There are some 1 million Shan people in Thailand, mostly living in Mae Hong Son, Chiang Mai, Lampang and Phrae. Actually, Shan people live in Myanmar’s Shan State around the well-known centers of Hsenwi, Hsipaw, Inle Lake and Kyaing Tong. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Shan – also called Tai Yai – had migrated to Chiang Mai City and live now in compact communities north of the city wall around their distinctive temples of Wat Ku Tao, Wat Chiang Yuen and Wat Pa Pao.
Writings in Shan script and special calendars can be seen wherever you enter a Shan temple. Recently, there is seen a resurgence of the Shan tradition of Poi Sang Long, when young Shan boys are accommodated to experience a kind of ordination ceremony, which goes on for three to four days. These “luk kaeo” or crystal sons were brought into the temple dressed as celestial princes with jewelry and traditional Shan clothing to get entertained by their numerous relatives. Most of them come on horseback or on the shoulders of their fathers or uncles and sheltered with a golden umbrella. Celebrations go on until the final day, when there is the ordination and the “luk kaeo” will dress in a novice monk’s robe. Shan food with refreshments is served to all the visitors and traditional Shan music, with gongs and drums, is played and a lot of dancing is happening.
This year’s Poi Sang Long at Wat Ku Tao on March 22-25 had 62 booth stages featured around the central watermelon-shaped chedi, while at Wat Pa Pao during April 4-6 were only a few “luk kaeo” to get an ordination. There was another Poi Sang Long Ceremony at Wat Suan Dok, where some people of the Palaung tribe could be seen. Bibliography:
Dodd, William Clifton
The Tai Race: Elder Brother of the Chinese. Reprinted, Bangkok, White Lotus 1996.
Forbes, Andrew & David Henley:
Khon Muang: People and Principalities of North Thailand. Chiang Mai, 1997.
Guide to Chiang Mai and the North. Chiang Mai, 1973.
Le May, Reginald
An Asian Arcady. Cambridge, 1926.
The Thai Peoples. Bangkok 1958.
Ethnic Pluralism in the Northern Thai City of Chiang Mai. University of Oxford, 1994.
Written by : Reinhard Hohler