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June 10 2010 5 10 /06 /June /2010 08:22

Kachin Rangers: Allied guerrillas in WW II Burma
Dec, 2002
by C.H. Dr. Briscoe

    Early in 1942, the outlook for the Allies was grim in the China-Burma-India theater, or CBI. The Japanese navy had driven the British navy from the Java Sea, Singapore had fallen in February; and the Japanese were simultaneously attacking the Dutch East Indies (to seize the oil refineries and rubber plantations) and Burma (to block the British land connection to China).

    Because the Burma Road was the only Allied land bridge to China, General Chiang Kai-shek had sent the Chinese Expeditionary Force to Burma in mid-January 1942 to help Great Britain stop the Japanese offensive there. United States Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson chose Lieutenant General Joseph W. Stilwell to head U.S. forces in the OBI theater and to keep the Chinese fighting.

    However, by the time Stilwell arrived in Burma in March 1942, the Japanese had already captured Rangoon and were advancing north along the railway toward Mandalay and Myitkyina. An unexpected Japanese flank attack out of Thailand crushed the 1st Burmese Division at Yenangyuang and permitted the Japanese to concentrate their forces. They destroyed the 55th Chinese Division at Loilemis and blocked any attempts by Allied forces to escape to China via the Burma Road.

    Having only two options--walking out of Burma and into India, or becoming a prisoner of war--the newly-arrived American commander concentrated on saving his U.S. military staff and a group of American, British, Chinese, and Indian civilians and Burmese nurses--about 100 people. The 60-year-old Stilwell spent the first 19 days of May 1942 leading his entourage some 200 miles from Wuntho to Imphal, India, following dirt roads, rafting rivers, and climbing the forest trails across the eastern razorback mountains of India.

    Although Stilwell escaped the Japanese, the critical Burma link in the Allied theater had been lost. India was Great Britain's last bastion in Asia. Ramgarh in India's Bihar province became the major training ground for Allied forces in the CBI theater. Anxious to get back into the fight, but facing a demoralized British army and the awesome task of building another Chinese force, Stilwell prepared for the future by building a supply road to Ledo to support an invasion of Burma.

    Newly formed Chinese infantry divisions were flown across "the Hump" to be trained at Ramgarh by an American cadre for service with the British 14th Army. The British provided barracks, food and silver rupees to pay the Chinese troops, while the Americans furnished radios, rifles and machine guns, artillery, tanks, trucks and instructors. In addition to teaching infantry, tank, and artillery tactics, the American soldiers changed truck tires and loaded pack mules.

    During the Chinese train-up and the British reconstitution of forces, bill tribes in northern Burma who refused to be subjugated -- predominantly the Kachins, but also the Karens, the Chins, the Kukis and the Nagas -- had been fighting a guerrilla war against the Japanese occupation forces. Other Burmese tribes, the Burmese and the Shans, welcomed the Japanese and openly collaborated with the Japanese secret police (Kempei) against the minority hifl tribes. The Allies supported the guerrillas from Fort Hertz, the only remaining Allied base in Burma that had an airfield. The three regiments of guerrillas -- the Karen Rifles, the Kachin Rifles, and the Kachin Levies -- were natural jungle fighting units, but they lacked the tactical training and the modern equipment that were needed to effectively battle Japan's mechanized infantry and armor.

    It took Major General Orde Wingate to show that the Japanese army could be beaten and to rekindle an offensive spirit among the Allies in India. Wingate had led a force of 80 British soldiers and 1,000 Ethiopians and Sudanese across 600 miles of desert to restore Emperor Haile Selassie to his throne in Addis Ababa in 1941. In April 1942, Wingate arrived in India to organize guerrilla levies against the Japanese in Burma. But rather than use the Kachin resistance, Wingate chose to lead a long-range penetration group, composed of British regulars and colonial units, behind Japanese lines to exploit the vulnerabilities of the occupation force with unconventional warfare.

    Wingate's force, the 77th Indian Infantry Brigade, the "Chindits," was formed from the 13th Battalion, King's Liverpool Regiment; the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Ghurka Rifles; the 2nd Battalion, Burma Rifles; and the 142nd Commando. After extensive training at Ramgarh, the 3,000 Chindits moved more than 200 miles behind Japanese lines in Burma. Relying solely on air assets for resupply and medical evacuation, the Chindits ambushed Japanese patrols, attacked outposts and supply depots, destroyed bridges and repeatedly cut the Myitkyina railroad for more than three months. Afterward, they dispersed into small groups that either returned to India or escaped to China.

    Fewer than half the raiders returned -- malnutrition, combat fatigue, disease, death and wounds had thinned their ranks. Lieutenant General William J. Slim, commander of the British 14th Army, criticized Wingate's effort as an expensive failure, but Winston Churchill praised Wingate's genius and brought him to the Quebec Conference in August of 1943. There, Wingate proposed a second, larger Chindit expedition and suggested that the U.S. Office of Strategic Services, or OSS, expand its guerrilla-warfare activities into Burma.

    The existing resistance of the Kachins and other hill tribes dovetailed perfectly with the British plan to support small units operating behind Japanese lines (the plan was called "Guerrilla Forces--Plan V"). In August 1943, a British V-Force team flew to Fort Hertz to reconstitute the Kachin Levies. Stilwell also diverted to Fort Hertz eight officers and 40 sergeants (radiomen, cryptographers and medics) from the American soldiers who had been assigned to train the Chinese infantry divisions. From that remote outpost, they were to expand the partisan war in Burma by advising and supporting the Kachins in conducting guerrilla warfare behind Japanese lines.

    The V-Force recruited the hill tribesmen and trained them to collect intelligence; to provide early warnings of air attacks; to recover downed Allied aircrews; to conduct ambushes, reconnaissance and flank patrols; and to scout for conventional forces. To complement their experience as infantrymen, the V-Force advisers had acquired skills in language, medicine, demolition, radio and cryptology. They transmitted coded messages to relay their daily intelligence reports and to request air resupply and medical evacuation. British units operated from Ledo north to Fort Hertz, from Kohima to Chindwin, and in the mountains west of Imphal. American teams worked south to Myitkyina, sending their reports to Ledo and to Tagap-Ga, their forward logistics base.

    The successes of the V-Force Kachin Rangers and the Kachin Levies, as well as Stilwell's failure to garner support from the Chinese and from the British army for a conventional offensive against Burma, led Stilwell to expand his guerrilla operations. He directed OSS Detachment 101 to establish its headquarters m Assam, in northeastern India. Det 101's assignment was to plan and conduct operations against the roads and the railroad into Myitkyina, in order to deny the Japanese the use of the Myitkyina airfield. Det 101 would coordinate its operations directly with the British. Det 101's Lieutenant Colonel Carl Eifler was given a free hand in directing sabotage and guerrilla operations. All Stilwell wanted to hear was "booms from the Burmese jungle." By November 1943, at his base in the Naga Hills of northern Assam, Eifler was preparing the first group of Allied agents for Burma.

    By the end of 1943, Det 101 had established six Kachin operating bases behind the lines in northern Burma: three east of the Irrawaddy River and three west of it. Each base commander recruited and trained small Kachin elements for his personal protection, for internal defense, and for conducting limited operations--principally sabotage and small ambushes. The guerrilla forces were uniformed and equipped with air-supplied M-2 .30-cal. carbines, submachine guns (.45-cal. Thompson and 9 mm Marlin), .30-cal. light machine guns, ammunition and demolitions. Japanese arms and equipment in northern Burma were a decade behind the times, and the superior firepower of the guerrilla units was key to their success. Each Kachin camp had an intelligence officer, usually an American officer, whose principal duties were to interrogate captured enemy soldiers or agents, debrief guerrilla patrols, and direct operations of the better-educated Kachins (those schooled by Christian missionaries), who acted as low-level intelligence agents reporting information by runners or via bamboo-container message drops.

    Det 101 recruited potential agents from the Kachin and Karen guerrillas. The candidates slipped through Japanese lines to reach the airfield at Fort Hertz, from which they were flown to Assam for three to five months of intensive intelligence and communications training. The Kachins proved to be particularly adept at continuous-wave radio communications--most were able to send and receive 25-45 words per minute. While most returned to their former bases, a few parachuted into new areas to organize independent operations and to collect and report weather data to the 10th AF Weather Service. This data was critical to air resupply and daily "over the Hump" C-46 and C-47 transport missions to China.

    Despite reports of successful guerrilla operations and the volume of intelligence coming from the field, Stilwell remained skeptical about Det 101's effectiveness until Det 101's Major Ray Peers flew two Kachin leaders to Stilwell's headquarters. When the Kachins told Stilwell how many Japanese they had killed in various ambushes and raids, he asked for proof, thinking that 200 miles behind enemy lines, they could have spent little time counting Japanese dead and wounded. The two Kachin leaders were unperturbed. They unhooked bamboo tubes from their belts and dumped the contents of the tubes on Stilwell's field desk. When asked what the contents were, the Kachins replied: "Japanese ears. Divide by two and that is how many we have killed." In the Burmese hill tribes, ears taken in combat denoted a warrior's courage. It was sufficient proof for Stilwell. But after the Kachins departed, Peers received a lecture on the Rules of Land Warfare. It took months to convince the Kachins that body counts would suffice.

    Stilwell's opinion of special operations rose. He had to admire Det 101 and the Kachins, because unlike the British and Chinese forces, they were fighting the Japanese and providing valuable intelligence. In the late summer of 1943, Stilwell approved plans for the fall-winter offensive of 1943-44, a three-pronged drive into Burma.

    Stilwell would launch the first prong, the north Burma campaign, in late December, in an attempt to seize the airfield and the rail terminus at Myitkyina before the spring monsoons. Success would seal the winter campaign with a victory; put Stilwell halfway to China, and break the Japanese blockade. Stilwell would lead the 22nd and 38th Chinese Divisions,

    two of the three Chinese divisions training at Ramgarh. The Chinese divisions would be supported by Merrill's Marauders and the British and American Kachin elements. By abandoning fixed supply lines and making his force dependent on air resupply, Stilwell hoped to eliminate the possibility of retreat by the untested Chinese troops. Stilwell planned to push the force 200 miles through jungle, through swamp and over mountains to conquer an entrenched, desperate enemy. Fearing that the Chinese might falter without an American vanguard, Stilwell put Merrill's Marauders in the lead.

    The second prong would be a second division-sized Chindit expedition led by Wingate in central Burma, far to the south of Stilwell's force. The Chindits, with the support of the 1st Air Commando, led by Colonels Philip Cochran and Robert Allison, were to launch a glider-borne assault into three landing zones. The third prong would consist of a drive by the 14th British Army into central Burma behind the Chindits.

    On the map, the Allied campaign for northern Burma wriggled tortuously from one unpronounceable name to another, but on the ground, the soldiers faced rain, heat, mud, sickness, snakes, snipers and ambushes. In February, the Marauders wheeled about on the eastern flank of the main Chinese advance, moving through the jungle to attack each Japanese defensive position from the rear. The Kachin Levies at Fort Hertz guarded the rear of the advance as Stilwell's main force descended southward. Some 3,000 Kachin Rangers of Det 101 assisted the Marauder battalions.

    Lieutenant James L. Tilly's detachment of Kachin Rangers scouted for the 1st Marauder Battalion and provided its flank guard. Captain Vincent Curl's 300 Kachin Rangers scouted for the 2nd and 3rd Marauder battalions, guarded their eastern flanks, ambushed Japanese patrols and destroyed retreating Japanese forces. During the march, the Kachin Rangers also rescued two downed pilots from the 1st Air Commando.

    The presence of native jungle fighters instilled confidence among the Marauders. Lieutenant Charlton Ogburn Jr. declared, "Often we had a Kachin patrol with us, and we never, if possible, moved without Kachin guides. The Kachin Rangers not only knew the country and the trails, but they also knew better than anyone, except the enemy, where the Japanese outposts were located. Waylaying Japanese in their artful ambushes, they made us think of a Robin Hood version of the Boy Scouts, clad (when in uniform) in green shirts and shorts. Some of the warriors could not have been more than 12 years old. While most carried the highly lethal burp guns (Thompson and Marlin submachine guns) slung around their necks, some carried ancient muzzle-loading, fowling pieces." All the Kachins also carried their traditional machete-like short swords, called dahs.

    In April, when his Chinese division commanders stalled (blaming their failure to destroy the Japanese 18th Division on bad weather and combat delays), Stilwell took a desperate risk. On April 21, keeping the two Chinese divisions directed toward the Mogaung Valley to assault Kamaing, Stilwell launched a separate strike force of 1,400 Americans, 4,000 Chinese, and 600 Kachins across the Kumon mountains to seize the Myitkyina airstrip in a lightning push.

    On April 25, the 5307th split into three assault columns: the 1st Marauder Battalion with Kachin Rangers leading the Chinese 150th Infantry Regiment; the 3rd Marauder Battalion with Kachin Rangers leading the Chinese 88th Infantry Regiment; and a smaller third force, composed of the 2nd Marauder Battalion (which was at 50-percent strength), 300 Kachin Rangers, and a battery of 75 mm pack howitzers. The force was to preserve radio silence until it was within a 48-hour march of Myitkyina. Then, it was to radio a code word to alert the 10th USAAF to fly reinforcements into the secure airstrip.

    The Kachins believed that the steep Kumon mountain range could not be crossed by pack animals in wet weather, but Stilwell was determined that the strike force would try. At Arang, one of the Kachin guides suggested that they follow an old, unused track over the mountains. Greased with mud, the trail proved all but impassable. The soldiers of the Myitkyina strike force pulled clambering mules and, at times, crawled upward on their hands and knees, covering only 4-5 miles a day.

    The force lost half its pack animals. With each lost mule went 200 pounds of supplies. Colonel Henry L. Kinnison Jr., commander of the 3rd Marauder Battalion, and several of his men died of mite typhus. When the 2nd and 3rd battalions stopped to wait for rations, Colonel Charles N. Hunter's 1st Battalion team forged ahead, with the Kachins leading. When the only scout who knew the trail was bitten by a poisonous viper, the medics applied a tourniquet close to the bite and sucked most of the poison from the wound. Strapped aboard Hunter's horse, the Kachin managed to guide the Marauder task force behind the Japanese lines undetected.

    On May 14, Hunter sent the 48-hour alert code to Stilwell. The Kachin scouts had slipped into Myitkyina, discovered no evidence that the Japanese were on increased alert, and reported that the airstrip was lightly guarded. The 1st Marauder Battalion attacked the ferry terminal on the Irawaddy River as the 150th Chinese Regiment seized the airfield to open the way for air-landed reinforcements. General Lord Mountbatten attributed the undetected crossing of the Kumon mountain range to Stilwell's bold leadership; he attributed the capture of the Myitkyina airstrip to the courage and endurance of the American, Chinese and Kachin troops.

    The next day, however, the Chinese made a double envelopment of Myitkyina that turned into a debacle. During the attack, the two Chinese regiments inflicted such heavy casualties on each other that they had to be withdrawn. The setback gave the Japanese time to reinforce the town's defenses. As the monsoons descended in earnest on northern Burma (bringing 175 inches of rain), the lightly-held airfield was hit by heavy Japanese counterattacks and artillery barrages almost daily. The battle for the town of Myitkyina dragged on, consuming June and July before it finally ended in early August 1944.

    By then, Det 101 had shifted most of its elements 100 miles south. There Det 101 was directing more than 100 intelligence operations and had more than 350 agents in the field. As the 14th British Army began its drive into central Burma (the third prong of the attack), Det 101 units were attacking Japanese lines of communication as far south as Toungoo.

    However, between the Myitkyina-Mandalay-Rangoon railway and the 14th British Army lay a 250-mile gap that contained a series of parallel north-south corridors. Those corridors provided natural approaches to the Ledo Road. The Kachin Rangers protected the gap, fending off several major Japanese probes there. Orders called for the Kachin Rangers to withdraw and inactivate once the 14th British Army had captured Lashio and Mandalay, but heavy fighting in southern China ended those plans. The bulk of the Chinese and American forces in Burma were flown to China.

    Lieutenant General Dan Sultan, Stilwell's successor, directed Detachment 101 to use the Kachin Rangers to mop up the southern Shan States and to seize the Taunggyi-Kengtung road, a Japanese escape route to Thailand. The Kachins were tired and a long way from home, but 1,500 of them volunteered for the mission; the remainder were given transportation home. Using the Kachin Rangers as a nucleus, Det 101 organized a 3,000-man guerrilla force of Kachin, Karen, Ghurka, Shan, Chinese, and Burmese forces into four line battalions.

    The Japanese were not ready to be "mopped-up" by four battalions of guerrillas who were trying to fight conventionally behind the lines. As a result, some of the bloodiest fighting for the Kachins took place during those final months. Although the Det 101 guerrillas killed more than 1,200 Japanese, they suffered more casualties (including 300 killed in action) during those final months than during any other period in the war.

    Before the mission in the Shan States, some of the Kachin Rangers had already been reassigned to support the newest long-range penetration force, the 5332nd Provisional Brigade, known as the Mars Task Force. When Merrill's Marauders were deactivated Aug. 10, 1944, seven days after the capture of Myitkyina, the Mars Task Force, commanded by Brigadier General John P. Miley, assumed its mission for long-range penetration operations in Burma. The Kachin Rangers fought with the task force at Bhamo and Lashio, the terminus of the Burma Road.

    Before OSS Detachment 101 was inactivated July 12, 1945, Lieutenant Colonel Ray Peers conducted a formal "mustering out" of the Kachin Rangers during their victory celebration in Simlumkaba. Blueribboned CMA medals (Citation for Military Assistance) and silver bars with Det 101's lightning logo and "Burma Campaign" engraved on them were presented to all Kachin Rangers. Those Kachins who had "endured the cruelest tests of battle" were awarded captured Japanese samurai swords and sniper rifles.

    An excerpt from Detachment 101's Presidential Unit Citation, awarded for the unit's capture of strategic Japanese strong points of Lawsawk, Pangtara and Loilem in Burma's Central Shan States from May 8 to June 15, 1945, characterizes the warrior ethos of the Kachin Rangers: "American officers and men recruited, organized, and trained 3,200 Burmese natives entirely within enemy territory. They successfully conducted a coordinated four-battalion offensive against important strategic objectives defended by more than 10,000 battle-seasoned Japanese troops. Locally known as 'Kachin Rangers,' Detachment 101 and its Kachin troops became a ruthless striking force, continually on the offensive against the veteran Japanese 18th and 56th divisions. Throughout the offensive, Kachin Rangers were equipped with nothing heavier than mortars. They relied only on air-dropped supplies and by alternating frontal attacks with guerrilla tactics, the Kachin Rangers maintained constant contact with the enemy and persistently cut hi m down and demoralized him."

    Although they were cited officially only by the Americans, the Kachins were heavily involved in the heterogenous China-Burma-India theater. They fought as levies with the British from Fort Hertz; supported Wingate's two Chindit     expeditions; fought, collected intelligence, reported weather and rescued downed Allied aircrews for OSS Detachment 101; fought with Merrill's Marauders and the Chinese, and fought with the Mars Task Force.

    Recent Army special-operations lessons learned from Afghanistan reveal some commonalities with lessons learned by the Kachin Rangers:

    * The relationships established by ethnic Kachins with missionaries and with British officials in the colonial administration were similar to those built by government agencies with exiled minority group leaders in Afghanistan.

    * Air resupply, critical for equipping and resupplying guerrilla forces in enemy territory in the mid-1940s, was equally important in Afghanistan in 2002.

    * Technical training of indigenous troops continues to be extremely difficult in areas in which illiteracy is high. Almost all Kachin and Karen radio operators who achieved a send-and-receive rate of 25-45 words per minute in 1943 had        received some education from missionaries.

    * Advising and training guerrilla forces continues to be a valuable mission. Indigenous peoples are the best sources of local intelligence and information; and if properly trained, they can assist with the rescue of downed aviators.

    * In 1943, language was as much an obstacle to communicating with and training indigenous groups as it is today.

    * Respect of culture, customs and social structure were as critical in Burma during World War II as they are in Afghanistan today.

    * The Western world's Law of Land Warfare continues to be difficult to explain to partisans from other cultures.

    * Guerrilla elements operate best in areas with which they are most familiar; Kachins tasked to fight Japanese in the southern Shan States faced the same problems that Allied conventional forces encountered-- uncooperative and       suspicious locals, a lack of familiarity with the terrain, traditional ethnic hostility between groups, different languages and different customs.

    * Ethnic-group boundaries, while not marked on maps, are recognized by the different groups, whether in Afghanistan today or in Burma in 1944.

    * The American cause is not necessarily the guerrilla cause, nor is it the reason that ethnic groups band together against a common enemy.

    * Finally, an OSS Washington staff officer reported that the Kachin Rangers were the "most trigger happy group of armed men I have ever seen, [but] we still kept them loaded down with all the extra ammunition we could find because        they were fighting."


    British Air Ministry Wings of the Phoenix: The Official Story of the Air War in Burma (London: His Majesty's Stationery Office, 1949).

    Dunlop, Richard. Behind Japanese Lines: With the OSS in Burma (New York: Rand McNally, 1972).

    Fletcher, James A. "Kachin Rangers: Fighting with Burma's Guerrilla Warriors," in Special Warfare (July 1988), Secret War in Burma (Atlanta: 1997), and interview by Dr. C.H. Briscoe, Austell, Ga., 18 September 2002.

    Hilsman, Roger. American Guerrilla: My War Behind Japanese Lines (New York: Brasseys, 1990).

    Hogan, David W. Jr. "MacArthur, Stilwell, and Special Operations in the War Against Japan," in Parameters (Spring 1995).

    Ogburn, Chariton Jr. The Marauders (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1956).

    Peers, William R. "Guerrilla Operations in Northern Burma," in Military Review (June 1948), "Intelligence Operations of OSS Detachment 101," in Studies in Intelligence 4:3 (1960) reprinted in a special OSS 60th Anniversary Edition (June     2002); Peers and Dean Brelis. Behind the Burma Road: The Story of America's Most Successful Guerrilla Force (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1963), and Peers, "Guerrilla Operations in Burma," in Military Review (October 1964).

    Romanus, Charles F., and Riley Suaderland. United States Army in World War II: China-Burma-India Theater: Time Runs Out in CBI. Washington, D.C.: Office of the Chief of Military History, U.S. Army, 1959.

    Smith, R. Harris. OSS: The Secret History of America's First Central Intelligence Agency (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1972).

    Stilwell, Joseph W., and Theodore W. White. The Stilwell Papers (New York: Schocken Books, 1972).

    Taylor, Thomas. Born of War (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1988).

    Tuchman, Barbara W. Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-45 (New York: Macmillan, 1971).

    U.S. War Department. Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Army Ground Forces. Report of Combat Experiences with OSS (25 September 1943), by Lieutenant Colonel Jack R. Shannon.

    Dr. C.H. Briscoe is the command historian for the US. Army Special Operations Command.


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June 9 2010 4 09 /06 /June /2010 15:55


World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples -

Myanmar/Burma : Kachin


The Kachin encompass a number of ethnic groups speaking almost a dozen distinct languages belonging to the Tibeto-Burman linguistic family who inhabit the same region in the northern part of Burma on the border with China, mainly in Kachin State. Strictly speaking, these languages are not necessarily closely related, and the term Kachin at times is used to refer specifically to the largest of the groups (the Kachin or Jingpho/Jinghpaw) or to the whole grouping of Tibeto-Burman speaking minorities in the region, which include the Maru, Lisu, Lashu, etc.

The exact Kachin population is unknown due to the absence of reliable census in Burma for more than 60 years. Most estimates suggest there may in the vicinity of 1 million Kachin in the country. The Kachin, as well as the Chin, are one of Burma's largest Christian minorities: though once again difficult to assess, it is generally thought that between two-thirds and 90 per cent of Kachin are Christians, with others following animist practices of Buddhists.

Historical context

It is generally thought that the Kachin gradually moved south from their ancestral land in the Tibetan plateau through Yunnan in southern China to arrive in the northern region of what would become Burma sometime during the fifteenth or sixteenth centuries, making the Kachin relative newcomers.

Their position in this borderland part of South-East Asia meant that the Kachin were often outside of the sphere of influence of Burman kings. Their strength was such by the Third Anglo-Burmese War of 1885 that, while the British were taking Mandalay, the Kachin were getting ready to take advantage of the Burman kingdom's weakness to attack and take over Mandalay themselves. Nevertheless, most Kachin areas were administered by the British as a part of the Frontier Administration rather than Burma proper. Kachin traditional chiefs (duwas) continued to hold sway in their areas under the British administration.

The Kachin were one of the ethnic minorities which participated in and signed the Panglong Agreement of 1947, and as such they received in-principle approval for the creation of a separate Kachin State, which eventuated in the first constitution of newly independent Burma. For a time this was sufficient, and there was no immediate insurgency against the government of Burma.

There were some tensions between ethnic Kachin and the Burman-controlled government, but in the main the Kachin stayed outside of the ethnic insurgencies soon after independence. This was to be dramatically altered after the declaration of Buddhism as the religion of Burma in 1961, which was perceived as an affront by the mainly Christian Kachin, leading directly – with other grievances – to the creation of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and its military wing, the Kachin Independent Army (KIA). The final straw seems to have been General Ne Win's military coup in 1962, as the President-elect at the time was a Kachin, Sama Duwa Sinwa Nawng.

The post-1962 period also saw an increased 'Burmanization' of the army and institutions of the state, and with it a stronger sense of ethnic Kachin being discriminated against and excluded by government authorities in areas such as employment and economic opportunities, all of which continued to fuel the insurgency in Kachin areas.

Whereas the KIO initially was able to control much of Kachin State in the early years of the insurgency, this began to change after 1988 as the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) began to conclude ceasefire agreements with neighbouring groups, and subsequently redeployed and concentrated military forces against Kachin rebels. As a result, by 1994 the KIO decided to enter into a ceasefire with the junta, which allowed it some degree of local administrative control in pockets of Kachin State, though all of the land and natural resources remain under the authority of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) government.

Current issues

Events after 1994 are a mixed bag, with some economic projects being initiated in Kachin State and some degree of latitude granted by the SPDC to the KIO – at least initially – which began to permit the emergence of local Kachin NGOs and even the tentative involvement in the area of some international NGOs. However, over the past 13 years, unsustainable and unaccountable logging and mining activities have taken their toll on the natural environment of Kachin State, with reports in 2007 pointing the finger at Burma's military junta which, for example, has given permits for gold-mining in the Hugawng Valley Tiger Reserve in northern Kachin State leading to the displacement of thousands of local inhabitants. These and other similar activities appear to favour selected companies and individuals closely connected to the ruling regime, and at the same time have an ethnic component as ethnic Burman are encouraged to work and settle in some of the areas where the mining and logging activities occur.

Throughout the state, Kachin women and children are being driven by increasing poverty into the sex trade in Yangon (Rangoon) and China.

The Burmese military presence has in fact increased dramatically, from 26 battalions in 1994 to almost 50 in 2007, bringing at the same time an increase in the allegations of human rights violations and atrocities such as land confiscations (with little or no compensation), forced labour and sexual violence. The SPDC appears to be appointing ethnic Burman to almost all administrative positions in towns such as Danai, leading to the virtual elimination of any use of the Kachin language in local affairs. In early 2007, four Kachin schoolgirls who claimed to have been gang raped by Burmese soldiers were found guilty of prostitution and jailed.

In addition to the same type of violations of human rights experienced by many of the country's ethnic minorities, the Kachin still appear to be targeted specifically by Burmese authorities because of their Christian beliefs. There were continuing reports in 2005 and 2006 of Kachin being subjected to conversion activities and discriminatory treatment by authorities because of their religion, such as rewards if they convert to Buddhism or exemption from forced labour, lower prices for basic foodstuffs such as rice and greater educational opportunities. There were also claims in 2006 of Kachin Christian parents being offered free schooling for their children at Buddhist monasteries, and of Burmese soldiers being encouraged by authorities to marry Kachin women to convert them to Buddhism.

There appear to be few Kachin who can be promoted to the higher echelons of the army or government institutions; permission to repair or construct churches is seldom granted (and in some locations Buddhist monasteries are built instead) and many of the more visible signs of Christianity in Kachin areas, such as large crosses in high, visible locations have over the years been destroyed and are not allowed to be replaced.

Topics: Religious persecution, Religious discrimination, Ethnic persecution, SGBV, Forced labour, Expropriation of property, Ceasefire, Militias, Right to self-determination, Animist, Religious minorities, Christian, Ethnic minorities, Kachin,





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June 4 2010 6 04 /06 /June /2010 10:51



The War on Kachin Forests

By John S. Moncreif and Htun Myat/Kunming

One of the world’s "biodiversity hotspots" is under siege, as a growing number of business interests seek to cash in the "peace" in northern Burma’s Kachin State. A project is in progress to build a number of roads in Kachin State in return for huge logging concessions. While improving and expanding the infrastructure in Kachin State is much needed, the impact of this deal on the environment could prove to be disastrous.

A recent agreement involves the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the New Democratic Army-Kachin (NDA-K), the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) and a Chinese construction company. The middleman in the deal is the Kachin Jadeland company, owned by Kachin businessmen Yup Zau Hkawng. The agreement stipulates that the Chinese company will build roads leading from Myitkyina to Sumprabum and, eventually, Putao, from Myitkyina to Bhamo, and from Wai Maw (near Myitkyina) to the Chinese border near Kampaiti. In return for building these roads, the Kachin Jadeland company and the Chinese company have been given huge logging concessions deep in Kachin State.


There are two concession areas, one located between the Mali Hka and the N’mai Hka rivers (the whole triangle-shaped area), and the other one between the railway line from Myitkyina to Mandalay to the road leading from Myitkyina to Bhamo. This area is in the heart of the Kachin State and has never been subject to large-scale logging. This project is the most massive logging effort ever undertaken in Burma, according to one observer. But, according to a source, the deal with the Chinese construction company has been terminated and Yup Zau Hkawng is negotiating with a Malaysian-Chinese company to do the job.


Another Kachin source confirms that companies from China, Malaysia and Hong Kong are working on the road from Wai Maw to the Chinese border. Despite the confusion over the partner company it looks as if Yup Zau Hkawng will go ahead with the plan. Yup Zau Hkawng is an influential businessman with close connections to the new KIO leadership as well as the SPDC. Since a shakeup in the KIO leadership last February, Col N’Ban La has assumed the position of vice-chief of staff of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the armed wing of the KIO. He along with his underlings Lt-Col N’Sang La Awng (aka Aung Wa), chief of the "national council", and Lt-Col Lahpai Zau Tang, 2nd Brigade commander in Tanai, are on Yup Zau Khawng’s payroll, according to a Kachin source.


Yup Zau Hkawng, in turn, is also paying off the SPDC Northern Commander, Maj-Gen Kyaw Win, the source added. Continued logging in Burma threatens one of mainland Southeast Asia’s most forested regions as Burma contains half the forest in the region. In the last thirteen years, Burma’s border with Thailand has been heavily logged. Concessions granted to Thai logging firms have left areas in the Shan, Karenni, and Karen States without any significant forests. This leaves the Chindwin Valley in Sagaing Division and the Kachin State as one of the few remaining undisturbed forests in Burma.


The effect of these concessions will be devastating for the environment, says one Thai-based environmentalist. Further concessions endanger one of the world’s remaining sources of biodiversity. The Kachin State is part of the Indo-Burmese region listed by Dr. Norman Myers, an ecologist based at Oxford University’s Green College in England, as one of the eight "hottest hotspots for biodiversity" in the world. The hotspots are sites containing the greatest concentration of endemic species that are also experiencing exceptional loss of habitat. The replacement of biodiversity is difficult unless the same species are being restored.


But reforestation projects in the Kachin State are virtually non-existent. A side from the rich flora, fauna such as deer, thakin, snakes, birds, monkeys, bears, and tigers are threatened by logging in Kachin State. Several species in the Kachin State have never been recorded, and the destruction of habitat looks to make this difficult.


A 1998 report by the World Resources Institute, an environmental watch-dog organization, noted that extensive deforestation had already caused massive soil erosion, sedimentation of rivers, increased flooding and acute dry season water shortages in some areas. Further logging looks to intensify the severity of these problems. And the destruction of forests in this area along the headwaters of the Irrawaddy River will not only damage the environment but will also have a grave impact on the livelihood of people downstream.


Increased flooding endangers rice paddies along the Irrawaddy as well as riverine fisheries. According to one Burma watcher, the terms of the new concession call for the selective felling of large/mature trees only. However, the logistics involved in monitoring the areas and the high profits at stake make proper enforcement a daunting task.

Reports that mining concessions will follow the logging have also alarmed environmentalists, as mining would further degrade the land. According to the Burma watcher, the logging concession could be extended all the way to the Indian border. One analyst estimates that the logging could go on for five to ten years before running out of trees. But the rate of extraction hinges on access to roads that are often washed out during the rainy season and made impassable due to icing over in the cold season.



The new road construction projects are upgrading paths to third-grade roads to be able to handle vehicles such as logging trucks. The construction costs of the roads are expensive at 600,000 yuan (approximately US $70, 500) a mile. Logging has been underway in Kachin State for over ten years. Heavy logging has already taken place on the east side of the Nmai Kha River down to Sinbo and Bhamo, which includes the former Communist Party of Burma War Zone Area 101, under the control of the NDA-K. Reports from the region indicate that loggers have clear-cut the area. The flow of logs from these earlier concessions has fueled the growth of a thriving border trade in timber.



Logging companies have built a network of roads running from China over high mountain passes to extract the timber from a strip of land along the Kachin State’s border with China. The roads lead to a string of logging towns—Ruili, Yingjiang, Tenchong, Fugong, Hpimaw, and Panwa. In Hpimaw alone, there are an estimated seventy sawmills. A recent visitor to Pawnwa, a border town in Yunnan, reported a steady flow of logging trucks coming across the Chinese border from Burma. From these border crossings, the wood is shipped to nearby Kunming and as far away as Guangdong (Canton).



China’s appetite for wood is big and growing, particularly in Yunnan province, home to almost 40 million people, where the GDP has grown an estimated 7-10 percent over the last few years. The boom in Yunnan Province’s construction sector has created a demand for Burmese wood. The logs coming from Burma are used in buildings, doors, window frames, high-quality furniture, flooring, and household objects. In Hpimaw, wood is being made into crude chopping boards. China’s supply of wood decreased when the Chinese government implemented a logging ban for twelve provinces in 1998 after severe flooding in the upper Yangtze Valley.



In 2000, six provinces were added to the list. Since the ban, China has become the world’s second largest wood importer behind the US. The prohibition has left hundreds of thousands of Chinese loggers without jobs. Kachin State logging provided employment for a few thousand loggers in each of the towns along the border. The new concessions, however, look to provide more jobs for Chinese loggers.



This year marks the 7th anniversary of the KIO’s ceasefire agreement with Rangoon. Unlike the NKA-K and Kachin Democratic Army (KDA), the KIO has not "returned to the legal fold". The KIO says it aims to settle its political conflicts with Rangoon at the negotiation table by political means. The SPDC has told the KIO that it is only a military transitional government and is therefore not entitled to make any political agreements. It has told the KIO to wait until the National Convention has drawn up a new constitution, and a new government is formed. The ceasefire has brought an end to the bloodshed in Kachin State. Years of civil war have had a huge impact on the population.



Civilians can now travel more freely and farmers no longer fear being shot at while working in their fields. During the fighting, communities either fled to the cities and larger towns for safety, or spread in small groups and moved deeper into the jungle-clad hills and mountains. "Before the ceasefire, we were running and hiding in the forest and our villages and livestock were destroyed," says a Kachin source. "Now people can think about their future again, they can settle in one village for a long time, and plan their farming activities for the future.



People can also benefit from more healthcare facilities; that is very important." Kachin State is a very underdeveloped area. Many communities live in very isolated and remote areas, and lack of transportation and communication facilities present huge obstacles in the development of the area, despite the fact that Kachin State is rich in natural resources. During the civil war, all parties involved relied heavily on the extraction of natural resources to finance their struggle. These resources include teak, jade and gold.



After the armed opposition groups signed ceasefire agreements with the authorities in Rangoon, and the scale and pace of environmental destruction in Kachin State has increased dramatically. After the ceasefire, the organization lost control of the Hpa-kan jade mines, which provided most of its income. Now firms from China, Hong Kong and Singapore are mining there under concessions granted by Rangoon. The main income from the KIO comes from logging.


"Our KIO leaders know that it is not good, but it is the only way to get income," says the Kachin source. "Our forest will be empty, and our natural resources will be destroyed. That is the bad side of the ceasefire." According to the terms the concessions, Kachin Jadeland and the Chinese company will be able to sell the concessions to subcontractors and reap huge profits.



"Some people will benefit in the short term, but in the long term everyone loses," says one Thai-based foreign analyst. Within the KIO, complaints are rising that after the ceasefire was signed there has been no real political progress. Some KIO leaders admit that people are getting impatient. Part of the problem, they say, is that since the beginning of the revolution the leaders have ruled the organization in a military way.



Now the fighting has stopped, but the leaders have not been able to adapt to the new situation and change their ruling style. This rigidity has caused resentment among younger leaders in the KIO. The same people in the KIO point out that the lack of political progress is a nation-wide problem, and that the bottleneck is in Rangoon and not in Pajau, the KIO’s headquarters.


Says a Kachin observer in China: "The SPDC has not been able to finish the National Convention, and has not been able to make any agreement with Aung San Suu Kyi, so it is out of the question that they can settle the ethnic nationalities question." KIO sources also point out that after the ceasefire the Burmese army has dramatically increased the number of its battalions in Kachin State.


"If the SPDC want peace, and aims to settle the political problems through negotiations, why are they bringing more and more soldiers to our land?" asked a Kachin man from Myitkyina. "This is called border development but in reality they are destroying the whole environment," a Kachin in his 50s said. Additional reporting was contributed by Irrawaddy editor Aung Zaw.



Copyright © 2008 Irrawaddy Publishing Group. All Rights Reserved.

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June 2 2010 4 02 /06 /June /2010 09:11


Kachin fighter in WW2

  The Jingpo is the name of a minority that lives in Yunnan Province along the northeast border of Myanmar. There are also large numbers of them in Myanmar where they are known as the Kachin. The are also some in Assam, India where they are known as the Singhpo. In China the live almost exclusively in Yunnan on the slopes of mountains between 1,470 meters and 1,980 meters in the Dehong Dai and Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture, a region filled with monsoon rain forests and dominated by the Gaoling Mountains and Daying and Ruili Rivers .


The Jingpo is also known as the Acha, Aji, Atsa, Chasham Dashan, Jinghpaw, Kang, Lachi, Lalang, Langshu, Langwo, Lashi, Maru, Shidong, Xiaoshan, Zaiwa. A 1990 census counted 119,000 of them in China. They live mostly in Dehong Dai and Jingpo autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan Province. There is no good figure on their numbers in Myanmar but it estimated that there are more than a million of them there.


There are four main Jingpo subgroups: 1) the Jingpo (Jinghpaw in Myanmar); 2) Zaiwa; 3) Lachi; and 4) Langwo, with the Zaiwa and Jingpo being the major two. The 1990 census counted around 70,000 Zaiwa in China.


The Jingpo speak a Sino-Tibetan language and have their own written language. There are a number of dialects. Some linguists assert that the Jingpo and Zaiwa dialects are different enough to qualify as different languages. Their written language is not used much anymore. Few people speak the native language in China anymore.


Good Websites and Sources: Love Via Grass cultural-china.com ; Kachin News kachinnews.com ; Jingo Folk dance kendincos.net


Sources on Individual Ethnic Minorities in China: (click the ethnic group you want) Ethnic China (very good site with good academic articles) ethnic-china.com ; Cultural China (site with nice photos) cultural-china.com ; China Travel chinatravel.com ; Wikipedia List of Ethnic Minorities in China Wikipedia ; Travel China Guide travelchinaguide.com ; China.org (government source) china.org.cn ; OMF international (a Christian group) omf.org ; People’s Daily (government source) peopledaily.com.cn ; Ethnic Publishing House (government source)e56.com.cn ; Paul Noll site` paulnoll.com ; China Highlights (on some groups) China Highlights


Sources on Ethnic Minorities in China: Book on Chinese Minorities stanford.edu ; Chinese Government Law on Minorities china.org.cn ; Minority Rights minorityrights.org ; Minority Travel: China Trekking (click under Minority Towns) China Trekking ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; New York Times Interactive Map nytimes.com ; Ethnic Groups in China (Chinese government site) chinaethnicgroups.com


Links in this Website: MINORITIES IN CHINA– Factsanddetails.com/China ; MINORITIES IN SOUTHERN CHINA– HISTORY, RELIGION Factsanddetails.com/China ; MINORITIES IN SOUTHERN CHINA–LIFE AND CULTURE Factsanddetails.com/China ; MINORITIES IN SOUTHERN CHINA–AGRICULTURE, GOVERNMENT Factsanddetails.com/China ; MINORITIES GROUPS IN SOUTHERN CHINA–ACHANG TO HAKKA Factsanddetails.com/China ; MINORITIES GROUPS IN SOUTHERN CHINA--JING TO PUMI Factsanddetails.com/China ; MINORITIES GROUPS IN SOUTHERN CHINA–SHE TO ZUANG Factsanddetails.com/China ; DAI MINORITY Factsanddetails.com/China ; HANI MINORITY Factsanddetails.com/China ; LAHU MINORITY Factsanddetails.com/China ; LISU MINORITY Factsanddetails.com/China ; WA MINORITY Factsanddetails.com/China ; YAO MINORITY Factsanddetails.com/China

History of the Jingpo and Kachin

The origin of the Jingpo is a matter of some debate. It is widely believed that they originated in the southern part of the Tibetan Plateau around the sources of the Irrawaddy, Mekong, Yangtze and Salween Rivers and began slowly migrating southward along the aforementioned rivers about 1,500 years ago into the northeastern part of Yunnan in areas west of the Nujiang River. In the 16th century they moved in large numbers to te thickly forested Dehog area. Many settled along the Burma border because there were lucrative jade mines there.


Kachin and Aung San

The first solid records of the Jingpo date back to the Tang dynasty (618-907). They became incorporated into China after the Mongols conquered Burma in the 12th century. After that the Jingpo were largely under the control of Dai overlords in accordance with the Chinese tusi system.


During World War II the Kachin earned high marks as fighters. They were skillful ambushers and had a cruel streak. They cut off the ears of the Japanese they killed as trophies. Their territory remained largely unoccupied by the Japanese. The Jingpo Autonomous Region was created in 1953 in southwestern Yunnan Province.

Jingpo and Kachin Religion

Jingpo believe is spirits, called nats, which they believe are superior to human beings and were once human beings themselves. There are lots of spirits. They are everywhere, and individual villages and clans have their own ones. They can bring good fortune or troubles and must be constantly thanked and appeased. Illnesses were believed to be caused by nat bites.


Kachin and Aung San Suu Kyi

Important deities include the Sky Nats who are children of the Creator. They include Madai Nat, the youngest sky nat, who can only be invoked by chiefs; Jan Nat, the female sun spirit; Ningawn-wa, the creator of the earth; and Madai Nat, the wife of the first Kachin aristocrat.



Shamanism is still practiced by the Jingpo. The Jingpo have part-time religious specialists called dumsas. They treat illnesses and other problems by identifying the nat that causes the trouble and determining the correct way to appease it. Dumsas are graded in terms of their perceived effectiveness by the public. In some ways the rankings are like those of priests, bishops and archbishops. There are also dumsa that specialize in certain kinds of nats, mediums, diviners, and prophets that specialize in certain kinds of religious practices such as sending souls. The latter are often female shaman, who go into trances when they do their work.


Many Kanchin are Christians. There is some tension between Catholic and Protestant groups.

Jingpo and Kachin Funerals

The Jingpo believe that men have six souls and women have seven. Of these three are “real” and the others are “false.” If the real souls are absent a person dies. After death the real souls join the nat world. Dying a natural death at home is considered good while dying in an accident away from home ir regarded as bad, and likely caused by evil spirits.


The Jingpo believe that some deaths are caused when spirits lure the soul away for the body and it can not be returned in time and the chord that binds the creator to an individual is eaten away by nats.


Funerals for a natural death at home involve burial and spirt sending. The spiritsending often necessitates the sacrifice of a buffalo and the placements of its skull at the grave. If spirits sending isn’t done, the Jingpo believe, the spirit will roam and cause trouble.


After death the family altar is removed from the house. Burial takes place a week after death to make sure that separation of the deceased’s soul from the world is complete. A priest presides over this process, making offerings to the soul to assist it on its journey to the next world. During a final ceremony a priest rouses the soul from temporary limbo and sends it to the land of the dead. Afterwards a divination ritual is held to make sure the soul has departed. If it hasn’t it will be installed in the family altar which is returned to the house.


Duwa festival

Jingpo Festivals

The basis of many Jingpo rituals is making sacrifices to the nats. Each village has dumsas that are in charge of such rituals. Two communal rituals, the numshang offerings, are performed each year, in April and in October, by most Jingpo villages. The rites are connected with a good planting season and a good harvest. There are ceremonies at other times that honor ancestors. Villages and individuals have their own nat observations.


In the Kachin region nat festivals known as manaus involve sacrificing large numbers of animals. Those in attendance wear their most beautiful and colorful costumes. In a large gathering 29 water buffalo may be sacrificed—one buffalo for each of the 28 nats honored and one for all the nats together. Before the sacrifice offerings of rice, eggs and wine placed in bamboo tubes are made. The buffalo is then ritually slaughtered, and its skull and horns are placed on a X-shaped pole. To the music of gongs and flutes the participants do a snake dance around the pole with the buffalo skull, as well as around nat poles which are reminiscent of totem poles. During the snake dance, which is led by chiefs wearing feathered head dresses, the dancers often go into trances.


The Jingpo love to sing and dance and have a good time. They are friendly and generous. Munao is a massive festival held in the middle of the first lunar month, on an even-numbered day. Munao means “everybody dances.”

Jingpo Marriage and Family


Marriage ceremony

The Jingpo marry outside their clan or village. The most preferable match for a man to marry his mother’s brother’s daughter, or a match that brings two lineages together in an alliance. In many cases if such a match is not made fines have to be paid to the mother’s brother. Traditionally, after a marriage occurs the wife returns to live with her family until the first child is born.


Young people are quite free to flirt and date. Premarital sex is common. Many villages have a “public house” were adolescents can go and have sex. Young people have traditionally gathered here for singing, recitation of love poetry and lovemaking. Couples involved in trysts were not required to get married but a girl’s family could get fined if the girl got pregnant.


Marriages however are more serious and usually arranged. The groom’s family is required to pay a bride price, usually in the form of buffalo, cattle, horses, gongs and/or palajing (a kind of silk or nylon scarf). The amount is determined by the number of relatives the bride has. In return, the bride’s family gives a gift to the son, often a spear, knife or sword, and preferably a gun worth half the value of the bride price. Bride price negotiations can be complex and often involves go-between. Sometimes the bride price is paid out over several years. If the groom’s family can not come up with the full amount, the groom may spend several years doing bride service.

Types of Jingpo Marriages


The are four ways a Jingpo man takes a wife: 1) wife stealing, a popular method involving the staged theft of the bride and consent by both families to the marriage; 2) wife engaging, in which couple enter an arranged marriage when they are young and get married when they are older; 3) wife snatching, in which a man abducts a girl who refuses his love and marries her; and 4) wife seizing, in which a man has relations with another man’s wife or fiancé and marries her.


Polygyny is rare but occurs. Some chiefs have multiple wives. Sometimes the brother of a deceased man takes the dead man’s wife as his own. Divorce is uncommon but when it does occur the bride usually has to pay back the bride price.


Most couples live with the groom’s family but it is not that uncommon for couples to move in with the bride’s parents. The youngest son is expected to live with the parents and take care of them in old age. In return he inherit the family’s property. Sons and daughters are treated equally. Jingpo parents never beat their children. Children are encouraged to attend Chinese school but most drop out by the time they attend middle school.

Jingpo Society


Society is organized along patrilineal lines with each family belonging to a clan, which have a hierarchal rank, and they in turn are broken into lineages, which also have a rank based on closeness to the common ancestor. People have traditionally been divided into two classes—commoners and aristocrats—often based on the clan in which one is born or marries into.


Chiefs were often hereditary. They traditionally oversaw some ceremonies, were responsible for reciting genealogical myths and took tribute of the hind quarters of killed animals but had little say in how land was used and other matters. In China, the chief system was largely terminated by the Communists. In Myanmar, it is still alive in some places but has been rejected in favor of a more egalitarian system in others.


Men tend to do heavy work such as plowing, slashing and burning, hunting and watering the paddy fields. Women do weaving weeding, harvesting, carrying and processing crops, gathering wild fruits and vegetables, and household chores. Both men and women cook and sell stuff in the markets.


Disputes are usually settled with the help of chiefs and village elders. For those involving adultery or other sex scandals, the perpetrators were often required to “face wash” by sacrificing cattle. In matters such as theft or failure to pay a debt it was quite acceptable for the victim to steal cattle from the perpetrator.

Jingpo Villages and Homes


Jingpo in China tend to live in small villages with around 20 households in areas where they can practice terraced rice farming and use ridge tops as walking paths. Jingo houses are raised about 1 meter off the ground and have thatch roofs, wood frames and floors and walls made from mats composed of split bamboo. A house usually has five rooms, each with a fireplace at the center. As a rule the up slope room is reserved for spirits. It is empty except for a bamboo alter along the side wall. The center room usually serves as a kitchen. Some families have sheds for water buffalo.


Kachin in Myanmar tend to live in villages with less than 100 households and have a sacred grove marked by pots, intended to attract good fortune from the gods, and shrines, where community sacrifices are held. In the old days, large villages were often stockaded for protection. Villages with a strong hereditary chief had longhouses, up to 30 meters long and 10 meters wide, where the chief lived with his large extended family


Kachin houses are like the Jingpo houses. Each house has a granary. Chores such as weaving and pounding rice are done under an overhanging front gable. Under the house is an area for animals. The up slope rooms are used for sleeping while the downslope ones are left open for cooking, storage and entertainment.


At the end of the living area is a space for household and ancestor spirits. At the front of the house are alters and X-shaped posts on which cattle are bound when they are sacrificed. The skulls and horns of water buffalo are hung on the walls of bamboo houses for exorcism purposes and as reminder of buffalos which have worked for their families.


Houses of important people have a hornlike-ornament at the front of the roof peak. Chief’s homes have the head of a sacrifices buffalo displayed with harvest boards and posts that signify claims of authority and linkage to the spiritual world.

Jingpo Life

Many Kachin eat rice with vegetable stew three times a day, sometimes meat or fish. They generally don’t eat the meat of goats, sheep, monkeys, horses, dogs and cat. The Kachin chew betel nut and tobacco and sometimes smoke opium. Rice is used to make beer and a distilled liquor.


Jingpo literature includes folk tales, legends and ballads. Many of them are a kind or oral history about chiefs passed down from generation to generation. Love songs are popular among young people.

Jingpo Clothes


Women wear long tight-fitting skirts. Women use belt looms to produce cloth with floral-geometric designs. Kachin men mainly wear Shan-style and Western clothes. At festivals many young Jingpo males wear white turbans while older men favor black turbans.


In Myanmar, the Kachin wear a traditional costume consisting of a black shirt, edged with a red panel tied around the waist with a blue sash. Sometimes black, long-sleeve jackets are worn over white and black blouses with numerous strings of small red, blue and yellow beads covering the chest..


Many Kachin wear tall black hats with circular silver earrings and gaiters that reach from the knee to the ankle. In some places, women wear bright red skirts with a yellow border, fastened around the hips with a cane belt. Over a black jacket is a huge collar made of silver disks, which cover the shoulders, chest and upper part of the back. Ball-like silver ornaments and silver fringe hang from the collar. This worn with matching gaiters and sandals.


The Lashi wear a similar costume but in blue and white with blue turbans and red bead necklaces. Jinghpaw women are famous for wearing dozens of silver-globule medallions arranged across the front of and shoulders of their blouses.

Jingpo Economics


Traditionally, Jingpo and Kachin have been subsistence farmers and have had no other jobs or specialized skills other than making earthenware and weaving mats, baskets and house walls from bamboo, cane and grass. Pottery, tools and metal objects are obtained from the Shan or Chinese.


Cattle, buffalo, pigs dogs and chickens have traditionally been raised for sacrifices but not for selling or eating. Pigs are fed mash in the evening and left to scavenge in the day. Some hunting is done with pellets, bows and guns. Fishing has traditionally been done with traps and poison



The Jingpo get most products they need from state stores or markets. In most cases they trade or use money earned from the agricultural product they grow. They also collect some forest products such as mushrooms, fruits and herbal medicines. They are not known as being traders or peddlers but they do earn money from cross border trade and smuggling between China and Myanmar.


Kachin involvement in the opium trade is a matter of some dispute. Opium poppies were cultivated in Kachin areas but it was believed to have been done mostly by non-Kachin groups. It is assumed that chiefs earn money from opium carried across their territory.

Jingpo Agriculture

The Jingpo and Kachin practice both terraced and slash and burn agriculture. Wet rice is grown in the terraces and dry rice and other crops are grown and slopes that have been slashed and burned. Water buffalo are used as plow animals for wet rice. Slash and burn farmers traditionally used heavy-handled hoes to break the soil, sticks to make holes for planting and knives and sickles for harvesting.



The Jingpo and Kachin have traditionally prepared their fields in March, planted before the summer monsoons and harvested in October. Grain is threshed under the hooves of buffalo and stored in granaries. In the old days when slash and burn agriculture was mainly practiced the forest and farm lands were collectively owned. In China, farmers now largely operate under a contract system with the state owning the land and farmers cultivating it in return for paying taxes or turning over part of their harvest to the state. In Myanmar, chiefs decide who cultivates the slash-and-burn agricultural land. Irrigated land is often privately owned and can be inherited.


The Jingpo and Kachin raise a large variety of crops including maize, buckwheat, sesame, millet, tobacco, soybeans, beans, cucumbers, wax gourds, and various kinds of pumpkins. Vegetables and fruits are grown in household gardens. Opium used to be grown for money but now grow cotton and sugar cane are their primary cash cropa.


Kachin ladies dance


Image Sources: Kachin Myitkyina website, Nolls Chiina website http://www.paulnoll.com/China/index.html , Beifan http://www.beifan.com/, Joho maps

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated April 2010

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May 27 2010 5 27 /05 /May /2010 13:32



Moi na jinghpaw


The word Kachins or Kachin1 is derived from Ga hkyeng or Red Soil, which was written as Kakhyengs (in plural form) by earlier authors, including Dr Kincaid in 1837; simplified by American and British Officers in the Colonial days.

Though many workers attempted to define it derived from different languages, such as Chinese Ye Jein for wild man, Shan-C'ou for hill-tribes; and applied several theories, including the one of Hertz and others, it does not give us a better sense or evidence. Earlier Kachins called themselves  Jinghpaw; meaning: the Kachin people as well as human being. In modern era, the term Kachin or Kachins refers to all six clans2 as a whole.

Ga Hkyeng Duwa was the name of a Kachin chief, who lived in Red soil area of Mogaung, western territory of Kachinland in early 18th century. He was one of the most powerful Chiefs, who fought common enemies from Hukong Valley to entire Mogaung and Phakant areas; he lived there for almost a century. Dingsi Duwa, a descendant of Ga Hkyeng Duwa, was also a powerful chief that no one was able to intrude his territory. His heritages are still kept with the Kachin people. He had more than one thousand slaves.


Complexion: Kachins, for instance Răwang, upper Lisü, living in temperate regions have fair complexion and most of them have yellowish brown to fair skin. They have black eyes, rarely slanting; black with soft and silky hair. You can find a few curly ones too. Kachins have their own noses as the ones with the other Asians have! About 5% of Kachin males have thick beard and mustache; rest of them have light ones. Though it's difficult to distinguish them from other Asians,  in average, Kachin people have oval shape of jaw.

Height: Earlier records show that Kachin males have a physical height ranging from 5.4 - 6.2 feet and about 5.2 - 5.8 feet amongst females. There is no proper record or statistical survey. It is estimated that the 19th century Kachin people had a lower height between  4.8 - 5.5 feet (except Lăchyang Raw, a Jinghpaw female, mentioned in Wunpawng Lăbau Ginshi - a Brief Kachin History, written by H. Naw Awn; had about a height of 6.2 feet) and 5.0 - 5.6 feet amongst males and females, respectively.

Out of several reasons  why the physical height of the Kachin people decreased during that century, married to a closed relative is the main cause. Chinese dwarfs might also had intergraded with some Kachins during that time as it's mentioned in Já Tawng Nawng Ningjin (a Classic Jinghpaw Scripture) in an anecdote rhythm: Wanghkyè Tekkătē, Myawk nat shărē (Chinese dwarf dares to fire a big cannon). Today, Kachin males have a height ranging from 5.2 to 6.4 feet and females have 5.0 to 5.8.


Contact and Interaction: Kachin people are friendly, understanding but determined, God fearing, and their social custom and traditions are very polite and formal. They have unbreakable chain of relationship amongst Five Ruling Families3. Kachins respect older ones. Most of them have Joint Families. You can also find Nucleus Families in Modern Era.

When two Kachin strangers meet together, they first introduce themselves by asking one's Ruling Family name (Five progenitors4) whether he or she is Lăhpai, Lăhtaw, Măran, Mărip or Nhkum.  This is an important social contact with the people.

Kachin people say Kăja nga ai i? (How are you?) while one gives a handshake to another, usually between opposite sex. Cuddling or hugging is not a very common greet from female to male and vice versa. Traditionally, Kachin females sit in such a way that they fold both the legs towards left or right, no space between the floor and the legs; one leg put on the other one, hands on either of their knees while talking to an older or respected person, is a formal way.

Females usually do not interfere while Măsha kăba ni (big persons or gentlemen, refers to older males) talking. This does not mean that the female gender is inferior in the Kachin society. Kachin males sit like anything they want but two legs across in a straight position is a polite or formal way of sitting. Kachin males and some few females have sense of humour and they often poke one's belly.

The Kachin females, when contact themselves or with the other females, they fondle either on the shoulder or on back or a hug; rarely give a handshake. Kachin males usually give a handshake when they meet one another or to the females. These days, Kachin people contact and interact like other people in that of a Christian society.

Society and Culture: Earlier Kachin people lived under the rule of their own chiefs, Duwas. Nowadays, almost all the Kachins are Christian and live in that society accordingly. They celebrate Mănau Festivals such as Pădang Mănau (Mănau of Victory), Sut Mănau (Mănau of Wealth), Kumran Mănau (Mănau of Exodus), and so on.

Kachin people are good dancers and they have wide variety of dances. A festival, Nlung Nnan (Harvest Festival) is a beautiful one and people usually celebrate with full of funs, happiness, contentment, and thanksgiving as every Kachin is fed this time. The festival, sometimes, left you with nostalgia of wearing leaves shed beneath watery clouds beyond the dusk during autumn.

Dress: Kachin women are skill in dress making. Most of their Lăbus (sing. Lăbu) are weaved with particular patterns usually diamond5 shape inside musical sharp (#) or sometimes twin sharps; about 45 degree angle of an English alphabet F6 with a vertical tail long, stretching backwards at the same angle with its mirror image placed face-to-face and alternately along the lines of main strip or join the tails of the F shaped fashions; a pictures of flying bird - looks like a quick sketch of a flying bird at the dusk in paintings - with white threads; coiling designs like a young shoot of fern;  are some typical patterns and the symbol of female dresses, weaved by them and worn in special occasions.

Our Kachin female dresses have  more complex patterns than that of the males; they are red, having the colour value FF,00,00; black lines, which can only be seen when closely examined. Yoshida Toshihiro (1997) has a good photograph of such patterns on page 129 in his book. There are mainly two types of costume dresses; viz., Hkáhkü Hking (Upper or Upstream Costume) and Sinli Hking (Lower Costume) amongst the Jinghpaw.

Almost all the Kachin people's Lăbus (sarong or skirts) are similar with a very slight differences; except colours, where Răwang dress has patterns weaved or painted in a white base; rest of the Kachins in a red and black base-garments: other things remain the same. Lisu dress is of two types and both of the costumes have blocks of colours; viz.,  Black, White, Red and small yellow lines in between the blocks. Nhtu (sword or machete) and Nhpyē (bag, usually cotton), Pălawng (shirt or blouse), bawban or Bunghkáw (tartan), Lăbu or Dangpai are worn by the Kachin males.

Bawban or Bunghkaw is made of silk, extracted usually from Bombax morae and mixed with a fine cotton threads; having the colour value 64,00,64; rectangularly crossed over the colour value 4F,00,4F; measuring about 0.5 ft in width, about 5 to 5.5 ft in length and tassels at the either or both the ends; a twin-shining lines in golden colour are inserted between the main body of Bungkáw or Bawhkáw and the tassels at the both end.

Pălawng or Coat worn by Kachin males are usually made of pure cotton, having its crossed buttons; button-holes are lopes and the round buttons made of cotton are inserted into them while wearing. The colour of the Pălawng is either black, value: 00,00,00 or gray, value between 66,66,66 to 80,80,80; rarely any other colour. The coat has no collar, and a white shirt with collar is worn inside the coat.

Lăbu or Dangpai: for Kachin males is made of cotton, rarely silk; having the same size of rectangular strips, overlapping at the right angle in a tri- or tetra- or sometimes penta-colour fashions. The colour values are 00,00,48; 00,42,00; 00,00,00, and 64,00,64 is a smaller line or of the same size. There are more embroidered or designed articles worn by the Kachins. This is just a very brief description to give you a few ideals.

Sex Ratio: I can not conclude the reasons why and factors that affect our sex ratio; Kachin people have 60% females and 40% males. This may be governed by genetic and some environmental factors. Sometimes, more female ratio causes racial fueds when one gets married to people other than the Kachins themselves. It sounds a bit narrow but the fact that Kachins are very rigid in their races when they are concerned with Burman. This may be due to influences of politics or heritage that is carried from progenitors.

Marriage: One thing I often use to address to public and publish on web sites and some magazines is that Kachin people marry to Mother's Brother's Daughter to a son; this is what we called: first cousin in English. This can  causes genetic problems though I have not observed any Kachin having such diseases or disorders, we have to change it. Due to education, Kachin people today marry to different people amongst themselves and some even married to Americans, British, Australians, Japanese and so on. Hetero-marriage may be acceptable in modern society but polyandry or polygamy  is condemned in our Kachin society.

There was a dowry system in Kachin society, in which male parents or relatives have to offer dowry to female. Quality and quantity depends on the demand from the female side. Now, the system exists just as a tradition.

Family: In a family, both the parents are very much respected by their offspring. There is no gender and sex dominance in a family these days. Earlier days, female gender was not given much important in Kachin society. Kachin people believe that the younger ones have responsibility to respect older ones in the society.

Food and Habits: Rice is a stable food for Kachin people. They prepare typical soup that is had along with rice and curry. Kachin people used to spend time in hunting, and in collecting natural vegetables.

Sticky rice mixed with dried pieces of fish or chicken packed in fig leaves are sometimes served in special occasions. Kachins living in lower parts of the land prefer noodles.  Hpăräng Si-htu (a typical vegetable-mix), containing Asiatic pennywort Păläng Láp or Hpăräng Láp, tree-tomato (Solanum kachinensis var. aeresculentum7 or common tomato and fermented soybean, is a very popular Si-htu and traditionally served in countryside of Kachinland.

Older Kachins in ancient time chewed tobacco (Nicotiana species) grown and processed by them. Tsá-pi8 or Mălum Tsá (rice-beer) is very much respected in the society and considered as a second milk from mother, which they called: Chyănũn Chyú. It is also served to wanted guests at home - this one sounds a bit systematic! Tsá-pá (rice-state-beer) is mostly preferred by women, usually sweeter than the one that is preferred by males. They produce some sort of spirit called Lauhkü, evaporated from rice-state-beer, which contains a high percentage of alcohol. Intoxication is considered to be wild in Kachin society.

Leadership Ability: From the ancient time, though there were not many written records about the leaders of the Kachins, the oral history revealed that the Duwas were conscious about their people, guided them, protected and helped them.

Duwas were great leaders amongst the Kachin people. There were also some few outstanding leaders during World War - I and - II including Brigadier Louise Lăzum Tang Gyi, Lt. Col. Ah Gu Di, Major Lá Sang Gam, Major Jinghpaw Gam and so forth, and after Burma's Independence but then they were said to be very unfortunate and could not perform as they had abilities. Many Kachins joined World War - I, and - II as British and American veterans. You can still find a few such persons in the United States.


Psyche and Beliefs: Kachin people are revengeful but not cruel, and he ought not to be called treacherous. He is of fidelity and has sense of humour. Kachin people never gave a correct information to strangers regarding their business and whereabouts. Kachins are remarkably honest and pure in heart.

There is a little stealing amongst themselves or from other people. They believe serving guest at their homes or help the poor is their duty. Our Kachin people are open, and are empathy when some one gets into troubles or so. Most of the Kachin people do not get mad easily but long feud often lead to the end of social relationship; once that happens, Kachins rarely care of other people that's why I would say Kachins are tough people.

Ancient Kachins were animists and they sacrificed livestock to their Nats such as Jan Nat (Spirit of Sun), Mu Nat (Celestial Spirit), Tsu Nat (Ancestral Spirit) etc. But then these are the things of the past when Christian mission came to Kachin territories in 1877.

Intelligent: It must be a blessing from heaven and above though most of the Kachin ancestors lived in jungles, the present offspring are quite intelligent in fact. Young Kachin people are able to adopt and integrate any environment or courses thought in school or college. When we talk about Intelligence, I would like to mention a little bit about Intelligent Quotient (IQ).

Microsoft Chairman Mr Bill Gate has 160 IQ value, whereas pop singer Ms Madonna has 146. A Kachin boy, I know, has 154 IQ; which was tested in a Psychology Centre some five years ago at his age of 23 that is far beyond above average. He has completed Master of Science (MSc), scoring 8.24 of 10 scale without much efforts.

There are many young Kachins, who are much more intelligent than the boy. No technicians, so far, has conducted such test or research in Kachinland. It is estimated that present Kachin people may have IQ value between 92 - 172; I haven't seen any Kachin people having IQ value below 25 (idiot) after 1982.

I would say that Kachin people are cognitive in genetics by nature and avoid to marry the persons having IQ value below 90, and if any Kachin does so will be caste out from the society. A British girl in Genius Book of World Record (1992) shows 280 out of 300 human IQ - the most intelligent creature so far.

Personality and Traits: Humbleness and innocence leads most of Kachin females and some a few males to shyness and little confidence, especially those who are living in or coming out from remote areas. This also depends on social and other environmental factors, and remains as the issue of all man.

Kachin males are energetic, courage, brave, responsive, optimistic, and cognitive; whereas Kachin females are beautiful, intelligent, respectful, faithful, and capable to integrate any sort of situation - they rarely find wild in the society.

Span of Life: Oral history tells us that the earlier Kachins had much longer span of life than what we have today. This may, again, not only the issue of our Kachins but also concern of all people in the world. This is due to chemical exchange in our environment.

My maternal Jikè (very great-grand-father) lived for 175 years, according to him; he died in Jingma Yang in 1979.  There were a few more Kachins, who lived more than 115 years on earth; but not very encouraging due to the lack of records, the claim sounds funny. Life-span of today's Kachins ranges between 80 - 102 years.


Whenever we come across this topic, we often realize to restore our identity, culture, customs, heritages that is already lost besides freedom. The present generation is very much promising for the future offspring. Today, Kachin people become hundred per cent Christians; some of them are doctors, engineers, scientists, business persons, and a few of them are millionaires. Our offspring means our future; our duty is extremely important to design them in a mould of futurity to get a desirable shapes. No doubt, the coming generation will do far better than what we do now.

1Use for the sake of convenience - not an appropriate term; anthropologically, the structure is much higher or complex than clan.


2Recently, there was  a controversy amongst Kachin leaders in political and religious institutions about the term Kachins and Kachin. They concluded that the term Kachin is to use for Jinghpaw and Kachins for all six clans, Azi, Jinghpaw, Lăshi, Lisu, Maru, and Răwang, as a whole. I do dot agree to it; the reason is simple and logic. If the Kachin is a singular then the Kachins must be a plural form for Jinghpaw; if the term Kachin is to refer as the Jinghpaw, they obviously have taken an advantage over remaining ones, and this would increase further controversy.  My opinion is very clear that the term Jinghpaw should remain Jinghpaw as such and the Kachins or Kachin should use to refer as Wunpawng.


3Ruling Family in Kachin is different from English family or surname what we understand. The Kachin Families here means Five Precursors of all Kachin descendants. All the people belong to Five Ruling Families and one sub-family: Hkasu-Hkasha are not called as Tribes. There are no Kachin Tribes. They themselves recognize only families and linguistic division (Hanson, 1913). Kachin classification is yet to be completed due to complexity in Five Ruling Families. Kachin Historians and Anthropologists are giving due effort to establish an accurate classification and origin of the Kachin people. In this we also need to work on DNA test in near future.

4Progenitor (pl. progenitors) is a genetic term refers to parents of offspring.


5My Mother, when I was about 4-5 years, told me that is Wahkum Tum, a seed of pumpkin botanically, Cucurbita moschata L.; and


6"F" for a bird; flying in. It has no relationship to English "F" for flying.


7This name was given by George Zunwa; the scientific or botanical name is yet to be submitted to the International Board for Botany, Italy.


8pi is a verb or suffix; meaning: aqueous extracted with a slight pressure applied against the wall of a small container by using paddle.


Published by Htoigintawng.over-blog.com
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May 27 2010 5 27 /05 /May /2010 12:58



Kachin's Anti-Government Forces
Burma drew the Union Constitution in 1947 and so got the united independence in 1948.


The constitution of 1947 has promised that if a state finds the union is negative to its own national interest, it can leave the union after 10 years of independence. Because the Burmese Army practises Chauvinism and dictatorship to oppress all other nationalities, nationalities of Karen, Karenni, Mon, Shan, Arakan, Chin etc have carried on armed struggle for their national equal rights. 10 years after independence, 1958, the national representatives expressed their great dissatisfaction at the parliament.

Result: there came up Burmese Army's "Take-Care Government" in 1959, with the bayonet pointing to them. All nationalities became more dissatisfied and opposed the Chauvinism and dictatorship more strongly.

On February 5, 1961 Zau Seng and his brothers Zau Tu and Zau Dan along with hundreds of Kachin youth established in northern the Shan State Kachin Independence Organization (KIO). Their first operation was to attack a military base near Kutkhai, northern Shan State.Then they shifted quickly to Bamaw area in Kachin State. From this revolutionary base,they launched their long-term national revolution.

On Mar 2,1962, Ne Win's Burmese Army seized the power through a coup.They ended the parliamentary democracy and abolished the Union Constitution: They did -dismiss all organisations including students' union.

On 7-7-1962 shoot dead hundreds peacefully demonsrating Rangoon University students and drive all students home.

In 1963 reclose down all universities in Burma and expell for ever the students who dare to appeal for domestic peace.

In 1964 under the name of "natinalisation and socialist economy", occupy all private enterprises in Burma, by annulling without compensation the banknotes of 100K and 50K,loot the people's fortune.

In 1966-67, launch anti-Chinese campaign and massacred Burma's Chinese in order to escape from nation-wide famine.

Stir up in turn various racist and religious conflicts to flee economic and politic crises.

Rule the country with military dictatorship till now  In 1968 the KIO combined forces with the Communist Party of Burma (CPB)to fight the Burmese junta. Nationally they gave military training to ethnic armed groups such as the Palaung and Rakhine insurgents, internationally they gave access and passage rights through areas controlled by them to Naga and Mizo insurgents from India.

In 1975 the KIO leaders Zau Seng, Zau Tu and Pung Shwe Zau Seng were assassinated at the Thai-Burma border. Brang Seng took over as Chairman and Zaung Hkra as Secretary of the KIO. At that time the KIO was the main force in the National Democratic Front (NDF), an ethnic army alliance.

On 24-2-1994, the KIO entered a ceasefire agreement with the regime (State Law and Order Restoration Council). In fact in 1963 and 1980 the KIO had already tried his best for domestic peace negotiation with Burmese authorities but in vain. A few months after the cease-fire, Brang Seng died. Zau Mai became KIO's new leader.

In February 2001, a reformist faction within KIO staged a coup at the KIO headquarter at Lai Sin near the China border. They detented Zau Mai and later ousted him. Lamung Tu Jai became the leader of the KIO.

A political group formed secretly on 24-1-2005 The Kachin Solidarity Council in Pang Wa, the NDA-K headquarter,including a Joint Military Commission and a Joint Economic Commission. It seems a parallel organization against the KIO's Kachin Consultative Assembly, KCA, which was formed in 2002 .

According to the Kachin Independence Organization, KIO, the council is led by Zahkung Ting Ying, leader of the New Democratic Army-Kachin, and 3 deputy leaders: Col Lasang Awng Wah, who is the leader of a KIO splinter group, Mahtu Naw, the leader of Kachin Defense Army and Bawmwang La Raw, a leader of Kachin National Organization, KNO.

People believe that the great master behind them is the Burmese junta.

The KSC statement pointed out that people in Kachin State must live under the control of the Burmese military government and engage in development projects under their guidance step by step to democratic country. It criticised KIO leaders "conservative" and their policies "not upgrade".

By his new house opening ceremony -in Muse of Northern Shan State on 7£­2£­2005 , Zahkung Ting Ying, leader of New Democratic Army-Kachin, even demanded to dissolve Kachin Independence Organization, KIO, for sake of forming united and peaceful Kachin community.

People say that they are now neither KIO nor cease-fire group, they are in fact the border security militia group of Burmese Army.Besides the old revolutionary KIO, the following are some Kachin organisations:

Kachin Defense Army (KDA) An armed organization founded in 1990 by Mahtu Naw, commander of the Kachin Independence Army's 4th brigade based in northern Shan State. After the breakaway from its mother organization,  KDA signed a ceasefire agreement with the ruling State Law and Order Restoration Council in the same year. The area controlled by KDA is now called Shan StateSpecial Region 5.

New Democratic Army-Kachin (NDA-K)
Founded by former KIO officers Zahkung Tingying and Layawk Zelum. NDA-K is the first Kachin group to reach a ceasefire agreement with the State Law and Order Restoration Council, in 1989, after the collapse of the CPB the same year. The organization is based in Pang Wa, former headquarters of the CPB's 101 War Zone, situated on the Sino-Burma border. The area controlled by the group is called Kachin State Special Region 1.

Kachin State National Congress for Democracy (KNCD)
A political party founded in Myitkyina by Kachin politicians led by Ubyit Tu, former State Council member of Ne Win's socialist BSPP government. The party won three seats in Kachin State in the 1990 general election.


Leading party members were arrested and the party was barred from political activities after the election. The KNCD, led by Gumgrawng Zau Ing and Bawm Lang, became a member of the United Nationalities Alliances (UNA), led by Khun Tun Oo, chairman of Shan Nationalities League for Democracy.

Kachin People's Party (KPP)
Founded on April 17, 2002 in Thailand by young Kachin inside and outside of Kachin State to lay the foundation for an "appropriate and meaningful democratic nation" which is essential to Kachin people and to resist all forms of dictatorship and despotic rule. The KPP leader is Gumgrawng Aung Wa.

Kachin National Organization (KNO)
A political organization founded by overseas Kachin and a group of elders from the Kachin homeland on January 9, 1999. KNO strives for an independent homeland and democratic government. Its leader is Hawwa Ja La.

All Kachin Student and Youth Union (AKSYU)
Founded on August 5, 1996 by exiled Kachin Student in India. The same year, AKSYU became a member organization of the Students and Youth Congress of Burma (SYCB), an opposition student and youth alliance.

AKSYU branched out to open offices in Thailand in 1998, Europe in February 2002 and China in Septemeber 2002. The all Kachin Students and Youth Union (AKSYU) is currently a member organization of the Students and Youth Congress of Burma (SYCB), United Nationalities Youth League (UNYL), and United Nationalities' Democratic Congress (UNDC).

The following are Kachin heros and leaders of the time:

Lahpai Naw Seng:

Born in 1922 in Man Peng Loi village, Lashio township, Shan State. Joined British Burma Frontier Force, Lashio Battalion. Led resistance against the Japanese in Kachin Hills during World War II; Jamedar in British-organized Northern Kachin Levies. Twice awarded the Burma Gallantry Medal by the British for his role in the anti-Japanese resistance. Captain in the 1st Kachin Rifles in 1946 and fought against the Communist Party of Burma in Irrawaddy delta region in 1948.

Worked with Karen rebel in February 1949. Led the upper Burma campaign against the Rangoon government and set up the Pawngyawng National Defense Force (the first Kachin rebel army in Burma) in November 1949. Retreated to into China form Mong Ko in northern eastern Shan State in April 1950.


In exile along with a few hundred followers in China's Guizhou province until 1968. Burma launched during 1964-67 anti-China campaign, as vice military commander (under Than Shwe) of the first CPB unit he entered Burma on 1 January 1968. Became military commander of northern eastern command in September 1969. Died under mysterious circumstances in the Wa Hill on 9 March 1972.

Lahtaw Zau Seng:

Born in 1928 in Kapna Bang Shau village near Hsenwi, northern Shan State, where his father, Balawng Du, was a Baptist pastor. Studied up to 7th standard in Hsenwi and served with the US-organized Detachment 101 as junior intelligence officer during World War II. Joined the 1st Kachin Rifles after the war and went underground with his commander, Naw Seng in 1949. Remained behind with Karen and Karenni reble in Burma when Naw Seng retreated to China in 1950.

Closedly connected with right-wing circle in Thailand in the 1950; attended meeting with the World Anti-Communist League in Saigon and Taiwan. Returned to Kachin State in 1958 to organized an uprising there; formed the Kachin Independence Army on 5 February 1961 together with his brothers Zau Tu and Zau Dan.President of the Kachin Independence Organization and commander of the KIA. Returned to the Thai border in 1965 to set up a based at the Tam Ngob headquarter of the 3rd Kuomintang. Assassinated near Tam Ngob along with Zau Tu and KIO general secretary Pungshwi Zau Seng on 6 August 1975.

Pungshwi Zau Seng:

Born in Hu Bren Pung Shwe near Kutkai in northeastern Shan State. Studied engineering, art, philosophy and political science at Rangoon University in 1955-59. Civil servant in northeastern Shan State before he joined the Kachin rebellion in 1961. General secretary of the Kachin Independence Organization and staunch anti-communist. Accompanied Zau Tu to the Thai border in 1973. Assassinated on 6 August 1975 near Tam Ngob along with Zau Seng and Zau Tu.

Maran Brang Seng:

Born in 1930 in Hpakan, Kachin State. Educated in Kachin Baptist School, Myitkyina; entered Rangoon University in 1952 and obtained a BA and a BEd in 1995. Burma's delegate to the YMCA to Singapore in 1957; headmaster of Myitkyina Baptist school 1957-60 and its principle 1961-63. Went underground with Kachin Independence Organization in 1963. Led the first Kachin rebel delegation to China in 1967.


Chairman of KIO since 1975. Made peace with the Communist Party of Burma in 1976 and led the delegation of National Democratic Front to the CPB's Panghsang headquarters in March 1986. Left Kachin State in late 1986 to travel abroad. Become vice chairman of Democratic Alliance of Burma on 18 November 1988 and was attached to its headquarter at Manerplaw on the Thai-Burma border until KIO made peace with Rangoon in April 1993. Suffered a stroke on 21 October 1993 in Kunming,Yunnan ,died on August 8 1994.

Mali Zup Zau Mai:

Born in 1936 in Manhkring village near Myitkyina. Studied at the Baptist High School in Myitkyina; obtained a degree from Rangoon University in 1959. Joined the Kachin Independence Army in 1962. Participated in 1963 peace talk with the Rangoon government. Commander of the KIA's 4th Brigade (northeastern Shan State) in 1972.


Fought battles with Communist forces in the area until peace treaty was reached in 1976. Become vice Chairman of the Kachin Independence Organization in 1975 and chief of staff of the KIA in 1980. Led the KIO delegation to hold peace talk with the military authorities in Myitkyina in September 1993. Leader of KIO until a coup by the reformist in February 2001 at the headquarter, Laisin. Charged with several treason cases and under house arrested at tha KIO headquarter.

Lamung Tu Jai:

Born in 1930 in Kutkai, Shan State. Studied at Kutkai middle school up to 8th Standard. Joined the 4th Kachin Rifles in 1950 and became lance coporal in 1956. Joined the Kachin rebel movement in 1961. Brigade commander (the Kachin Independence Army) in Putao area of Kachin State in 1973. Became chief of staff of the KIA in 1975; handed over his duties to Zau Mai in 1980. Member of central committee of the Kachin Independence Organization since 1975. Became leader of Kachin Independence organization after former leader Zau Mai ousted by the coup in 2001.  General Lanung Tu Jai passed away in 2006 and Mr Zawng Hra succeeded over him.

Lanyaw Zawng Hra:

Born in 1935 in Sumpra Bum, Kachin State. Studied at the Kachin Baptist School in Myitkyina before being admitted to Rangoon University in 1955. Acquired a BA degree a few years later and worked for a while as sub-divisional officer of Sumprabum. Joined the Kachin rebles in 1963. General secretary of Kachin Independence organization since1976; attended peace talk in Rangoon in 1980. Accompanied Brang Seng abroad in 1987; returned to Kachin State in 1988. Became a vice Chairman of KIO after coup in early of 2001. Mr Lanyaw Zawng Hra became Chairman of the KIC, KIO 2006.

Zahkung Ting Ying:

Kachin of Ngochan tribe from the Yunnan frontier. Broke with the Kachin Independence Army and joined the Communist Party of Burma in early 1968. Established the CPB's 101 War Zone in the Panwa-Kambaiti area of eastern Kachin State together with Zalum, another KIA defector. Joined the 1989 mutiny, and his former CPB unit, now renamed the New Democratic Army-Kachin, was legalized on 15 December 1989 .Becomes government-recognized militia force and current leader of New Democratic Army-Kachin.

Gauri Zau Seng:

Born in 1942 in Myitkyina. Science student at Rangoon University in the early 1960s; active in Kachin Student movement. Went underground in 1964 with the Kachin Independence Army. Succeeded Zau Tu as commander of the KIA 's 2nd Brigade (western Kachin State) in 1975. Became member of the central committee of the Kachin Independence Organization 1977.


Led a Kachin delegation to the Thai border in 1983, (the first time since the assassination of Zau Seng, Zau Tu and Phungshwi Zau Seng in 1975). Vice chairman of the National Democratic Front in July 1991. The main Kachin representative in Thailand since 1983. Leading member and policy maker of the Kachin Independence Organization after 2001 coup . Vice president of KIO after reshuffling some senior leaders due to the possible coup attempt in its headquarter in January 2004.

The Following are Kachin Publications: -

Jinghpaw Prat (The Jinghpaw Era):
The first and only Kachin language weekly newspaper ever in circulation, The Jinghpaw Prat., was founded in 1958 by Zau Bawn, the editor of publication. The Jinghpaw Prat was distributed weekly until it was forced to cease publication in 1962 after Ne Win seized power by military coup and ordered to halt all independent newspaper publications.

Shi Laika Ningnan( New issue newspaper):
In 1943, the earliest Kachin language newspaper was published in India and distributed to northern Burma. The paper mainly covering battle news about Alliance and Japanese forces of the World War II was then airdropped into the Kachin-inhabited area.

Wunrawt Journal (The Progressive):
In 1998, there was another effort at establishing a vernacular press, with publication of the Kachin language monthly journal, Wun Rawt(The Progressive). The journal covered news, opinion and articles concerning to Kachin in Burma. After five issues, the editor was arrested in Rangoon for failing to submit his publication to the Press Scrutiny Board (PSB) censorship committee for publications, and the paper was shut down.

The Kachin Post:
Monthly Kachin language newspaper published on February 1, 2002, in Chiang Mai, Thailand by editor Naw Seng and some Kachin youth who are committed in freedom of press, independent journalism and democracy. The Kachin Post started launching online version at www.kachinpost.com on September 1, 2003.

Hparat Ninghkawng (Wisdom Power) Magazine:
Annual magazine published by Kachin Literature and Culture sub-committee of University of Yangon.

Chyurum Shalat (Kachin brotherhood development) Magazine: Annual magazine published by Kachin Literature and Culture sub-committee of University of Mandalay.

Buga Shanan ( Homeland's Light) Magazine:
Annual magazine published by Kachin Literature and Culture sub-committee of University of Myitkyina.

Pahtau (Triumph )Magazine:
Annual magazine published by Kachin Student studying at the Myanmar Institute of Theology in Insein, Rangoon.

Myihtoi Ma (spiritual media) Magazine:
Annual magazine published by Nawng Nang Kachin Theological College, in Myitkyina Kachin State.

Tsanlun( Olive biblical ) Magazine:
Published annually by the Kachin Baptist Youth Committee of Myitkyina region, Kachin State. The magazine covers regilion and activities of Baptist youth in Myitkyina. It was established in 1988.

Jawprat ( Century) 21 Journal:
Published every three months by the Youth section of Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC). The paper mainly covers regilious affairs and activities of Kachin Baptist Churches as well as culture issues. It is distributed with the Churches.

Gindai ( Central) Journal:
Published every three months by All Kachin Students and Youth Union (AKSYU) based in India. The paper covers politic, democracy and Human rights issues.It was established in 1997.

Padang Shiga (Victory News):
A monthly newsletter published by the Kachin in Japan to cover local news and activities as well as culture pieces. It was established in 1992.

Ram Padang (Youth Victory) Journal :
Quarter-annual journal published on October 1 2004 by Kachin Youth Fellowship Committee from Kachin Sub-State in northern Shan State, Burma .
*For more info please refer to :

"Burma Insurgency and the Politics of Ethnicity by Martin Smith, 2nd Edition 1999".

"Burma: Insurgency and the Politics of Ethnicity by Smith, Martin",
3. "Land of Jade by Bertil Lintner (A Journey from India through Northern Burma to China)".
4. "Political Systems of Highland Burma: A Study of Kachin Social Structure (London School of Economics Monographs on Social Anthropology) by Edmund Ronald Leach"
5. "Burma: Frontier Photographs 1918-1935 (published in 2000, edited by Elizabeth Dell, Mandy Sadan)". (boxun.com)






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May 27 2010 5 27 /05 /May /2010 11:52

Manau 2---background-page











ETHNONYMS: Dashan, Jinghpaw, Khang, Singhpo, Theinbaw



History and Cultural Relations




Marriage and Family

Sociopolitical Organization

Religion and Expressive Culture



Kachin - Orientation

Identification. "Kachin" comes from the Jinghpaw word "GaKhyen," meaning "Red Earth," a region in the valley of the two branches of the upper Irrawaddy with the greatest concentration of powerful traditional chiefs. It refers to a congeries of Tibeto-Burman-speaking peoples who come under the Jinghpaw political system and associated religious ideology.

The main people of this group are the Jinghpaw; their language is the lingua franca and the ritual language of the group. In Jinghpaw, they are called "Jinghpaw Wunpaung Amyu Ni" (Jinghpaw and related peoples). The Singhpo are their kin in the Hukawng Valley and in northeasternmost India, closely associated with the Ahom rulers of that part of Assam from the thirteenth century.

"Theinbaw" is the Burmese form. "Khang" is the Shan word for Kachin, whom the Chinese used to call "Dashan." Other than Jinghpaw (Chinese spelling, Jingpo), the Kachin are comprised of Maru (own name, "Lawngwaw"), Atsi (Szi, Zaiwa—the majority Kachin population in Yunnan), Lashi, and speakers of the Rawang language of the Nung group, Achang (Burmese term, "Maingtha," meaning "people of the {Shan} state of Möng Hsa"), and some in-resident communities of Lisu speakers (Yawyin, in Burmese). Lashi and Atsi-Maru (and smaller groups akin to Maru) are called "Maru Dangbau" (the Maru branch) in Jinghpaw.


Location. Kachin are located primarily in the Kachin State of Myanmar (Burma) and parts of the northern Shan State, southwestern Yunnan in China, and northeasternmost India (Assam and Arunachal Pradesh), between 23° and 28° N and 96° and 99° E. The Maru Dangbau are found mainly along the Myanmar-China border in this range. It is a region of north-south ranges, dissected by narrow valleys. In the valleys there are also Shan (Dai, in Yunnan) and Burmans, and those Kachin who are more heavily influenced by Shan culture.


In the far north there are peaks as high as 5,000 meters but the Kachin settlements and swiddens normally range between 1,200 and 1,900 meters or so, while the two main towns in Myanmar's Kachin State (Myitkyina and Bhamo, originally a Burman and a Shan town respectively) are about 330 meters in elevation. Snow is always found on the highest northern peaks, and the upper elevations are subject to coldseason frosts.


There are more than 50 days of frost a year at higher elevations. Rainfall occurs mainly in the monsoon season (between June and October) and is between 190 and 254 centimeters on average. Temperatures are substantially lower on the high eastern slopes over the China border and in the northern Shan State. The forest cover is mixed evergreen/deciduous broadleaf monsoon forest, with subtropical forest at lower elevations, including teak ( Tectona grandis ).

Demography. There are no reliable census reports from recent decades from Myanmar. Projections from the estimates of the 1950s (then about half a million in all) suggest a total Kachin population of perhaps a million or more, of which Yunnan contains over 100,000 and India but a few thousand. Average population density is uneven.


Because of the relatively poor growing conditions of the eastern zone and the adjacent northern Shan State, there was a greater tendency for Kachins to incorporate valley areas originally belonging to the Shan, as well as to practice swiddening on grassland rather than on forested slopes. In the intermediate zone along the north-south part of the Myanmar-China border, however, the relative density was especially high, owing to profitable concentration along the Chinese caravan trade routes there; the associated high incidence of raiding caused some villages to practice high-slope terracing of wet-rice fields rather than rely exclusively on swiddening.


These historical conditions restricted access to enough forested upland to permit rotation cycles that were long enough for fallow fields to revert to natural cover. Even in the more fertile zone of the west, conditions of warfare and trade sometimes led to high density and resulted in grassland rather than forest swiddening, with associated tendencies toward erosion. Overall, many villages had twenty houses or fewer, with more than five persons each, on average.

Linguistic Affiliations. All the Kachin languages are of the Tibeto-Burman Family. Jinghpaw and its dialects (chiefly Sinli, in the south, which is the Standard Jinghpaw of the schools based in the towns of Bhamo and Myitkyina; Mungun in Assam; Gauri {Hkauri} in the east; and Hkaku in the north and west {known as the Red-Earth country}) are an autonomous branch of the family, while the languages of the Maru Dangbau are in the Burmese-Lolo Branch, akin to Burmese. Nung is less certainly placed in Tibeto-Burman, while Lisu is a Loloish language in the Lolo-Burmese Branch.


Kachin - History and Cultural Relations

There are Chinese mentions of Kachin in Yunnan going back to the fourteenth or fifteenth century, and there are obscure references to what must be Singhpo clients in the chronicles of the Ahom Kingdom in Assam, dating as early as the thirteenth century. There are similar mentions in the chronicles of some Khamti Shan principalities from the Upper Chindwin, while Leach argues that the prototypical Kachin chiefly (Gumchying Gumtsa) domains of the Red-Earth country may have arisen in the context of Khamti conquest of the area and displacement of Tibetan traders from the region of Putao (Hkamti Long).


However, the first historical light on them comes from the end of the eighteenth and the start of the nineteenth century. Their spread was connected with the spread of the Shan (and Ahom) Tai-speaking peoples of the region's valleys, with whom Kachin have had a symbiotic relation. There are more Shan borrowings than any other in the Jinghpaw lexicon, and Shan-Buddhist ideas (and terms) are found in the ideological rhetoric associated with the Gumlao version of their political system ("Gumlao" means "rebellious aristocrats"; see below).


Most of the ethnography comes from the work of American Protestant and European Catholic missionaries, who started work in the Bhamo area in the late nineteenth century, and later extended to the Kachin areas in the Shan States and northward to and beyond Myitkyina, which the railway reached in 1899. The rest of what we know, aside from professional ethnography, comes from the records and diaries of British colonial officers and associated traders.


There are Chinese sources for the Yunnan Kachin, only now becoming available outside China, and these show a long-standing place for Jinghpaw in the Tusi system of imperially appointed political-cum-customs agents in this borderland of Southeast Asia, the Kachin chiefs being subordinate to local Shan princes in this context.


There was an expansion of Kachin settlement toward the east and south from late in the eighteenth century, in which the Kachin followed the growth of the Chinese overland caravan trade, especially with the rise and spread of commercial opium growing. This led to a flowering of the Gumlao political system, owing to the injection into Kachin politics of new sources of wealth from involvement in the trade and from the levying of tribute on the caravans. It also led to more confrontation of Kachin with Shan, and to instances of Kachin taking over minor Shan valley principalities.


There is also indication that a much earlier period saw a similar development of centers of political power in the Red-Earth country, when the chiefs there were able to collect tribute from the annual influx of itinerant Tibetan pack traders going to Burma and even Siam and wintering in Kachin territory, where they gathered forest products for sale farther on.


In the Third Anglo-Burmese War of 1885, while the British were taking Mandalay, the Kachin were also trying to take advantage of the collapse of royal Burma, and it was thought that, had the British failed to reach Mandalay when they did, the Kachin (and Shan?) might have reached it first. During the British Imperium in Burma and India most of Kachinland was under the Frontier Administration, but the Triangle, north from Myitkyina, between the two branches of the Irrawaddy, was largely unadministered until just before the Japanese invasion of 1942.


The Kachin State has been a constitutent of the Union of Burma (now Myanmar) since that country regained independence in 1948, and the President-elect on the eve of the socialist military coup of 1962 was a Kachin chief, the Sama Duwa Sinwa Nawng. Since the coup, however, the Kachin have been a major element in the multiethnic insurgency against the Myanmar government throughout the mountains of the Myanmar-China-Thailand border region, which has led to the extension of Kachin communities into northern Thailand.


In 1953 a Jingpo Autonomous Region was established in southwestern Yunnan in China; the Peoples' Republic of China has proved a magnet and refuge for some of the insurgent leaders from Myanmar. Kachins have served prominently in Burma's armed forces (as also in British times), and some hundreds served, some in Europe, during the First World War.


Kachin - Settlements

Traditional Kachin villages usually had far fewer than 100 households; the larger villages existed for defense, but the requirements of swidden agriculture led to segmentation of villages. In the old days many were stockaded. Houses were built on piles. There were three sorts of houses. In regions with strong hereditary chiefs ruling multivillage tracts, the chief's house was sometimes up to 30 meters long (10 meters wide), occupied as a single dwelling by the extended household of the chief. These were generally on steep mountain terraces.


This form of dwelling served to symbolize the ownership of the tract by the lineage of the chief. Since livestock were considered individual household property rather than lineage property, they were not kept under the "longhouse." In some pioneer Gumlao settlements there were real longhouses, composite structures with separately owned individual household apartments along a corridor. Again, livestock were kept separately. These longhouses symbolized the cooperative nature of the Gumlao political order.

The rest of the Kachin lived and continue to live in individual household dwellings. Water supply was a critical factor in village size and placement, but villages that were high up for defense purposes were often distant from their water supply. Most villages were entered through a sacred grove marked by posts serving to elicit prosperity from the gods, and by shrines to the spirit of the earth, where community sacrifices were held.

The other kind of building that exists today is the household granary. The house posts and beams are made of wood, floors and walls of woven split bamboo, roof thatched with grass. Domestic tasks like weaving and rice pounding are done under the overhanging front gable of the house, under which the larger animals are also kept. Inside, the house is partitioned lengthwise.


The left (up-slope) side consists of sleeping apartments; the right side is left open for cooking, storage, and entertainment. At the end of the apartments is a space for the household spirit and ancestral spirits not yet sent to the land of the dead. In front of the house are altars to spirits and large X-shaped posts to which cattle are bound during sacrifices aggrandizing the household.


The main external decoration is the pair of hornlike ornaments over the front roof peak on important aristocratic houses. Inside chiefs' houses there are various symbolically carved boards and posts signifying the ritual claim to spiritual sources of general prosperity in the sky world and the nether world, and a head of a buffalo sacrificed at the construction.


Kachin - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Traditionally, all Kachins were farmers and there was no full-time occupational specialization. Save where Kachin settlements have encroached on Shan valley principalities, there is swidden farming. The main staple crop is rice, and the burnt-over swidden is cultivated with a short, heavy-handled hoe and planted with a planting stick, the crop being reaped with a knife or sickle. Swiddens, especially in the colder, less well rain-fed eastern zone, are also planted with maize, sesame, buckwheat, millet, tobacco, and various species of pumpkin.


Vegetables and fruits are planted in house-yard gardens. People also raise some cotton and opium poppy. As one goes east into the Dehong of Yunnan, cultivation is a mixture of upland wet-rice terraces, monsoon swiddening, and grassland swiddening. Rice farming starts in February or March, and the cut slopes are burnt over and planted before the onset of the monsoon in June; harvesting is in October. Grain, which is threshed by being trampled by buffalo, is stored by December. Kachins do not generally use a swidden for more than three years at a time. Fallowing ideally takes at least twelve years, but field rotation does not usually require moving the settlement; villages often last half a century or more.

Fishing with traps and poison is common, but economically insignificant. Hunting with traps, snares, deadfalls, pellet bows, and guns is especially common in the agriculturally slack cold season between December and February. Cattle, buffalo, pigs, dogs, and fowl are bred for sacrifice but generally not for eating. Pigs are fed cooked mash in the evening but scavenge during the day. Some dogs are used in hunting, and some horses are kept.

Boiled rice with a vegetable stew and sometimes meat or fish are eaten three times a day. There is an aversion to eating cats, dogs, horses, monkeys, sheep, and goats. Tobacco and betel are commonly chewed. Opium smoking has been wide-spread in the last century or so. Rice beer is prepared, the malted mash also being taken during heavy work and on journeys, while the liquor is also distilled. These drinks are essential to hospitality and to ritual sacrifice.

Industrial Arts. Most metalware is obtained from Shan and Chinese, but in some northern regions there are lineages of blacksmiths who smelt ore. No pottery making is reported, though earthenware pots are common. Bamboo, cane, and grass are used to weave mats, baskets, and house walls. Woodworking and carving are not elaborate. Women weave on the belt loom, producing elaborate, largely floral-geometric designs, with some embroidery.

Trade. Trade is mainly with Shan and Chinese (and Burmese) for salt, metalware, and the prestigious heirloom wares exhibited by aristocratic lineages. Kachins attend the markets held every five days in Shan towns, where they sell small amounts of garden and forest produce. The extent of Kachin involvement in opium growing and trading is in dispute, but the poppy was commonly cultivated in the area, though perhaps mainly by non-Jinghpaw. Trade with the Chinese caravans that came through the region carrying, among other things, opium, was a major source of wealth for the settlements of the intermediate zone; chiefs extracted considerable revenue from traders in their domains.

Division of Labor. Men clear and burn the swiddens, hunt, go on raids, and assume most political and religious roles. Women have full responsibility for weeding, harvesting, transporting, and threshing; both men and women cook and brew from the crops, marketing any surplus. Women fetch water and firewood; they prepare raw cotton for weaving their own clothing and make their husbands' (largely Shan-style) clothes from commercial cloth.

Land Tenure. Forest lands in a tract are village property and there is no private property in swidden land. Chiefs or the joint rulers of a Gumlao community have the sole right to allow people to live in a village and the sole right to dispose of land to those wishing to use it, but may not refuse any resident household use of swidden lands. Deciding when and where to shift swidden sites and assigning swidden plots are the prerogative of the chief and the elders. Irrigated lands can be inherited and sold to a fellow villager, but never to an outsider; this right follows the rule that a cultivator may not be dispossessed from a plot while it is in use.

Kachin - Kinship

Kin Groups and Descent. Descent is agnatic and there are eponymous clans with fixed correspondences between clan names in the different languages. The five aristocratie clans are descended from the sons of Wahkyet-wa, youngest brother among the ancestors of the Shan, Chinese, and other peoples. These brothers were descendants of Ningawn-wa, eldest brother of the Madai nat, chief of the sky spirits. The aristocratie clans are, in order of precedence, Marip, Lahtaw, Lahpai, N'Hkum, and Maran.


The clans are divided into major lineages and these into lesser segments and local lineage groups, and it is especially to the last that exogamy strictly applies, although all the clans are exogamous in theory. In some regions a form of marriage called hkau wang magam is practiced, which prohibits marrying into a lineage from which a wife has been taken until the fourth generation, and requires a marriage with a mother's brother's daughter's daughter's daughter (MBDDD).


In such cases the MBDDD may turn out to be in one's own lineage, and the requirement must still be met. Some traditional lineage genealogies recited by bards are very long, though the number of generations back to the common ancestor seems to be a fixed number (i.e., genealogical telescoping).


Clans are sometimes spoken of as if they were tribes because major chiefly domains have a majority of their residents in the chief's clan, which owns the village tract. In Jinghpaw proper, the wife acquires no membership in her husband's clan and lineage, but in Gauri she acquires it to some extent, and this difference corresponds to differences in the ease of divorce and in the recovery of marriage payments in such cases; in Jinghpaw proper, recovery is made from the wife's family, while in Gauri it is made mainly from her seducer, if any.

Kinship Terminology. Kinship terminology is bifurcate-merging, with Omaha-type cousin terminology. The members of the lineage from which wives are taken and given, respectively, are referred to (by male speakers) with affinal terms (save that in the second descending generation the members of one's wife-taking groups are called by grandchild terms and the members of the second ascending generation of the wife-giving group are given grandparent terms).


On the other hand, the wife takers of one's wife takers are all "grandchildren" and the men of one's wife givers' wife givers are all "grandfathers," regardless of generation. Furthermore, a male Ego calls the men in his own generation, whether wife giver or wife taker, by the same "brother-in-law" term ( hkau ); he calls the women in nonascending generations and men of descending generations of his wife-giving group "wife's younger sibling" ( nam ); and he calls the members of the three central generations of his wife takers, exclusive of the men of his own generation, by the term hkri , meaning "sister's children.


" Women of ascending generations of one's own lineage are "aunts by consanguinity" ( moi ) and the men of corresponding generations of wife takers are "uncle-by-marriage" ( gu ); women of the three central generations of wife givers' wife givers are ni, etymologically an "aunt" term, which has primary reference to the wives of classificatory mother's brothers ( tsa, first ascending male wife giver). There are terms for actual husband and wife, and real/classificatory siblings are distinguished by age relative to the speaker.

Kachin - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Traditionally premarital sex was allowed; adolescents used to gather in the front apartment of a house evenings for singing, recitations of love poetry, and lovemaking. These relations need not, and some of them could not, lead to marriage. Fines are levied in favor of a girl's family for fathering a bastard. Parents try to arrange marriages to ally with other lineages, but negotiations are turned over to go-betweens.


Bride-price is paid by the groom's father and the latter's lineage mates and may involve lengthy negotiations with payments extending over many years; there may also be a year or two of bride-service. The bride's family provides her with a dowry and helps defray the wedding costs. Polygyny, not common, is allowed, and often arises from the obligation to take on the widow of a real or classificatory brother. Some chiefs have several wives, some of them Shan or Burmese, and these cases arise from the need for marriages of state.


Exogamy is more theoretical than strict, and it is quite possible to marry even a somewhat distant consanguine ( lawulahta ). This follows from the two principles of asymmetrical marriage alliance and lineage segmentation. The first has a single rule: one may not take wives from the same lineages to which one gives wives; the reversal of an alliance is a major offense against the whole social order. Since wife givers ( mayu in Jinghpaw) outrank their wife takers ( dama in Jinghpaw) ritually and in rights and duties to one another, wife givers can extort a great deal from their wife takers, from which derives the auxiliary principle of diversification of alliances.


Far from its being a rule that one should normally marry a woman from a wife-giver lineage, it is often thought strategic to negotiate a new alliance. This possibility reinforces the tendency for lineages to segment (or fission) when they become too large and have to compete for limited social and economic resources.


It follows that one's distant lineage mates may well have separated themselves and have their own marriage networks, in which case each has effectively become a distinct unit of marriage alliance, and hence can intermarry. In Kachin ideology, however, exogamy and marriage-alliance relations are fixed once and for all among the five aristocratic clans, with the result that this ideological model of the system has the five clans marrying in a circle (e.g., Lahtaw, Marip, Maran, N'Hkum, Lahpai, Lahtaw, each being wife giver to the next).


This is consistent with the rules. Wife giver-wife taker relations, and the restrictions against reversing them, are not transitive. They extend only to certain of the wife givers of one's own immediate wife giver (and of the wife taker of one's own immediate wife taker) because a woman's lineage brothers hold a sort of lien on the children, so that her husband's lineage must pay off that lien (to the natal lineage of her actual mother) along with paying the marriage price to her lineage.


In principle the rank distinction between aristocrats and commoners ( du ni and darat ni respectively) is rigid, but for the same reasons that clan exogamy is only a fiction, so is this. The politics of marriage alliance combined with the tendency for local lineage segments to constitute separate entities occasionally allows a rising commoner lineage of wealth and power to get a major wife from a lineage in an aristocratic clan that may have fallen on hard times, if the alliance is suitable to the two parties and the prices paid are appropriately inflated.


There are, however, some clans that figure as unequivocal commoners (not merely darat ni but darat daroi, "utter commoners"); an example is the clan Labya, properly called Labya mi-wa, indicating that it is of Chinese origin and has been included fairly recently in the Kachin system.

Domestic Unit. Ideally, residence is virilocal, but uxorilocal marriage is not notably uncommon. This is especially true in the case of a noninheriting son, whose claims on the assistance of his real or classificatory mother's brother, whose daughter is a preferential wife, may be greater than those on his own father.

Inheritance. Usually the youngest son ( uma ) inherits his father's house and office, if any, while much of the movable property may go, in the father's lifetime, as dowry to his daughters and as marriage settlements on the older sons. The youngest son in return is expected to support the parents in their old age and arrange their funerals.


A childless man's estate reverts to his brothers or lineage mates and their heirs. The principle of ultimogeniture is modified by the fact that an eldest son is thought to succeed in some measure to the powers of the "mother's brother" or wife-giver line and in any case is next in line after the youngest in succession, so that the position of an eldest son of a youngest-son line is especially important. This may be an idea associated with the Gumlao political order, but compare the mythical genealogy of the chiefly clans.


Kachin - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. See under "Settlements" and "Marriage and Family"

Political Organization. There are several versions of the system. Gumchying Gumtsa chiefs are the ritual models of chiefdom and the base for this kind of organization is the Red-Earth country. Their authority derives from their monopoly of priests and bardic reciters of genealogical myths, through which ritual specialists they control access to the spirits who make human occupancy of the land possible.


They claim the right to various services and dues from their subjects, notably a hind quarter of all animals (wild and domestic) that are killed in the tract, and so are called "thigh-eating chiefs." Gumlao communities reject on principle the hereditary privileges of chiefs. In particular, they believe that all aristocrats of the community are equal, that is, all householders who can get someone to sponsor the essential Merit Feasts and sacrifices.


It is a mistake to call this a "democratic" system, since its principle is wider access by aristocrats to chieflike privileges (though they reject the thigh-eating dues) ; a Gumlao man is called magam, which signifies an aristocrat though not a chief ( duwa ) by strict succession. Gumlao is based on the idea that a noninheriting son who can find wealth and a place to set himself up may try to get an important Gumchying Gumtsa chief to sponsor him in a feat that will raise him to standing as a full chief; but first he must temporarily renounce all claims to standing ( gumyu, which literally means "to step down from privilege") while he awaits the sponsoring rites.


When local and historical circumstances conspire to make wealth more generally accessible, there are aristocrats who will not bother with sponsorship at all, since sponsorship becomes expensive and has to be postponed proportionally to the demand for it. They simply assume the ritual attributes, although not the thigh-eating privileges, of chiefdom. This seems to be the root of the Gumlao movement.


Not surprisingly, as conditions ease there will be gumlao magam who again seek sponsorship as full chiefs, at which point Gumlao tracts turn again into Gumchying Gumtsa domains. The oscillation is fueled by a perennial ideological debate about the allowable sources of ritual privilege, as well as by the combined effects of the principle of lineage segmentation and the tendencies toward disaffection brought about through primogeniture.


When a Kachin chief in close contact with Shan becomes more like a Shan prince ( sawbwa, or tsao-fa ), often because he has taken over lowland Shan territories or because he desires political recognition on the part of other sawbwas, he will try to assert even greater power over his "subjects" and may even abandon Kachin priestly services and the closely connected reliance on upland farming. Such a chief is called "Gumsa duwa," a Gumsa chief.


In tending toward becoming Shan and asserting a sharp distinction between "rulers" and "subjects" incompatible with the claims and intricacies of the Kachin marriage-alliance system (a Shan prince, of course, simply takes and gives wives as tribute) , and in giving up the ritual basis of his authority, he will tend to lose the allegiance of the Kachin manpower on which his real power depends.


The alternative is the compromise status of Gumrawng Gumsa (pretentious chiefs), who claim exclusive right over a village and maintain enough upland swiddens to satisfy the Kachin priests who must serve them, but remain unconnected with the hierarchy of Kachin authority deriving from the rules of strict succession and sponsorship, have no authority outside the village, and are not recognized outside the village as thigh-eating chiefs.


Traditional Kachin chiefs, not being absolute rulers, rarely acted apart from the wishes of the council of household elders. In Yunnan, where Kachin chiefs have long had a place within the Tusi system in the context of Shan principalities, it is not unknown for agents ( suwen, probably a Chinese title) to usurp much of the power of the chiefs, even though these administrative agents may be commoners.

Conflict. Suppressed upon the extension of British rule, Kachin warfare was mainly guerilla action, raiding, and ambush, with sporadic instances of cannibalism and headhunting reported.


Kachin - Bibliography

Carrapiet, W. J. S. (1929). The Kachin Tribes of Burma. Rangoon: Superintendent of Government Printing and Stationery.

Friedman, Jonathan (1979). System, Structure, and Contradiction. Copenhagen: National Museum of Denmark.

Gilhodes, Charles (1922). The Kachins: Religion and Customs. Calcutta: Catholic Orphan Press.

Hanson, Olaf (1913). The Kachins: Their Customs and Traditions. Rangoon: American Baptist Mission Press.

Leach, Edmund R. (1954). Political Systems of Highland Burma. Cambridge: Harvard University Press; London: G. Bell & Sons.

Leach, Edmund R. (1961). Rethinking Anthropology (chapters 2, 3, and 5). London: Athlone Press.

Lehman, F. K. (1977). "Kachin Social Categories and Methodological Sins." In Language and Thought: Anthropological Issues, edited by William McCormack and Stefan Wurm, 229-250. The Hague: Mouton.

Lehman, F. K. (1989). "Internal Inflationary Pressures in the Prestige Economies of the Feast-of-Merit Complex." In Ritual, Power, and Economy: Upland-Lowland Contrasts in Mainland Southeast Asia, edited by Susan D. Russell, 89-102. Occasional Paper 14. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University, Center for Southeast Asian Studies.

Lintner, Bertil (1990). Land of Jade: A Journey through Insurgent Burma. Bangkok: White Lotus.

Maran, LaRaw (1967). "Towards a Basis for Understanding the Minorities of Burma: The Kachin Example." In Southeast Asian Tribes, Minorities, and Nations. Vol. 1, edited by Peter Kunstadter, 125-146. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.


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May 22 2010 7 22 /05 /May /2010 06:51

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The Growth of Christianity in the Kachin People 

The early western missionaries contact to the Kachin people 

      From the time Judson landed in Rangoon to the meeting of the first Kachins by an American Baptist. In 1837 that intrepid missionary traveler, Eugenio Kaincaid, went as far as Mogaung, the northernmost city in Burma at that time, where he met and talked with several Kachins through a Shan interpreter.

      But it was nearly four decades before any actual work was undertaken among the Kachins. Brief visits to Bhamo by missionaries A. Taylor Rose, Franscis, Mason, and Josiah N.Cushing challenged each with the opportunity for ministry among these hill tribesmen, though Cushing was designated for work among the Shans.

         There accompanied him to two young Karen evangelists for missionary labors among the Kachins. These pioneers, Thra Shwe Lin and Thra Bo Gale, stayed only nine months before returning to lower Burma. They were shortly replaced by Thra Swa Pe (S’Peh). Thra Ne Hta, and Thra Ka Te from Bassein. The latter two, along with Saw Pe’s wife, accompanied Cushing with the first missionary couple assigned from America for work among the Kachins, Mr. and Mrs. Albert. Lyon.


Sowing the seed laid on the Kachin’s soil

      Mr. and Mrs. Lyon reached Bhamo on February 13, 1878.  Cushing, with the help of the Karen evangelists, had made a fair beginning in reducing the Kachin languages to written form, using a combination of Burmese, Shan, and Karen characters.  Tragically, within a week after his arrival at Bhamo, Lyon fell ill with a fever and within one month of his arrival as the first American missionary to the Kachins, he passed away.  

      Mr. James A. Freiday, replacement for J.N. Cushing, undertook to supervise the work of the Karen evangelists in the hills.  Word went out in America of Lyon’s death and the urgent need for an American missionary to the Kachins. William Henry Roberts, a young pastor in Illinois Volunteered with his wife, arriving in Bhamo on January 12, 1879.  Karen evangelists Maw Keh and Shwe Gyaw accompanied them from Rangoon to Bhamo. 

      Mrs. Roberts laid down here life within a year and a half of her arrival, though her husband pioneered among the Kachins for nearly forty years.  These early years were trying, with political unrest and Kachin antagonism and indifference to the appeal of the Christian gospel.

      Roberts returned to America following the death of his wife, again leaving work among the Kachins to the Karen evangelists in the hills, with the assistance of Freiday.  The difficulty under which they labored may be measured by a portion of Freiday’s letter to the Mission Headquarters in America, dated in early 1881.  

      ”The past year has been a very trying one for the Bhamo mission …. Attacks and  robberies from those who it was hoped would receive the Word gladly… and the  destruction of our Shan mission house by fire, the removal of kind sister Roberts  from earth to heaven, and the return of Mr. Roberts himself to America.  To these  losses must be added those occasioned by the sickness and return to British  Burma of valuable native helpers much needed here. 

        These losses were easier to  bear were there even a single active Christian, or even one known inquirer after  the truth, to whom we might point as the fruit of all the labor of the many  missionaries who have labored…….in Bhamo.”

      Returning to Burma in December 1881, Mr. Roberts was married in Rangoon to Miss Alice Buell, serving at Kemmendine School.  They proceeded to Bhamo with Mr. and Mrs. L.W. Cronkhite, newly appointed missionaries to the Kachins.   


Conversion among the Kachin people  

      Mr. and Mrs. Roberts and Mr. Cronkhite, trudged up the steep paths into the Kachin Hills east of Bhamo.  Freiday had informed them that in the village of Bumwa, where Thra Saw Pe had been serving for over four years, several had been asking for baptism. Saw Pe and his family met the missionary party and made them at home in the village.  The candidates were carefully examined; Saw Pe had instructed them well.  On March 19, 1882, the first Kachins were led down into the waters of baptism. 


      They numbered seven in all.  Bawmung La (Paw Min La), an elderly man, and his wife; his son Maran A Yung and his wife; Nangzing Yung and his wife, Lazum Kaw Lum; and finally a deformed man named Gawlu Htang Yawng.  Besides the new converts and the American missionaries, the four Karen evenglists, Maw Keh, Saw Peh, Ko The, and Shwe Gyaw, together with their wives, joined in the first communion service for Kachin Christians.

      Development over the next several years was rapid.  Baptisms were regular even though standards were high.  The establishment of schools, translation of the Scriptures, preparation of a Christian hymnal and catechism in Kachin, Training of new leaders, and reaching out north and south to open new stations were all part of the expanding program of Kachin Baptist Church History.  


Bible translation 

      Mrs. Roberts had taught a few children when she had first arrived in Bhamo. Roberts and his school boys made a beginning in translating the Bible into Kachin.  He wrote home with great enthusiasm, that on August 2, 1885, he and they had completed the translation of the Gospel According to Matthew into Kachin, from the Burmese, However, he never conceived of himself as a translator.  He repeatedly asked the Mission to recruit a scholar for this important work.

      Ola Hanson arrived in Rangoon to being such work in 1890. Rev. and Mrs. Ola Hanson were appointed by the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society in 1890 to the Kachin people of Upper Burma and they arrived in December of that year. The task before them seemed hopeless. The Kachins in the early days of pioneer missions were described as revengeful, cruel, and treacherous.

      Even the King of Burma addressed the missionaries who came to work with the Kachins as follows: “So you are to teach the Kachins! Do you see my dogs over there? I tell you, it will be easier to convert and teach these dogs. You are wasting your life.” When the missionaries came to Kachin land, they discovered that this people possessed an extensive mythology.

      The stories were passed from generation to generation. There were stories dealing with creation, death, resurrection and even a flood. They also told of a book that they had lost. The Kachin version states that God gave each race a book. On their way home from their meeting with God, the Kachins became hungry, so they ate their copy. The Karens, a neighboring tribal group, had a prophecy stating that one day a foreigner would bring the copy of the book back to them.

       When he heard the story of the lost book, Hanson determined that he would restore the book to the Kachins — he would give the Kachins the Bible in their own tongue. Hanson first gave himself to the task of clarifying the Kachin vocabulary.  Hanson would peer into the mouths of the Kachins to see where they placed their tongues, teeth and lips when forming words. Because the Kachin language is tonal there are many difficulties in trying to determine the distinctive meaning depending on its tone. He collected a word list of 25,000 words. Later he edited and published a Kachin-English dictionary of 11,000 words.

       The Kachins were 100% illiterate in 1890 and now 100 years later all Kachins can read and write in Kachin as well as Burmese the national language.On June 28, 1911, Hanson completed the New Testament translation. After he had completed the New Testament, he revised it three times.

         Then he proceeded with the Old Testament translation. Hanson completed the Old Testament translation on August 11, 1926. Hanson called his wife and his faithful Kachin assistant to his study where they knelt and poured out their hearts to God in thanksgiving and praise that the Bible was now completed in the Kachin language. He expressed his own feelings in a letter of August 14, 1926:

      ”It is with heartfelt gratitude that I lay this work at the feet of my Master. I am conscious of the defects of my work. I have tried to master Kachin, and make a translation intelligible to all. Pray with us, that our Divine Master may bless this  work to the salvation of the whole Kachin race, while we are still at work here.”73  

      He translated over 400 hymns from English and Swedish, he also composed 200 hymns for the Kachins, true to their style and culture. Further, he also wrote a catechism, spelling book, a primer, a grammar and Kachins: Their Customs and Traditions. 

5.3 Period of Mission Expansion 

      Growth and outreach into new areas beyond Bhamo District Characterize the last years of the nineteenth century.  George J. Geis and his wife arrived in Burma in 1892.  He and Roberts journeyed up the Irrawaddy River over one hundred miles to secure land for a new station and myitkyina.  There the Geises moved in 1893, happily reporting their first baptisms in 1897, three Kachins and one Burman.

      South and eastward from Bhamo lay Namkham in the Shan states.  Surrounding this center for Shan evangelism were hundreds of Kachin villages.  Shan missionaries had been doing what they could to preach to them, but needed help.

Roberts reported in 1898:

      ”In March we sent three of our more advanced pupils to teach school and conduct services in three villages during vacation and to help brother Cochrane commence a work among the Kachins in the mountains east of Namkham”.

      By 1909, the Kachin Baptist Mission was roughly twenty – five years old.  Myitkyina and Namkam established separate associations of Christian churches.  In these twenty – five years several thousands in widely scattered places had heard the Christian gospel and many had responded.  There were now one hundred and fifty Christians, eight of whom had been given sufficient private training to be unordained pastors.  It was only a beginning, but it was good! 

      On December 15, 1901, the first ordination council convened in the Kachin Hills of Burma. The candidates had proven themselves to be called of God: Damau Naw had come as a school boy nearly twenty years before, and following his training in schools in Rangoon, had been helping Hanson in Literary work since 1893.  Ning Grawng had accompanied Geis since 1894 in pioneering on the Myitkyina field.  Shwe so, one of the Karen missionaries, had been serving since 1884. 

      Other ordinations followed, such as those of Zau Tu of Sinlum Kaba in 1914, Lashi Naw of Mungbaw in 1915, and Zau Mai of Mungmaw in 1919.75  These and others began taking over the responsibilities of the Kachin Baptist Mission formerly shouldered solely by American and Karen missionaries.  

5.4 Pioneer period ends 

      With the passing of Geis, the missionary pioneer period of the Kachin Baptist Mission closed.  William Henry Roberts had given thirty – five years of service, retiring to America in 1914 where he passed away five years later.  Ola Hanson served from 1890 until retirement in 1928, passing away in 1929.  Others have entered the service with deep dedication, but illness or transfer to another field of labor had cut short their services among the Kachins.

      The World War II was testing, the Missionaries were forced to evacuate. Station after station was abandoned and schools were closed.  Rumor spread that the Japanese invaders were strongly anti-Christian. Church members scattered; some apostatized, erecting once again their traditional Animistic altars.  But rumor proved to be worse than reality. Certainly, some Christians suffered at the hands of soldiers, but there were Christians also among the troops! Before long, services were being resumed throughout Kachinland.  In spite of some losses in membership, new converts were won. 

       The Shan states Association held its annual Bible conferences; the Bhamo District Association met for fellowship and business.  Life settled down to something of a normal pattern during the years of Japanese occupation.

      After the world War II,the missionaries returned – Tegenfeldt, England, Misses Bonney, Taylor, and Laughlin.  They returned to scenes of destruction everywhere.  They investments of sixty years in buildings were gone.  Although the Kachins were destitute after the years of war, they gave freely of their time and energy.

      New mission policies on schools and post – war independence for Burma created new situations for the Kachin Baptist Mission. These became feeding schools for the large all – Association institutions in the three districts.  

      Mission grants helped the Kachin Baptist School at Myitkyina and the Roberts school at Bhamo to begin re-building their school plants and reopen classes. The Sumprabum Station decided against a costly association school, choosing instead to emphasize a co-ed Christian boarding program. Scholl buildings and a new mission residence fitted out the station by 1949, but local financial support was not forthcoming. After the pioneer missionaries left from the Kachinland Damau Naw of Nbapa, Zau Tu of Sinlum Kaba, and Lashi Naw of Mungbaw appointed for the future of the Kachin people.

      Among the Kachin people there are different dimension such as Baptist, Roman Catholic, Church or Christ, Anglica, Fundamental Baptist Church and the other Para-churches. The majority is Kachin Baptist Convention; according to Rev.S Sin Wa Naw’s recorded in 2000, there were (13) association and (270) churches, and the second is Roman Catholic Church.



      In conclusion this research work had done by the brief history of the Kachins people such as economic system, political, religious and social structure. Basically the Kachins are Mogonglian speaking at least seven different languages and several dialects; they recognize Jinghpaw as their common tongue. They were a hunting people economically, though by the time of this research work, they were following a hillside rice cultivation way of life. 

Sociologically, they are very friendly, understanding but determined, God fearing, and their social custom and tradition are very polite and formal. They have unbreakable chain of relationship among their clans and tribes. This is an important social contact with the other people.


Politically, in an early period Kachin people lived under the rule of their Chiefs such as “Duwas”. The leaders are responsibilities towards for the people of his domain. By this research work, we can find out the early arrival of Christianity in Myanmar. The foreign missionaries were difficulties to work mission under the Buddhism. Adoniram Judson landed the first American mission in Myanmar as well as he is one of the pioneers for the Kachin, Chins, and Karen as tribal people.  

Religiously, the pioneer missionaries never dreamed of themselves as head of a Kachin Church.  They longed and worked for the day when they should see Kachin Christians in Places of leadership throughout the Church.    

We can say that the seed of Christian faith, which was sown in the hard soil, has begun to bear fruit. It has become responsible for the Kachin people and growth of the Kachin society. The Kachin people should nurture this faith with love and care. 

In short, the Kachin people realize to restore our identity, culture, customs, and heritages. The researcher expect that the coming generations will do far well than what I had done on this chronological era of the Kachin people.



Anderson, Countney . To the Golden Shore . Grand Rapids,Michigan:  Zondervan Publishing House,1972. 

Badcock,D.I . Adoniram Judson. London :Oliphants Limited,1957. Bailey, Faith Coxe. Adonoram Judson Missionary to Burma. Chicago:  Moody Press,1955. Batten, J.R. Golden Foot. (the story of Judson of Burma). London :  Lutherworth press,1960. Crider, Donald M. “The work among the Kachin” in Burma Baptist  Chronicle Book I edited by Maung Shwe Wa (Rangoon: Rangoon  University Press for the Burma Baptist Convention,1963), 368-382. Dickason,David G. Dickason, “ Burma ” Academic American Encyclopedia.  Danburg: Grolier Incorporated,1982.  Di, Maran Brang . A Brief Modern History of Kachin. ThaiLand: Zin-me,2003. Di, Maran Brang, Prat Ningnan A Htik Labau Kadun. New Delhi,n.b,1996. George, K.M. Development Of Christian through the Centuries; Tradition  and Discovery.Triruvalla:Christava Sahitya Samithi,2005. Gilhodes ,Chales. The Kachins:Religion and Customs. Kalakatta:the  Catholic Orphan Pres:1992. Hansan,Ola .“The Origin of Kachin” in Burma Research Journal. Rangon: n.b, 1912. 

Ja Dan Li, Bawmwang . Kachin Times USA Vol I. Jacksonville: Kachin  Development Foundation, 2005. 

Leach, E.R .  Political Systems of Highland Burma: A Study Of Kachin  Social Structure. London: n.b.,1954. 

Lebar, Hickey and Musgrave. The Kachin State of Burma.  n.p.,1964,(www.kachinland.com). 

Lebor, Frank M. ed., Ethnic Groups of Mainland South East Asian.New  York:New Haven,1964.

Kane, J.Herbert. Understranding Christian Mission . Michigan: Baker Book  House,1986. 

Li, Pungga Ja. What Kachins Believe and Practice,Vol.I. Ruili:Sinpraw Bum  Media Group,2000. 

Mun, Lahpai Zau.  Kachin Way of Living Book I . Momuk: H.G.P ,1999. Naw, Dashi and  Sumlut Gam, Wunpawng Htunghkring Buka.  Myitkyina:May Press,2001. Naw, S.Sin Wa. Baptist History and Kachin Baptist Convention  communication Rangoon:KBC,2000. Neill, Stephen. A History of Christian Mission. n.p:Penguin,n.y. Sakhong, Lian .Religious and Politics among the Chin People In Myanmar (1896-1949)”(Ph.D Dessertation,Upsala University,2000.Sword ,Gustaf A. and Ruth M.Armstrong  “The Kachin of Burma” in   Pyilan  Lunghtawn  Journal. September,2004. Tegenfeldt, Herman G. A century of Growth: The Kachin Baptist Church of  Burma.South Pasadena: William Carey Library,1974. 

Trager, Helen G.  Burma Through Alien Eyes (Missionary View of the  Burma in the 19th Century).Bombay:Asia Publishing House,1966. Vedder, Henry C.  A Short History of Baptist Mission. Philadelphia:The  Judson Press,1927. Waters, John. Storming the Golden Kingdom. Bombay: Gospel Literature  Service,1992. Wawm, Duwa La. Jidwi Tsun Dan Na .Myit kyina:Hanson memorial  Press,1999. 

Wa, Lasi Bawk. ,Jinghpaw Wunpawng Sha Ni The Dai Ni  Na Sut  Masa.  Myitkyina :Millemium,2000. 

Wa, Maung Shew. Burma Baptist Chronicle, Book I & Book II. Rangoon  University Press for the Burma Baptist Convention,1963. Zaw, U Tint. Education In Burma in Presentation Papre for International  Burmese Students and Youth Conference:18-20 December,Uk,2004. 

Internet materials: 

www. Kachinpost.com

www. Kachinland.com

www. Kachinnet.com 

Journals and magazines: 

The Jinghpaw Times

Kachin  National  News  Beacon.(Wunpawng Shi shaman)

Pyilan Lunghtawn Journal

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May 22 2010 7 22 /05 /May /2010 06:42




The Growth of Christianity in the Myanmar  


The Early Arrival of Chrsitianity in Myanmar 

      The Burmans were the largest group in Myanmar; they were more advanced than other people groups. Buddhism was deeply rooted in the life of Burmans widely since the founding of the first Burman kingdom of pagan by king Annawrata in 1044, Buddhism has been adopted as the religion of the state44.

       Other ethnic group those who were inhabited in hill areas and highlands were known as animist who were known as spirit worshippers. In Myanmar, (formerly known aw burma)there were Nestorians in Pegu in the 10th century ,Roman Catholics from 1544 and Protestants by 1813.Sereval tribes, especially  the Karen ,Chin and Kachin peoples have been Christians for many years and have built up strong indigenous Christian communities Christians are only a small minority. Baptists and Roman Catholics are the two main Christian groups.

      Before Judson came to Burma, Roman Catholic missionaries were working since 1599. Some concrete results were recorded as the conversion of Nat sin Naung king of Taungoo. But soon after the conversion of Nat Sin Naung, he and the missionary were on crucified. From then the Roman Catholic missionaries gave up and disappeared. Fr Sagermano said, “Some 2000 believers were remaining faithfully in their faith.”46  The protestant missionaries were working since 1807 in Burma. The London missionary Society sent missionaries to Burma. Because of many reasons and obstacles they hand over to American Baptist Mission (ABM) in 1813.

      Burma was uncivilized when Judson arrived in the year 1813 Judson said, “I am almost the only one who can speak Burmese to present the Gospel to the Burmese people in the world.”48 This chapter mainly concentrates to the situation of Burma politically, economically religiously, socially and culturally during Judson was in Burma.


Developments in Roman Catholic Mission in Myanmar  

      The official record of the Roman Catholic mission in Burma begins with the coming of two Jesuit missionaries, Pimenta and Boves, who were accompanied by the Portuguese adventurer and mercenary Philip de Brito Y Nicote. According to Harvey, Debrito started his life as a cabin boy and then he served many years as head of the Portuguese mercenaries employed by King Min Razagyi of Arakan. When Arakan conquered Syrian in 1599, the king appointed him to take charge of the custom house and control the Portuguese living there under their own laws.

      De Brito and his Jesuit priests work of the Christianization of the Burma Buddhist was said to have been quite successful. The most significant was the conversion of Nat Shin Naung, king Taungoo, and the most well known poet in the entire history of Burma.

      Taking the conversion of Nat Shin Naung, as an insult to Buddhism, King Maha Dhamma Raja of Ava (also known as Anuakphet Lwun Min) marched to the south, and in 1613 crushed the Taungoo and destroyed Syrain.  King Maha Dhamma Raja, who happened to be an uncle of Nat Shin Naung, asked him return to Buddhism or face death His nephew refused to return to Buddhism and he received baptism from the white priest. Subsequently Nat Shin Naung and De Brito were crucified as heretics.

      The conversion of Nat Shin seems to have been the high noon of the Catholic mission in Burma. The first missionaries, however, were Portuguese Roman Catholic in the 16th and 17th centuries. Official historical records begin with the appointment of two Italian priests to the kingdom of Ava in1720, The Reverend sigismondo Calchi, and a secular priest, Joseph Vittoni, were sent by Pope Clement XI to the emperor of Chine the previous year.

       Vittoni and Calchi were directed to establish a mission in Burma. The missionaries perceived that if the king covert to Christianity, then the whole country would follow he and Burma might have become a Christian nation, because for the Burman always regarded their king as the defender of their faith. However, unfortunately for the Roman Catholic mission in Burma, this was not to be the case.

        High noon was followed soon by the dark hours. Together with the crucifixion of Nat Shin Naung and De Br to, the Portuguese power in Burma in Burma was uprooted and its Catholic mission provokes abortive. The remaining Christian followers were deported to very remote area between the Chindwin and the mu rivers in upper Burma. They and their descendents remained faithfully to their religion, and in the 1780. Fr Sagermano saw them and reported that some 2000 believers were in Burma.


Developments in Protestant Mission in Myanmar  

      The first protestant missionaries to Burma came from Bristish Indian in the year 1807. Their names were Marden and Chater. Marden, who did not stay long, was replaces by Felix Carey, son of the eminent English missionary Dr. William Carey who had turned to take government position and shifted from missionary to ambassador,.


       After Chater left, Felix Carey was the only missionary who was able to stay in Burma. However, Felix Carey also had encountered many troubles during the “dreadful event of the internal political state of affairs in 1812.51Despite such a dreadful state of internal political affairs, Felix Carey “ Become greatly interested in the Burma” and he had good negotiations with King Bodawpaya in Ava ,then the capital of the Burma or Myanmar Kingdom .Finally ,he “he decided to give up his missionary career and enter the service of King Bowdawpaya”. For this reason the Britsih missionary society’s mission in Burma was handed over to the American Baptist mission in 1813.


The Situation during Judson Was In Myanmar (1813-1850) 

      It seems the Burmese people never saw the white foreigner woman because when they saw Ann Judson they were so amazed to see her. When Judson came to Burma, it was unlikely that he was told in Madras about Burma. The viceroy Mya-day-min gave them permission to settle down in Burma. Due to the politeness of Buddhism they could able to communicate with the local people.

      Judson found out Burmans were very good in social life and but in religious matter it was difficult to open their spiritual eyes because Buddhism has been rooted in their lives for many centuries. The people were slaves to their king.  Kings were the most powerful and authority in the society. Nobody could rise up his or her voice. The people were giving high tax to the king from their business.


Judson’s Early Arrival in Myanmar 

      Adoniram Judson, first and greatest American missionary landed in Rangoon on 13th July, 1813. He started his life in Burma with difficulties and frustrations. He committed his life to break the stronghold of Buddhism in Burma, but in spite of all the adversities he preserved until, after six long years, he won his first converted.

      Adoniram Judson arrived at the destination, which he had aimed for three years, the place he had dreamed of, the goal of his ambition, and he had never regretted any thing more in his lives.


Religious Environment 

      The religious of Burma was Buddhism and it was well organized. Most Burmese speaks were Buddhist. Theravada Buddhism is the practice religion. Burmese Buddhists have been perceived themselves as a bastion of Buddhist orthodoxy. Monasteries have been strongly subscribed in rural Burma, with many makes spending times as monks.

       The People of Kachin, Chins, Karen belongs to non-Buddhist religion, each with its own language and its own animistic tradition. These were more ready than the Buddhist to hear the new tidings from the west.

      Judson said that, it is now two thousand years since Gautama, their last god, began his state of perfection, though he no longer exists now, they still worship a hair of his head, which is enshrined in a huge Pagoda, to which the Burmese go every eight day. They know of no other atonement for sin, than offerings to their priest and pagoda.

      The Buddhist believed that if they had done well, and kept the rules of their religion, then they may move higher up the scale but even then, each new life is a time of suffering and trials. They thought that the only way of escape, from the evil of being born again and in the world of evil, pain, sickness and death, is to reach “Nirvana” – that means just, “nothingness”.  They didn’t believe God and they Worshipped Buddha, their great teacher, who reached, the state of Nirvana with his great goodness and purity of life when he was eighty of age.58Judson could see with his spiritual eyes to the Burmese people with sad faces and burdened heart. He felt sorry for the spiritual darkness of the kingdom.


Economic and Political Environment 

      Burma also has is famous silver-lead mines. There are marble and alabaster quarries near Mandalay. In the mines at Magok are found the most beautiful pigeon-blood rubies, and beyond Bhamo are some of the world’s finest jade and amber. Yenangyaung, ‘River of Evil-smelling Water’, halfway between Rangoon and Mandalay, is the center of one of the rich oil fields of the world. But it is not any mines or oil fields, but on the rice crop that most of the people depend.

      There was no good facility with regard to house, road, stationary, machinery, etc. “Felix Carey had brought press from Calcutta for king Bodaw-Paya, but this had been lost when the boat carrying it up from Rangoon to Ava along with Lrrawaddy river and capsized in a storm. The English Baptist Missionary at Serampore presented a printing press to ABM for Burma mission in early 1817. Because type writer and printing press were not available in Burma. There were hands written palm leaf books available for study. The Burmese elder said to Judson, you write we write on black paper.”

      The people were giving high tax to the province from their, farming, lumbering and fishing. The country was ruled by a despotic king who had absolute power and his council of landowners. The people were slaves to him. He was very hostile to missionaries.

      When Judson arrived in Burma in 1813, Bodaw pa-ya, the eldest surviving son of king Alaungpaya, founder of Burma’s last dynasty was the ruler of the Burmese Empire. The viceroy in Rangoon was Mya-da-min. King Bodaw – Paya rule a from the capital Ava (Now Ingwa).  Bodaw – Paya died in 1819 and his grand son Bagyidaw seated on the throne.  Although religious toleration was not officially granted to Burma but wishing to became Christians. 

      During these two reigned, actually the growing Christian community was given considerable freedom so far as the government was concerned.  The Church was permitted to carry on its programme in Rangoon and Ava, though missionary activity is such inland towns as Prome was frowned upon. 

       When in 1837 Bagyidaw younger brother, Tharrawaddy, deposed his brother, relation between Britain and Burma rapidly deteriorated; resulting in the breaking of diplomatic relations and repudiation of the Treaty of Yandabo, making a further was practically inevitable.  The king began to show symptom of insanity, giving way to period of ungovernable rage.  In 1845, his sons put him under restraint.


        His eldest son Pagan Min succeeded him by the following year.  Under these two kings Tharrawnddy and Pagan Min, the mission was closed but not entirely.63 Between 1824 and 1826, British troop drove the Burmese out of eastern India and conquered Arakan and Tenasserim coast. Through two wars between the British and Burma, in 1824-26, and again 1852, portions of lower Burma fell under the rule of the British viceroy in India.


Social and Cultural Environment  

      The Burma has no caste system like in India.  Women were not slaves to their husbands.  In-fact they were lively, spirited and even quarrelsome to a degree seen nowhere else in Asia.  But personal honesty was almost unknown.  Lying is so common and universal among them that they say we can not live without telling lies. Judson found that it was easy enough to talk about ordinary subjects, but very difficult to discuss religion.

      In every Burmese village there is to be seen one house which is larger and better than the rest. That is called Zayat, and it serves as a kind of inn, where get up early and do their work in the first of morning. Work is over by midday, and the afternoon and evening are time for rest and pleasant talks. People flack to the Zayats and there they discuss many matters.

      Judson was told that he should not go to the hell of Burma to spare his life and his family and for his future mission work. When he comes to Burma, he found out the stubbornness of Burmese people and he said, Converting one Burma is like drawing a tooth from the mouth of alive tiger.” In-spite of all difficulties and hardship Judson had been shaking the people’s heart, so many inquirers came up to the missionary.  This news immediately reached to the emperor and the reactions were taken severely. When Buddhists were converted to Christianity, Buddhism was greatly eroded in many ways. That’s the reactions were taken severely.

      When he arrived in Rangoon, he got permission to settle in Burma. He could start his mission work without any restriction. When the Anglo-Burma war broke out in 1824, the war gave him great trouble in his mission while he was gaining the people. The emperor provided him lands for mission quarter. But unexpectedly because of the war he was suspected as spy unnecessarily and the king put him in prison. Even from prison, still he could contribute great things to the emperor. Like Joseph, he was taken out from prison and brought to the most important place between Britain and Burma for treaty.

      In-spite of all difficulties and hardship Judson still contributed many things to the Burmese people. Judson contacts to the Kachin missionaries. In the Next Chapter I would like to discuss about the Kachin People’s their original growth of the Christianity.



Anderson, Countney . To the Golden Shore . Grand Rapids,Michigan:  Zondervan Publishing House,1972. 

Badcock,D.I . Adoniram Judson. London :Oliphants Limited,1957. Bailey, Faith Coxe. Adonoram Judson Missionary to Burma. Chicago:  Moody Press,1955. Batten, J.R. Golden Foot. (the story of Judson of Burma). London :  Lutherworth press,1960. Crider, Donald M. “The work among the Kachin” in Burma Baptist  Chronicle Book I edited by Maung Shwe Wa (Rangoon: Rangoon  University Press for the Burma Baptist Convention,1963), 368-382. Dickason,David G. Dickason, “ Burma ” Academic American Encyclopedia.  Danburg: Grolier Incorporated,1982.  Di, Maran Brang . A Brief Modern History of Kachin. ThaiLand: Zin-me,2003. Di, Maran Brang, Prat Ningnan A Htik Labau Kadun. New Delhi,n.b,1996. George, K.M. Development Of Christian through the Centuries; Tradition  and Discovery.Triruvalla:Christava Sahitya Samithi,2005. Gilhodes ,Chales. The Kachins:Religion and Customs. Kalakatta:the  Catholic Orphan Pres:1992. Hansan,Ola .“The Origin of Kachin” in Burma Research Journal. Rangon: n.b, 1912. 

Ja Dan Li, Bawmwang . Kachin Times USA Vol I. Jacksonville: Kachin  Development Foundation, 2005. 

Leach, E.R .  Political Systems of Highland Burma: A Study Of Kachin  Social Structure. London: n.b.,1954. 

Lebar, Hickey and Musgrave. The Kachin State of Burma.  n.p.,1964,(www.kachinland.com). 

Lebor, Frank M. ed., Ethnic Groups of Mainland South East Asian.New  York:New Haven,1964.

Kane, J.Herbert. Understranding Christian Mission . Michigan: Baker Book  House,1986. 

Li, Pungga Ja. What Kachins Believe and Practice,Vol.I. Ruili:Sinpraw Bum  Media Group,2000. 

Mun, Lahpai Zau.  Kachin Way of Living Book I . Momuk: H.G.P ,1999. Naw, Dashi and  Sumlut Gam, Wunpawng Htunghkring Buka.  Myitkyina:May Press,2001. Naw, S.Sin Wa. Baptist History and Kachin Baptist Convention  communication Rangoon:KBC,2000. Neill, Stephen. A History of Christian Mission. n.p:Penguin,n.y. Sakhong, Lian .Religious and Politics among the Chin People In Myanmar (1896-1949)”(Ph.D Dessertation,Upsala University,2000.Sword ,Gustaf A. and Ruth M.Armstrong  “The Kachin of Burma” in   Pyilan  Lunghtawn  Journal. September,2004. Tegenfeldt, Herman G. A century of Growth: The Kachin Baptist Church of  Burma.South Pasadena: William Carey Library,1974. 

Trager, Helen G.  Burma Through Alien Eyes (Missionary View of the  Burma in the 19th Century).Bombay:Asia Publishing House,1966. Vedder, Henry C.  A Short History of Baptist Mission. Philadelphia:The  Judson Press,1927. Waters, John. Storming the Golden Kingdom. Bombay: Gospel Literature  Service,1992. Wawm, Duwa La. Jidwi Tsun Dan Na .Myit kyina:Hanson memorial  Press,1999. 

Wa, Lasi Bawk. ,Jinghpaw Wunpawng Sha Ni The Dai Ni  Na Sut  Masa.  Myitkyina :Millemium,2000. 

Wa, Maung Shew. Burma Baptist Chronicle, Book I & Book II. Rangoon  University Press for the Burma Baptist Convention,1963. Zaw, U Tint. Education In Burma in Presentation Papre for International  Burmese Students and Youth Conference:18-20 December,Uk,2004. 

Internet materials: 

www. Kachinpost.com

www. Kachinland.com

www. Kachinnet.com 

Journals and magazines: 

The Jinghpaw Times

Kachin  National  News  Beacon.(Wunpawng Shi shaman)

Pyilan Lunghtawn Journal


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Kachin Socio -Political and Economic Background

      Kachin people have their own social, political, and economic background.  In governing system they have their own one.  They have beautiful social relationship and own agriculture methods. Kachin are friendly and understanding to other .In this chapter I would like to discuss about their settlement pattern, governing system, economy and their clan and tribes. 


Settlement Pattern

      The Kachin have begun living in valley bottoms, but their villages were traditionally on ridge tops or the upper portions of slopes.  Because of constant warfare, villages were large and remote from each others, peace has brought a reduction in settlement population size and a dispersal of dwellings water supply often but not always decided locations and some settlement on elevations may be some distance from their water supply.

      ”Most villages were entered through a sacred grove marked by prayer posts with  representation of boons desired from the spirit (such as grain, weapons, and household gods), and by shrines to the spirits, especially the earth spirit.  Here the community sacrifices are held.  There are no public buildings the main structures are houses and granaries.”

      The house is rectangular, about 50 feet wide, somewhat longer (occasionally as much as 100 feet), and raised 3 or 4 feet off the ground on posts.  Posts and beams are of wood; flooring external walls, and internal partitions are of woven bamboo; and the roof usually of thatch, small animals are sheltered under the house front.

        Inside the house is divided lengthwise by a partial portion, the left side being subdivided into a succession of apartments each with a hearth, the right being left open as a strange, cooking, and entertaining area.  At the end of the large room is a space sacred to the household spirits and to any ancestral spirits not successfully seen off to the land of the dead.

      ”In front of the house are altars to spirits, and large posts, customarily X-shaped, to which cattle are bound for sacrifice.  There is little internal decoration of houses; the exterior in front may have crude carryings or horns and antlers.  Furnishings are limited: traditionally mats, containers, and blankets and nowadays stools and low tables.” 

      Kachin People are not setting in a particular place for along times in the ancient day. Because of their cultivation and farming system depended on the fertilization of the soil in a farm maximum 8 – 10 years. 

Governing System

      In Earlier period Kachin People lived under the rule of their chiefs. We used to call them “Duwas”.The oral history revealed that the Duwas were conscious about their people guided them protected and helped them. Duwas were great leaders amongst the Kachin People.

      Historically, Kachin people were never under the ruling dynasty any King system till 1889.They were living their own land and their own “Duwa”.16 In 1889 British arrived Kachinland .After nine years on 1st, April, 1898 Kachin people were called to participate in Man Maw Military police, Battalian and the Kachin names were included in the historical book of English King.

       In 1904-05 Britsih occupied Mali and Nmai (Mali Hkrang Walawng) and the slaves of Kachin Duwas were released on February and March 1927.17Every Duwas had many slaves and those worked in their Duwas’ farms. But today we can not find the slavery system amongst the Kachin People.

      There was no central state or political authority encompassing all Kachins, political organization prior to the creation of a Kachin state in 1947. The people were divided into a number of groups each with its own territory under the control and leadership of a chief, “Duwa.”  Although the status of chief was hereditary in the male line and from father to youngest son, and although the chief was a member of one of the chiefly sibs the chief was not necessarily an autocrat.

       His power was usually exercised in concerted with a council of elders.  His actual powers seem to have depended largely upon the vigor of his own personality.  An energetic commoner could sometimes create for himself the role of front man for the chief, a role sufficiently formalized to have a name, “bawmung.”

      The chief has a responsibility for the people of his domain.  Their general well-being is related to his arranging for certain annual sacrifices on behalf of the community.  In pre-British days, when Kachin raids upon the plains were not uncommon, a chief might receive tribute from non-Kachin villages on the plains in return for “protection” he provided them. 

       Presumably he also had some responsibility towards his own villagers in helping to protect them forth outside raids.  Whether or not the chief has definite responsibilities towards the people of his domain, the commoners are usually not in doubt as to what their obligations are towards him. 

        They seek his permission to settle in his area, and he allots to them their house sites and fields.18 Similarly, the village is an important political unit, being composed of a chief, or headman, and his subject, who recognize the chief’s status, his ownership of the land, and his direct influence, in which his elders share, in many aspects of village life.

      The chief had no large source of customary income from the villagers.  He had the right to the thigh of all large sacrifices, hence the epithet, thigh-eating chief.  Most of his income probably came from exactions in the form of tolls and tribute on foreigners i.e. the Shan valley dwellers and Shan and Chinese merchants.  On the other hand, the office of chief involved certain liabilities: the worship of certain spirits entailing expensive sacrifices could be performed only by the chief.

      ”The other formal political status in Kachin society was that of elder.  He was an older man and in some cases the head of his sib in the community.   The elders, who, with the chief, formed a council, customarily determined the sites of swidden fields for the coming season seldom to have acted contrary to the consensus of the council.”

      The village is an important unit of both social and political structure.  In social matters such as mutual assistance in rice cultivation, house-raising “bees,” religious festivals, time of sickness and death, and protection against enemies, the presence of other villagers, some of whom may be closely related as Mayu/Dama, fulfills an important function in Kachin society.

       Marriage is preferred with a mother’s brother’s daughter or with a daughter of any man of the Eco mother’s sib. Marriage is strictly restricted from own prilineal sib. The mother’s sib is called “Mayu” and the father’s sib as “Dama”. There is an institutionalized circular exchange among five sibs. The bride price is paid by the bridegroom’s father and his local sib mate .

       Hero-marriage may be acceptable in Modern society but polyandry or polyandry is condemned in our Kachin society. There was a dowry system in Kachin society in which male parents or relatives have to offer dowry to female. Quality and quantity depends on the demand from the female side. Now the system exists just as a tradition.

Economic Life of Kachin People

      Farming is the way of life for all Kachin, including the chief, there is no full-time occupation, specialization.  Based upon the forming of field crops, with hunting gathering, animal husbandly and specialization in manufactures all relatively less important than agriculture Trode, weathers in form produce of the products of other economic activity, plays a minor role.  Agriculture thus is the primary occupation in the Kachin area.

      ”In common with most hilly areas in southeast Asia, the Slah-burn technique, often termed the “swialden method”, has been the usual means of rice cultivation on the steep slopes of the Kachin Hills.  This method require nearly a fully year to product one crop of paddy.”

      It begins with the cutting of trees and bushes on the selected hillside from January, and ends in November or December when the harvested grain is carried home.  During the intervening months, period of hard labor and comparative to emerge at the beginning of the rains in June, there is the constant responsibility of guarding the fields against birds and animals until the crop is harvested.

      The women do most of the work connected with swailden cultivation, extent for a few of the heavier tasks that are done by the men, such as cutting down the larger trees, fencing the plot with the larger branches, and building the temporary bamboo house. 

       Along with the rice crop, the Kachin also plant vegetables suitable for rainy season growth, such as maize, beans, mustard, and pumpkins.  Hunting was also the need of the Kachin people.  The Kachin is at home in the jungle, well-versed in hunting ways.  Hunting is common during the cold season and is done with troops, snores, deadfalls, pellet bows, and guns.  In fishing they used bamboo wires in the larger creeks and streams and sometimes a poisonous plant is used to stupefy the fish in quiet pools.

      All average Kachin is a poor businessman.  Although the Kachin are not businessmen, they have been deeply involved in the opium trade.  This has come about primarily through their being able to raise the opium poppy in distant corners of the Kachin hills, and produce the crude opium for which that part of Southeast Asia has become well-known.  In opposing the opium trade, the early missionaries and Kachin leaders have struggled to find another cash crop t hat would serve as a suitable substitute, but until today it is unsuccessful  and still more growing, trading, planting and using among the Kachin.

      Multi-nation companies making money out of developing markets of Burma with no regard for human rights or how the Burmese Junta uses the foreign capital .The Burmese Junta and Chinese merchants are collaborated working Jude (precious green stone) Company and Gold mining as well as logging ( wood producing).The profits go directly to the Junta. Their productivity is not benefit for Kachin People.

      The Kachin economy is heavily dependent upon the use of bamboo.  This especially used for posts and house flooring.  A few of the multitudinous uses of bamboo include as; house construction, including joists, flooring, woven mat walls, rafters, thatch, and the bamboo splints or cords used to lie these together; tubes in which to carry water from the stream and store it in the house; fencing around the house or garden; clappers used to score birds away from ripening paddy field, parts of the woven baskets in which the women carry heave loads; fire making equipment; pipes for smoking opium; cup for the communion service, flutes, fish traps and wires; pontoons bridges, carrying poles and so many area.

      Every business is illegal .Small among of business are often crushed down by military police in Burma. But Larger among of investments are freed to cross by main road openly. In such cases most of Kachin people are not familiar to trades, they are necessary to be improved. Kachin economic totally depend on natural resources. When we compare to other countries, the economic situation of the Kachin people is even though in their dreams absence .Their incomes or salary are not enough for entire families.  

 The Clans and the Tribes

      To the Kachins, the extended family or household Htinggaw, and the clan or major lineage Amyu are of the highest importance in determining one’s relationships.  In using the term amyu, which refers to anyone of the exogamous divisions among the Kachins which traces its descent from one of the five main sons of Wahkyet Wa. 

       In each clan, descent is consistently traced the clan has been sub-divided into two or more sub-clans.  Primarily among the commoners of each clan or sub-clan there have developed numerous Lakung and Lakying, the best translated as “branches” and “twigs.”   This represents further division or segregation within a clan, for which we shall use the terms lineage and sub-lineage.  There is no consistent pattern for the number of Lakung and Lakying to be found in any one clan.

      Herman G. Tegnenfeldt said;

“Although the Jinghpaws there are five major clans such as the “Marip,” Lahtaw, Lahpai, Nhkum, and Maran, there are also other clans that trace in our ancestry to other sons of Wahkyet Wa, rather than to the first five. It must also be painted out that each clan includes both chief and commoners.  Thus a chief of one clan may have commoner of all clans living in the villages under his control.”

      Belonging to a certain clan is of the greatest importance in understanding relationships involves definite responsibilities and privileges and it is very powerful factor in Kachin social relationships.  In addition to the clan, the tribe is another unit of Kachin social structure. 

       The term tribe is used with the simple connotation of a people who usually occupy the same general territory, commonly speak the same language, and follow the same way of life. Applying this definition to the Kachin groups, one can define the Jinghpaw, Maru, Lashi, Atsi, and Lisu as tribes.

        When two Kachin strangers meet together, they first introduce themselves by asking one’s ruling name whether he or she is lahpai, lahtaw, Maran, Marip or Nhkum. This is an important social contact with the Kachin people.

      There are some differences among these groups, such as languages, distinctive dress. Some variation on other aspects of culture such as dress, also a commonality of tradition and a sense of belonging to one another among the tribes and sub-divisions which justify their all being termed Kachin.

       There are mainly two types of costume dresses; viz., Hkahku Hkring (Upper or Upstream costume) and Sinli Hkring (lower Costume) amongst the Jinghpaw. Almost all the Kachin people’s Labus (sarong or shirt) are similar with a very slight differences; except colors, where Rawang dress has patterns weaved or painted in a white base; rest of the Kachins in a red and black base-garments; other things remain the same.

       Lisu dress is of two types and both of the costumes have blocks of colors; viz., black, white, red and small yellow lines in between the blocks. Nhtu (sword or machete) and N hpye (bag usually cotton), palawng (shirt or blouses), Bawban or Bawnghkraw (tartan), Labu or Dangbai are worn by Kachin males.

       Culture also very from one group to another.  At the same time, however, it should be stated that intertribal marriage is common.  Among the other tribes there is a clan system similar to that of the Jinghpaw. robably the chief reason for any seeming discrepancy between our considering these groups to be tribes, and at the same time recognizing that inter-tribe marriages by no means uncommon, lies in the traditions of their origins. 


         According to Hting Bai Naw Awn, a retired army captain and a Jinghpaw chief’s son from the Hka Hku area, has recorded this tradition, Wahkyet Wa was one of the eight brothers who became the progenitors of as many different tribes.

“La N-Gam first brother and progenitor of Rawang and Nung,

La N-Naw second brother and progenitor of Lisus,

La N-La third brother and progenitor of Maru,

La N-Tu fourth brother and progenitor of Lashi,

La N-Tang fifth (Wahkyet Wa) Jinghpaw,

La N-Yaw sixth brother and progenitor of Atsi,

La N-Hka seventh brother and progenitor of Naga and Chin,  La Shawi eight

brother and progenitor of Akha, Wa and Lahu.”

      Therefore, the Kachin have their own clans with five ruling families such as Lahtaw, Lahpai, Nhkum, Maran and Marip. 



Cultural and Religious Background

      Culture and religion are important for every racial group.  Kachin people have their own cultural and religious background.  They have festivals, sacrificial system and the belief in Supreme Being.  Before they converted to Christianity, all Kachin people were Natural-worshippers but now most of the Kachin people are Christians.   


The Concept of a Supreme Being and the Spirit Worship

      Kachin animism involves offering gifts and sacrifices to many spirits.  However, back of these various spirits, there is a great spirit, about whom much unknown, but who is recorded as different from the other spirits. They believed in the creator God, the God of omnipotent, Omniscience and Omnipresence. They called upon this God at the time of need. They called this God, “Hpan Wa Ningsang Chye Wa Ningchyang” (Creator and Omniscience God).

       As early as 1882, Neufbille recorded a piece of Kachin mythology which contained a clear reference to great obviously Karai Kasang, who is described as the creator of human being.  In addition to his common name, Karai Kasang, he is also known as Hpan Wa Ningsang (the glorious one who creates), and Chye Wa Ning Chyang (the one who knows).  Although these names appear very helpful, there are enough variations in the differing accounts about this being to make it difficult to be consistent in describing him and his activities.

      ”Karai was commonly combined with “Kasang” which is a sign of supernatural power above all nats (spirits) whose shape of form exceeds man’s ability to comprehend.  “Karai Kasang” is the term which Hanson used for God in his translation of the scriptures.  “Nga rai” was a stable of being where is completely at the mercy of the malevolent spirits.  The prefix Nga has a negative meaning.  Hanson adopted this term for Hell.

      Kachin animism is basically a fear of Nats, or spirits, coupled with the practice of giving them gifts, either to appease them or toward of evil. They sacrificed livestock to their Nats such as Jan Nat (Spirit of Sun), Mu Nat (Celestial Spirit), Tsu Nat (Ancestral Spirit) etc.

       There are innumerable spirits, which may be classified according to more than one system.  Thus there are the primitive Nats who existed at the time of creation or shortly thereafter, and the ancestral Nats, some of them may be recent ancestors.  Probably it is more meaningful from a Kachin point of view to classify the Nats as those who are at least potentially benevolent, and those who do nothing but work evil against men.

      ”There are also ancestral Nat for each Kachin family, the altars for which are usually situated within the house.  The three evil spirits, most well-known among the Kachin are “Jahtung” which give the bad luck in fishing and hunting, “Sawm,” which causes trouble and death for women in the time childbirth; and “Lasa” which make responsible for accidental death.  Evil spirits of another category are the 39 fates.”

      In spirits worship, the most important and respected of all is the saga-teller “Jaiwa,” who was the high priests of animism.  The less important are the more numerous regular  priests (dumsa).  These officiate at funerals when the spirit must be sent off.   Properly, in times of sickness when gifts are presented to the offended Nat, and also at the set times of sacrifice is to be preformed.  Two other types of practitioners are the diviner (Ningawt), who determine the will of the spirits, and the medium or prophet (Myihtoi).  A medium commonly enters a trance and speaks on behalf of the spirits.

        Occasionally a Myihtoi would be a female.The animist concept of the role of the Dumsa in contacting the supernatural world on behalf of the individual could  be a tendency for the new Kachin Christian to view the pastor as a “Christian Dumsa,” and be satisfied with merely letting the pastor act on his behalf before God, rather than sensing his own responsibility. 

      In view of Kachin belief in the great importance of the spirits in determining man’s experience, that the divination, the will of the Nats, is given high priority in Kachin culture. One can understand the serious conflicts arise when anyone in the village became a Christian and do not consider bound such Animistic practices.  


Festivals and Sacrifices

      Annual festivals observed by Kachin animists are related to the agricultural year. Important feasts are observed on such occasions as the burning of the slashed highland fields, the completion of the highland paddy hut for the chief, the reaping, by communal labor, of the chief’s paddy field, and so on. The single most important festival, however, is held just before the sowing of the paddy, commonly in late April or early.  May, at the time, the blessing of the earth Nat is sought, with the chief, along with the priests, taking an important part in the ritual.

      The Kachin people use to celebrate festivals in any occasions, and the most ceremonious festival of the Kachin people is Manau (manao) festival.  Manau is a large gathering intended to celebrate good harvests, to drive out evil spirits and to pray for happiness and successfulness in cultivation and healthy crops to harvest.  Manau means “group singing and dancing” in the Kachin language. Manau poi or shapawng yawng manau poi is the national festival of the Kachins.

       The manau poi is one of the most significant dances in the world. Thousand and thousands or Million people can dance together in the same dancing style, this Manau poi stand for the high value of Kachin culture. It stands for the key of unity and nationalism. Through this culture, though the Kachin belief in different religions and live in different and blood relation of Kachin.

      The Manau festival is a great feast for the Kachins, in which everybody can participate in joyous dance around the newly erected multi-coloured painted totem posts, called Manau shadung, traditionally eleven or eight wooden poles and each about twenty meters high, are erected at the center of the state.

       They celebrate Manau Festivals such as Padang Manau (Manau of Victory), Sut Manau (Manau of wealth), Kumran Manau (Manau of Exodus), and so on.Kachin People  are good dancers and they have wide variety dances. A festival “Nlung N nan” (Harvest Festival) is a beautiful one and People usually celebrate with full of funs, happiness, contentment and thanksgiving as every Kachin is fed this time.

        The basic designs, however, are diamond shapes and curved lines. The top and bottom of the poles are painted with pictures of the sun, moon and earth. The topmost side of the pole is cut, shaped and painted over in the form of bird’s beak.  The patterns painted on the poles portray scenes from their history, pictures of colorful small blocks, and symbols of the route of their ancestors traveled when migrating to their current homeland, Manau festival activities are conducted around the eleven Manau poles.

      The dance is led by two men, called “nau shawng” (leader), who wear the feather-decorated headdress, called “gup duru”, and dragon embroidered long robe, called “yanghpaw lawng”.   All, those who came to the festival, dance in magnitude.   The tempo of the dance is followed according to the rhythm of the beating of drum and gongs.The Manau festival stands as a sign of the Kachin society, culture and costume.  


Life after Death

      Before the Kachin people become the Christian they believed that death is the result of protracted absence of the soul, resulting in the severing of the cord of life.  At death, every individual becomes a spirit (tsu), a sort of half-Nat bound for the ancestral region.  This journey will take place if the spirit is sent off properly.   Otherwise, there is the possibility that the spirit may become a malevolent Nat, and return to trouble the family or village.

      The dead is buried.  Generally the village or the clan has its own common graveyard.   The cutting knives, bows and quivers a man used while he was alive are buried with him. For a woman, her burial objects are her wearing tools, hemp-woven bags and cooking utensils. Generally the mourned on the burial ground was piled one year after the burial, and respects to dead were paid three years after the burial, and offerings ended.

      The Kachins believe that there is a soul in man.  They know that the soul can’t die though human body is dead.  They have had the particular soul kingdom, called “tsuza,” for each own clan in different places.  The animist priest sent his/her soul to that place after he/she is dead.  They believe that all of their forefathers’, souls are lived in that particular soul kingdom. And they believe that all Souls will meet in that place again after death.   


Kachin’s Society and their Culture

      Kachin People are friendly, understanding but determined, God fearing and their social custom and traditions are very polite and formal. They have unbreakable chain of relationship amongst their ruling families. Kachin respect older ones. 

Contact and Interaction

      When two Kachin strangers meet together, they first introduce themselves by asking one’s ruling Family name (Five progenitors) whether he or she is Lahpai, Lahtaw, Maran, Marip, or Nhkum. This is an important way of social contact with the people. Kachin People say Kaja nga ai i? (How are you?).While one gives a handshake to another, usually between opposite sex.

       Cuddling or hugging is not a very common greet from female to male and vice versa. Traditionally, Kachin female sit in such a way that they put on the other legs towards left or right, no space  between the floor and the legs; one leg put on the other one, hands on either of their knees while talking to an older or respected person is a formal way.

      Females usually do not interfere while Masha Kaba ni (big persons or gentlemen, refers to older males) talking .This does not mean that the female gender is inferior in the Kachin society. Kachin males sit like anything they want but two legs across in straight position is a polite or formal way of sitting. Kachin males and some few females have sense of humour and they often poke one’s belly.

      The Kachin females, when contact themselves or with the other females, they fondle either on the shoulder or on back or a hug; rarely give a handshake. Kachin males usually give a handshake when they meet one another or to the females. These days Kachin people contact and interact like other people in that of a Christian Society.

      Humbleness and innocence leads most of Kachin females and some a few males to shyness and little confidence, especially those are living in or coming out from remote areas. This also depends on social and other environmental factors and remains as the issue of all man. Kachin males are energetic, courage, brave, responsive optimistic and cognitive whereas Kachin females are beautiful, intelligent, respectful, faithful and capable to integrate any sort of situation .They rarely find wild in the Society.

      In a family, both the parents are very much respected by their offspring. There is no gender and sex dominance in a family these days. Earlier females’ gender was not given much an important in Kachin society. Kachin people believe that the younger ones have responsibility to respect older ones in the society. 

Food and Habits

      Rice is a stable food for Kachin people. They prepare typical soup and lave with rice and curry. Kachin used to spend time in hunting and in collecting natural vegetables. Sticky rice mixed with dried pieces of fish or chicken packed in fig leaves are sometimes served in special occasions. Kachin living in lower parts of the land prefer noodles. Hparang Si-Htu (A typical vegetable –mix), containing Asiatic “Palang Lap or Hparang lap” tree –tomato (Solonum kachinnesis var.aersculentum) or common tomato and fermented soybeans is a very popular  “Si-Htu” and traditionally served in countryside of Kachinland.

      An older Kachins in ancient time chewed tobacco (Nicotine species) grown and proceeded by them.  “Tsa –Pi” or “Malum  Tsa”(rice beer)n is very much respected in the society and considered as  a second milk from mother .which they called : “Chyanun Chyu”. It is also served to wanted guests at home. This one sounds a bit systematic!  “Tsa-Pa” (rice –state- beer) is mostly preferred by women, usually sweeter than the one that is preferred by males. They produce some sort of spirit called “LauHku” evaporated from rice – state-beer, which contains a high percentage of alcohol, Intoxication as considered to be wild in Kachin society.

      Nowadays, almost all Kachins are Christian and lived in that society. Their culture and living style is very simple an exemplary. In the next chapter will going to discuss about the Myanmar’s Historical




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Kane, J.Herbert. Understranding Christian Mission . Michigan: Baker Book  House,1986. 

Li, Pungga Ja. What Kachins Believe and Practice,Vol.I. Ruili:Sinpraw Bum  Media Group,2000. 

Mun, Lahpai Zau.  Kachin Way of Living Book I . Momuk: H.G.P ,1999. Naw, Dashi and  Sumlut Gam, Wunpawng Htunghkring Buka.  Myitkyina:May Press,2001. Naw, S.Sin Wa. Baptist History and Kachin Baptist Convention  communication Rangoon:KBC,2000. Neill, Stephen. A History of Christian Mission. n.p:Penguin,n.y. Sakhong, Lian .Religious and Politics among the Chin People In Myanmar (1896-1949)”(Ph.D Dessertation,Upsala University,2000.Sword ,Gustaf A. and Ruth M.Armstrong  “The Kachin of Burma” in   Pyilan  Lunghtawn  Journal. September,2004. Tegenfeldt, Herman G. A century of Growth: The Kachin Baptist Church of  Burma.South Pasadena: William Carey Library,1974. 

Trager, Helen G.  Burma Through Alien Eyes (Missionary View of the  Burma in the 19th Century).Bombay:Asia Publishing House,1966. Vedder, Henry C.  A Short History of Baptist Mission. Philadelphia:The  Judson Press,1927. Waters, John. Storming the Golden Kingdom. Bombay: Gospel Literature  Service,1992. Wawm, Duwa La. Jidwi Tsun Dan Na .Myit kyina:Hanson memorial  Press,1999. 

Wa, Lasi Bawk. ,Jinghpaw Wunpawng Sha Ni The Dai Ni  Na Sut  Masa.  Myitkyina :Millemium,2000. 

Wa, Maung Shew. Burma Baptist Chronicle, Book I & Book II. Rangoon  University Press for the Burma Baptist Convention,1963. Zaw, U Tint. Education In Burma in Presentation Papre for International  Burmese Students and Youth Conference:18-20 December,Uk,2004. 

Internet materials: 

www. Kachinpost.com

www. Kachinland.com

www. Kachinnet.com 

Journals and magazines: 

The Jinghpaw Times

Kachin  National  News  Beacon.(Wunpawng Shi shaman)

Pyilan Lunghtawn Journal

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