The Tribes of Burma/Central and Southern Chins

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The Central and Southern Chins
(except Kamis and Mros).

The Central Chins occupy the highland immediately to the south of the Chin Hills proper in the Pakokku Chin Hill Tract and in portions of the adjoining districts of Northern Arakan, Akyab and Kyaukpyu. The Southern Chins comprise the remnant who are found at the southern end of the Arakan Yoma on the borders of the Minbu, Sandoway, Thayetmyo, Prome and Henzada Districts, as well as the small scattered communities who have crossed the Iirawaddy and established themselves here and there in the country to the east of it. Owing to various causes the Central Chins have never been systematically studied as a whole and, though ample information has been collected regarding some of them, not only are there others—for the most part in the unadministered tracts—of whom little is known, but also the relation the different tribes bear to one another has never been fully brought out. Roughly speaking, however, there are four main tribes of Central Chins, namely, the Chinboks, the Yindus, the Kara is and the Mros. The last two—who have been inhabitants of Lower Burma for many years and have been commented on independently by several writers—will be dealt with separately. "Chinbok " and "Yindu" (like the term "Gwepya" used for describing some of the least dressed of these hill dwellers) are merely Burmese nicknames for the first two tribes. The Chinboks (Khopas, Pamuns) are found only in the Pakokku Chin Hills, and as a rule only to the north of Mount Victoria. They, as well as the Yindus, have been very fully described by Major Rainey and Captain Rigby. The Chinboks totalled 9,013 persons in 1901. The people referred to by the Burmans as Chinmes are a branch of the Chinboks. The Yindus occupy the country to the south of the Chinboks and extend into the hills to the west of the Pakokku Hill Tract proper. Their total in the last named tract in 1901 was 2,469, but a large number of Yindus who lived in an unadministered block of upland between the Pakokku Chin Hills and the Arakan Division escaped enumeration at the last census. Besides the Yindus proper there are a number of smaller tribes scattered through the Pakdkku Chin Hills and the Districts of Northern Arakan, Akyab and Kyaukpyu who may be lumped in the same general category with them. The first of these to be mentioned are the Welaung Chins in the north of the Pakokku Tract, who have in the past been regarded as, so to speak, a connecting link between the Chinboks and the Haka Chins of the Chin Hills proper. A punitive expedition sent in 1906 into the Welaung country showed, however, that its inhabitants were more probably connected with the tribes alluded to by Major Hughes as living to the east of the Northern Arakan District who are now known generally as Lemro Chins (Captain Rigby's M'hangs, Twisips, etc.). The Shendus (namely, the Yallaings, Lallaings, Sabaungs and Bokes) of the unadministered tract that lies to the north of the Arakan Hill Tracts appear to come into much the same class as the Welaung Chins as also do the Anus of Northern Arakan (588 in 1901). In the unadministered block between the Pakdkku Chin Hill Tract and Arakan alluded to above are what Captain Rigby calls the Cane belly Chins, a community who have many points of affinity with the Yindus and should, no doubt, be classed with them. The Kyaws of the Northern Arakan Hill Tracts (215 in 1901) came on the other hand, in a class of their own. They appear to be more nearly allied to the Lushais than the Chins proper. Of the Chins of the Akyab and Kyaukpyu Districts the great bulk are in all probability Central Chins. They are the Pos, the Monyins, the Kos and the Kayins of the Po Ko Tract, described by Mr. Korper, and the Ledus from the neighbourhood of Minbya. So far as has at present been ascertained, they are of what may be called Yindu stock, though it has been suggested that the first three are connected with the Chinbons referred to below. The hill dwellers known in the past as Kus are, there is reason to believe, the Kos of the Kyaukpyu District.

The total in 1901 of the Central Chins (excluding the Kamis and Mros) was somewhere about 50,000. The precise figure cannot be given, as a considerable portion of the Central Chin country was excluded from the area in which a regular census was taken. Generally speaking the people are primitive and backward. Their men's dress is scanty. Their women generally wear the shortest of skirts and tattoo their faces either in lines or clots. Bead ornaments are worn by both sexes and the men's weapons are elaborate and picturesque.

West of the Po Ko Tract in the Kyaukpyu District near the Bay of Bengal is the Sittu Chin country. The Sittus are a Southern Chin tribe, and from their territory southwards is the country of the Southern Chins (known sometimes as Saingbaungs), whose women wear a long smock and have their faces for the most part tattooed a uniform blue black. Besides peopling the southern end of the Arakan Yoma, the Southern Chins have spread from between Sandoway and Thayetmyo across the Irrawaddy eastwards into the Pegu Yoma and are found here and there as far north as Taungdwingyi on one side of the hills and Pyin-mana on the other.

It seems fairly clear that the Chinbons of the Pakokku Chin Hills and Minbu should be treated as Southern Chins. Details about them are somewhat meagre, but, judging from the fact that their women's faces are tattooed an entire blue black and from a description of their dress, there can be little doubt but that they belong more properly to the Southern than the Central tribes. If this is so, however, and if it is a fact that the Pos, the Monyins and the Kos of the Kyaukpyu District are Chinbons, the last three tribes must be treated as Southern Chins also.

There is still some little doubt as to which division of the race the Chins who at one time inhabited the slopes of Popa in the Myingyan District belonged. If it is a fact, as stated by some, that the Popa Chins re-crossed the Irrawaddy when they quitted Popa and that the Taungthas of Pakokku are their descendants, they were probably Central Chins. If, on the other hand, they went south from Popa into the hills near Taungdwingyi, the inference would be that they were the northernmost of the migrants to the east referred to at the end of the last paragraph but one. The balance of probability is in favour of their belonging to the Central section of the Chins. For bibliographical table, see Page 57.