northern Shan state)
c. the Tai Leng (the Red Tai in Kachin state)
d. the Gum Shan (the Tai Hkun in the Kengtung district of eastern Shan state)

The Shan (Tai) are spread throughout Burma, in Shan state, Kachin state, and Sagaing division. The states and divisions in Burma were fixed during the British administration period (1885-1948). In the time of the Burmese kings, the Shan (Tai) areas were named "Saint Taing," "Kambawza Taing," "Haripunza Taing," "Khemawara Taing," etc. In the British administration period (1885-1948), Burma was reorganized into states, divisions, and hill tracts. The present Shan state was formed during the British period, becoming the "Federated Shan States" in 1922. The rest of the Shan areas in Burma were put into Sagaing division, Myitkyina, Bhamo, and Putao districts. The geographical barriers, difficulties in communication, and the system of administration since the times of the Burmese kings separated the Shan from each other, resulting in each group developing its own way of culture and tradition. Thus, those Shan who settled in the Khamti region are called Khamti Shan, those in the Mao River valley are Mao Shan, and those in eastern Shan state are the Hkuns.




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