What is Kachin Portal Site?

This web portal is designed to provide comprehensive information on the Kachin people’s cultures and languages. This includes overviews of the people and their languages, comparative lexicons, folktale texts, maps, photographs, and bibliographies.

Who are the Kachin?

Kachin peopleThe Kachin people are an ethnic group of Myanmar, inhabiting mainly in Kachin and northern Shan states of the country. The Jingpo people in Yunnan province of China and the Singpho people in northeastern India can be considered as the same people. The Kachin are one of the widely-recognized eight major ethnic groups of Myanmar, i.e., Kachin, Kayah, Karen, Chin, Burmese, Mon, Rakhine, and Shan.

Where are the Kachin?Many of the Kachin live in Kachin state, which is the northernmost state in Myanmar, sharing borders with China and India. Major cities in Kachin state are located in plains such as Myitkyina, Bhamo, and Putao. The Mali and Nmai rivers originating from Himalayan glaciers meet up in the middle part of Kachin state to become the Irrawaddy, the country’s largest river. Major cities such as Myitkyina and Bhamo are located along the river. A large portion of the Kachin region belongs to highlands called the Kachin Hills, which is thinly populated and ethno-linguistically diverse.

What do the Kachin speak?The Kachin people are linguistically diverse, speaking several mutually unintelligible Tibeto-Burman languages including Jinghpaw, Zaiwa, Lhaovo, Lacid, Ngochang, Rawang, and Lisu. In this world of multiple languages, Jinghpaw often serves as a lingua franca, a common language. Despite the linguistic diversity, the Kachin people share ecological and livelihood practices and socio-cultural features, forming relatively uniform complex.

What is the Kachin society like?The Kachin people share a number of social and cultural features across linguistic boundaries. Most importantly, they share a common clan and lineage system, to which every people belongs regardless of their linguistic affiliations. The kinship system conditions much of the marital and family relationships.

What is the Kachin culture like? The Manau festival is the most important among many festivals observed by the Kachin. During the festival, people pray for good harvest and prosperity, parading and dancing around pillars called Manau Shadung, in which a great celestial spirit called Madai dwells. Kachin traditional costumes vary greatly depending on localities and linguistic groups, as every Kachin embroidery represents history and tradition. Silver torques worn by Kachin women, for example, represent dragon scales.

What is the Kachin religion? A large population of the Kachin people are Christians. Historically Baptists have been playing particularly important roles. In every Kachin community, rural or urban, they have church, where Sunday services and other religious activities are held. The Christian Bible has been translated into every major language spoken by the Kachin. Before Christianity, the Kachin were animists, propitiating a variety of spirits such as the sun spirit, the thunder spirit, the water spirit, the earth spirit, and ancestral spirits. The Manau festival has roots in animism.