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With its rich indigenous culture and proud history that includes its own tribal traditions of royal courts and ancestry, Shan State represents another of Myanmar’s mountainous regions and is arguably the country’s best place to live in perfect harmony with nature.


The largest state of Myanmar, accounting for one fourth of its land area, Shan State lies in the middle east of the country and is bordered by Kachin State and China to the north, Laos and Thailand to the east, Kayah State to the south and Sagaing and Mandalay regions to the west. Due to the movements of tectonic plates, the Shan highlands are characterized by stone layers including marble.


With its cold climate, Shan is an ideal destination for vacation, recuperation and research into its flora and fauna. Areas in high altitudes experience minus temperatures during the high season in December and January that sees an influx of tourists. In the summer, the region enjoys a mild climate, unlike areas in central and lower Myanmar. The rainy season is from May through October, but rainfall is common in the dry season.

Natural resources and products

Shan State boasts an abundance of mineral resources such as lead, silver, zinc, copper, iron, charcoal, antimony and tin, along with precious stones such as top-quality ruby and sapphire. As well, semi-precious Shan stones such as ruby-spinel and topaz are among the most sought-after by gem traders.


Shan is home to many hill-tribes, such as the Palaung, Pa-O, Lisu, Akha, Black Lahu and Red Lahu, themselves representing the various Shan sub-tribes. The Shan are descended from the Tibeto-Burman, like other ethnics in Myanmar.

Language and religion

With the state sharing a border with China and Thailand, the Shan speak a language similar to that of the Chinese and Thai. The majority of Shan people practise Theravada Buddhism, but other schools of the religion are also in practice.

It is common knowledge in Myanmar that the Shan are well versed in black magic, wizardry and witchcraft, although their expertise in these fields is often exaggerated. It is true, however, that the Shan utilize quasi-Buddhist talismans to raise their game in business. They also believe in astrology and premonition, especially portentous signs.


Shan State boasts good earth fit for various agricultural activities, especially terrace agriculture and organic horticulture. Shan State is home to many tea plantations, and tea leaves are one of the region’s important economic crops. The Shan engage in hunting, raising livestock and running fisheries, in addition to making handicraft products. Shan people produce top-rated silverware, lacquerware and hand-made fabrics.

Hpaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival

Shan State is known for its world-famous Inle Lake, located in Nyaung Shwe Township of southern Shan State. The annual Hpaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival at Inle Lake attracts pilgrims from across the country, as well as foreign visitors. The pagoda is adorned with five Buddha images made of “Thit-ka-nat” wood, which was brought here from Meikhtila in central Myanmar by King Alaungsithu of Myanmar’s Bagan Dynasty (circa 1112 to 1167). The heavy gilding of the images over the years by pilgrims has resulted in the images losing their original shapes.

Legend has it that, during the transport of the images to the pagoda, the boat carrying the sacred cargo capsized in Inle Lake because of a rainstorm. Only four images could be salvaged at first. But a few days later, to everyone’s surprise, the fifth image showed up at the pagoda covered in algae.

The pagoda festival is held on the seventh waxing day of the traditional month of Thidingyut (October) on Inle Lake every year. During the festival, a boat race and a traditional Shan dance are held in Nyaung Shwe.

source: Eleven Myanmar