About the Karen Hilltribe
Karen are the largest hilltribe group living in Thailand, an estimated
300,000 currently live here. It is thought that they originate from
Tibet moving through to Myanmar and Northern Thailand. They can be
found living in the mountains and low lands of Mae Hong Son, Chiang
Mai, Chiang Rai and some in central Thailand. There are 4 major types
of Karen; the Sgaw (white Karen), the Po, the Pa-O and the Kayah.
Those that live in the mountains practice slash and burn agriculture
whilst those in the lowlands cultivate irrigated paddy fields.
Traditionally they live in bamboo or teak stilt houses with their
domestic animals such as chickens and pigs living underneath. By
tradition they are animists but now as many as 30% have been converted
to Christianity by missionaries throughout the years. Animism still
plays an important part in village life though, with all villagers
participating in spirit festivals
Nowadays it is more common to
see the Po and Sgaw still wearing their traditional costumes with other
groups wearing more modern clothes. The costumes vary between groups
but one distinction between all is the difference in single and married
women’s dress. A traditional single woman’s costume is long and plain
white, whereas a married woman typically wears a sarong and Karen style
shirt with elaborate patterns and seeds sewn on.
Video clip of Traditional Karen Hilltribe Dance performed by school children - Part 1
Video clip of Traditional Karen Hilltribe Dance performed by school children - Part 2Video clip of Traditional Karen Hilltribe Dance performed by school children - Part 3