Tai Culture



The Tai are an ancient people with a rich and unique cultural heritage. We look forward to sharing elements from it with you.

One of the first aspects of Tai culture to understand is that that Tais include several different closely related but distinct groups. These include, but are not limited to: Tai Yai, Tai Lao, Tai Dam, Tai Daeng, Tai Lue, Tai Khoen, and Tai Ahom.

These Tai peoples have their own distinctive manner of dress. Traditional clothing is an integral part of any culture. Two Web sites feature some examples of the various unique outfits worn by different Tai groups. These include Tai Yai, Tai Lao, Tai Daeng, Tai Lue, and Tai Khoen. You can see them either here or here.

Language is an integral part of any culture. The language found in proverbs and other wise sayings is normally used to relay important aspects of the culture from one generation to the next.

Mae Hong Son province in Thailand is a relatively isolated pocket of Tai culture. A large number of ethnic Shan people live there. They celebrate a uniquely Tai festival called Poi Sang Long. For one visitor's perspective on Mae Hong Son, please see his article "On the Shan Borderlands."

Another interesting group of festivals centers around LoenSarm, or the third lunar month. You can found out more about this time of year by reading either an original Shan text or the English and/or Thai version.

The Tais have their own unique reconning of time. Last year, for example, the Tai New Year fell on 27 November 2000. Please read about how it compares and contrasts to New Year's celebrations elsewhere.

Another interesting aspect of Tai culture is their long-standing tradition of democracy.

If you are really interested in a fairly comprehensive look at the culture of the Tai people in the Shan States of Burma, you can read a series of articles which appeared as a serial in the Nation, an English-language newspaper still published in Thailand, in the early 1950s. Because the articles were published a few decades ago, they give a more accurate picture of what the true culture is like.