Shan language

The Shan language (Shan written: လိၵ်ႈတႆး, pronounced [lik táj] (listen)), Shan spoken: ၵႂၢမ်းတႆး, pronounced [kwáːm táj] (listen)), or ၽႃႇသႃႇတႆး, pronounced [pʰàːsʰàː táj]; Burmese: ရှမ်းဘာသာ, pronounced [ʃáɴ bàðà]; Thai: ภาษาไทใหญ่, pronounced [pʰāː.sǎː.tʰāj.jàj]) is the native language of the Shan people and is mostly spoken in Shan State, Burma. It is also spoken in pockets of Kachin State in Burma, in northern Thailand, and decreasingly in Assam. Shan is a member of the Tai–Kadai language family, and is related to Thai. It has five tones, which do not correspond exactly to Thai tones, plus a "sixth tone" used for emphasis. It is called Tai Yai, or Tai Long in the Tai languages.

The number of Shan speakers is not known in part because the Shan population is unknown. Estimates of Shan people range from four million to 30 million, though the true number is somewhere around six million, with about half speaking the Shan language. In 2001 Patrick Johnstone and Jason Mandryk estimated 3.2 million Shan speakers in Myanmar; the Mahidol University Institute for Language and Culture gave the number of Shan speakers in Thailand as 95,000 in 2006.[3] Many Shan speak local dialects as well as the language of their trading partners. Due to the civil war in Burma, few Shan today can read or write in Shan script, which was derived from the Burmese alphabet.

Tai Yay
Native toBurma, Thailand, China
RegionShan State
EthnicityShan people
Native speakers
3.3 million (2001)[1]
Burmese script (Shan alphabet)
Official status
Recognised minority
language in
Language codes
ISO 639-2shn
ISO 639-3shn


The Shan language has a number of names in different Tai languages and Burmese.

  • In Shan, the language is commonly called kwam tai (ၵႂၢမ်းတႆး Shan pronunciation: [kwáːm.táj], literally "Tai language").
  • In Burmese, it is called shan: bhasa (ရှမ်းဘာသာ, [ʃáɴ bàðà]), whence the English word "Shan". The term "Shan," which was formerly spelt သျှမ်း (hsyam:) in Burmese, is an exonym believed to be a Burmese derivative of "Siam" (an old term for Thailand).
  • In Thai and Southern Thai, it is called phasa thai yai (ภาษาไทใหญ่, Thai pronunciation: [pʰāː.sǎː.tʰāj.jàj], literally "big/great Tai language"), or more informally or even vulgarly by some phasa ngiao (ภาษาเงี้ยว, Thai pronunciation: [pʰāː.sǎː.ŋía̯w]).
  • In Northern Thai, it is called kam tai (กำไต, Northern Thai pronunciation: [kām.tāj], literally "Tai language"), or more informally or even vulgarly by some kam ngiao (กำเงี้ยว, Northern Thai pronunciation: [kām.ŋíaw]), literally "Shan language").
  • In Lao, it is called phasa tai yai (ພາສາໄທໃຫຍ່, Lao pronunciation: [pʰáː.sǎː.tʰáj.ɲāj], literally "big/great Tai language"), or phasa tai nuea (ພາສາໄທເໜືອ, Lao pronunciation: [pʰáː.sǎː.tʰáj.nɯ̌a], literally "northern Tai language"), or more informally or even vulgarly by some phasa ngiao (ພາສາງ້ຽວ, Lao pronunciation: [pʰáː.sǎː.ŋîaw]).
  • In Tai Lü, it is called kam ngio (ᦅᧄᦇᦲᧁᧉ, Tai Lue pronunciation: [kâm.ŋìw]).


The Shan dialects spoken in Shan State can be divided into three groups, roughly coinciding with geographical and modern administrative boundaries, namely the northern, southern, and eastern dialects. Dialects differ to a certain extent in vocabulary and pronunciation, but are generally mutually intelligible. While the southern dialect has borrowed more Burmese words, Eastern Shan is somewhat closer to northern Thai languages and Lao in vocabulary and pronunciation, and the northern so-called "Chinese Shan" is much influenced by the Yunnan-Chinese dialect. A number of words differ in initial consonants. In the north, initial /k/, /kʰ/ and /m/, when combined with certain vowels and final consonants, are pronounced /tʃ/ (written ky), /tʃʰ/ (written khy) and /mj/ (written my). In Chinese Shan, initial /n/ becomes /l/. In southwestern regions /m/ is often pronounced as /w/. Initial /f/ only appears in the east, while in the other two dialects it merges with /pʰ/.

Prominent dialects are considered as separate languages, such as Khün (called Kon Shan by the Burmese), which is spoken in Kengtung valley, and Tai Lü. Chinese Shan is also called (Tai) Mao, referring to the old Shan State of Mong Mao. 'Tai Long' is used to refer to the dialect spoken in southern and central regions west of the Salween River. There are also dialects still spoken by a small number of people in Kachin State and Khamti spoken in northern Sagaing Region.

J. Marvin Brown (1965)[4] divides the three dialects of Shan as follows:

  1. Northern — Lashio, Burma; contains more Chinese influences
  2. Southern — Taunggyi, Burma (capital of Shan State); contains more Burmese influences
  3. Eastern — Kengtung, Burma (in the Golden Triangle); closer to Northern Tai and Lao



Shan has 19 consonants. Unlike Thai and Lao there are no voiced plosives [d] and [b].

  Bilabial Labio-
Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar Glottal
Stop [p]
Nasal   [m]
Fricative   ([f])2
Affricate       [t͡ɕ]
Trill       ([r])3
Approximant         [j]
Lateral       [l]
1 The glottal plosive is implied after a short vowel without final, or the silent 'a' before a vowel.
2 Initial [f] is only found in eastern dialects in words that are pronounced with [pʰ] elsewhere.
3 The trill is very rare and mainly used in Pali and some English loan words, sometimes as a glide in initial consonant clusters. Many Shans find it difficult to pronounce [r], often pronouncing it [l].

Vowels and diphthongs

Shan has ten vowels and 13 diphthongs:

Front Central-Back Back
/i/ /ɨ/~/ɯ/ /u/
/e/ /ə/~/ɤ/ /o/
/ɛ/ /a/

[iu], [eu], [ɛu]; [ui], [oi], [ɯi], [ɔi], [əi]; [ai], [aɯ], [au]; [aːi], [aːu]

Shan has less vowel complexity than Thai, and Shan people learning Thai have difficulties with sounds such as "ia," "ua," and "uea" [ɯa]. Triphthongs are absent. Shan has no systematic distinction between long and short vowels characteristic of Thai.


Shan has phonemic contrasts among the tones of syllables. There are five to six tonemes in Shan, depending on the dialect. The sixth tone is only spoken in the north; in other parts it is only used for emphasis.

Contrastive tones in unchecked syllables

The table below presents six phonemic tones in unchecked syllables, i.e. closed syllables ending in sonorant sounds such as [m], [n], [ŋ], [w], and [j] and open syllables.

No. Description IPA Description Transcription*
1 rising (24) ˨˦ Starting rather low and rising pitch ǎ a (not marked)
2 low (11) ˩ Low, even pitch à a,
3 mid(-falling) (32) ˧˨ Medium level pitch, slightly falling in the end a (not marked) a;
4 high (55) ˥ High, even pitch á a:
5 falling (creaky) (42) ˦˨ˀ Short, creaky, strongly falling with lax final glottal stop âʔ, â̰ a.
6 emphatic (343) ˧˦˧ Starting mid level, then slightly rising, with a drop at the end (similar to tones 3 and 5) a᷈
* The symbol in the first column corresponds to conventions used for other tonal languages; the second is derived from the Shan orthography.

The following table shows an example of the phonemic tones:

Tone Shan IPA Transliteration English
rising ၼႃ /nǎː/ na thick
low ၼႃႇ /nàː/ na, very
mid ၼႃႈ /nāː/ na; face
high ၼႃး /náː/ na: paddy field
creaky ၼႃႉ /na̰/ na. aunt, uncle

The Shan tones correspond to Thai tones as follows:

  1. The Shan rising tone is close to the Thai rising tone.
  2. The Shan low tone is equivalent to the Thai low tone.
  3. The Shan mid-tone is different from the Thai mid-tone. It falls in the end.
  4. The Shan high tone is close to the Thai high tone. But it is not rising.
  5. The Shan falling tone is different from the Thai falling tone. It is short, creaky and ends with a glottal stop.

Contrastive tones in checked syllables

The table below presents four phonemic tones in checked syllables, i.e. closed syllables ending in a glottal stop [ʔ] and obstruent sounds such as [p], [t], and [k].

Tone Shan Phonemic Phonetic Transliteration English
high လၵ်း /lák/ [lak˥] lak: post
creaky လၵ်ႉ /la̰k/ [la̰k˦˨ˀ] lak. steal
low လၢၵ်ႇ /làːk/ [laːk˩] laak, differ from others
mid လၢၵ်ႈ /lāːk/ [laːk˧˨] laak; drag

Syllable structure

The syllable structure of Shan is C(G)V((V)/(C)), which is to say the onset consists of a consonant optionally followed by a glide, and the rhyme consists of a monophthong alone, a monophthong with a consonant, or a diphthong alone. (Only in some dialects, a diphthong may also be followed by a consonant.) The glides are: -w-, -y- and -r-. There are seven possible final consonants: /ŋ/, /n/, /m/, /k/, /t/, /p/, and /ʔ/.

Some representative words are:

  • CV /kɔ/ also
  • CVC /kàːt/ market
  • CGV /kwàː/ to go
  • CGVC /kwaːŋ/ broad
  • CVV /kǎi/ far
  • CGVV /kwáːi/ water buffalo

Typical Shan words are monosyllabic. Multisyllabic words are mostly Pali loanwords, or Burmese words with the initial weak syllable /ə/.


Graphical summary of the development of Tai scripts from a Shan perspective, as reported in Sai Kam Mong's Shan Script book.

The Shan script is characterised by its circular letters, which are very similar to those of the Mon script. The old Shan script used until the 1960s did not differentiate all vowels and diphthongs and had only one tone marker, and a single form could represent up to 15 sounds. Only the well-trained were able to read Shan. This has been fixed, making the modern Shan alphabet easy to read, with all tones indicated unambiguously. The standard Shan script is an abugida, all letters having an inherent vowel a. Vowels are represented in the form of diacritics placed around the consonants.

Shan restroom sign in Chiangmai market
A sign written in Shan along with other languages in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

The Shan alphabet is much less complex than the Thai one and lacks the notions of high-class, mid-class and low-class consonants, distinctions which help the Thai alphabet to number some 44 consonants. Shan has only 19 consonants, and all tones are clearly indicated with unambiguous tonal markers at the end of the syllable (in the absence of any marker, the default is the rising tone).

Shan sign in Chiamai store
A sign written in Shan in Chiang Mai, Thailand

The number of consonants in a textbook may vary: there are 19 universally accepted Shan consonants (ၵ ၶ င ၸ သ ၺ တ ထ ၼ ပ ၽ ၾ မ ယ ရ လ ဝ ႁ ဢ), and five more which represent sounds not found in Shan, g, z, b, d and th ([θ] as in "thin"). These five (ၷ ၹ ၿ ၻ ႀ) are quite rare. In addition, most editors include a dummy consonant used to support leading vowels. A textbook may therefore present 18-24 consonants.

Consonants [5]

ka (ka)

kha (kʰa)

nga (ŋa)

tsa (tɕa)

sa (sa)

nya (ɲa)

ta (ta)

tha (tʰa)

na (na)

pa (pa)

pha (pʰa)

fa (fa)

ma (ma)

ya (ja)

ra (ra)

la (la)

wa (wa)

ha (ha)

a (ʔa)
Final consonants and other symbols



The representation of the vowels depends partly on whether the syllable has a final consonant. They have been arranged in a manner to show the logical relationships between the medial and the final forms, and between the individual vowels and the vowel clusters they help form.

Medial Vowels

a (a)

aa (ɑː)

i (i)

e (e)

ae (æ)

u (u)

o (o)

o (ɔ)
eu (ɯ)
oe (ə)
Final Vowels

aa (ɑː)

ii ()

e (e)

ae (æ)

uu ()
o (o)
aw/o (ɔ)
eu (ɯ)

ai (ai)
aai (aːi)
ui (ui)
ohi/uai (oi)
oi/oy (ɔi)
uei/uey (ɨi)
oei/oey (əi)
aw (au)
aaw (aːu)
iu (iu)
aeo (æu)
aɨ ()

The tones are indicated by tone markers at the end of the syllable (represented by a dash in the following table), namely:

Sign Name Tone
ယၵ်း (ják) 2
ယၵ်းၸမ်ႈ (ják tsam) 3
ၸမ်ႈၼႃႈ (tsam naː) 4
ၸမ်ႈတႂ်ႈ (tsam tau) 5
ယၵ်းၶိုၼ်ႈ (ják kʰɯn) 6

While the reformed script originally used only four diacritic tone markers, equivalent to the five tones spoken in the southern dialect, the Lashio-based Shan Literature and Culture Association now, for a number of words, promotes the use of the 'yak khuen' to denote the sixth tone as pronounced in the north.

Two other scripts are also still used to some extent. The so-called Lik To Yao ('long letters'), which derives from Lik Tai Mao, or Lik Hto Ngouk ('bean sprout script'), the old script of the Mao, or Chinese Shans, may be used in the north. In this systems, vowel signs are written behind the consonants.


Person Pronoun IPA Meaning[6]
first ၵဝ် kǎw I/me (informal)
တူ I/me (informal)
ၶႃႈ kʰaː I/me (formal) "servant, slave"
ႁႃး háː we/us two (familiar/dual)
ႁဝ်း háw we/us (general)
ႁဝ်းၶႃႈ háw.kʰaː we/us (formal) "we servants, we slaves"
second မႂ်း máɰ you (informal/familiar)
ၸဝ်ႈ tsaw you (formal) "master, lord"
ၶိူဝ် kʰə̌ə you two (familiar/dual)
သူ sʰǔ you (formal/singular, general/plural)
သူၸဝ်ႈ sʰǔ.tsaw you (formal/singular, general/plural) "you masters, you lords"
third မၼ်း mán he/she/it (informal/familiar)
ၶႃ kʰǎa they/them two (familiar/dual)
ၶဝ် kʰǎw he/she/it (formal), or they/them (general)
ၶဝ်ၸဝ်ႈ kʰǎw.tsaw he/she/it (formal), or they/them (formal) "they masters, they lords"
ပိူၼ်ႈ pɤn they/them, others


Given the present instabilities in Burma, one choice for scholars is to study the Shan people and their language in Thailand, where estimates of Shan refugees run as high as two million, and Mae Hong Son Province is home to a Shan majority. The major source for information about the Shan language in English is Dunwoody Press's Shan for English Speakers. They also publish a Shan-English dictionary. Aside from this, the language is almost completely undescribed in English.


  1. ^ Shan at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Shan". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Brown, J. Marvin. 1965. From Ancient Thai To Modern Dialects and Other Writings on Historical Thai Linguistics. Bangkok: White Lotus Press, reprinted 1985.
  5. ^ a b Ager, Simon. "Shan alphabet, pronunciation and language". Omniglot. Retrieved 28 December 2018.
  6. ^ SEAlang Library Shan Lexicography

Further reading

  • Sai Kam Mong. The History and Development of the Shan Scripts. Chiang Mai, Thailand: Silkworm Books, 2004. ISBN 974-9575-50-4
  • The Major Languages of East and South-East Asia. Bernard Comrie (London, 1990).
  • A Guide to the World's Languages. Merritt Ruhlen (Stanford, 1991).
  • Shan for English Speakers. Irving I. Glick & Sao Tern Moeng (Dunwoody Press, Wheaton, 1991).
  • Shan - English Dictionary. Sao Tern Moeng (Dunwoody Press, Kensington, 1995).
  • An English and Shan Dictionary. H. W. Mix (American Baptist Mission Press, Rangoon, 1920; Revised edition by S.H.A.N., Chiang Mai, 2001).
  • Grammar of the Shan Language. J. N. Cushing (American Baptist Mission Press, Rangoon, 1887).

External links


Not to be confused with Bhamo, aka Banmaw

Banmauk or Bamauk is a town in the Sagaing Division in Burma. It is connected by road to Pinlebu which links with Phaungbyin and Kawlin. The township is home to the Shan, Kadu and Kanan ethnic minorities, and the region has witnessed fighting between the Communists and the government troops. There is a famous mount called Santlon. Santlon is Shan Language. It means "Great Elephant".


Not to be confused with Banmauk

Bhamo (Burmese: ဗန်းမော်မြို့ ban: mau mrui., also spelt Banmaw) is a city of Kachin State in the northernmost part of Myanmar, located 186 km (116 mi) south from the capital city of the state of Kachin (Myitkyina). It is on the Ayeyarwady River. It lies within 65 km (40 mi) of the border with Yunnan Province, China. The population consists of Chinese and Shan, with Kachin peoples in the hills around the town. It is the administrative center of Bhamo District and Bhamo Township.

Dai people

The Dai people (Kam Mueang: ᩱᨴᩭ; Thai: ไท; Shan: တႆး [tai˥˩]; Tai Nüa: ᥖᥭᥰ, [tai˥], Chinese: 傣族; pinyin: Dǎizú) are one of several ethnic groups living in the Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture and the Dehong Dai and Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture (both in southern Yunnan, China), but by extension, the term can apply to groups in Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, and Myanmar when Dai is used to mean specifically Tai Yai, Lue, Chinese Shan, Tai Dam, Tai Khao or even Tai in general. For other names, please see the table below.


Hkonmaing (Burmese: ခုံမှိုင်း [kʰòʊɴ m̥áɪɴ], Shan: ၶုၼ်မိူင်း; also Hkonmaing Nge, Sao Hkun Mong; 1497–1545) was king of Ava from 1542 to 1545. The saopha of the Shan state of Onbaung–Hsipaw was elected by the Ava court to the Ava throne in 1542, by extension the leader of the Confederation of Shan States, despite strenuous objections by the House of Mohnyin. He was accepted as the leader by other Confederation leaders only because the Confederation was in the middle of a serious war with Toungoo Dynasty. After the Confederation's failed military campaigns in 1543–45 that resulted in the loss of Central Burma, Hkonmaing lost the support of Sawlon II of Mohnyin. He died in 1545 while fighting a Mohnyin-backed rebellion by Sithu Kyawhtin.

Intha-Danu language

Intha and Danu constitute a southern Burmish language of Shan State, Burma. It is spoken by the Danu people. they are considered dialects of Burmese by the Government of Myanmar.

Danu is spoken by the Danu people, Intha by the Intha, a group of Bamar descendants who migrated to Inle Lake in Shan State. Both are spoken by about 100,000. Both are characterized by a retention of the /-l-/ medial (for the following consonant clusters in Intha: /kl- kʰl- pl- pʰl- ml- hml-/). Examples include:

"full": Standard Burmese ပြည့် ([pjḛ]) → ပ္လည့် ([plḛ]), from old Burmese ပ္လည်

"ground": Standard Burmese မြေ ([mjè]) → မ္လေ ([mlè]), from old Burmese မ္လိယ်There is no voicing with the presence of either aspirated or unaspirated consonants. For instance, ဗုဒ္ဓ (Buddha) is pronounced [boʊʔda̰] in standard Burmese, but [poʊʔtʰa̰] in Intha. This is probably due to influence from the Shan language.

Furthermore, သ (/θ/ in standard Burmese) has merged to /sʰ/ (ဆ) in Intha.


Kunhing (Kunhein) is located in Kunhing Township in the middle part of southern Shan state, Myanmar. The name Kunhein refers to "a thousand island" in the local Shan language.


Loilem (Shan: လွႆလႅမ်; also Loi-Lem or Loi-lem) is a town in the Shan State of central-eastern Burma. It is the principal town in Loilem Township in Loilem District.


Mawlaik (Burmese: မော်လိုက် [mɔ̀ laɪʔ]; Shan: မေႃႇလဵၵ်) is a town in Mawlaik District, Sagaing Region in north-west Myanmar, along the Chindwin River.


Mueang (Thai: เมือง mɯ̄ang, pronounced [mɯaŋ˧]), Muang (Lao: ເມືອງ mɯ́ang, pronounced [mɯaŋ˦]), Mường (Vietnamese pronunciation: [/mɨəŋ ˨˩/]) or Mong (Shan: မိူင်း mə́ŋ, pronounced [məŋ˦]) were pre-modern semi-independent city-states or principalities in Indochina, adjacent regions of Northeast India and Southern China, including what is now Thailand, Laos, Burma, Cambodia, parts of northern Vietnam, southern Yunnan, western Guangxi and Assam.

Mueang was originally a Tai term for a town having a defensive wall and a ruler with at least the Thai noble rank of khun (ขุน), together with its dependent villages.

The Mandala model of political organisation organised states in collective hierarchy such that smaller mueang were subordinate to more powerful neighboring ones, which in turn were subordinate to a central king or other leader. The more powerful mueang (generally designated as chiang, wiang, nakhon or krung — with Bangkok as Krung Thep Maha Nakhon) occasionally tried to liberate themselves from their suzerain and could enjoy periods of relative independence. Mueang large and small often shifted allegiance, and frequently paid tribute to more than one powerful neighbor — the most powerful of the period being the Ming of Imperial China.

Following Kublai Khan's defeat of the Bai Kingdom of Dali in AD 1253, new mueang were founded widely throughout the Shan States and adjoining regions — though the common description of this as a "mass migration" is disputed. Following historical Chinese practice, tribal leaders principally in Yunnan were recognized by the Yuan as imperial officials, in an arrangement generally known as the Native Chieftain System. Ming and Qing-era dynasties replaced native chieftains with non-native Chinese government officials. In the 19th century, Thailand's Chakri Dynasty and Burma's colonial and subsequent military rulers did much the same with their lesser mueang; but, while the petty kingdoms are gone, the place names remain.

Muse, Myanmar

Muse (Burmese: မူဆယ်, pronounced [mùsʰɛ̀]; Shan: မူႇၸေႊ; Chinese: 木姐) is the capital town of Mu Se Township (also spelled as Muse Township) in northern Shan State, Myanmar. It is situated on the Shweli River (Nam Mao), and is connected by a bridge and road to Ruili (Shweli, [ʃwèlì], in Burmese) in Yunnan Province, China.


Namtu (Shan: ၼမ်ႉတူႈ) is a town situated in northern Shan State, Myanmar. It is famous for Bawdwin and Namtu silver mines. NamTu River is flowing across in the middle of town and the transportation from Namtu to Lashio or Namtu to Mandalay is by bus.

Nuosu language

Nuosu or Nosu (ꆈꌠꉙ, pronunciation: Nuosuhxop), also known as Northern Yi, Liangshan Yi, and Sichuan Yi, is the prestige language of the Yi people; it has been chosen by the Chinese government as the standard Yi language (in Mandarin: Yí yǔ, 彝語/彝语) and, as such, is the only one taught in schools, both in its oral and written forms. It was spoken by two million people and was increasing as of (PRC census); 60% were monolingual (1994 estimate).

Nuosu is the native Nuosu/Yi name for their own language and is not used in Mandarin Chinese; although it may sometimes be spelled out for pronunciation (nuòsū yǔ 诺苏语/諾蘇語), the Chinese characters for nuòsū have no meaning.The occasional terms 'Black Yi' (Mandarin: hēi Yí 黑彝) and 'White Yi' (bái Yí 白彝) are castes of the Nuosu people, not dialects.Nuosu is one of several often mutually unintelligible varieties known as Yi, Lolo, Moso, or Noso; the six Yi languages recognized by the Chinese government hold only 25% to 50% of their vocabulary in common. They share a common traditional writing system, though this is used for shamanism rather than daily accounting.

Pa'O people

The Pa'O (Burmese: ပအိုဝ်းလူမျိုး, IPA: [pəo̰ lùmjóʊ], or တောင်သူ; Shan: ပဢူဝ်း;Eastern Poe Karen|တံင်သူ;Sgaw Karen|တီၤသူ; also spelt Pa-O or Paoh) are the seventh largest ethnic nationality in Burma, with a population of approximately 2,000,000 to 2,600,000.


Saopha, Sao Pha, Chaopha, Jaopha, sawbwa, or saw-bwa (စော်ဘွား, pronounced [sɔ̀ bwá]; Shan: ၸဝ်ႈၾႃႉ, literally meaning "lord of the heavens" or "lord of the sky") was a royal title used by the hereditary rulers of the semi-independent Shan States (Mong, Shan: မိူင်း, pronounced [mə́ŋ]) in what today is Eastern Myanmar (Burma). It may also be used for rulers of similar Tai/Dai states in neighbouring countries, notably including China's Yunnan Province.Chao Fa (Thai: เจ้าฟ้า) is the Thai equivalent. Chao means "master" or "lord", and Fa means "sky" or "heaven".

According to local chronicles, some dynasties of saophas date from as early as the 2nd century BCE; however, the earlier sections of these chronicles are generally agreed to be legendary.During British colonial rule, there were 14 to 16 saophas at a time, each ruling a highly autonomous state, until 1922 when the Federated Shan States were formed and the saophas' powers were reduced. However, they nominally kept their positions as well as their courts and still played a role in local administration until they collectively relinquished their titles in favour of the Union of Burma in 1959.

Shan Nationalities League for Democracy

The Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (Burmese: ရှမ်းတိုင်းရင်းသားများ ဒီမိုကရေစီ အဖွဲ့ချုပ်; [ʃáɴ táɪɴjɪ́ɴðámjá dìmòkəɹèsì ʔəpʰwḛdʑoʊʔ]; Shan: ငဝ်ႈငုၼ်းတီႇမူဝ်ႇၶရေႇၸီႇၸိူဝ်ႉၶိူဝ်းတႆး; abbreviated as SNLD, also Tiger Head) is a political party in Myanmar (Burma). The party was established on 26 October 1988, and campaigns for the interests of the Shan people. The SNLD became the largest Shan party in the Assembly of the Union following the 2015 general election. The party is a federal party having local branches in most townships in Shan State and few in other states and regions such as Kayah, Kachin, and Mandalay.

Unlike other Shan political parties, the party prefers a federal system with 8 states or 8 units to have equal political rights in upper house as the original principle based on the Federal Principles of 1961, rather than the status quo of 7 states and 7 regions.

Shan people

The Shan (Shan: တႆး; Shan pronunciation: [táj], Burmese: ရှမ်းလူမျိုး; [ʃán lùmjó]; Thai: ไทใหญ่ or ฉาน; Chinese: 掸族 or 傣族; pinyin: Shànzú, Dǎizú;Pa-O-ဖြဝ်ꩻ) are a Tai ethnic group of Southeast Asia. The Shan live primarily in the Shan State of Burma (Myanmar), but also inhabit parts of Mandalay Region, Kachin State, and Kayin State, and in adjacent regions of China, Laos, Assam (Ahom people) and Thailand. Though no reliable census has been taken in Burma since 1935, the Shan are estimated to number 4–6 million, with CIA Factbook giving an estimate of five million spread throughout Myanmar.The capital of Shan State is Taunggyi, the fifth-largest city in Myanmar with about 390,000 people. Other major cities include Thibaw (Hsipaw), Lashio, Kengtung and Tachileik.


Tachileik (also spelt Tachilek; Burmese: တာချီလိတ်, [tà.tɕʰì.leɪʔ]; Shan: တႃႈၶီႈလဵၵ်း, [tɑ᷆.kʰi᷆.lék]; Thai: ท่าขี้เหล็ก, RTGS: Tha Khilek, [tʰâː.kʰîː.lèk]), is a border town in the Shan State of eastern Myanmar. It is the administrative seat of Tachileik Township and Tachileik District and most populated city in eastern Shan State with 51,553 residents per 2014 census count, ahead of Kyaing Tong , but only 4th statewide.


Wuntho (Burmese: ဝန်းသို) or Waing Hso (Shan: ဝဵင်းသိူဝ်) was a native state of Upper Burma when Burma (Myanmar), was under British control. It had an area of around 6,200 square kilometres (2,400 sq mi) with 150,000 inhabitants and lay midway between the Ayeyarwady River and Chindwin River.


Yawnghwe (Shan: ယွင်ႈႁူၺ်ႈ), known as Nyaungshwe (Burmese: ညောင်ရွှေ) in Burmese, was a Shan state in what is today Myanmar. It was one of the most important of the Southern Shan States. Yawnghwe state included the Inle Lake. The administrative capital was Taunggyi, located in the northern part of the state. The Agent of the British government, the Superintendent of the Southern Shan States, resided at Taunggyi and the king's palace was at Yawnghwe.

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