Poy Sang Long – Princes to Novices

Poy Sang Long – “Ordaining the Beloved Sons“

Despite the overarching strength and unity of Thai culture, all regions have their own unique practices which are also influenced by the roots of ethnic minorities living along the border with neighboring Myanmar, Lao and Cambodia. This photo reportage features an extraordinary cultural heritage – „The celebration of jeweled princes“.

The majority of Shan (known as Tai Yai in Thailand) are Theravada Buddhists, and most of them are neatly integrated into the Thai society since several generations. Though, when it comes to glorifying Buddhist traditions, there is something that makes the Shan version stand out. Poy Sang Long is an extravagant ceremony celebrated by the Shan ethnicity as well as certain Thai families with Shan ancestry. Between March 20 and mid-April, the clans exalt the ordination of their boys by sending them gloriously into the monkhood with a large spiritual party.

In Chiang Mai, the annual ceremony lasts three days, whereas in Mae Hong Son province the schedule is made up for 5 days. After being ordained, the young novices will be entering the monastery for at least a week up to many months or even more, to learn about the philosophy of Buddhism by wandering the first steps on the path of spiritual development. Locked away from the outside world, they will be taught about the true nature of reality, which will help them to identify their different negative mental states known as ‘delusions’, but also how to develop peaceful and positive mental states or ‘virtuous minds’.

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Head shaving (Kon Phom)


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