The Tribes of Burma/Was

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The Was

The Was, including the Tai Loi, the En, the Hsen Hsum and other sub-tribes are a Trans-Salween hill-folk who, while clearly related to the Palaungs and the Yins, differ outwardly very considerably from them. The wild Was, of whom very little is known—their head-hunting propensities having secured them for the time being almost complete isolation—are all spirit worshippers and most of the tame Was are also non-Buddhists. A large proportion of the Was proper (also known as Las or Lawas) live in the Trans-Salween and to a small extent also in the Cis-Salween Northern Shan States, but no idea of their strength can be given, as the great bulk of them were left altogether alone when the 1901 Census was taken. In the enumerated areas there were 5,964 Was proper, 15,660 Tai Loi, 1,351 Hsen Hsurn, 1,096 Pyin, 931 En and 70 Hkala, all sub-tribes of the main tribe. All but 1,200 or so of these were counted in the Southern Shan States, for the most part in Kengtung. Taken altogether the Was can hardly be less than 50,000 in number. Some of this total—though how many it is practically impossible to say—live across the border in Chinese territory. The main authorities regarding the Was are quoted in the note at page 95 below. The fullest account of the wild Was yet published is contained in the Upper Burma Gazetteer. The Northern Was are at a very low stage of civilization and their dress is of the scantiest, whereas the women of many of the tame Was further south cover themselves very fully.