Kayan, The Long Neck Tribe Adorning Brass Coils as Necklaces

Kayan, the Long Neck Tribe Adorning Themselves with Brass Coils

The Kayan people, also known as the “Long Neck” or “Giraffe Women” tribe, are an ethnic group residing in Myanmar, particularly in the Kayah State and Shan State.

They are recognized for their unique cultural practices, including the tradition of women wearing brass coils around their necks.

This practice creates the illusion of elongated necks, though it’s important to note that the neck itself isn’t actually lengthened.

The Kayan people have distinctive traditional clothing, stilted houses, and an agricultural lifestyle, primarily cultivating crops such as rice and vegetables.

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Kayan Population Distribution in Various States

Kayan people established themselves in the Demawso area of Karenni State (Kayah State) in 739 AD.

Presently, they inhabit various regions, including Karenni (Kayah) State around Demawso and Loikow, the southern part of Shan State, as well as Pyinmana in Mandalay and Than Daung township in Karen.

An estimation suggests that the overall population of the Kayan is around 180,000 as of 2004.

Additionally, the Kayan also live in and around the areas near the border with Thailand.

In Mae Hong Son province, there are three Kayan villages, with the largest, Huay Pu Keng, situated along the Pai river near the Thai-Myanmar border.

About 600 Kayan individuals live in either the three tourist-accessible villages in northern Thailand and near the border with Myanmar.

Distinctive Long-Necked Women

One of the most iconic features of the Kayan culture is the practice of adorning women with brass neck coils.

Kayan women typically initiate the process of wearing neck rings and brass coils at the age of five.

Over the years, more coils are added, creating the appearance of elongated necks.

Contrary to popular belief, the neck itself is not stretched. Instead, the weight of the coils pushes down the collarbone and compresses the ribcage, creating the illusion of a longer neck.

Cultural Significance of Brass Coils

The brass coils are not merely a form of ornamentation but hold deep cultural significance for the Kayan people.

Women proudly wear brass coils, a vital symbol of their cultural identity and heritage.

Wearing neck rings is a cultural rite; embracing it reflects strong cultural pride.

Rooted in ancient beliefs, brass coils protect against evil spirits, fostering community belonging.

Traditional Clothing and Crafts

The Kayan people actively express their cultural identity through distinctive traditional clothing.

Women, adorned in intricately woven fabrics, showcase vibrant patterns and colors that hold cultural significance.

Colorful beads play a prominent role, adorning necklaces, bracelets, and anklets, contributing to the overall aesthetic of their traditional attire.

Additionally, silver jewelry, crafted with skill and precision, features prominently in the cultural adornment of both men and women.

Kayan women wear embroidered dresses, while men opt for loincloths in rural or ceremonial contexts.

Brass coils around the neck and legs symbolize beauty and cultural pride in traditional appearance.

Traditional elements such as beaded accessories, silver jewelry, and woven fabrics persist as vital connections to their cultural roots.

Read also: Lavaux, a Region Famous for Its Vineyards

Traditional Houses and Features of Kayan Villages

Kayan villages reflect unique features, showcasing the cultural identity and lifestyle of Myanmar’s ethnic group.

The villages are typically feature traditional stilted houses made from bamboo and thatch.

Elevated houses protect against flooding and provide a cool living space during Myanmar’s monsoon season.

Many Kayan villages are in rural areas, surrounded by picturesque landscapes of hills, valleys, and forests.

On the other hand, agriculture is a central aspect of their way of life.

The villages often have terraced fields where community members cultivate crops like rice, corn, and vegetables.