Affirmation of Shan Identities through Reincarnation and Lineage of the Classical Shan Romantic Legend ‘Khun Sam Law’
Khun Sam Law–Nang Oo Peim is an 18th-century legend popular among
people in all walks of life in Myanmar’s Shan State. To this day, the story is narrated
in novels, cartoons, films and songs. If Romeo and Juliet is a classical romance
of 16th-century English literature, then Khun Sam Law–Nang Oo Peim, penned
by Nang Kham Ku, is the Shan equivalent of William Shakespeare’s masterpiece.
Based on this legend, Sai Jerng Harn, a former pop-star, and Sao Hsintham, a
Buddhist monk, recast and reimagined the legendary figure as a Shan movement on
the one hand, and migrant Shans in Chiang Mai as a Shan Valentine’s celebration and
protector of Khun Sam Law lineage on the other. These two movements independently
appeared within the Shans communities. This paper seeks to understand how this Shan
legend provides a basic source for Shan communities to reimagine and to affirm their
identities through the reincarnation and lineage. The pop-star claims to be a
reincarnation of Khun Sam Law, while the migrant Shans in Chiang Mai, who
principally hail from Kengtawng, claim its lineage continuity.
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