Lai Tu Chin, Rakhine State, Myanmar
Myanmar is officially comprised of more than 135 ethnic groups. The largest of these is the Bamar, who account for approximately 68% of the population. Within the other ethnic groups, one may find the Chin peoples who mainly live in the western part of the country. Many of the Chin tribes have tattooed their women in the past. Of these, the Lai Tu Chin peoples are easily recognised by the distinctive spider-web pattern of their lady’s facial tattoos.
Originally warrior hill tribes who lived in small groups, the Lai Tu Chin people moved down to the banks of the Laymro River in the 4th Century AD and began to live together in larger villages. Now they can be found along the banks of the Laymro River and its tributaries north and south of Mrauk U in Rakhine State and Chin State. Their villages range between a few houses and a few hundred houses, and lie between the river and the mountains, both of which are considered important for their livelihood.
In the face of modernity, the Lai Tu Chin people have lost much of their traditional culture, and the tattooed ladies are some of the last remaining visible cultural assets. My book, Hmäe Sün Näe Ti Cengkhü Nu, tells their stories, explores their culture and traditions, and most of all, preserves the things that make them uniquely Lai Tu Chin. It can be found in the store on this site, at Myanmar Book Centre in Yangon, at Yangon International Airport, Rangoon Tea House, or through Htwe Kyi, a Lai Tu guide in Rakhine State. Proceeds from the sale will be used to improve the quality of education and access to clean drinking water for the Lai Tu Chin people. Thank you for your support.
The photographs below are some excerpts from the book and feature both the culture of the people, and the tattooed faces of the ladies from the tribe. Please check the other sections of the site for stories and video from my time with the Lai Tu Chin people.