Kachin dha revisited
The recent days I was researching a "Kachin dha" I had. I always found it curious how some people call it "Naga dha" instead. A glance through old colonial writing reveals that these were consistently called "linkin dha" in the past and that neither Kachin nor the Naga produced them.
Instead they were produced by a people in the north as one of their main export products, catering to Kachins (especially the Jingpo), the Kampti Shan, Nung, and other groups.
Some period descriptions:
"The dha with the Chingpaw, as with the Burman and the Shan, is a national weapon. At the hilt the blade is an inch and a half in width, widening to about two and a half inches at the truncated tip. The back is slightly curved. It is half sheathed in wood and slung over the right shoulder by a rattan ring. In the case of well-to-do people or warriors, this rattan sling is sometimes adorned with cloth and embroidery, or with the claws or teeth of wild animals. It hangs with the hilt in front ready to the hand. This is the proper shape of the Linkin or Chingpaw dha.
Among the Kachins who have pushed farthest south there are other types, taken from their Shan or other neighbours, but the characteristic half-sheath is almost always retained.
East of Bhamo Mr. George says the Kachins use a long straight sword, about two and a half feet long, which they call ntugaht.
These, with the more orthodox Linkin are said to be manufactured mostly by the Tareng, the Nga-chang, and possibly also the Khunnongs. Like the wild Wa the average Chingpaw cannot or does not make his own dha.
-Gazetteer of Upper Burma and the Shan States, Part I Volume I, 1901
Adventurer and tea planter Errol Grey saw such dha being produced in northern Kachin in 1885:
"Mr. Errol Grey speaks of meeting Turengs on his way to the country of the Khumongs, above latitude 27° 15' and in about longitude 97° 30'. The Turengs, he says, are the great blacksmiths of that neighbourhood, just as the Ngachang are for the country round Hotha and Latha. They make all the dhas and daggers worn by the Singpho and the Hkamti Shans, and these under the name of Hkampti dhas form one of the chief articles of trade between the Hkamti valley and Assam.
The iron is found in the hills forming the boundary between the Turengs and the Khumongs.
It is of excellent quality and the knives are very durable.
The dhas are made in four varieties, the streaked, the indented, the white,
and the black dhas"
-Gazetteer of Upper Burma and the Shan States, Part I Volume I, 1900
The exact location Errol Grey is referring to is here on Google maps.
Now this begs two questions;
1. Where does the name linkin dha come from?
2. Who are these Turengs that Errol Grey is talking about? I'm having a hard time pinpointing the modern name for these people. But also in old British colonial writings, like the 1911 Census of Burma, they do not appear.
For reference, I add a photo of such a dha from the Metropolitan Museum collection.
EDIT: A hint, perhaps: "There are various languages that have gone by the name Taliang/Trieng, which means 'headhunters" - WikipediaWikipedia: Tariang Language
Not likely to help but there is a Linkin or Lin Kin village somewhere on the west side of Inle lake, Nyaungshwe Township. I can't find the exact coords.
Who made Kachin dao--one answer
I have found the various Gazetteers to be fun reading but much of what they contain was collected by bureaucrats and "local informants" who were not necessarily the most reliable or best informed individuals. Thus, the names they provide for tribal/ethnic groups are often poor transliterations of the local names. It becomes hard to identify who they are talking about, and that's what I think is happening here. Burma was some distance from the Colonial administrative headquarters in Delhi and I suspect that the greater rigor of reporting found in the Indian Gazetteers may not have carried over to the Burmese reporting. I have similar issues with some of the reports coming from the NE Indian frontier, including Assam and its neighbors.
One book on the Kachin that I have found reasonably thorough in its approach (although racist and condescending) is The Kachins: Their Customs and Traditions by O. Hanson (1913). Hanson attempts to trace the origins of the Kachin geographically and how the Kachin name arose. The Kachin call themselves Jingphaw in Burma (Singphaw in Assam), and have no knowledge of the origin of the word "Kachin" other than it appears to be a Burmese term applied to them. Hanson speculates on its origins from Chinese and Burmese sources.
The book is quite detailed in its descriptions of culture and customs of the Kachin. There is relatively little, however, about the Kachin dao. I did find these passages helpful:
Here is an old thread that discussed the origin of the Kachin dao also.
A couple of older images, surely they all are already posted somewhere in the forum...
Picture with three guys - Kachin, Felice Beato, around 1880.
Picture with two guys - Shan, collection Fritz Noetling, around 1890
Picture with a whole bunch of guys - Shan, photographer not known, around 1880
Picture with well armed single guy - Shan, Felice beato, around 1880
Nice old pictures. Some of the attributions are a little off the mark.
The first one shows two men in Kachin attire (wearing traditional Kachin dao), while the Kachin man in the foreground is dressed as a Shan and holds a Shan dha.
The second shows a Kachin man (standing) and his slave (crouching) holding his long pipe--note the difference in physiognomy between the Kachin and his Shan(?) slave.
The third shows a band of daqoits or bandits, all dressed as Shan (identified by their clothes and head dress). Note the old flintlock or matchlock musket (hard to tell what it is). There are numerous Shan dha but the man on the left wears a Kachin dao.
The last is a studio portrait of a Shan man in traditional attire, including the big floppy hat worn over the turban. He wears a dha lwe (sword) and dha hmyuang (knife).
Hope it will be okay to post my kachin and naga (?) here to see some variaty.
Quality indeed varies from author to author, and you're right that it's often hard to grasp which minority is meant. This is probably for a large part due to the tension between different groups and the name one group uses for another not necessarily being the name by which this group identifies, etc.
All that said, I've found many true gems in there and it's perhaps a bit quick to completely disregard them as unreliable sources. They mention who had been in the area and which adventurers were especially useful as informants, aspects or traditions and politics between the different peoples, availability and trade routes of raw materials, etc. All valuable information.
The Gazetteer of Upper Burma and the Shan states presents some speculation as to whom the Turongs are:
As we drew near to habitations, averting emblems reappeared, and we noticed a fenced elliptical tomb. This seems to indicate that the Turongs are Chingpaw, or at least closely allied to the Kachins.
So perhaps they were indeed a subgroup of the Jingpo but with some distinct features that made early travelers documen them as different.
Here's one of those gems, a very detailed account by Errol Grey a tea pioneer and adventurer who spent some 30 years in the area:
Besides this the only other industry seems to be the manufacture of dhas, and that is confined to the Tarengs, who do not appear to be true Kachins. Mr. Errol Grey, who calls them the best blacksmiths of the Khakhu country, says that they make all the dhas worn by every Kachin and Hkamti Shan adult north of the confluence.
These dhas under the name of Hkamli dhas form one of the chief articles of trade between the Hkamti valley and Assam. The iron is found in the hills forming the boundary between the Tarengs and Khunnongs. It is of excellent quality and the knives are very durable. Mr. Enrol Grey continues:
"These dhas are made in four varieties:
(i) The streaked (or dorica mela as it is called in Assam),
having four lines running longitudinally down the blade.
(a) The spotted dha, having numerous black spots cover-
ing both sides of the blade, as if indented by being
hit by some pointed instrument, but really natural.
(3) The white dha, with a perfectly clear blade, without
spot or line.
(4) The black dha, a dirty, rough-looking blade, giving the
idea that the process of manufacture is not complete.
These weapons are about eighteen inches long in the blade, and are broader at the point than at the handle. They are ground to have an edge in the form of that of the chisel. With the handle a couple of such dhas weigh a little over two pounds.
The streaked dha is invariably worn by the nobility and gentry of the Hkamti country."
-Gazetteer of Upper Burma and the Shan States, Part I Volume I, 1900
I've done some more digging and found the following entry in a Burmese-English dictionary:
"Machete-like sword with a crescent-shaped tip."
In Burmese, lin can mean:
-Dawn of the day
-To elucidate; explain.
In Burmese, gin can mean:
-Be free from, without
-Keep away from; stay away from.
-General term for centipede and scorpion
-Begin to fruit
-Patrol ; guard ; picket.
-Post for collecting custom duties.
Take your pick! I'm guessing it is a Burmese attempt to phonetically capture a word from one of the minority languages, possibly Jingpho.
The one with the Tibetan style "hairpin" forged blade and ivory pommel plate is most likely one of those "streaked dha" that Errol mentions as being primarily worn by Jingpho royalty. Blades like it almost exclusively come with higher end, T-shaped hilts with silver and ivory, like yours. Scabbards are often painted red -like the hilt- instead of being plain wood.
The one with the Tibetan style "hairpin" forged blade and ivory pommel plate is most likely one of those "streaked dha" that Errol mentions as being primarily worn by Jingpho royalty. Blades like it almost exclusively come with higher end, T-shaped hilts with silver and ivory, like yours. Scabbards are often painted red -like the hilt- instead of being plain wood.[/QUOTE]
Interesting reading. I note that Mr Grey uses specific language when he says that the manufacture of these swords is confined to the Tarengs, who do not appear to be true Kachins. Just who is a "true Kachin" seems to have been an issue, and the Hanson quote I provided earlier in this thread seems to address the same issue by referring to the Hkahku as "true Kachin." I think what Mr Grey is describing is the same or another group of Kachin who had been influenced by, and adopted, some of the Shan customs and skills. If they had been a non-Kachin ethnic group he probably would have given the name of that group (Shan, Burman, Chin, etc.), but rather he refers to them as not true Kachin (implying to me that they may once have been Kachin but are no longer).
Yeah it's all a bit murky. Kachins, to begin with, was of course a term only applied to the various people of Kachin state, by the Burmans. Nobody in Kachin considered themselves to be Kachin. This is often the case with minorities, the majority labels them differently than they themselves would have.
Instead, most identify as Jingpo and within that group there are a lot of subdivisions. It gets even more complicated when you take into consideration that some groups practiced exogamy, and so by default married outside their group, creating a lot of mixed children. Especially on the border between the Shan and Kachin states there was a lot of fluidity, with examples of Shan "becoming" Jingpo and vice versa.
Sir George Scott who traveled extensively through the norther frontier areas noticed that the people referred to as Tarengs did have similar burial traditions to the Kachings (Jingpo).. but otherwise were apparently distinctly different. Enough so, to say of them that they were not "true Kachins".
This Errol Grey is a bit of a mysterious figure, Sir George Scott obviously had access to his writings for quoting him, but I have not located them yet. He may have elaborated further on exactly why he thought Turnegs were not "true Kachins (Jingpo). Was it something he assumed through observation, or did they themselves make this claim?
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