Friday, December 18, 2009

Our Karen State

Karen State is an administrative division of Myanmar and . The capital city is Hpa-an. The Karen people in Myanmar are Christian, Buddhist and animist. Most Christian Karens are Baptists.

It has common borders with Mandalay Division and Shan State on the north, Kayah State and Thailand on the east, Mon State and Bago Division on the west. Its area is 11,731 square miles.

Together with Sagaw Karen, Po Karen, Bwe Karen and Pako Karen, Shans, Paos, Myanmarns, and Mons also live in Karen State, comprising seven Townships and 410 Wards and Village-Tracts.The Karen people make up approximately 7 percent of the total Burmese population of 47 million people. Its population is about 1,057,505. Mount Zwegabin is the landmark of Kayin State.

Mt. Zwegabin


The Zwekabin Hill has a very unusual shape, which, once seen, is not easily forgotten. The leading town in the northern section is Thandaung. It is a very beautiful hill station and an important tea, coffee and fruit producing region. It is the land mark of the Kayin state.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Karen Traditional Costumes

Karen Costumes

There are a lot of Karen dresses for Karen women. People weave white, green, blue, red, yellow, black long and short dresses with many different colors.

Karen people have many different types of traditions regarding dress. Costume is very important for us. Our costume is very pretty, they have dignity and many other ethnic nationalities like to wear it. All the costumes have different meanings. Our ancestors wanted other people to recognize us and they made a sign when they were weaving.

A long time ago there were no factories, people planted cotton, made the cotton to become thread and they always hand weaved it. Now there are many machines to produce clothes so many people have sadly, forgotten how to weave.

White dress (Say Moe Wah)

These kinds of dress people weave all of it white, with no flowering. Usually people wear this dress are eastern mountain Karen. This dress is woven very long and white. People wear it beginning when they are children until they are teenagers. Eastern mountain women who wear this are single or unmarried, If people get married they do not wear it anymore.

Flowers Sewn dress (Say Sa Paw)

People weave this kind of dress with all black thread. People sew flowers on this dress with different colors. The hem is decorated by lacing thread. Most People wear this dress in plains areas and who believe in animist traditions. They wear it for a wedding ceremony, Karen New Year, or to recall spirits.

Black dress (Say Moe Thu)

Is woven with black thread, the hem of the neck and arms they lace the thread and set it. Some people cut the clothes like a pagoda and head cock. They also wear it in wedding ceremony, Karen New Year, and to recall spirits.

Green dress (Say La)

Before weaving, the thread is dyed green. They sew the hem of the neck and the arms with red lacing thread. Under the neck and the arms they sew rice. This dress is mostly worn in Western Mountain areas. People often wear this dress from childhood until they become old.

Decorated dress (Say Sa Kee)

This kind of dress is simple. You can choose any colors, as you like. People decorate it with flowers. The flowers are like mountains, ocean waves, barns, fish bones, and chicken foot marks.

Say P'lo

Karen men wear white and red clothes. People wear red clothes mostly in the Delta and the plains. Eastern mountain Karen people also wear red 'Say p'lo' they pull out the long threads which hangs from the side.

Say Bwe

Is woven strand of red and one strand of white. In the half of the middle they weave strand and they make flowers. They do not pull the thread out. The hem of the neck and the arms they lace the thread and sew it.

Say P' Kue

The whole costume is white. The hem of the arms and the middle they make with strands then the lower part they sew flowers. This dress also does not have thread outside. The hem of the neck and the arms they take round flowers seeds and lace. Then they sew it.

Karen Flag

A flag can be a unifying object for a country, nation, or tribe, which is often created in an attempt to capture the characteristics and history of a people through its colors, designs, and symbols. The flag of the Karen people of Burma is no exception. Being a young Karen person, I would like to share some facts about the Karen flag and explain how the flag represents many of the cultural characteristics of the Karen people.

The Karen people are an ethnic group accounting for approximately 7 percent of total Burmese population of 57.6 million people. It is the third largest ethnic group in Burma after the Burman and Shan people. Karen State is located along Burma's eastern border with Thailand and has a population of approximately 2 million people, not all of them being Karen. More Karen people live outside of Karen State than live in Karen State. Tragically, the Karen people have been caught in a civil war between Burma's ruling military government and various Karen rebel factions for over 60 years. During that time, the current flag, which was originally created by one of the rebel groups, has nevertheless become a unifying symbol for many of the Karen people, living both inside and outside of Burma.

The different colors and shapes on the Karen flag are meant to symbolize the characteristics, the morality, and the aptitudes of the Karen People. As shown above, the flag has a rectangular shape. On the left top of the flag, there is a square-shaped box in which there is a picture of a rising sun having nine beams of light. There is also a Karen drum with frogs, and two buffalo horns in the center of the box. Outside of the box, the flag is divided into three equal, horizontal stripes. The top stripe is red, the middle stripe is white, and the bottom stripe is blue.

According to oral tradition, the rising sun symbolizes that the Karen nation will always shine to the world with brightness and success. There will be no sunset, which means that there will be no diminishing glory. Further, the nine beams of the sun symbolize the nine different areas in Burma where Karen people constitute a majority. Rebel factions claim that the Karen people are entitled to self-governance in those areas.

In the middle of the nine beams of light, there is a Karen drum, frogs, and two buffalo horns. The Karen drum is a well-known instrument used by the Karen in most of their traditional songs and dances (called the Karen Don Don Dance). It is meant to imply that the Karen are a peaceful people who strive to preserve a simple life rich with tradition. The buffalo horn instruments are meant to represent the unity of the Karen people. The horns were traditionally used in battle to warn of approaching foes or to gather warriors. The Karen people are traditionally a united, community-focused group which works together as a village. The frogs represent the prosperity enjoyed in Karen State. When frogs are heard croaking, it means that the rainy season has begun, trees will bear fruit, green grass will be available for pasturing animals, and the Karen people will begin planting.

Outside of the square box, the three horizontal stripes (red, white, and blue) complete the design of the flag. The top red stripe symbolizes the courage shared by all the Karen people. The elders would say "We Are Karen Red Blood," which means the Karen people are not afraid to shed their blood for liberty. The middle white stripe represents purity, simplicity, and kindness, which are attributes stressed in all Karen communities, both Buddhist and Christian. The bottom blue stripe represents loyalty and honesty. Above all else, the Karen are fervently loyal to their families, their friends, and other Karen people.

In conclusion, the Karen people are a simple, unassuming, and peace loving people, who are taught from the earliest age to uphold the characteristics represented by the Karen flag. It is hoped by all that the Karen flag will someday fly over a land free from war and savagery and that it will serve to unify all of the Karen people.