Keng Tung

Keng Tung
   Also Kengtung, the largest of the old Shan States, located east of the Salween (Thanlwin) River and encompassing approximately 31,100 square kilometers (12,000 square miles) before the autonomy of its sawbwa was relinquished in 1959. The name also refers to the city that was the sawbwa's royal capital, the site of his haw or palace, which is now the most important town in eastern Shan State. Home of the Tai Khun, a branch of the Shan (Tai) ethnic group, Keng Tung traces its origins to the late 13th century, when the fortified city (möng in the Shan language) was established by a Tai ruler related to the royal family of Chiang Mai. The original inhabitants of the Keng Tung area were apparently Wa, although the most numerous "hill tribe" people are Akha. In the late 1760s, conflicting claims of suzerainty over Keng Tung were among the causes of a war between King Hsinbyushin and the Manchu Ch'ing (Qing) Dynasty. The city has long been an important waystation in the trade between China and Thailand. A 19th-century British account tells of an annual traffic of 8,000 mules bringing Chinese goods by way of Keng Tung to Chiang Mai. During the British colonial period the sawbwa of Keng Tung, like his counterparts in other Shan States, enjoyed considerable autonomy. During World War II, the Japanese transferred suzerainty over Keng Tung and another Shan State, Mongpan, to Thailand.
   After Burma became independent in 1948, Keng Tung suffered heavily from war, insurgency, and, after 1988, the full impact of military rule. In the early 1990s, the State Law and Order Restoration Council opened an overland route for foreign travelers from Mae Sai on the Thai-Burma border to Keng Tung, and the city is likely to play an important role in the development of highway links connecting eastern and northern Shan State with Thailand and China. The headquarters of the Triangle Regional Military Command of the Tatmadaw is located there, and the Keng Tung area is subject to heavy cultural "Burmanization."
   Among Keng Tung's monuments are the Wat Zom Kham, which according to legend dates from the lifetime of Gotama Buddha and is said to contain six of his hairs, the Naung Tung Lake in the center of town, and the old city gate (the city was originally surrounded by a wall). Keng Tung is famous for its lacquerware. Over the protests of local people, the ornate haw or palace of the sawbwa was torn down by the military regime in 1991 and replaced by a tourist hotel.

Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). . 2014.

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