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Karen-Ni

KAREN-NI, the country of the Red Karens, a collection of small states, formerly independent, but now feudatory to Burma. It is situated approximately between 18 50' and 19 55' N. and between 97 10' and 97 50' E. The tract is bounded on the N. by the Shan states of Mong Pai, Hsatung and Mawkmai; on the E. by Siam; on the S. by the Papun district of Lower Burma; and on the W. a stretch of mountainous country, inhabited by the Bre and various other small tribes, formerly in a state of independence, divides it from the districts of Toungoo and Yamethin. It is divided in a general way into eastern and western Karen-ni; the former consisting of one state, Gantarawadi, with an approximate area of 2500 sq. m.; the latter of the four small states of Kyebogyi, area about 350 sq. m.; Bawlake, 200 sq. m.; Nammekon, 50 sq. m.; and Naungpale, about 30 sq m. The small states of western Karen-ni were formerly all subject to Bawlake, but the subordination has now ceased. Karen-ni consists of two widely differing tracts of country, which roughly mark now, and formerly actually did mark, the division into east and west. Gantarawadi has, however, encroached westwards beyond the boundaries which nature would assign to it. The first of these two divisions is the southern portion of the valley of the Hpilu, or Balu stream, an open, fairly level plain, well watered and in some parts swampy. The second division is a series of chains of hills, intersected by deep valleys, through which run the two main rivers, the Salween and the Pawn, and their feeder streams. Many of the latter are dried up in the hot season and only flow freely during the rains. The whole country being hilly, the most conspicuous ridge is that lying between the Pawn and the Salween, which has an average altitude of 5000 ft. It is crossed by several tracks, passable for pack-animals, the most in use being the road between Sawlon, the capital of Gantarawadi and Man Mail. The principal peak east of the Salween is on the Loi Lan ridge, 7109 ft. above mean sea-level. Parts of this ridge form the boundary between eastern Karen-ni and Mawkmai on the west and Siam on the east. It falls away rapidly to the south, and at Pang Salang is crossed at a height of 2200 ft. by the road from Hsataw to Mehawnghsawn. West of the Balu valley the continuation of the eastern rim of the Myelat plateau rises in Loi Nangpa to about 5000 ft. The Nam Pawn is a large river, with an average breadth of 100 yds,, but is unnavigable owing to its rocky bed. Even timber cannot be floated down it without the assistance of elephants. The Salween throughout Karen-ni is navigated by large native craft. Its tributary, the Me Pai, on the eastern bank, is navigable as far as Mehawnghsawn in Siamese territory. The Balu stream flows out of the Inle lake, and is navigable from that point to close on Lawpita, where it sinks into the ground in a marsh or succession of funnel holes. Its breadth averages 50 yds., and its depth is 15 ft. in some places.

The chief tribes are the Red Karens (24,043), Bres (3500), and Padaungs (1867). Total revenue, Rs. 37,000. An agent of the British government, with a guard of military police, is posted at the village of Loikaw. Little of the history of the Red Karens is known; but it appears to be generally admitted that Bawlake was originally the chief state of the whole country, east and west, but eastern Karen-ni under Papaw-gyi early became the most powerful. Slaving raids far into the Shan states brought on invasions from Burma, which, however, were not very successful. Eastern Karen-ni was never reduced until Sawlapaw, having defied the British government, was overcome and deposed by General Collett in the beginning of 1889. Sawlawi was then appointed myoza, and received a sanad, or patent of appointment, on the same terms as the chiefs of the Shan states. The independence of the Western Karen-ni states had been guaranteed by the British government in a treaty with King Mindon in 1875. They were, however, formally recognized as feudatories in 1892 and were presented with sanads on the 23rd of January of that year. Gantarawadi pays a regular tribute of Rs. 5000 yearly, whereas these chieflets pay an annual kadaw, or nuzzur, of about Rs. 100. They are forbidden to carry out a sentence of death passed on a criminal without the sanction of the superintendent of the southern Shan states, but otherwise retain nearly all their customary law.

Tin, or what is called tin, is worked in Bawlake. It appears, however, to be very impure. It is worked intermittently by White Karens on the upper waters of the Hkemapyu stream. Rubies, spinels and other stones are found in the upper Tu valley and in the west of Nammekon state, but they are of inferior quality. The trade in teak is the chief or only source of wealth in Karen-ni. The largest and most important forests are those on the left bank of the Salween. Others lie on both banks of the Nam Pawn, and in western Karen-ni on the Nam Tu. The yearly out-turn is estimated at over 20,000 logs, and forest officers have estimated that an annual out-turn of 9000 logs might be kept up without injury to the forests. Some quantity of cutch is exported, as also stick-lac, which the Red Karens graft so as to foster the production. Other valuable forest produce exists, but is not exported. Rice, areca-nuts, and betel-vine leaf are the chief agricultural products. The Red Karen women weave their own and their husbands' clothing. A characteristic manufacture is the pa-si or Karen metal drum, which is made at Ngwedaung. These drums are from 2\ to 3 ft. across the boss, with sides of about the same depth. The sound is out of proportion to the metal used, and is inferior to that of the Shan and Burmese gongs. It is thought that the population of Karen-ni is steadily decreasing. The birth-rate of the people is considered to exceed the death-rate by very little, and the Red Karen habit of life is most unwholesome. Numbers have enlisted in the Burma police, but there are various opinions as to their value. (J. G. Sc.)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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