except in recent times, in a few old treaties. It is almost certain that the Burmese mistook the first invaders of their country, from the Chinese side, for Chinamen. It is almost equally certain that they were not Chinamen at all, but Tai. Now Han-Jen* is a common name for the Chinese. It seems possible that the Burmese called the first supposed Chinamen Han or Shan, and when later they met real Chinamen, from the Middle Kingdom, they called them Talok, the usual Burmese name for the Chinese, whatever province they may come from.
However that may be, it is certain that the Tai, or Shan, race is the most widely distributed in Indo-China. In the beginning of the thirteenth century an army of them conquered Assam and settled there. They were
called Ahoms. Why, is not known, but their name was corrupted into Assam, and was applied to the country previously known as Weisali. Nothing remains of them now except the Mongolian features of the inhabitants of the Brahmaputra portion of the country and about 9,500 professed Buddhists. From there, however, the Tai extends right across the whole of Indo-China to the West River, where the Hakkas of the Canton River are most probably of Shan extraction. Proper linguistic study will almost certainly prove the Li of the interior of Hainan to be Shans. The Siamese, of course, are Tai, and so are the Lao, and there are Tai settlements all over Yunnan and in a great many parts of North and West Tonkin.
No Tai manuscripts of any great value seem
to have survived the civil wars, which preceded our annexation of the Shan States, but the study of Chinese chronicles by Mr. Parker, formerly of the Chinese consular service, the Burmese Royal History and Mamipuri manuscripts, all point to the fact that there was a great Tai empire in Yunnan, which goes by various names, Nan-chao, the kingdom of Pong, and Mong Mao. Nan-chao is a certainty, because it is repeatedly referred to in Chinese chronicles. It is the modern Tali-fu. The kingdom of Pong is freely mentioned by the Burmese, but its identity is as much a problem as the origin of the name Shan. It was also referred to in a Shan chronicle discovered by Major Pemberton in 1835. The manuscript unfortunately disappeared immediately after being translated. The Mao Shan
Empire was an invention of the late Ney Elias. It is possible that some manuscript, now hidden away in some part of Yunnan, or in Tonkin, or even in the little-known interior of 1 Hainan, may solve the question.
What may be aasserted with some confidence is that the Tai had a very early, if not their original home, in the south-west of the present China, that their capital was for a good many centuries at Tali-fu, and that at one time in their early history they came very near to overthrowing the Chinese Tang dynasty, and later did establish themselves as the rulers of Burma, that is to say, Northern Burma, as distinguished from the coast-wise country, Yaman-nya, which was then held by the Mon, or Talaings.
Two thousand years ago bands of Tai
seem to have entered Northern Burma. In 47 A.D., under the name of Ai (or Ngai) Lao, they appeared in the great plain of China descending the Han and Yangtzu rivers on rafts. In 649 a.d. they had a definite capital ten miles north-west of Meng-hwa Taing, not very far from Hsia-kwan, the commercial town of Tali-fu. One year short of one hundred years later they founded Yangtsiime, the present Tali-fu, and in 764 the latter name was adopted, and it remained the Shan capital till 1253, when it fell before Kublai Khan, and the Shan empire was disrupted.
During the five hundred years they fought alternately with China and Tibet, and defeated both, several times marching as far as Chaeng-tu, the capital of Ssu-chuan, and generally they were a terror to their neighbours as far as Magadha on the west and the China sea on the east. It was almost certainly the Shans who sacked Pagan, and put an end to that great Burmese dynasty. Bishop Pallegoix places the beginning of the Shan kingdom of Siam in 1350. This was established at the expense of the old kingdom of Chiampa, or Champanagara, and was no doubt effected by fugitives from the conquering Kublai Khan. In any case, Siam now remains the chief representative of the Tai race.
Of the British Shan States, Mongnai (Mone) claims to have been founded in 519 B.C. ; Hsenwi (Thein-ni) in 441 B.C. ; and Hsipaw (Theebaw) in 423 B.C. Whether this is true or not, concerns rather local patriots than the general reader.
The character of their country no doubt affected the Shan national tendencies. It is a region of fertile valleys and wide straths, separated by inhospitable mountain ranges. There were therefore a number of small communities or petty principalities, all of which wished to be independent, and strove consistently against subordination to one central power. Except for this, the Tai must certainly have been the masters of all Indo-China, and possibly of the whole Chinese empire.
The Burmese gradually got possession of the Shan states on the principle of ^Esopas fable. They separated the sticks from the faggots and broke them one by one. The Burmese kings are credited with the policy of splitting up the Shan states, and so ruling them with ease, but such elementary sagacity was not required. The Tai chieftains were distinct as the hill was, but they were very far from being one as the sea against an outside enemy. Under Burmese ru!e they joined the governing power with enthusiasm in subjecting and plundering one another.
GROUP OF SABWAS AND THEIR FOLLOWERS (SOUTHERN SHAN STATES).GROUP OF SABWAS AND THEIR FOLLOWERS (SOUTHERN SHAN STATES).