Pa-Oh TempleThe Pa-Oh (also known as Taungthu and Black Karen) form an ethnic group in Burma, comprising approximately 600,000. The Pa-Oh form the second largest ethnic group in Shan State, and are classified as part of the “Shan National Race” by the government, although they are believed to be of Tibeto-Burman stock, and are ethnolinguistically related to the Karen. They populate Shan State, Kayin State, and Kayah State.

The Pa-Oh settled in the Thaton region of present-day Myanmar about 1000 B.C. Historically, the Pa-Oh wore colorful clothing, until King Anawratha defeated the Mon King Makuta, who had established his reign in Thaton. The Pa-Oh were enslaved, and forced to wear indigo-dyed clothing, to signify their status. However, there are regional variations of clothing among the Pa-Oh. Many have adopted Bamar clothing, while men may wear Shan baung-mi (long baggy pants). The majority of Pa-Oh are Buddhists, but a written language was created by Christian missionaries. The Pa-Oh predominantly engage in agriculture, cultivating leaves of the thanapet tree (Cordia dichotoma) and mustard leaves. The Pa-Oh have largely assimilated into Bamar society, adopting many Bamar traditions and wearing Bamar clothing.

Text adapted from Wikipedia’s article on the Pa’O people/a>

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