AskDefine | Define shan

Dictionary Definition

Shan n : a branch of the Tai languages [syn: Tai Long]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. unfair
    Here man! thats pure shan that like
  2. poor



Northeast Dialect 2005


Pinyin syllable

  1. A transliteration of any of a number of Chinese characters properly represented as having one of four tones, shān, shán, shǎn, or shàn.

Usage notes

English transcriptions of Chinese speech often fail to distinguish between the critical tonal differences employed in the Chinese language, using words such as this one without the appropriate indication of tone.

Extensive Definition

The Shan (; ; ) are a Tai ethnic group of Southeast Asia. The Shan live primarily in the Shan State of Myanmar, but also inhabit parts of Mandalay Division, Kachin State, and Kayin State, and in adjacent regions of China and Thailand.The Shan are estimated to number ~6 million; a reliable census has not been taken since 1935. The capital of Shan State is Taunggyi, a small city of about 150,000 people. Other major cities include Thibaw (Hsipaw), Lashio, Kengtong and Tachileik.


The Shan identify themselves as "Tai", which means "free men" while "Shan" is a Burmese language term. The Shan share their creation myth with the Lao people and believe their race was founded by Khun Borom the first king to establish Sip Song Pan Na (12 Rice Fields) along the Mekong (Mae Nam Kong).


The Shan people as a whole can be divided into four major groups:
  1. The Tai Yai or "Shan Proper"
  2. The Tai Lue, located in Sipsong Panna (China) and the eastern states
  3. The Tai Khuen, the majority of Keng Tung
  4. The Tai Neua, mostly in Sipsong Panna


The Shan are traditionally wet-rice cultivators, shopkeepers, and artisans. Most Shans are staunch Theravada Buddhists, being one of the four main Buddhist ethnic groups in Myanmar - the others being the Arakanese, Burmese and Mon.


The Shan language, which is spoken by about 5 or 6 million is closely related to Thai and Lao, and is part of the family of Tai-Kadai languages. It is spoken in Shan State, some parts of Kachin State, some parts of Sagaing Division in Myanmar, parts of Yunnan, and Mae Hong Son Province in northwestern Thailand. The two major dialects differ in number of tones: Hsenwi Shan has six tones, while Mongnai Shan has five. Its written script is an adaptation of the Mon script (like Burmese), although several other scripts exist.
After World War II, the Shan and other ethnic minority leaders negotiated with the majority Burman leadership at the Panglong Conference, and agreed to gain independence from Britain as part of Union of Myanmar. The Shan states were given the option to secede after 10 years of independence. The Shan states became Shan State in 1948 as part of the newly independent Burma.
General Ne Win's coup d'état overthrew the democratically elected government in 1962, and abolished Shan saopha system.

List of Shan States and rulers

See List of Shan states and rulers.


The Shan have been engaged in an intermittent civil war within Burma for decades. There are two main armed rebel forces operating within Shan State: the Shan State Army/Special Region 3 and Shan State Army/Restoration Council of Shan State. In 2005 the SSNA was effectively abolished after its surrender to the Burmese government, some units joined the SSA/RCSS, which has yet to sign any agreements, and is still engaged in guerrilla warfare against the Burma Army.
During conflicts, the Shan (Thai Yai) are often burned out of their villages and forced to flee into Thailand. There, they are not given refugee status, and often work as undocumented laborers. Whether or not there is an ongoing conflict, the Shan are subject to depredations by the Burmese government; in particular, young men may be impressed into the Burmese Army for indefinite periods, or they may be enslaved to do road work for a number of months -- with no wages and no food. The horrific conditions inside Burma have led to a massive exodus of young Shan males to neighboring Thailand, where they typically find work in construction, at daily wages which run about 100-200 baht. However unsatisfactory these conditions may be, all of these refugees are well aware that at least they are being paid for their work, and that every day spent in Thailand is another day that the Burmese government cannot impress or enslave them. Some estimates of Shan refugees in Thailand run as high as two million, an extremely high number when compared with estimates of the total Shan population at some six million.

Independence and Exiled Government

His Royal Highness Prince Hso Khan Fa (sometimes written as Surkhanfa in Thai) of Yawnghwe) lives in exile in Canada. He is campaigning for the government of Myanmar to respect the traditional culture and indigenous lands of the Shan people, and he works with Shan exiles abroad helping to provide schooling for displaced Shan children whose parents are unable to do so. He hopes to provide Shan children with some training in life skills so they can fend for themselves and their families in the future.
In addition, opinion has been voiced in Shan State, in neighbouring Thailand, and to some extent in farther-reaching exile communities, in favour of the goal of "total independence for Shan State." This came to a head when, in May 2005, Shan elders in exile declared independence for the Federated Shan States.
The declaration of independence, however, was rejected by most other ethnic minority groups, many Shan living inside Myanmar, and the country's leading opposition party, the National League for Democracy led by Aung San Suu Kyi. Despite this dissenting opinion, the Burmese Army is rumoured to have conducted a crackdown on Shan civilians as a result of the declaration. Shan people have reported an increase in restrictions on their movements, and an escalation in Burmese Army raids on Shan villages.



  • Susan Conway, The Shan: Culture, Art and Crafts (Bangkok, 2006).
shan in German: Shan
shan in Spanish: Shan (etnia)
shan in French: Shan
shan in Indonesian: Shan
shan in Italian: Shan
shan in Lithuanian: Šanai
shan in Japanese: シャン族
shan in Norwegian: Shan
shan in Russian: Шаны
shan in Serbo-Croatian: Šan (narod)
shan in Swedish: Shan
shan in Thai: ไทใหญ่
shan in Vietnamese: Người Shan
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1