Dai

The Dai or Daai (Yindu) are an ethnic tribe of Chin, Myanmar. The Burmese used to call the Dai "Yindu Chin" because of their clothing styles. In particular, Dai women used to wear their clothes from the breast to knee. They live in the mountain ranges of Chin, Myanmar, and are known for their face tattoos. The Dai are one of 53 tribes of Chin and 135 tribes of Myanmar.

The Dai people are from Myanmar located in southern Chin. The Dai are one of the 32 Chin tribes, which have been registered by the Government of Burma since 1890. The recent Military Regime’s census mentions the Dai tribe as the 62nd of 135 tribes of Burma. Researchers sometimes refer to them as Dai or Yindu in the ethnic survey book of Burma. The word Yindu, meaning "from chest to knee", derives from the Dai dress code, which stretches from chest to knee. The Dai-Chin appear to be of Mongolian, Indo-Chinese, and Tibeto-Burman descent as the other Chin tribes do. The Dai people live in the Mindat, Paletwa, Matupi and Kanpetlet townships of the Southern Chin State, Burma. There are more than 180 Dai villages with a total population of somewhere between 60,000 and 90,000. Their population makes the Dai-Chin the majority tribe in the Southern Chin Hills.

History
The Dai land was an independent country until the British expedition in 1890, and later annexation in 1897 by the United Kingdom. The Dai language varies slightly between subtribes. Their ethnic tribes symbol is khuum (rocket tail drongo). The ling leih (Bulbophyllum refractum, one of orchid species) is their royal flower. Traditionally Dai women wear face tattoos. Guuk Booi is the main dish of Daai people. 99% of Dai people are Christians. They live in the mountain ranges of their own Dai land, Chin state, Myanmar. The alternative names are Daai, Dai, Yindu Chin (by Burmese language).

Location
The Dai inhabit a part of the Southern Chin State of Myanmar, located on the mainland of Southeast Asia. It is surrounded by China to the north and northeast, Laos to the east, Thailand to the east and southeast, India to the northwest, Bangladesh to the west and the Andaman Sea to the south. The country is divided into four topographical zones. The Eastern Shan Plateau is a highland region that merges with the Dawna and Tenasserim Yoma mountain ranges. The central belt zone covers the valleys of the Irrawaddy, Chindwin and Sittang rivers as well as a mountainous region to the north and a low lying delta to the south. The third region is the western mountain zone, also known as the Arakan Mountains, a series of ridges that start in the northern mountain area and extend to the southwestern corner. The Arakan coastal zone is a narrow alluvial strip lying between the Arakan Mountains and the Bay of Bengal.

The Dai land is situated in the southern part of the Chinland (Chin state) located on the western mountain zone of Myanmar. It is also located between north latitude 20˚ 30' and 21˚ 30', and between east longitude 93˚ 10' and 94˚ 10'. Dai land covers the west of Mindat Township, the northwest of Kanpetlet township, the northeast of Paletwa township and to the southeast of the Matupi township. The longest part of their land is about 120 miles (193 km) and the narrowest part is roughly 60 miles (96 km). The Dai land is mountainous and situated between 800 m–3200 m above sea level. The highest mountain in Dai land is Khawnusuum (Mt Victoria). Dai Land has thousands of slope ranges of mountains, brooks, streams and two small rivers: the Laymyo river and Moun river. Many natural water courses flow through the mountain ranges running from north to south, forming valleys and gorges.

Population
The overall Dai population is estimated somewhere between 60,000 and 90,000. 15% of the total population (500,000) of the Chin State are Dai people. Some of the Dai people live in and around Myanmar and all over the world. Dai people are descended from Sino - Tibetan, Tibeto - Burma, Kuki - Chin -Naga, Kuki - Chin, Chin - Dai.

Politics
Dai land is divided into four parts within the southern Chin state: Kanpetlet, Mindat, Matupi and Paletwa townships. Today Dai land encompasses Chin state, Myanmar. The local government separated Dai land into Kanpetlet Dai, Mindat Dai, Matu Dai and Paletwa Dai.

Education
There are only basic educational institutions, such as middle schools (students from 5 to 14 years of age) in Dai lands. Basic primary school is available in almost all villages. Higher education is available only in a few villages. Today, Dai people are receiving further education in various Christian colleges such as in the capital cities of Yangon, Falam, Mandalay, Kalay, Maymyo.

Health
There are government clinics and dispensaries in some villages, but there is no medicine in those dispensaries. People go to the nearest Burmese villages and the cities to buy medicine. There are no doctors in Dai land. Sometimes medical staff and nurses visit Dai lands. They occasionally administer government-provided vaccination to the Dai people.

Culture
Language
All Dai tribes speak the Dai language. These are slightly different styles between the subtribes of Kanpetlet township and Matupi township. Despite this, the different dialects are usually mutually intelligible. Dai writing was developed in the 1990s with the help of German people, with an alphabet based on the German alphabet.

Villages
There are more than 180 villages in Dai land. Dai villages make up 13% of the 1,355 total villages in the Chin State. Villages range from 10 to 140 houses, the largest and most populated village in Dai land is Makui Innu Village in the Mindat township, west of the central part of Dai land.

Religion
Approximately thirty years ago, Dai people practised animism. Since then, most Dai people have converted to Christianity within the last two decades. Currently about 99% of the Dai people are Christian.

Shifting cultivation
Dai people practise shifting cultivation, known as ''Taungya" in Burmese and "Lou" in the Dai language. Cultivators cut and burn forests and raise agricultural crops for one to two years before moving on to another site, only returning to the original after 10 to 11 years.

The Dai people living in western part of Myanmar and southern part of Chin State have rich customs and traditions. Their traditions and rituals are associated with their shifting cultivation in the hills. The practice of shifting cultivation is deeply rooted in Dai culture. Shifting cultivation for the Dais is more than sustenance, it is a way of life, the foundation from which emerged their economic and social traditions.

In its early period, shifting cultivation provided food for the Dai. However, these days it serves as the economic mainstay for the Dai, providing money to buy clothes, attend school, and trade with their neighbours.

Economy
The Dai people cultivate rice, corn, millet, beans, peas, cucumber, pumpkin, gourd, egg plant, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, ginger, sesame and celery in their gardens or farms. Dai farmers cultivate at the beginning of monsoon season (the mid-April to June) and harvest crops in October and November. The cultivation method is dependent on monsoon rains.

Generally, Dai land is mostly used for slash-and-burn or shifting cultivation, with the least-developed regions inhabited by the indigenous hill tribes of Myanmar. Dai people earn their livelihood by shifting between cultivation (Taung Ya) and subsistence farming. Farming and gardening are only for their subsistence and personal consumption, transportation systems and markets are not developed in Dai land.

References

  • The study of Dai (Daai)people (Southern Chin State, Myanmar)by Dai Thet Saw
  • U Min Naing (B.A), National Ethnic Groups of Myanmar. Yangon: Swiftwinds Books, 2000.
  • Committee of History and Customs Research, Kanpetlet Township: Chin Nationalities and Sub-tribes’ Customs Record. Kanpetlet: Limited Issue, 1984.
  • Rosang, Ancient Chin History. Yangon: Limited Issue, 2005
  • Myo Thant (Edit) et al. Myanmar Facts and Figures 2002. Yangon: Ministry of Information, 2002.
  • The Dai people: The Apple of God's Eye by Shwekey Hoipang
  • The Chin Hills: A History of the People, our dealing with them, Their Customs and Manners, and a Gazetteer of their Country Vol/ 1&2 by Bertram S. Carey and H. N. Tuck
  • Burma Gazetteer:Northern Arakan District (or Arakan Hill Tracts ), Volume A, Brown, Grant*# Captain G. C. Rigby, History of Operations: Northern Arakan and Yawdwin Chin Hills 1896-97 with A Description of the Country and Its Resources, Notes on the Tribes, And Dairy. Yangon: Government Printing Press, 1897.
  • F. K. Lehman, The Structure of Chin Society: A Tribal People of Burma adapted to a Non-Western civilisation. Urbana: Illinois Studies of Anthropology, 1963.
  • Lt. Col. Hla Min, Political Situation of Myanmar and Its Role in the Region. Yangon: Strategic Research Office-Defence Ministry, 2000.
  • Lian H. Sakhong, In Search of Chin Society: A Study in Religion, Politics and Ethnic Identity in Burma. Copenhagen: NIAS, 2003.
  • Senior Research Officer, Foreign Department Report on Chin Lushai Hills September. Aizawl: Tribal Research Institute, 1980.
  • U Min Naing (B.A), National Ethnic Groups of Myanmar. Yangon: Swiftwinds Books, 2000.
  • Mana Thang, A Short History of the Methodist Mission among the Dai people. Yangon: Unpublished (MDiv. Dissertation, MIT) 2000
  • Dominique Thet Saw, Tree cultivated in Dai Land,http://daifamilylive.blogspot.com/2010/06/tree-cultivated-in-dai-land.html, (http://www.scribd.com/doc/32452982/)