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The Brass Neck Coils of the Padaung Hill Tribe Women

The Padaung call themselves the Kayan, a subgroup of the Karen Hill tribe, who fled Burma amidst political turmoil a decade or so ago. They now live as refugees in Thailand.

The women are best known for their multi-ring collars. The origin of the tradition is unknown but the Padaung women generally regard them as a cultural identifier and a form of beauty.

The brass coils are placed around the necks from the time they are about 5-6 years old with more added as time goes on. Wearing them does not cause pain and over a lifetime, the women get used to the weight, seldom removing them. They also wear numerous coils around their legs and arms.
The women continue to wear their collars because tourism brings them much needed money. Some though, like the young woman reported here, reject the coils because they are seen as a symbol of tribal humiliation, limited choices and an uncertain future.

As you can see in the picture in the article, removing the coils does not cause suffocation nor do necks flop over although the tourist guides tell the gullible otherwise. The heavy brass coils actually compress down the soft tissue around the collarbone and on the rib cage as shown in the x-ray pictures in this article here. This creates the illusion of a long neck. The vertebrae are not elongated for that would have dire consequences!

Photo Credit : Babasteve on Flickr.

Original Post by THE BEADING GEM
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  1. That has always looked SO uncomfortable to me! I buy Karen Hill Tribe silver, does that mean I may be buying from some of these women? Hmmm. Interesting!

  2. The Padaung are but one subgroup of the much larger Karen Hill Tribe. I'm not sure they themselves make any silverwork - their photos usually show woven handicrafts.

  3. Very interesting article! looks really uncomfortable to me. How do they sleep???

  4. Probably like everyone else! They have gradually gotten used to the coils over several years.

  5. That is long neck Karen people live up north in Maehongson and Chiang Rai

    For karen hill tribe silver genuine handmade jewelry, check this website out! They offer so many endless beautiful collections

    My daughter and I love their earrings and beads. Very nice items

    Hope you love it too.

    Marlyn CA


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