Home » » Pa-O Culture

Pa-O Culture

Pa-O Culture
The meaning of culture is something created by humans in order to ease people’s lives and to have understandings and peaceful minds physically and mentally. Thus, language, literature, clothing, religions, customs and traditions are developed by humans, and all of them are incorporated together in the meaning of culture.
A country, a nation or a race which is always proud of its high quality culture as it describes its culture with cultural heritage such as artifacts left by their ancestors in thousand years ago.
If the culture fades away, a human race also can disappear. Every ethnic group or race has been maintaining, developing and seeking to promote its own culture in different ways. Culture is a form of building and shaping one particular group and it is also a way of life. There are physical and mental cultures. Physical culture includes clothing, accessories, tools, buildings and so on.
Mental culture includes cultural behaviors, attitudes and mindsets, religions and etc. Humans today devise, develop and value cultural heritage and they maintain it not to get lost. It has its own cultural characteristics, identity and mindsets. Every ethnic group tries to embellish its own cultural characteristics and its values. Pa-O culture also mixes with other cultures sometimes. As Thuwannabumi took the Buddha beliefs from Tha Htone, Pa-O culture is based on Buddhism and its beliefs. Pa-O culture characteristics such as mindsets, clothing, beliefs, religions, societal structures, food, other customs and traditions will be described in the following.

Pa-O Cultural Characteristics
Generally, Pa-O people’s physical characteristics are similar to each other. They have broad shoulder and nice shape. Their faces are square shape, and noses are big and a little bit flat. And, nostrils are flared a little. Their facial features are similar to Mongoloid race. They have big frontal bones above eyes and the distance between is big somewhat. The size of eyes is neither big nor small. They have obvious eyelids and eyes’ color is usually brown. As Pa-O people usually carry heavy loads on shoulders and on heads, their bodies are strong and sturdy. The young or the old in their areas can endure working hard and climbing mountains up and down. They are neither short nor tall. Men are generally five feet to six feet tall and women are two or three inches shorter than men. There are different heights among Pa-O people. Their skin color is between olive and coffee colored skin. They have strong and dark but also rough hair. They have thin eyebrows and sometimes birthmarks are found at the back or buttocks and these are evident that Pa-Os are descended from Mongoloid race.

Pa-O people’s mindsets are known as veracious. They are honest and hard-working instinctually. Moreover, they are out-spoken and outgoing people. They treat other ethnic groups, other families or even the same Pa-O people very kindly and harmoniously. After the end of feudalism, Pa-O began to settle in hillsides as well as flat areas and started doing farming for their living. There’s a Pa-O saying, “if the land is high, it sheds water, and if people’s pride is high, others disregard your friendship”. Pa-O people treat others equally and friendly regardless of wealth and different social status.
Generally, Pa-O people speak very frankly without using eloquent words. They are hardly arrogant due to wealth. Pa-O traditional jokes and stories describe Pa-O people’s honesty and hospitality. Also, they are very generous to others.

Clothing includes men and women clothes and including jewellery. Pa-O men wear baggy trousers and black and dark blue taite-pown (Burmese traditional coat) with white vest. Then, they wear colorful turbans from Thai and China and their traditional bag called “Taung Po”.  They start to wear shoes from Burma and other countries from wearing leather shoes from ancient time. Pa-Os wear mostly black or dark blue color. The reason they wear dark color is that this color absorbs heat, it also can protect from cold weather and it is hardly to get stains as well. Thus, black is Pa-O ethnic color. As they wear the same colors together, it is seen as there is lack of competition over exposing individuals’ wealth.
Women clothing is significant from other ethnic groups. Since Pa-O ethnic group believed that they descended from a father called Zawgyi, a Burmese folk super naturalist as well as alchemist, and a mother dragon, the way Pa-O women dress themselves resembles to a female dragon. There are five different kinds of clothes including turbans. They are black or dark blue colored dress, long sleeve blouse, a longyi and a long-wide trouser with wrap-around skirt. Moreover, women with wealth wear one or two golden head-pins: one the sharp head-pin similar to a banana bud portrays the dragon’s head and the other round head-pin with the size of a beetle nut depicts dragon’s eye. Golden head-pins are polished with bronze. Also, they wear a bag called “Taung-Po” or a basket called “Pawh”. Although they wear dark colored clothes, their minds are as pure as white. As culture is a key to keep an ethnic group alive, it is essential to main it not to assimilate and lose it by speaking own language and dressing its own clothing.

Rural Living styles (Societal development)
Village Profile
Normally, Pa-O people earn their living with farming. They choose a wild but fertile region to do farming when they start to settle in one area. Meanwhile, they also have to consider water sources for drinking, irrigation, transportation and etc. Thus, when they start to build a society in one place, they check whether the area is a good fertile land with a safe water source for drinking and farming and convenient transportation. Mostly, they build their villages and households nearby streams. Therefore, Pa-O people populate mostly in areas with those criteria/characteristics. Hence, ones can see Pa-O people with black clothes working on farms on the left side of Ka Law, Taung Gyi, Loi Lin high way roads in southern Shan State and on the east and west of Aung Pan, Ka Law, Loi Kaw high way roads.
Then, their housing styles are both traditional and modern styles. Traditional houses are made up of bamboo or wood with carve roof and they are short without windows. Nowadays, they build their houses as they wish with different styles such as bricked houses, tin-roof houses with widows to get fresh air and gentle breeze. Wooden houses are made up of teak, sil tree, fir, and etc from green mountains, dry forests and fir forests.

Pa-O Food
Rice from fields, farm, and farmyard, are Pa-O main food. Then, they also eat their seasonal food and fruits in their areas. Moreover, soya bean paste and chilly pound is a very delicious food for the Pa-Os. Also, tea made from dry leaves is essential at every Pa-O house as people have it during their break from work and leisure time (chatting time).
In Pa-O societies, social customs such as marriage, divorce and widowhood rites, and funeral rites, other social festivals and ceremonies, fortune telling, etiquette, charms, musical instruments and songs are existed in different Pa-O areas. 

Pa- O people maintain Buddhism since its arrival to Shan plateau from Thuwannabumi, now called Tha-Htone district. Most Pa-O people are Buddhists. Only a few Pa-Os are Christians. In Pa-O areas, magnificent and grand monasteries are seen in every Pa-O village. They denote generously their savings through their efforts to build pagodas, temples, rest houses around religious compounds, and other religious buildings. Furthermore, one can see glistening and grand temples and pagodas in every village. Besides, Pa-O people are very religious and also they revere to Buddhist monks by serving their domestic work, helping and dedicating religious ceremonies and activities. Next, they also celebrate Buddhist festivals such as  Buddha day, Shin Pyu (Novice hood during Lenten period), Waning moon day of Thidinkyut pwe (lighting candles after Lenten period), water festival (Burmese New Year) and other religious occasions related to Buddhism. As Buddhism believes that doing merits and good deeds can help a person to reach Nirvana, they are very generous in offering and donating things and treats to people. Therefore, there is a saying: “Shan hill people are generous in donating one penny out of two penny in their hands”. Since they consider themselves as Buddha followers, they are very kind-hearted according to Buddha doctrines. Pa-O will continue to maintain their culture and it is necessary to protect its own culture to avoid cultural dilution and assimilation as culture is vital to every ethnic or race.

Share this article :


2nd TPC Opening Ceremony

Popular Posts

Total Pageviews

Visitors' Countries

free counters
Eastern Burma Community Schooling Project ( July 25th ,2012 )