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Saturday, April 18, 2015

AtoZBlogChallenge:P is for Padaluang Tribe and Mt. Popa

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My theme this year is Burma AKA Myanmar. I used to live in Laos, so I looked forward to returning to Southeast Asia. I spent a little over three weeks exploring this country, learning a bit about its culture: its history, religion, and language. I thought others might enjoy some of what I learned and see some of what I saw.

A Land of Old and New


The Kayan tribe live in Burma’s northeast They're also called Padaluang (sometimes English spelling is Padaung), meaning long necks. Actually, their necks do not stretch, but their collarbones are pushed down slowly as the rings are added. If they use the old traditional number of 31-- their necks are so weak they can't remove the rings and hold their heads upright. Today that practice has changed and girls only wear 20. They can take the rings off if they choose.

A Padaluang Weaver with 30 Neck Rings

A Younger Padaluang Woman With 20 Neck Rings and  an Older One With Traditional 30

The irony is these are lake people. Imagine trying to swim with about 30 pounds of brass around your neck.  I picked up one set of these rings and knew just how long I'd stay afloat with them on me.




So why do they do this to themselves? One version is it's to protect themselves from tiger attacks. They encircle the throat and put brass at their shins. Their hair pins are weapons in case of attack. Of course, the men don't follow this practice, and today, tigers in the area are rare to none. 




Looking Across the Canyon at a Cloud Shrouded Mt. Popa. This was an infinity pool on the edge of the mountain.

Mt. Popa When the Clouds Lift
Mt. Popa is a monastery. You have to hike to the top, wave off monkey attacks and be careful of where you step. Monkeys poop a lot.  

Answers to O
F 1. People believe that giving offerings buys them a place in Nirvana. (They believe it's an act of generosity, and that the offerings symbolize giving the best of who they are to something higher than they are. I think of it as a way to visualize goodness, but I'm not a Buddhist, so I could be off base.)

T 2. Offerings are a way to pay respects to the wisdom of Buddha or the Dharma, the Truth. (I suppose this is somewhat similar to the lighting of candles for others. Well, not quite, but offerings focus our thoughts and, in my mind, so do candles in churches.)

NOW what do you know about the Padaluang Tribe?
T/F 1. While the practice of using neck rings seems abusive and sexiest--since men do not wear them--this was a vestige of a matriarchal society.

T/F 2. The rings were considered magic and could cure illness by touching them.


Answers tomorrow.

34 comments:

  1. Always thought the ring practice was cruel. At least they don't wear as many now.

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  2. I heard those rings were to make their necks longer...Mt. Popa looks neat in that picture.

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  3. That's interesting that the rings actually push down the collarbone. I must admit I always thought it stretched their necks somehow, but the collarbone thing makes more sense.

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  4. I love a good mixture of the old and the new. Makes for an interesting culture.

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  5. Those rings look pretty narrow. I can't handle turtlenecks. I'd not deal with that at all. Untethered Realms / MPax

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  6. There are various practices that have always made me wonder about their backstory. Though I've seen the occasional picture of a woman with these neck rings, the idea they are for protection seems odd if only the women wear them. But I digress. Seems it's so much to learn about their culture.

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  7. Interesting people. I never did understand the neck rings. I would feel so confined. The mountain area is beautiful.

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  8. The weaving is cool, and the necklace thing finally makes some sense. I would want to protect my neck from tigers too!

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  9. Hi Lee - I know some Kenyans wear circles of beads around their necks, but have no idea if that stretches the neck. I hadn't thought about not having any power in the neck ... certainly a ceremonial custom for them .. but interesting the men don't wear them. Love the view of Mt Popa ..

    Cheers Hilary

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  10. I've seen this before and although I try not to judge other cultures, it's hard not to, especially when the women are the ones who have to suffer through this deformation. It reminds me of the traditional binding feet in China. I wish women of all cultures would wake up a bit and free themselves from all forms of domination. Sadly, that won't happen... I'm happy you went all the way out there to see them and shared your findings with us. You're adventurous!

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  11. Wow! I am always so intrigued by the customs of other cultures. I am guessing True is the answer to both of your questions.
    Brandy from Brandy's Bustlings

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  12. Beautiful pic of the mountain! I was hoping you'd tell us why they wore the rings. I've always wondered about that:)

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  13. I've seen documentaries on this. Long necks are also elegant, but no way would I do this in the name of beauty. Now if tigers were around...
    Untethered Realms

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  14. I attended a workshop on abusive practices around the world and the neck rings were one of the things mentioned. It'd seemed horrifying.

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  15. Reading your post is like travelling without moving from your chair, Great post yet again.

    Yvonne.

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  16. That infinity pool picture is absolutely breath-taking. I can't imagine wearing all those rings. I can't even tolerate a turtle-neck!
    Michele at Angels Bark

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  17. I remember reading a National Geographic article about the people with the long necks. The tiger reason is interesting. I thought it was more of a beauty thing. I can't even imagine how uncomfortable it would be to wear one of those things!

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  18. one of the most bizarre customs ever. I wonder if they feel pain or they just get used to it

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  19. This is similar to that tribe in Africa-I am glad it is loosening up a bit because these customs-like the Chinese bound feet should go the way of the do-do (that bird). I think I got both right from yesterday-yahoo! OK so I will say True to the first and F to the second

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  20. that would be rough to swim with all of that one.

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  21. Just looking at those rings makes me feel like I can't breathe. I can't imagine!

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  22. The rings would make me feel claustrophobic. 20 seems like a lot! Swimming and sleeping with them would be terrible.
    ~Jess

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  23. Mt Popa, it's so beautiful that I'd brave the monkey poop! I'm happy for the woman of the Padaluang being able to drop their ring number down to a healthy number. Traditions should be something that unifies people and not injure them.

    I loved the cell phone picture, too!

    You can find me here:
    ClarabelleRant

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  24. Amazing pictures! I've often seen photos of the women with neck rings, but didn't know what region they were from.

    It looks extremely uncomfortable.

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  25. Some other advantages of the neck rings are that they hide triple chins, turkey necks, and hickeys. No pain, no gain! I'm surprised they're not popular in the states.

    Julie

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  26. It's an interesting tradition, but sounds like a good idea to lower the number of rings. I get this cartoonish image in my head of a long necked lady's head flopping over because she can't support her own head because of the rings.

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  27. I have seen images of the Padaung people but did not know anything about them. Quite an interesting blogpost.

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  28. I always wondered about the neck rings - I assumed it was a beauty ideal, like so many other modifications of the female body around the world...

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    Multicolored Diary - Epics from A to Z
    MopDog - 26 Ways to Die in Medieval Hungary

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  29. Fascinating. Not something I would like to try...

    Yvonne

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  30. I love the colors in their clothing. And the beautiful Forrest!

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  31. Looks like they put a big spring around their neck, I assumed it was a series of individual rings. Looks very painful. The tiger story sounds like another case of female subjurgation disguised as a folkloric tradition...

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  32. I'm wondering about the long term health problems due to the weight of those rings??
    That infinity pool is stunning. So much beauty.

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  33. I always wanted to know about the rings they wore. Thanks for featuring them!

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