“The Chin is of interest, because he reveals the material out of which Buddhism and civilisation have between them evolved the Burmese people; the Chin, in short, is the rough wood out of which the Burman has been carved”. – “The Silken East”, by V. C . Scott O’Connor
The Chin Hills Gazetteer recorded the facts that Zo (Chins) and the so called Kukis were one and the same race and that Soktes, Yos and Kamhaus were one people. It further summarized the fact that all belong to one and the same Kuki race. Had the word Kuki been changed to Zo at that time, the right word for calling the various tribes and clans of the Zo race inhabiting the areas joining Burma, East Pakistan and Assam would have been answered a long time ago. This publication was rare for a long time and was not available to later authors on the various races of Burma.
“There can be no doubt that the Chins and the Kukis are one and the same race, for their appearance, manners, customs, and language all point to this conclusion”. The Chin Hills Gazetteer 1896 chap xii pp 135.
“Sections of the Chins who have migrated into Burma from the Tibetan plateau almost in a straight line down south are to be found from the Somra Hill Tracts down Cape Negrais. The Chins, the people living in the northern Chin Hills believed then mostly that their foremost fathers settled in Cimnuai, Saizing from where they spread to other places in the Chin Hills. The people call themselves ZO Ml. Mi meaning Man. From Cimnuai some went south and called themselves Sukte, some moved east to the alkali valley Si Zang and later known as Sizang (Siyin). The Thado branch moved north, and some more branches moved west and still call themselves Ml ZO but known by the British as Lushai (Lusei).
“Sections of the Chins who have migrated into Burma from the Tibetan plateau almost in a straight line down south are to be found from the Somra Hill Tracts down to Cape Negrais. The Chins, then mostly in North-Western Burma, are known to have had social intercourse with the Burmese at the time of the Kingdom of Pagan (1044-1287). There were Chin levies in the armies of King Bayinnaung of Toungoo (1551-81) and of King Alaungpaya of Ava (1752-60).
“Local tradition has it that the ancestors of some of the people forming the principal tribes ascended the Chin lands from the Kale-Kabaw and the Myittha River valleys. One group went there by the foothill Burmese village, Yazagyo, and are the clans now inhabiting the northeast region of Tiddim. Another group went up Mount Kennedy from the Kale Valley. They then descended the western slope of Kennedy Peak and settled in Zangpitam above Thuklai Village, Siyin Valley. Later they continued their move to Cimnuai near Saizang Village, Sokte area. Their descendants spread along various routes from Cimnuai and are believed to be the ancestors of the present tribes of Siyin, Sokte, Kamhau, Zo and Thado. The remainder moved from the Myittha River valley into the Central Chin country and were the ancestors of the Zanniats, Zahaus, Tashons of Falam and various tribes of Haka.
It is not within tribal memory that any full-scale organized war was ever waged between the Burmese Kings and the Chins, but minor hostilities used to occur at times in the foothill valleys, resulting in raids and skirmishes on the border.
British troops were in action against the Northern Chins after the annexation of Upper Burma for a continued period of seven months or thereabouts among the foothills now passed by the Kalemyo-Fort White-Tiddim Road, at a place called Leisan (now known as the Basha Hill). The Chins resisted the advance of British troops fearlessly till they were subdued. It was not until 1892 that the northern people now inhabiting the Tiddim Subdivision were totally disarmed. The Central Chins did not offer any full-scale resistance. Further down in the south, the various tribes of the Haka Subdivision, resisted sternly the advance of the forces from the Gangaw Valley.
There is a great deal of social intercourse between the Chins and the Burmese and a considerable number of Chins speak Burmese. Many Chins living in the Pakokku, Thayetmyo, Prome and Henzada Districts have become Burmanized, being mostly Buddhists. Even in respect of the Chins in the Chin Hills District, those who inhabit the southern portion and those areas adjacent to the Kale-Kabaw Valley are in close touch with the Burmese. The Chins have frequently expressed a desire to have Burmese as the medium of instruction in their schools. Report of Frontier Areas Committee of Enquiry 1947.
Amongst the Khongjais (Khuangsai) themselves, the cream of the Thados, the Thados par excellence are male descendants of Thado in direct lineal descent. To these much respect is paid by the younger branches, who in token thereof present to the Chief of their particular branches one tusk of each elephant they may capture, these Chiefs again making a present to their superior, the head of all.
Originally they were not migratory, but have assumed this character lately. Since their expulsion from their own hills, the different tribes have become mixed up together in the villages situated in positions selected with reference to convenience of cultivation, but with little regard to healthiness.
The Yo tribe three generations back occupied the tract of country now inhabited by the Kanhow clan of Soktes, and many of the Kanhow villages are inhabited still by Yos, whose tribal name has given way to that of “Kanhow”. Soktes, Yos, and Kanhows are practically one people; for many years past, as is shown in the Manipur records, numbers of emigrants crossed the Northern Chin border and settled down along the south of Manipur plain, west of the longitude of Howbi Peak.
The Chin Hills are peopled by many clans and communities, calling themselves by various names and believing themselves to be of distinct and superior origin. It is evident, however that all belong to one and the same, the Kuki race, which, owing firstly to the want of a written language and secondly to the interminable inter-village warfare, has split up and resulted in a babel of tongues, a variety of customs, and a diversity of modes of living.
Physically the Chin is a fine man, taller and stouter than his neighbours in the plains on both the north and east, and although he falls short of the build of the Pathan, his measurements compare more than favourably with those of the Gurkha. It is no uncommon occurence to find men 5 feet 10 inches and 5 feet 11 inches in height with chest measurement of 39 inches and with a calf measurement of the abnormal size of 16 inches. Individual tall men are found in the Kuki villages immediately south of Manipur and among the Soktes, but the finest built men in the hills are the Siyins, Hakas, and independent southerners.
The Siyins, though small in stature, are splendidly limbed and are the most evenly built tribe in the hills, though the Hakas and independent southerners are as a whole taller and produce the finest individual men. The Chins and the southern Kukis of Manipur being the same race, living in the same class of country and under the same conditions, are, as is to be expected, equally good carriers”. Chin Hills Gazetteer.
Chin Levies beside invading countries adjacent to the Chin Hills such as the East India company occupied areas of East Bengal including the Chittagong areas, they volunteered for service under King Alaungpaya.
“Alaungpaya himself returned with a large force, containing Shan and Chin levies, to Syriam which his men had started to besiege soon after the capture of Rangoon” Harvey.
“The approximate cause in 1757 was, firstly, the failure of the Talaing government to subjugate the north immediately after entering Ava and before withdrawing the bulk of the army; secondly, they were divided in their councils, while the Burmese were united under a great leader; thirdly, they had only their own corner of Burma to draw on for men, whereas Alaungpaya’s numbers were fed by Shan, Kachin, Chin and Kadu levies”. Harvey 1925. <Click here to read page 2>