The Tribes of Burma/Taungthus

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The Taungthus

As noted above, the Taungthus are a tribe of Karens probably more closely connected with the Pwo branch than with the Bghai, though they are found in their greatest strength in the Bghai country in the southern half of the Southern Shan States. They have been dealt with separately from the other Karens in this work merely because, like the Kamis and Mros of the western hills, they were studied on the spot and described long before the annexation of Upper Burma brought a full knowledge of the Karens as a whole. Taungthu merely means in Burmese a hill man or, even more frequently, a husbandman, and it should be borne in mind that occasionally persons referred to by Burmans as Taungthus are merely hill-folk.[1] The real Taungthus, who call themselves Pa-o, are never found west of the Sittang or the Samon. They are scattered down all the eastern hills as far as Thaton near the mouth of the Salween, where is a large colony of them, but, like the Palaungs, they predominate in and have a representative in the Chief of one of the Shan States, Hsatung. There is clearly a connection between Hsatung and Thaton, though whether the Shan State took its name from the town of Thaton, or whether Thaton was called after the State has not yet been determined. There were 168,301 Taungthus enumerated as such in 1901, of whom over 122,000 were counted in the Southern Shan States and the bulk of the balance in Thaton. They are the most numerous and about the most widely distributed hill tribe in the Southern Shan States. The Taungthu men dress like Shans. The women wear a dark smock and skirt. In the Shan States the arms are frequently covered with sleeves decorated with coloured patch work, and leggings are worn. In the warmer climate of Thaton leggings are dispensed with. The head-dress consists of a turban of dark cloth ornamented with tassels and kept in position by silver hair spikes. For bibliographical note, see page 104.

  1. Cf. for instance the reference to Taungthus in the Palaung tea legend quoted at page 492 of Upper Burma Gazetteer (Volume I, Part I).