The Kayan or “Long Necks” of Chiang Rai have gained worldwide recognition for their unique tradition of wearing brass neck coils.
These Longnecks or Kayan people, also Karen people–an ethnic minority group from Myanmar, have been wearing these coils for several centuries, and the practice has become a tourist attraction in recent years.
However, this has sparked controversy over whether it is exploitation or a way to preserve their cultural heritage. Despite the debate, the tradition remains an essential part of the Kayan’s cultural identity, and the people continue to wear the coils with pride.
This info will explore the history and significance of the neck coils worn by the Long Necks of Chiang Rai.
Here are some things to know about Kayan people:
- The Kayan or Karen people are originally from Myanmar (Burma) and are a subgroup of the Karen people. They are also known as Padaung.
- The tradition of wearing brass neck coils dates back several centuries and is said to have originated to protect against tiger attacks.
- The coils are a series of metal rings stacked on each other and worn around the neck. Contrary to popular belief, the coils do not lengthen the neck but rather push down the collarbone and rib cage, giving the appearance of a longer neck.
- Women typically wear the coils, and the number of rings can vary depending on the woman’s age and status in the community. Some women may wear as many as 25 rings, weighing up to 10kg.
- Wearing neck coils has become a tourist attraction in recent years, with many Kayan people now living in Thailand and performing for visitors. However, some critics argue that this has turned the tradition into a form of exploitation.
- Recently, some controversy has been surrounding using neck coils as a tourist attraction. Some argue that it perpetuates harmful stereotypes and reinforces the exoticization of non-Western cultures.
- Despite the controversy, the Kayan people continue to wear neck coils as part of their cultural identity, and the tradition remains an integral part of their heritage.
Did you know?
The Kayan people is that, in addition to the brass neck coils, they are also known for their intricate and colorful traditional clothing. The women often wear brightly colored blouses with intricate embroidery, while the men wear traditional shirts with detailed weaving patterns.
In some Kayan communities, the women also wear colorful scarves on their heads, adorned with coins and beads. The clothing patterns and colors can vary depending on the region and the community and are an essential part of the Kayan’s cultural identity.
A little history:
The Kayan people are an ethnic minority group of the larger Karen ethnic group. They are originally from Myanmar (formerly known as Burma). They are primarily concentrated in the eastern and northern regions of the country, although many Kayan people have also migrated to neighboring Thailand over the years.
The exact origins of the Kayan people are unclear, but it is believed that they have lived in the region for several centuries. The Kayan people have a rich cultural heritage, with their traditional practices and beliefs passed down through generations.
In addition to the famous brass neck coils, they are known for their intricate weaving and embroidery skills. The women often create colorful textiles and clothing using traditional techniques, while the men are skilled in woodworking and basket weaving.
They have faced challenges and struggles throughout history, including displacement due to conflict and persecution. Many Kayan people fled their homes and sought refuge in neighboring countries, including Thailand and India.
In today’s world, they continue to face challenges in preserving their cultural heritage and way of life and advocating for their rights and recognition as a distinct ethnic group.
Despite these challenges, these people remain proud of their cultural traditions and continue to pass them down to future generations.