By Noe Noe Aung
The Palaung people, who mainly live in northern Shan State, belong to one of the oldest hill tribes of Myanmar. It is believed the Palaungs may have settled in northeastern Myanmar earlier than the Shan and Kachin people. The Palaung are a distinct ethnic group thought to have originated in China and there are three sub-groups – Shwe, Ngwe and Rumai Palaung. Their language is in the Mon-Khmer linguistic group and the different sub-groups speak different dialects.Theravada Buddhism is the main religion of the Palaung people. Buddhist temples can be found in most of their towns and the Palaungs mark occasions like Shin Byu, the Ceremony of Novitiation when boys enter the monkhood, as other Buddhists do throughout Myanmar.
They also follow their animistic beliefs and on occasions like weddings, funerals and births offerings are made to the animistic spirits alongside the practice of Buddhist rituals. The traditional dress of the Palaung women is bright and colourful. Distinctive elements of their dress are the gold and silver hoops worn like belts around the waist.The Palaung people are well known for their tea cultivation in the elevated tea plantations of the Shan State.