International Conference on Shan Buddhism and Culture and Shan New Year Celebration at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

As I consider the Shan a little bit under-represented here on New Mandala, I would like to take this chance to report on a recent event in London.

On Saturday and Sunday, the 8th and 9th of December, the first Conference on Shan Buddhism and Culture took place. It was the first academic event in Europe ever to explicitly focus on the Shan.

Shan conference, London, 2007: photo by Louis T. Wollweber

The first two panels on Saturday were dedicated to Sociology and Anthropology with following speakers:

  • Nicola Tannenbaum (On continuities and transformations on Shan identity in Maehongson)
  • Nancy Eberhardt (Negotiating Shan identity in northern Thailand)
  • Klemens Karlsson (Tai Khun Buddhism and Ethnic-Religious Identity
  • Pannavamsa Sengpan (The Recital of the Vessantara Jataka in Kengtung)
  • Siraporn Nathalang (Khamti Buddhism and Culture: An Observation from a Visit to Khamti Land in Arunchal Pradesh in 2006)
  • Khun-Hti Laikha (Canada) (Being an Urban Tai/Shan in the 21st Century: Challenges and Solutions)
  • Khammai Dhammasami (Growing, but as a sideline: An overview of modern Shan monastic education)
  • Chit Hlaing (F.K. Lehman) (The Shan role in the constitute of the Wa Kingdom of Ban Hong, Burma-China Border)

There there were Linguistics papers:

  • Aggasena Lengtai (‘Kon to nung le ma song kaw’ (One man-animal and two dog-persons): A study of the importance of a
    noun classifier in the Shan language)
  • Sittichai Sah-iam (Basic Kinship Terms in Tai Yai and in Kham Muang: Comparative Study in Ethnolinguistics)

Music & Culture:

  • Amporn Jirattikorn (Shan Noise, Burmese Sound: Crafting Selves through Pop music)
  • Jane Ferguson (Rock your religion: Shan merit-making ritual and stage-show revelry at the Thai-Burma border)
  • Monthip Sirithaikhongchuen (The Celebrations of Shan/Tai New Year: History and Revival)

On the Sunday there were more papers on History:

  • Susan Conway (The Politics of Inland Southeast Asia: Shan Tribute
    Relations in the Nineteenth Century)
  • Pimmada Wichasin (Stupa Worship: The Early Form of Tai Religious Tourism)


  • Suchitra Chongstitvatana (The Princess of Saenwi: The Tragic Romance of a Shan Princess)
  • Arthid Sheravanichkul (Pu Khwan Khao Worship of Tai Yai in Yunnan: Fertility and Buddhist Felicity)
  • Nanthariya Sah-Iam (A Study of Tai Yai Proverbs)

Material Culture

  • Elizabeth Moore (Buddhist archaeology on the Shan Plateau: the first millennium CE)
  • Jotika Khur-yearn (Richness of Buddhist texts in Shan manuscripts: Seven Shan Versions of Satipatthana sutta)
  • Catherine Raymond (Shan Buddhist art on the market: what, where and why?)

I myself was not able to attend the Sunday part, but from what I have seen on Saturday the conference was a significant event that should be brought to wider attention.

Shan conference, London, 2007: photo by Louis T. Wollweber

Alongside the academic conference was a Shan New Year Celebration, marking the beginning of the Year 2102 according to the Shan lunar calendar. It was staged by the members of the Shan Cultural Association UK and contained traditional dances, New Year Songs, presentation of regional women’s dresses as well as a narration on life and work of Sai Kham Leik, who is a Shan/Burmese songwriter of great reputation and a performance of his songs by Sai Hti Hseng, a popular Shan-singer from Burma.

Shan conference, London, 2007: photo by Louis T. Wollweber

On Sunday evening the association launched a full-evening concert by Sai Htee Hseng which was attended by around 500 people.

All in all it was a highly successful event and another milestone in the promotion of the Shan culture and heritage.