The Shan of southeast Asia.
A cluster of 7 groups in 4 countries.
The Chinese Shan of China, Laos, and Myanmar. The Shan of China and Thailand.
The Burmese Shan of Myanmar. The Khamti Shan of Myanmar.
The Shan belong to a larger group of people known as the Dai. Before the time of Christ, the Dai spread themselves across southern China and other parts of Southeast Asia, living in separate tribes. In the twelfth century A.D., the tribes united to establish a local regime, known as the "Jinglong Golden Hall Kingdom." However, the Dai people as a whole were never independent from the Chinese throne. In the centuries before the Communist takeover of 1949, the Dai tribes slowly began to separate and form distinctive traditions and languages. Later, under Communist rule, the Dai who remained in China lived in self-ruling districts. The Shan settled as rice farmers in the Dehong region and eventually evolved into two groups: the lowland farmers or Shui Dai and the mountain nomads or Han Dai.
What are their lives like?
The Shan of China have been heavily influenced by the Burmese culture. For example, many men wear sarongs like the Burmese; the Buddhist temples in their villages keep Burmese time, not Chinese time; and the Burmese and Chinese Shan merchants readily exchange goods and ideas.
The Shan have many interesting courting traditions. One example is the "purse throwing game," in which a young woman throws a small purse to the young man of her affections. If he has similar romantic interests, he catches the purse. If not, he allows it to fall to the ground. A more modern tradition takes place in a movie theater. When the room is darkened, the couple shine flashlights at each other. Wedding ceremonies are usually held at either home and are conducted by the local Buddhist monk. In some regions, the bride moves in with the groom's family; in other areas, the groom moves in with the bride's family.
The traditional Shan house built on stilts is no longer a common sight. Today, the poorest villagers live in bamboo homes made with either wood, thatch, or aluminum roofs. Middle and upper class villagers live in cement or brick homes with wooden or tile floors. The upper class families may even own modern appliances such as Japanese VCRs. Houses are decorated with clocks, paintings, family photos, and colorful pictures of celebrities, animals, or nature scenes.
Their staple food is rice, often sweetened and mixed with a bean paste and served inside a pineapple. They also eat meat, poultry, and various vegetables, and drink Chinese tea, beer, Coca-Cola, or other soft drinks.
Men wear button-down shirts with pants or sarong-type skirts. Some men have tattoos on their arms and chests. Women of all ages wear heavy, yellow make-up to protect their skin from the sun. They also wear jewelry every day. While single village women wear brightly colored dresses or sarongs with tightly fitted blouses, married village women wear more muted colors; older women often pin up their hair. Sandals and flip-flops are popular footwear. More modern styles are worn by those living in or near cities, but even there the women generally do not wear pants.
Music and dance are a major part of festivals and other important events. At festivals, the men often perform on stage dressed in the traditional Chinese Shan costume: brightly colored, tight-fitting jackets and loose pants that cling to their ankles. The women dance with graceful movements, sometimes using peacock feathers or flowers. Elephant-leg drums and stringed, guitar-like instruments are played.
What are their beliefs?
What are their needs?
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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