The Chin
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The Chin

The Forgotten People of Myanmar

The Forgotten People of Myanmar

Chin people are the mountainous populations living between the Myanmar (Burma) and the Indian border, in the Chin State. This ethnic group has been one of the most persecuted in the country, and many different tribes identify with this group. They are also known as Zo, which is their original name.
Snapshot

Snapshot

  • Region is Southern Asia

  • Climate here is Tropical

  • The challenge here is Medium

  • This trip has been rated 5 by other travelers

Life

Life

The higher elevations in Chin State makes it difficult for Chin people to cultivate; however, grains like millet, maize and grain sorghum for beer are grown. Vegetable crops include melons, pumpkins, and peas and beans. It is common to see cotton cultivation which is sold in national markets. Corn and rice are the main staples of their diet.
Home

Home

Because of the mountainous land in which they live, villages are usually at elevations of 1,000 and 2,000 meters. Houses are typically built on pilings, using hand made planks for the structure, while others have walls and floors made of split bamboo. The roof is thatched with grass, but it is common to see more and more with slate roofs, corrugated iron or aluminium sheeting.

Culture

Social Structure

The Chin used to have a rigid system of the aristocratic class, chiefs, landlordism and engaged in inter-lineage alliances through a system of marriages, however, this practice is today lost. Husbands are the head of the household.

Religion

Most Chin people are Christian, which is sometimes a problem considering that the official religion of Myanmar is Buddhism, making them a target of persecution. Some might still practise traditional animism.

Traditions

The women are renowned for their remarkable face tattoos made with leaves -for colouring-, grass shoots -as healing dressings- and soot -which is used as a disinfectant.

The Chin people traditionally do not have a first, middle, or last name. Grandparents usually choose a name according to their future wishes for the newborn. The naming is considered an honour and is given to the grandparents as a sign of respect.

Eye contact is, at times considered rude, as a provocation. During a conversation, some Chin will avoid looking at the speaker directly in the eye.

If elders are present, youngsters walk with the body bent, hunched over and crossing the arms over the chest. Pointing feet at the elders is a sign of disrespect.

Traditional medicine is also critical, and practices of "coining" and "cupping" are still performed.

Language

They speak Hakha Chin, or Lai, a Kuki-Chin language.

Art

Chin people do not have a specific traditional art. However, some members of the tribe living as refugees abroad are more and more involved in artistic production.

Celebrations

Marriages among Chins are considered huge events and the entire village is usually invited.

Religious festivities are also important; however, celebrations are toned down to avoid bringing attention to the village by the Burmese Army and police.
Further knowledge

Further knowledge

The Chins in Myanmar have been known to be one of the most persecuted ethnic group in Asia.

Many Chins have fled the country and are now living in refugee camps in different countries, including Thailand, India, USA and China.


Photo credit Mrauk-U in Rakhine, Myanmar
iStock.com/Srinivas Piratla

Photo credit Tattooed Chin woman
iStock.com/intek1

Photo credit Chin tattoo process
Myanmar Ministry of Tourism

Photo credit Rural scene in Mrauk-U
iStock.com/uuoott

Photo credit Buddhist sanctuary
iStock.com/jikgoe

Photo credit Pagodas in Mrauk
iStock.com/Mariusz Pietranek