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A Shan-Tayok Woman.









Superintendent, Government Printing, Burma

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data

Cochrane, Wilbur Willis.
The Shans.

Reprint. Originally published: Rangoon: Supt. Govt.
Print., Burma, 1915.

Vol. 1; no. more published.

Includes index.

1. Shans. I. Title.
DS528.2.S5C62 1981 959.7 77-87485

ISBN 0-404-16805-1 AACR2

Reprinted from the edition of 1915, Rangoon, Burma. Trim
size in this edition has been slightly altered. (Original
trim size: 12.5 x 21.8 cm.)



My thanks are due to Mr. Taw Sein Ko for wading patiently
through my stream of scribbling. He landed safely with this
generous observation : " Your work is a most valuable one,
and sheds a great deal of light on the ancient history of
Burma." It is only fair to add that the value of my work
(whatever it may be) is due, in no small measure, to the
corrections, information and helpful suggestions which he
himself has most kindly given me. My thanks are due also to
Dr. L. Scherman of Munich and to Mrs. Leslie Milne for
nearly all of the photographs which adorn and brighten my
duller pages.

There are aspirated initial consonants represented by one
letter in the Shan, for which there are no equivalents either in
the English sounds or in the English alphabet. In official
orthography, the aspiration is represented by an h, as hk, hp,
hs and ht. All of these are phonetic impossibilities. It would
be as easy to propel a cannon ball with the gun-cotton ahead of
it as to explode an aspirated k with the wind in the lead. An
h after the initial consonant would also have been objectionable.
Take, for instance, the Shan name for the Siamese, sometimes
written " Thai " (in English). Any Englishman, not familiar
with the Shan aspirates, would be sure to pronounce it
"Thigh," which would make a Siamese squirm. That actually
happened in my office a few days ago. Phonetically, it would
have been much better to have represented this aspiration by
an " exalted comma " or by some other diacritical mark. In
writing of matters and things in this province, the official
orthography has been followed ; to have done otherwise would
have led to confusion, and smacked of pedantry.





The Origin of the Shans —

I. — Conditions in General . • . .
II. — In Search of the Shan Baby's Footprints .

Shans of Yunnan and Beyond —

I. — From Early Times to the Middle of the
Seventh Century A.D. .....

II. — From the Middle of the Seventh to the Middle
of the Thirteenth Centuries ....

Shans on the Lower Cambodia River

Shans of Burma or the Mao Kingdom —

I. — The Legendary Period, from Early Times to

the Middle of the Tenth Century .

II. — The Historical Period, from the Middle of the

Tenth Century to the Present Time

Language, Affinities and Letters

Shan Religion (Mythological) .

Shan Buddhism ......

Christianity and Animistic Buddhism








A Shan-Tayok Woman — Frontispiece.

A Typical Northern Shan House

Shans, showing Tatooing and Rain Covers

Hsenwi Shan and Wife, showing Turbans and Hats

Shan Coolie Baskets .

Shan Woman washing Clothing .

The Penates or Household Shrine

Brick Structure over Shan Well .

A Group of Shan School Children,
Dawn of the new Era

A Shan Oil-mill ....




Apparently at the instance of the British Association
for the Advancement of Science, in general, and of the
Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, in
particular, a series of monographs is in course of preparation,
presumably on all of the races and tribes of the Indian
Empire. This book is one of the series, written at the
request of His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor of Burma,

The Shans, as we may see from the quotations below,
are a people numerous, widely spread, and with a history
reaching back far into the past. Manifestly, in writing
a monograph on the Shans, these facts must be taken into
account. The subject cannot be treated in exactly the
same way that one might write of a small tribe of the
Melchizedec order, " without father, without mother, with-
out genealogy," whether that tribe be a recent intruder
or the ragged relic of a vanishing race. Certain matters
and things must be looked at from the historical point of
view somewhat more than is common in purely anthro-
pological accounts of small tribes. But, after all, human
history is only another name for anthropology written large.
To conceive of history, as some writers have done, as
though it were merely a record of wars and devastations,
of political conditions and dynastic changes, is a misuse,
if not an abuse, of the word. No definite lines can be drawn
between the two. Religion, for instance, may come very
properly under anthropology, but religion is one of the most
important and determinative things in the history of the life
and development of any people. Professor Rauschenbusch
is certainly correct in saying that " the religious spirit is a
factor of incalculable power in the making of history." *
The two volumes into which this work will be divided may,
for convenience, be distinguished as " Historical " and
*' Anthropological " respectively, but in subject-matter they
overlap and present no such clear lines of distinction.

* Christianity and the Social Crisis, Introduction, p. xii.


It is doubtless both intended and desirable that this book
should confine itself largely to the Shans of Burma, but it
will be necessary to go far afield and botanize in other forests
to explain the presence of this particular flower in these Shaft
Hills. To indicate who the Shans are and where they are at
the present time, it may not be amiss to slip in here a few
paragraphs from well-known writers. Though these quota-
tions are familiar to us all, it may be handy to have them
here for ready reference. Moreover, if the following pages,
are read in the light of these facts, it may help in removing
obscurities and in giving at least plausibility to statements
that otherwise might seem unreasonable or far-fetched. A
people so numerous and so widely spread in these days of
their decadence could not, in their palmy days, have been
hidden away in the pocket of some lonely mountain, as the
young of a marsupial are carried in their mother's pouch.

Of the Shans in general Mr. Hallett says : " Not only do
they stretch away far to the eastward, perhaps as far as the
China Sea, but they actually form one of the chief ingredients
that compose the so-called Chinese race. Mr. Colquhoun, in
his journey through the south of China, came to the conclu-
sion that most of the aborigines whom he met, although known
to the Chinese by various nicknames, were Shans ; and that
their propinquity to the Chinese was slowly changing their
habits, manners and dress, and gradually incorporating them
with that people. From Kwangtung and Kawngsi the same
race is found, called by the Anamites Muongs, spread
throughout the hilly regions of Tonquin ; and should the
French, in pursuit of the Black Flags, enter the forests, they
will find themselves, wherever they go, amongst the Shans." *
From that high authority. Major Davies, more than one
paragraph may be taken. He says : " The Shans are an
extremely numerous and widely spread race. To the west
they extend into Assam. In fact, in the thirteenth century
A.D. they conquered that country, but have to a great extent
become merged in the Hindu population, though there are
still some communities of them who speak the Shan
language. In Kham-ti, at the source of the western branch

• Historical Sketch of the Shans.


of the Irrawaddy, is another isolated group of the Shan race,
and there are also Shans on the upper course of the
Chindwin River.

" Coming further east, the plains of Burma, north of
about lat. 23°, are chiefly inhabited by men of Shan race,
who in some districts are taking to talking the Burmese
language. Further east still are the Shan States, where
the ruling population is Shan, and from here they have
spread southwards into Siam, for the Siamese are merely a
southern off^shoot of the Shans, and the name Siam is
probably a variation of the name given to them by the
Burmese and other races.

" Northwards the Shans do not in Yunnan now spread
very far, and there are no great numbers of them north
of lat. 25°. Still they do exist north of that line, for they
are to be found on the Yangtse and its tributaries in the
part of that river which forms the boundary between Yunnan
and Ssu-ch'uan. I have also come across a few of this race
further north than this, near Pe-tiao on the Ya-lung River,
about lat. 28° 5', long. 101° 30'.

" In the east there can be no doubt that considerable
numbers of Shans are to be found in the provinces of
Kuei-chou, Kuang-hsi and Kuang-tung. In fact in some
parts of Kuang-hsi they probably form the greater part of
the population. Exactly how far east the Shan race now
extends is a question that there is not information enough to
decide. It is probable that they at one time inhabited
a greater part of China south of the Yangtse, but many of
them have now been absorbed by the Chinese. The physical
resemblance between the Shan and the Cantonese Chinaman
is remarkable, and it seems likely that the latter is chiefly
Shan in blood, though now pretty thoroughly imbued with
Chinese customs and ways of thought."

To show how widely scattered the Shans were, this may
be taken from page 95 of Major Davies' valuable book :
" The next day we passed through the little village of
Man-mu (in south-western Yunnan) which is inhabited by
Shans who came here from the province of Chiang-hsi seven
generations ago. Their language is distinctly Shan, but it i&


a peculiar dialect and they have some difficulty in making
themselves understood by the others of their race in the
neighbourhood. They say they do not know why they came
here and that they are the only Chiang-hsi Shans in this
part of the country. But they are quite positive that they
did come from Chiang-hsi, which they describe as being
three months' journey away."*

This substantiates what Sir George Scott says in the
Gazetteer of Upper Burma and the Shan States : " The
Tai (Shan) race is the most widely distributed in Indo-China.
The Ahoms of Assam are indisputably Shan, though they
are completely Hinduized. The Hakkas of Canton are
almost certainly of Shan extraction, though they would be
the first to deny it. . . . It seems probable that the Tai form
a large part of the population of four of the Chinese

Dr. W. Clifton Dodd, of the American Presbyterian
Mission of northern Siam, who went on a tour of inspection
through south-western China in 1910, quotes Mr. Jameison,
the British Consul-General at Canton, as saying that " the
whole of Kuang-hsi and Kuang-tung provinces are Tai,
ethnologically and linguistically," evidently meaning that
the Tai (Shan) race and the Tai speech were predominant.
Dr. Dodd also quotes Mr. F. D. A. Bourne, formerly
His Britannic Majesty's Consular Agent at Chungking,
Kuei-chou province, as saying, " Even now (1888) nine-tenths
of the population of Nanning prefectures are Tai. . . . None
of the women could speak Chinese. The Lolos are mere
stragglers among a Tai population. ... A large part of
Kuang-hsi is governed by Tai chiefs, who are responsible
for the good behaviour of their people. From Pongai down
to Nanning Fu the whole population is Tai, speaking their
own language, and governed for the most part by hereditary
chiefs." t

Mr. Freeman, Dr. Dodd's associate, was at the same
time making a tour through Tongking and south-western
China. Of Mr. Freeman's findings, the latter says : " He

• Yiinnan : The Link between India and the Yangtse.
t From a Report in the Parliamentary Blue-book for 1888.


reports three-fourths of Tongking as Tai territory, and
declares that, under various names, they occupy much of
Kuang-hsi and Kuei-chou provinces and eastern Yunnan ;
and that these illiterate, non-Buddhist Tai are akin to other
Tai people in Kuang-tung, and also to the Loi of Hainan."
This authority further states that the Rev. Burkwall, agent
of the British and Foreign Bible Society, who had per-
sonally and through his colporters come into wide contact
with the Tai of Kuang-hsi, confirmed the reports that
the Tai of that province, in many rural districts, were ruled
by hereditary chiefs, did not speak Chinese, and were so
clannish that they did not take kindly to Chinese culture.
According to Major Davies, the Chinese of Yunnan them-
selves affirm that the so-called Chinese of Kuang-tung are
Shans. Dr. Dodd also quotes Dr. J. C. Gibson of Swatow
as saying that the Hakkas and other tribes in that region
were non-Chinese and, in his belief, were Tai (Shan).

Coming back nearer home, this may be taken from
Captain Forbes: "The national appellation of Tai is that
used by all branches of the (Shan) race except the Siamese
who aspirate the word (into T'ai), giving it the signification
of ' Free.' The Tai race, under several local tribal names,
but always one and the same people, occupies a far wider
range than any other in the Indo-Chinese peninsula. In
Assam, known as Ahoms, along the borders of Burma and
China, it is divided into numerous and semi-independent
clans bearing in Burmese the generic name of Shans.
Stretching southward, the same race, under the name of
Laos, occupies the country between the Salween and the
Mekong (Me-k'awng) rivers, while still further south, the
best known and most civilized branch of the race, the
Siamese, has founded a powerful maritime kingdom."

This is in general correct, but that " the national
appellation of Tai " (or T'ai) was ever used by all branches
of the race is open to question. Colonel Gerini asserts that
** it was only after their successful career of conquest in the
northern parts of Siam and in Burma that they (the Shans)
adopted the title of Tai in order to distinguish and exalt

* The Languages of Further India, p. 77.


themselves." Continuing he says : " The racial name of
this people was Lao, and Thai (Tai) was simply a title that
they substituted for that name."" This can scarcely be
more than an inference on the part of the learned Colonel
and is open to doubt. That "Lao" was ever used as a
generic name by all the Shans is not assured. The Shans
have now at least a score of tribal names, and seem to have
had several when first mentioned in Chinese legendary
history. Even then they had already come far on the
march of development and had doubtless split up into tribes
of distinctive names who had long since forgotten what their
racial name was, if they ever had one that covered all their
clans. There are indications in northern Shan history that
the name of Tai was used by this race before they entered
upon any " successful career of conquest in Siam and
Burma." The Shans were the regnant race over wide areas
and for long periods of time before they distinguished
themselves in Burma. Neither is it assured that Tai really
means " The Free." The Tais or Shans were freemen as
contrasted with the K'as or subject hill-tribes, and it may be
from this fact that the theory arose. If Tai means " Free," it
is remarkable that the Shans of eastern Burma and beyond
know nothing of it. They stoutly deny that the word ever
had such a meaning at all.f

* See Directory for Bangkok and Siam, 1910.

t In this connection, xMr. Taw Scin Ko writes : " There arc so many
Chinese derivatives in Shan, which arc attributed to a Cantonese
source, that I feel warranted to say that Tai is derived from the
Cantonese dialect of the Chinese language. Tai, in Cantonese, which
is equivalent to Ta, in Yiinnancsc, means great. I have secured a copy
of the history of Nan-chao in Chinese, and, in it, I find that, in the
seventh to the eleventh centuries of the Christian era, the Shans had six
kingdoms, whose names all begin with Ta or Tai, meaning great.
They are Ta-Mong-Kuo, Ta-chang-ho-kuo, Ta-t'ion-hsing-kuo, Ta-yi-
ning-kuo, Ta-li-kuo and Ta-chung-kuo. They were founded respectively
in the years 650, 903, 928, 929, 938 and 1095 A.D. There is a great
probability, almost amounting to certainty, that, to the surrounding
tribes including the Mons in China, the Shans were known by the
appellation of Ta, in Yiinnanesc, and Tai, in Cantonese, which forms
the first syllable of the names of their six principal kingdoms."

Since one of the old names for the Shans was Yau, meaning great,
and Tai is the exact equivalent, this history of the name is acceptable.


As a brief description of the physical features of the
western strip of Shan country nothing better can be found or
made than that given by Sir George Scott. He says : " The
country between Assam and China is the point from which a
number of great rivers start southwards in parallel courses,
at first in a very narrow span of longitude, and afterwards
spreading out into a fan which covers the country from the
Yellow Sea to the Bay of Bengal. They all run in deep
narrow rifts, and the ridges which separate them continue
to run southwards almost as far as the rivers themselves
and in chains almost as sharply defined as the river channels.
These mountain ranges widen out as the river valleys widen
and lose their height as tributary streams break them up
into herring-bone spines and spurs, but they still preserve
the same north and south direction, though here and there
they re-enter and form the series of flat-bottomed valleys,
or wide straths, which make up the Shan States. Of all the
rivers, the Salween most steadily preserves its original
character, and flows swiftly through a deep narrow gorge,
between high ranges from its source till it reaches the plain
land, which it has itself piled up over the sea in the course of

" The Salween runs nearly through the centre of the
British Shan States and they are situated towards the fringe
and nearly in the centre of the fan, which has for its ribs the
Brahmaputra, the Irrawaddy, the Salween, the Me-k'awng
and the Yangtse. The Salween with its mountain banks has
always formed a serious barrier, so that the branches of the
Tai race on either side difl^er in dialect, in name, and even in
written character, but their general features difl^er no more
than the appearance of the country, which is simply a
plateau roughened by mountain chains splitting up and
running into one another, while still preserving their north
and south tendency. The general height of the plateau is
between 2,000 and 3,000 feet, but the cross ridges and the
drainage cut it up into a series of valleys or plains, some
long and narrow, some rounded like a cup, some flattened
like a saucer, some extensive enough to suggest the Irrawaddy
valley on a small scale. It is no doubt this physical


character of the country which has affected the national
character and has prevented the Tai from living at peace
with one another and uniting to resist the encroachments of
ambitious neighbours. It also made obvious and easy for
the conqueror the old maxim divide et impera, the more so
since the hills everywhere are inhabited by various tribes all
more or less wild. The Tai are seldom found away from the
alluvial basins and do not look upon themselves as a hill
people at all." *

It is impossible at the present time to get at the exact
number of Shans in Indo-China. The census for 1911 gives
the total population of the Shan States as 1,359,154, of whom
996,420 are Shans, or one million in round numbers.
Outside of the Shan States there are in Burma many Shan
settlements, from far away Mergui in the south to farther
away Kham-ti in the north. Very considerable settlements
may be found in Thaton, near Rangoon, at Toungoo and
Pyinmana, and in other places ; some of these may be
descendants of Shan communities in the days of Wareru, of
whom more may be said later on ; more are comparatively
recent comers who fled from various Shan states to escape
from Burman misrule and exactions to find protection under
a more just and stable government under the British Raj.
In the basin of the Irrawaddy, from Katha to Myitkyina, the
population is still very largely Shan in race, though many of
these Shans have taken to Burman dress and to Burman
speech, yet any man familiar with the Shan language would
be surprised, if he should visit the people in their homes^
to find how many of them are still using the Shan language;
besides these there are numerous recent Shan settlements
near Bhamo and in the valley of the Taping River. In the old
state of Mogaung and along the Chindwin the Shans have
by no means disappeared, though they are but a small
remnant of once large populations.

The same is true of Kham-ti, though the exodus of the
Shans may now be arrested by British administration and
protection. As the Ahom Shans of Assam are now largely

• The Gazetteer of Upper Burma and the Shan States.


returned in census reports as Hindus, their real number is a
matter of conjecture, excepting only the comparatively
recent Shan settlements there of Shan refugees from the
Upper Chindwin and the Kham-ti valleys. A total of two
hundred thousand, or perhaps a quarter of a million, may be
a moderate figure for the whole batch. The Shans of Siam
proper are given at five million, and the Laos of northern
Siam at three and a half million, or a total of eight and a
half million for Siam. Two million of Shans is supposed to
be a conservative estimate of their numbers in the French
state of Tongking. Dr. Dodd and Mr. Freeman, already
mentioned, say : " Roman Catholics assert that nearly one-
half of the population in areas (of south-western China) that
total twenty million are Tai." "All authorities," they add,
" concede that the Catholic fathers know southern China."
If such claims as " the whole of Kuang-hsi and Kuang-tung
provinces are Tai, ethnologically and linguistically," are
even approximately correct, from seven to eight million
would be a conservative estimate for the number of Shans
in south-western China. If the smaller figure be used, this
would give us a total of eighteen and three-fourths million
for the whole of Indo-China. This does not take into
account the millions of Hakkas who would not own that
they are Shans, though the name is written large upon their
faces, or of other millions of Chinamen of southern China
who are largely Shan by race, but have adopted Chinese
speech and customs ; just as other millions in northern
China are Tartars with a Chinese veneer, and who also are
ashamed to confess it. If the higher figure of the Catholic
fathers be accepted, it would round out a full twenty million
of Shans for Indo-China, and still have a few left over for
good measure. Some of these figures are scarcely more
than conjectures ; but it is safe to say that the Shans, in the
Indo-Chinese peninsula, outnumber the Burmans two to
one ; that they outnumber the population of British North
America three to one ; of Australia five to one ; and of Cape
Colony ten to one. There are about four times as many
Shans as there are people in either Portugal, Holland,
Turkey (before the late war), or Sweden; and about ten


times as many as there are in Greece, Norway or Denmark.
This is the remnant that remains of the Shans, notwith-
standing that more milHons of them have probably been
absorbed into the so-called Chinese race, south of the Yangtse,
than of all other racial elements combined. This has had a
mighty influence upon the Chinese race, upon the Chinese
language, upon the Chinese religion, and upon the Chinese
characteristics. The Shans are worth studying.



I. — Conditions in General

As a matter of fact, we know nothing of the origin of any
race. What we do know, or think we know, as the case
may be, is a certain or uncertain point in the line of its
development. Take the Chinese, for instance. They who

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