Locations: Kachin State - Myitkyina and Putao

Kachin Phonganrazi The Kachin tribes make up part of Myanmar’s Tibeto-Myanmar groups. They are mountain peoples and natural shifting cultivators, so when pressured to leave the Tibetan plateau preferred to travel along mountain ridges rather than along river valleys. Thus they entered their current homeland via the rugged mountains of northern Kachin State. Some, on migrating into the May Kha valley not more than 4 centuries ago from eastern Tibet, found a fertile floodplain with rich soils surrounded by lush forested mountains, and saw no reason to leave. Others entered the mountains and to this day can be found living peacefully in high passes amongst snow capped peaks.

Myitkyina is the capital of Kachin State, and lies on a rich floodplain of the Ayeyarwaddy River, and just south of the confluence of the May Kha and Mali Kha rivers. It is remote and isolated but also one of Myanmar’s most cosmopolitan of cities – inhabited by all the peoples of the land, Chinese from across the border and all the remnants of the colonial forces – Gurkhas, Indians and until recently a few elder English gentlemen.

The highest peak in the country, Mount Khakaborazi (5,880 meter) lies 112 km and 25 days walk north of Putao – a little town built in 1918 which was called Fort Hertz during colonial times after its founder. It is the nearest town to the rugged and snow capped mountain ranges of northern Kachin State, and Myanmar most furthest north. Its people are wild and like most rural folk, extremely friendly. The mountains are famous among naturalists and climbers, and new species of mammal continue to be discovered here. High forested paths, crystal clear streams and rattan suspension bridges, fresh cool air and the innocent and simple lives of the mountain people, all make ones feel the stunning beauty of one of Asia’s last great forest wilderness.

Kachin is a general term for a people embracing the Gyingphaw, Lisu, Lashi, Maru, Atsi, and Rawan tribes. Their lives are full of myths and most are animist. Lisu are born hunters and Rawan cultivate steep mountain slopes. Gyingphaw are the dominant group among them and grow paddy in the river valleys. Although parts of them have converted to Christianity all still hold onto animist beliefs, and a traditional festival called Manaw. During the Manaw Festival colorful wooden spirits pillars are erected (like may-poles) for girls and boys dance around, and rice-toddy is served from big bamboo jars. A buffalo or two is sacrificed during the festival to appease the spirits, and as food for merry-makers.


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