The Tribes of Burma/Palaungs

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The Palaungs

The Talaings or Peguans (1901 population 321,898) are the most important of the Mon Khmers in Burma, but they have been expressly excluded from detailed consideration in this note. The first of the Mon Khmer tribes to occupy our attention are the westernmost of them, the Palaungs, whose home is the Shan States proper and the State of Möngmit. There are a certain number of Palaungs in the Southern Shan States and to the east of the Salween, but the tribe is most strongly represented in the Northern Shan States, and notably in the State of Tawngpeng, which may be looked upon as the tribal headquarters, and there their country lies for the most part on the Burma side of the Salween. The total of Palaungs enumerated at the Census of 1901 was 56,806. In addition about 7,500 were found in the estimated areas of North Hsenwi. The Palaung country extends for some little distance into China. The main characteristics of the Palaungs are outlined in the bibliographical note at page 90. They are conspicuous among the hill tribes of this region by their universal adoption of Buddhism, their tea culture and the variety and elaboration of their women's dresses. For a tribe that lives so consistently on the hill tops as they do, they are—in Tawngpeng at any rate—a wonderfully advanced community. The connection between the Palaung and Wa languages is very close and though the Was are among the wildest and the Palaungs among the mildest of the hill-folk of the States, there can be no doubt as to the two tribes possessing a common origin which they themselves would be the first to question. The Palaung's nearest connections in the Shan States, however, are not the Was, but the Yins, Yangs or Riangs of Mongsit, Mongnai and Laihka, who are dealt with in the following paragraph. There are numerous sub-tribes or clans of Palaungs clearly distinguishable from each other in dress. Outsi'de a limited area in Tawngpeng the Palaungs are frequently known as Pales. The name Pale has been given the tribe by the Burmans, but the difference between the Palaungs and the Pales is recognized by the people themselves.