Chinese astrologers have predicted that 2015 will be a year for peace and harmony, according to ethnic Chinese visitors to the all Shan State Shan New Year festival in Taunggyi, the state capital.
|Sao Aung Myat of Pwela, Shan State Chief Minister, opening Shan New Year Festival, 18 November 2014. (Photo: SHAN)|
“2015 is the Year of the Goat or Sheep,” said a respectable source who asks anonymity. “It is the 8th sign of the zodiac. For Chinese, #8 is a lucky sign for all those born under the 12 signs. It is also a symbol for peace and harmony.”
At least www.gotohoroscope.com appears to agree with the source. “Processes,” it says,” that have been unfolding and spreading chaos for the past few tears are finally wrapping up; both political and economic situations in the world are starting to stabilize. The crises that have been tormenting many countries for the past several years are finally promising to be over.”
The said Chinese predictions coincide with the words of the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA) spokesman Col Sai La to Myanmar Times, 16 November 2014. “The New Year hope is for peace. Only peace can solve the political problems we are facing now.”
The RCSS/SSA is one of the 14 major ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) that have signed preliminary ceasefire with the government.
16 of the EAOs, after forming a joint negotiation team, dubbed the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), since 4 November 2013, have been parleying with Naypyitaw’s Union Peacemaking Work Committee (UPWC). So far the two sides have been stuck in the 4th draft of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) with the last 18 key points that are still under critical review.
Both sides are due to meet informally next week before the formal meeting which is expected to be held early next month.
The Shan New Year 2109 falls on the First Day of the First Lunar Month (Nadddaw for Burmese and 11th Month for Chinese) which is tomorrow, Saturday, 22 November for this year.
The festival in Taunggyi, 18-24 November, is participated by Shans, who call themselves Tai, from Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and India.
According to www.linguasphere.org (2000), Tai-Thai-Lao is the 13th most widely spoken language in the world (90 million) and 6th most widely spoken in Asia, after Chinese, Hindi, Bengali, Malay and Japanese.
Tomorrow, Saturday, 22 November 2014, also happens to be the First Day of the First Lunar Month Year 2109, of the Shans.
As Shans, let alone non-Shans, know very little about their own New Year, we are reproducing here excerpts from the paper written by Monthip Sirithaikhongchuen, Shan scholar who lives in Thailand, in 2008. Our sincere thanks to Shan Cultural Association (UK) for permission to reprint it-Editor
Tai Name of the Year and Tai New Year
Monthip Sirithaikhongchuen (Mahamoong, Muang Zae)
So far, we do not yet know exactly, indeed we know very little about the political and social circumstances in which the Tai family group began to use a calendar that would result in the celebration of this New Year Day. So, instead of repeating legend as history, I shall bring your attention to the astrological calculation that helps us arrive at this New Year Day.
In so doing, I shall venture to suggest that this particular calendar was earlier used by all branches of the Tai ethno family groups, for instance, Thai, Lao, Tai-khun, Lue, Tai Dam and Shan. Today, we see members of the Tai ethno family groups celebrating also a few other new year days: some celebrate Songkran in April which has become common to nearly all South and South-east Asians; and others join the celebration of the First of January. The Songkran and the Gregorian New Year obviously come from India and the West respectively. Some branch of the Tai family celebrates even the Chinese New Year.
In the Tai ethno family group there was a custom of using the name of the star groups in calculating the years, months and days and time for everyday life. This calendar is used to tell the day and date in everyday life. For example, karpsun year (Year of Monkey), lupkai month (Month of Pig) hoonghao day (Day of Rooster). We can say that people used ming to tell the year, month, day and date in everyday life. This was very important in the agriculturally orientated life. Up to this day the Tai race from the North and North-East of Thailand, Tai Yai, Khuen, Lue, Tai Nua, Ahom Tai (In Assam of India) , Laos, Tai Lum, Tai Leng and Tai Khao (In Vietnam) still use this calendar system. Only the Central Thais and the Southern Thais no longer using it. Instead, they use the Khmer calendar system.
Here we need to understand is, in astrology that uses the lunar month and star groups in the astral world the names are taken from animals in our world. This concept is now popular also to the Tibetan and Chinese. All the animals and the star groups are assigned to match each other symbolically and use indirectly.
Names of the Years
There are twelve son years or rather child year in a year cycle; and each with a name. They are:
1. Jai known as the Year of the Rat
2. Pao Year of the Ox,
3. Yee Year of the Tiger
4. Mao Year of the Rabbit or Cat,
5. Si Year of Naga/ Big Snake
6. Sai Year of Snake
7. Si Nga Year of the Horse
8. Med/Mod Year of the Goat
9. San Year of the Monkey
10. Hao Year of theCock
11. Sed/ Med Year of the Dog and
12. Kai Year of the Pig/ Elephant.
And there are other 10 Mother years each with a name. They are:
9. Tao and
When the Mother Years are rotationally combined with the Son Years until the last one from each set meets, which is ka and kai, we get a sixty-year cycle. It begins, for example, 1.Karp Jai with the first mother year of karp combining with the first son year of jai. 2. Lup Pao where the second mother year of lup is assigned to the second son year pao and so on. When both sets of year run out at the same time, we complete one cycle of 60 years; and we then start again at year one of Karp Jai,
meaning we begin a new cycle. In fact, not just year, but also the months and also the days are calculated in this sixty-cycle.
In the past, this sixty-year-cycle of Mother-Year and Son-Year system, was used by the Tai people to calculate the calendar era, record events and chronicles and also to give names to children.
In giving names, for example, the name Ai Noan is given to a boy who is born on the fourth day (Wednesday) or Hai Med (Goat day), the third waning day of Kod Yee month (Tiger month or the third lunar month), in the year of Kar Med (Year of the Goat), Culasakkaraja Era 1364. It will be understood immediately by a Tai who is well versed in this calendar that on the third waning day of the third Lunar month ( Lern Jeing in Tai or Duan Ai in Thai) of the year 1367, Ai Noan will be three years old.
How did the year names come into existence? Astrological experts still have different views as to how the year names were given according to constellations. Some said the names were given since the ancient civilization times of the Egyptians and the Persians. Some said it was part of the ancient Indian culture, but some who studied ancient Chinese culture said it was Chinese art and later spread throughout Asia and South-East Asia . Still, some argued that after studying the 12 year names there are no Chinese words in the names such as…..Jai, Pao,Yee, Mao, Si, Sai, Si Nga, Med, Sun, Hao, Sed, and Kai. Although the year name system was first, found in Chinese history its origin may not have been Chinese. So, the system was not invented by the Chinese.
According to some, the Chinese only began using the year-name system during the Western Han Dynasty 220-20 BC. It could be that the Chinese adopted this system from a certain race, who migrated into China at that time. Some historians have found in the history of Sung-Nu tribe that the method of calculating time by using Year name system of Mother Year- Son Year came from the Pai Ti custom. These tribesmen were nomads, herding animals in the plains. The Year name(nakkhatta) such as Jai, Pao, Yee were from the Pai Ti language. According to some historians, Hsu Han Sae, the leader of Sung-Nu who lived near the land of the Pai Yee, lost a battle to his brother. He fled to live with the ruler of the Western Han. He brought the system of the year name with him and the knowledge spread throughout China . From then, the Chinese have been using this system.
However, after several generations the Chinese changed the Pai Ti names into Chinese. The ten names of Ton Fah ( Mother Year) are Jae, Hii, Ping , Ting, Oo, Ji, Gerng, Sin, Yen and Gui (10) . The twelve names of Ging Lin (Son Year) are Jue, Jau, In, Mao, Choen, Sue, Oo, Woei, Sern, Yau, Si and Hai (12). When the 10 Mother- Years and the 12 Son-Years are combined the result is the sixty-year cycle. The Chinese call the sixty-year cycle Liu Sue Jay Jue.
At present the Pai Ti constellation year name system is not only used by all Tai ethno family groups, but also by Chinese, Khmer, Vietnamese and Indians. The names have also been changed to local languages. The Chinese call the Year name system Ging Lin (Sue Eua Ging Lin) and The Indians call the twelve constellation year name system (Dva-dasa rasi.) Although some academics believe this year name culture came from Si Han (Western Han) before it spread throughout Asia, they do not agree that it was invented by the Chinese. Actually, they insist, the Chinese “borrowed” it from Pai Ti. I also believe that The Tai people also borrowed it from Pai Ti who invented this system first and that the Pai Ti should be highly honored. But of all the people who use this Pai Ti year name system only the Tai people are still using it in everyday life up to this day. Some even suggest putting the Pai Ti into the Pai Yue group. (Yue or Yee One hundred Race group). Here is it possible to pose a question: were Pai Ti the ancestors of the Tai race? As I have no answer myself, I would like to leave it some learned researchers.
Tai New Year and Year name Basis
Of those who are using the Pai Ti system of Year name as a custom to calculate time, days, months and years for their own use, they consider the first new moon day of the twelfth month as the last day of the old year, and day of the first waxing moon day the first day of the year or New Year’s Day. The first month in Tai is called Lern Jeing. Yuan (Yonok), Laos, Thais, Khuen, and Lue call this month Doen Ai. The Chinese, Vietnamese and Khmers also consider the first day of the first month as New Year’s Day up to this day. All the people in the Tai ethno family group have considered this day as New Year’s Day for generations. [Lern Jeing or the first month of Yuan is two months faster than Tai and Thai. The first month of Khuen and Lue is one month faster than Tai and Thai. This is according to where the Hora was taken from.]
Any Tai ethno family group, including Thai and Laos celebrate four different New Year Occasions or Rites. They are the Songkran in Thai, the Gregorian New Year’s Day, the Chinese New Year’s Day and the Tai New Year’s Day.
Tai New Year’s Day
This day has been considered to be New Year’s Day by the Tai Race for almost 3,000 years. It falls on the first waxing day of the first month (Lern Jeing) according to the constellations. This is the ancient wisdom and custom of the people of Asia. For South-East Asians this day falls mostly in November and sometimes in December. But the New Year’s Day according to 60 Year name calendar of the Tai Race has been forgotten. Only the Tai Yai people (Tai Long living in the present Shan States) still consider this as a special day and continue to celebrate it up to this day. It is written in The Thai history that this Tai New Year’s Day was celebrated from the Sukkhothai period to the middle Ayutthaya period. Although people from the high society have changed to using the Gregorian New Year’s Day, which is calculated by the movement of the sun, the middle class and the lower class are still using the Tai New Year’s Day. This is because they have to depend on the season and weather to
make their living on agriculture and the months are calculated by the moon and the constellations.
If we calculate the years, months, days and time according to the hora science of the South-East Asians which use the 60-year cycle year name system as said the new moon day of the twelfth month is considered to be the last day of the year. So the first waxing day of the first month or Lern Jeng or Lern Ai is New Year’s Day. It will be a cycle of every year. Our ancestors have used this calendar system to celebrate New Year’s Day by giving alms with newly harvested rice. This means it is the end of cultivation, harvest and produce of the last crop of the old year. In another it was the
end of the 60 cycles (360 days). Finally, I want to request every Tai in the Tai ethno family groups, wherever he may be, to recognize the first day of the first month (Lern Jeng or Lern Ai) as the New
Year’s Day of all the Tai ethno family groups. Even though the first of January is recognized as the official New Year’s Day by the Thai government, we need the further generations to know the real Tai New Year’s Day of our common ancestors. It is the duty of every one of us that this shared cultural value is revived and promoted so that it lasts forever.
Unlike many non-Burmans (or Bamars), many of whom SHAN has discussed with agree with U Aung Thaung, the ruling party MP, who proposed that names of states, where non-Burmans are the majority and they used to be territories independent from Burma Proper until independence from the British, should be geographical like Irrawaddy, Mandalay, Magwe, and so on. Not unlike Texas, California, and so on in the United States.
The logic behind this is simple: when you say Shan State is Shan State, non-Shans might feel left out and their sense of belonging might be at a loss. On the contrary, geographical names may give one a sense of collective belonging. Each state will then be united. And if the states are united, the non-disintegration of the Union, one of the three holy missions of the ruling class, will be guaranteed. It’s as simple as that.
The discussants’ only suggestion, based on the same logic, is why don’t we change the name of the country from Burma/Myanmar to something else. Because, whatever our military leaders say, ‘Myanmar’ is synonymous with Burma or Bamar. As Indian is to Babuji, and Chinese is to Paukhpaw. The eminent Aung San Suu Kyi herself has acknowledged that. (At least the name Burma was adopted by the 1947 Constituent Assembly that was made up of both Burman and non-Burman states’ representatives.)
Actually this story is not new. During the 1993-2007 National Convention, ostensibly held to lay basic constitutional principles, a similar proposal was presented by military representatives. Critics against it said there were two reasons they were against it:
• One, unlike American states, those in Burma have historically been known by the names of their ethnic majority in each state
• Two, racial discrimination and racial assimilation have been an official policy of successive Burmese rulers. There has been little or no human rights, let alone indigenous rights, for these peoples. “The only thing that remains is our ethnic labels,” one said. “And now they are even trying to erase it.”
Nonetheless, the discussants are certain that the non-Burmans won’t have any objection to changing their states’ names, if only our Burman/Bamar/Myanmar leaders are happy to do the same with the country’s name. After all, it belongs not only to the Burman/Bamar/Myanmar people, but also to the non-Burmans as well.
One way to do it is suggested by one of the discussants: That is, to combine all the first letters of each major ethnic group and form them into a word, an acronym. The result of the exercise is quite interesting-and hilarious.
S - Shan
M - Myanmar, Mon
A - Arakan
C - Chin
K - Kachin, Karen and Karenni (Kayah)
Accordingly, the country, for unity’s sake, should therefore be re-named “Smack”.
Well, this is just an example and not one that is easy to get used to without getting some sort of smiles from our neighbors.
We are sure there must be names that are better getting used to. If we just try.
Thai officials returning to Chiangmai from last week’s security meeting in Pisanulok, headquarters of the Third Regional Army that oversees security along the Thai-Burmese border, have said that meetings, seminars and workshops being planned by ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) in Thailand should be notified in advance to them.
|NCCT-UPWC Meeting on 22-26 September 2014 (Photo: Face book/Hla Maung Shwe)|
“They would be required to give a written notice and allow one or two of our officials as observers,” one told SHAN. “In other words, we will be happy to accommodate the peace process. Burma’s peace is in our interests.”
Since the beginning of the peace process in August 2011, successive Thai governments have tolerated EAO gatherings inside the kingdom.
“They should also be aware of the agreement that has been made between the Burmese and Thai militaries,” he added. “And that is the two sides will cooperate closely against drug trafficking and arms smuggling.”
The Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), formed at the Kachin stronghold Laiza by the EAOs in November 2013, is reportedly planning to hold a meeting in Chiangmai next week to review the controversial 4th Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) draft that was produced between it and the government’s Union Peacemaking Work Committee (UPWC) at the 22-26 September meeting in Rangoon.
The next NCCT-UPWC meeting has been planned to be in early December though the date has yet to be fixed.
Another military source told SHAN later not only EAOs but also unarmed activist organizations are included in the directive issued by the Third Army commander, Lt-Gen Sathit Pittrat. “Which means civil society organizations (CSOs) based in Thailand must also notify any meetings they are planning to hold,” he says.
So far Third Army units along the border have been more focused on drugs and arms running, not political and social activities inside Thailand.
More than a week has passed after the Yes or No vote to Spain’s Catalonia region was taken on Sunday, 9 November.
|Propelled by the economic crisis, sentiment in favour of a complete break from Spain has been on the rise (Photo by BBC)|
These are the facts:
• Catalans, like non-Burmans in Burma, are ethnically distinct from the majority Castilian Spanish
• Spain is made up of Castilian 74.4%, Catalan 16.9%, Galician 6.4 %, Basque 1.6% and others 0.7% (www.populstat.info)
• The use of Catalan, as the Catalonian language is known, has equal status with Castilian and is now actively encouraged in education, official use and the media (BBC)
• It is one of Spain’s richest and most highly industrialized regions, and also one of the most independent minded (BBC)
• The region’s population is 7.5 million. 5.4 million were eligible to vote. 81% of the 2.25 million who had participated in the referendum had voted Yes. Meanwhile, more than 58% are non-participants. Therefore, the “results were obviously skewed toward independence”(Business Insider)
• The main reason for the majority of eligible voters staying away was attributed to two things: the supreme court’s earlier decision that the referendum would be illegal and Madrid’s threat to use force
• Above all, Spain’s 1978 constitution’s Article 2 champions “the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation.” The public vote therefore ended only as a non-binding and symbolic victory.
So how does it compare with the Shans of Shan State?
• Shans, like Catalans, are ethnically distinct from the majority Burman
• Burma is made up of Burmans 58.69% and others 41.31% including Shans 7.08% (1931 census)
• The use of Shan is limited to teaching it at non-school hours and media but not official
• It is one of Burma’s richest in terms of natural resources and also one of the most independent minded
• The state’s population is 5.8 million of which around 50% (according to 1941 census) are Shans. The rest is made up of PaO, Ta-ang, Wa, Kachin, Lahu, and others
• According to the 2008 constitution’s Article 10, “No part of the territory constituted in the Union such as Regions, States, Union territories and Self-Administered Areas shall ever secede from the Union.” Moreover Chapter 11 has empowered the armed forces to exercise all 3 sovereign powers “If there arises or if there is sufficient reason for a state of emergency to arise that may disintegrate the Union”
Besides the Shans are notorious when it comes to the question of unity though most of them are said to be bent on independence.
The other crucial question is whether or not the non-Shans who constitute the other half of the state’s population, may join them in their quest for independence.
A cursory look therefore says that unless the Shans have satisfactory answers to the above two questions, our Burman rulers need not be overly worried about separatism. Because worry may be just a reflection of their feelings of guilt over their past and present misrule of these peoples, both Burman and non-Burmans alike.
The integrity of a nation however does not rest on laws, constitution or force, but only in returning to the basics, according to the Chinese sage Lao Zi:
A great nation lowers itself
And wins over a small one
Rivers and seas can rule the hundred valleys
Because they are good at lying low
They are lords of the valleys