1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Shan States

SHAN STATES, a collection of semi-independent states on the E. frontier of Upper Burma inhabited by the Shan or Thai race. The Shan States have a total area of 57,915 sq. m. and a total population (1901) of 1,137,444. There are six states under the supervision of the superintendent of the N. Shan States, and 37 under the superintendent and political officer of the S. Shan States. In addition, two states are under the commissioner of the Mandalay division, namely, Hkamti Lông on the N. of Myitkyina district and Möng Mit which is temporarily administered as a subdivision of the Ruby Mines district; and two states, Sinkaling Hkamti and Hsawng Hsup, near Manipur, are under the supervision of the commissioner of the Sagaing division. There are besides a number of Shan States beyond the border of Burma, which are tributary to China, though China exercises an authority which is little more than nominal. The British Shan States were tributary to Burma and came under British control at the time of the annexation of Upper Burma. They rank as British territory, not as native states. By section 11 of the Burma Laws Act 1898, the civil, criminal and revenue administration of each state is vested in the chief, subject to the restriction specified in the sanad or order of appointment granted to him. Under the same section the law to be administered is the customary law of each state so far as it is in accordance with justice, and not opposed to the spirit of the law in British India.

Physical Features.—The shape of the Shan States is roughly that of a triangle, with its base on the plains of Burma and its apex on the Mekong river. The Shan plateau is properly only the country between the Salween and Irrawaddy rivers. On the W. it is abruptly marked by the long line of hills, which begin about Bhamo and run S. till they sink into the plains of Lower Burma. On the E. it is no less sharply defined by the deep and narrow rift of the Salween. The average height of the plateau is between 2000 and 3000 ft., but it is seamed and ribbed by mountain ranges, which split up and run into one another. On the N. the Shan States are barred across by the E. and W. ranges which follow the line of the Namtu. The huge mass of Loi Ling, 9000 ft., projects S. from this, and from either side of it and to the S. extends the wide plain which extends down to Möng Nai. The highest peaks are in the N. and the S. Loi Ling is the highest point W. of the Salween, and in Kokang and other parts of N. Hsenwi there are many peaks above 7000 ft. The majority of the intermediate parallel ranges have an average of between 4000 and 5000 ft. with peaks rising to over 6000. The country beyond the Salween is a mass of broken hills, ranging in the S. towards the Menam from 2000 to 3000 ft., while in the N. towards the Wa states they average from 5000 to 7000. Several peaks rise to 8000 ft. such as Loi Maw (8102). The climate varies considerably. From December to March it is cool everywhere, and 10° of frost are experienced on the open downs. The hot season temperature is 80° to 90°, rising to 100° in the Salween valley. The rains begin about the end of April, but are not continual till August, which is usually the wettest month. They last until the end of October or beginning of November. The annual rainfall varies from 60 in. in the broader valleys to 100 on the higher mountains.

Race and Language.—According to the census of 1901 there were 787,087 Shans (see above) in Burma. The Thai or Tai, as they call themselves, were first known to the Burmese as Tarôks or Tarets. The original home of the Thai race was S.W. China, or rather that was the region where they attained to a marked separate development as a people. It is probable that their first settlement in Burma proper was in the Shweli valley, and that from this centre they radiated at a comparatively recent date N., W. and S.E. through Upper Burma into Assam. It is supposed that the Thai race boasts of representatives across the whole breadth of Indo-China, from the Brahmaputra as far as the gulfs of Siam and Tongking; that it numbers among its members not only the Shans proper, the Laos and the Siamese, but also the Muongs of French Indo-China, the Hakas of S. China, and the Li, the inhabitants of the interior of the far Eastern island of Hainan in the China seas. But no exhaustive survey of the Thai has yet been accomplished. For the purposes of Burma they may be divided into the N.W., the N.E., the E. and the S. Shans. The Siamese and the Laos are the principal representatives of the S. division. Siamese are found in considerable numbers in the districts of Amherst, Tavoy and Mergui in the Tenasserim division. The total at the time of the census of 1201 was 3I,800, while that of the Laos was 1047. The country of the E. Shans lies between the Rangoon-Mandalay railway and the Mekong, and is bounded roughly on the N. and S. by the 22nd and 20th parallels of latitude. It includes the S. Shan States, and comprises the country of the Lü and the Hkün of the states of Kēngtūng and Kēnghūng. Linguistically the connexion between the after two races and the Laos is very close, but apparently the racial affinity is not sufficiently near to justify the classification of the Hkün and the Lü with the S. Thai. The N.W. Shan region is the area extending from Bhamo to Assam between the 23rd and 28th parallels of latitude. It corresponds more or less with those portions of Katha, Myitkyina, Bhamo and Upper Chindwin districts which at one time or other during the palmy days of the Shan dominion acknowledged the suzerainty of the Sawbwa of Mogaungu The N.E. Shans are the Chinese-Shans who are found where Upper Burma and the N. Shan states border on China.

The Thai language may be divided into two sub-groups, the N. and the S. The S. includes Siamese, Lao, Lü and Hküh; the N., the three forms of Shan, namely, N. Burmese-Shan, S.-Burmese Shan and Chinese-Shan with Hkamti and Ahom. The vernacular of the people who are directly known in Burma as Shan is S. Burmese-Shan. This language is isolating and polytonic. It possesses five tones, a mastery of which is a sine quâ non if the language is to be properly learnt. It is exhaustively described in the works of Dr Cushing. The Shans are a peaceful race, fond of trading. During the past decade the trade with Burma has increased very largely, and with the construction of the railway to Lashio a still further increase may be expected in the N. states. The cultivation of wheat and potatoes in the S. states promise them wealth also when a railway furnishes them means of getting the produce out of the country. Since 1893 the peace of the Shan States has been practically undisturbed.

See Ney Elias, Introductory Sketch of the History of the Shans in Upper Burmah and West Yun-nan (Calcutta, 1876); Cushing, Shan Dictionary (Introduction); Bock, Temples and Elephants; Sir A. Phayre, History of Burmah; A. R. Colquhoun, Across Chrysé (London, 1883), and Amongst the Shans (1885); Diguet, Étude de la langue Thai (Paris, 1896).  (J. G. Sc.)