Cultural Ecology of Tai-Khoen Villages in Chieng Tung

Ornsiri Panin, Den Wasiksiri


This research paper focuses on the interrelationship between ecology, way of life, and dwellings of Tai-Khoen people in Chieng Tung province, Myanmar, in order to identify the sustainable qualities of their villages that may be used to develop concepts for future village-layout planning and design of the built-environment.

The approach places emphasis on field surveys of the physical environment based on the contextual framework of individual case studies and comparative studies of Tai-Khoen villages at Ban Nong-O in the district of Chieng Tung, Ban Maow and Ban Yang-Lo in Yang-Lo district, and Ban Den-Jang, Ban Laaw and Ban Sieow in Gad-Fa district, Chieng Tung province, in order to ascertain the association between the plan of the villages, the ecology of the environment, the physical characteristics of the dwellings, the beliefs and local customs regarding the house, and the adaptation of lifestyle in keeping with the environment.

From the study it was found that villages over 100 years old still retain their original layout, way of life and social aspects of ancient traditional community. Management of water resources for consumption sympathetic with the ecological environment is still a factor of major importance in relation to the physical layout of each village. The plan of the villages reflects the society and its way of life whilst kinship type of social structure and community spirit of sharing remain strong.

More recent villages however have been affected by changes, and their layouts have been based mainly on grid-patterned road network and infrastructure system. This in turn brought about social changes to the communal way of life as common public spaces and shared outdoor spaces between houses begin to disappear. Nevertheless, traditional wisdoms of the ancestors that have been passed down through the generations are still highly respected especially with regards to social customs and culture. According to their values, Tai-Khoen people prefer not to marry those outside their own ethnic group and therefore the spirit of ancient traditional community and way of life regarding family ties and sharing with one another, have been able to remain deeply rooted. Although the grid pattern has been adopted for the layout of their villages, the character of their dwellings however, are still strongly traditional due to their deeply ingrained beliefs, and hence retain the elements of sustainable architecture that is in harmony with the environment.

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