Shan Literature
Shan have their own literature . King AbiYaZa of DaKong (later renamed YanGon) (wMu.if@) created Shan script from Sanskrit in AD 483. In the beginning there were 54 letters. Tai Ahom in India are still using this script today. It’s called “Leik To Ngok.”

In AD 723-748 the King of Nan Chao said that the character was not beautiful and he changed it into more square character and also abandoned some letter that were not commonly used. Dai in China are still using this script today.

In AD 1283 the king of Sukotai (Thai), King Rama Kamhaeng, created new script by mixing up the round script which was created by King AbiYaZa and the square script which was created by King Nan Chao. It is still used in Thailand and Laos today.

In AD 1416, the King of HsenWi , Sao Kham Kai Hpa, changed the letter of Shan to another new rounded script. It is now called "Old Shan script" in Burma. Most of the Shan books were written with this script. The old writing system of the Shan has problem in reading, pronouncing and understanding. One of the Shan Christian missionaries wrote the story of the prodigal son in Shan; "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son, make me as one of thy hired servants." But the Shan boy read the story as; "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee and am no more worthy to be called thy son, make me as one of thy baby elephants." The words "hired servant" (vkufqif) and "baby elephant" (vkufqif) have the same writing in old Shan writing, but can be read in different tone and get different meaning. It should be correctly read as "zann" (qmifj) with normal and long tone instead of "zan" (qmifh) with short and high tone. Another writing (,ModefeHcHawn0foifr.if) "What to use to prick out the thorn?" the boy read; "Nun from NamKham will marry San Maung" (,M@odeferfhcrf;awn0fomifbr.ifb). Because of the tone of the word, “thorn” becomes “Nun” and “what to use to prick out” becomes “will marry San Maung.” What a difference! The two words “wife” and “mother” are also written in the same word (ar) in old writing. One has high tone and other has normal tone. If one read with the wrong tone, “wife” will become “mother” or “mother” will become “wife.” Another example; the word (cM) (Ka) can give seven meanings such as; leg (cM), or frame suspended over fire place(cMb), or slave (cMj), or thatch (cM;), or gossip (cMU), or branch of a tree (cM@), depends on the tone. More interestingly the word “kein” (cdif) can give ten different meaning, depend on the tone make on reading the word, such as; Ginger plant (cdif), Time (cdifb), Mr (cdif;), Chopping block (cAif), Shelf (cAifb), Stretch out (cAifj), Tough (cFif), Tax (cFifb), Small dried pieces of bamboo (cFifj), Woven map for drying (cFif;). Since there are no tone marks and special characters in old Shan script the reader can misread, mispronounce and get wrong meaning. Shan Bible was translated and written by Rev. J.N. Cushing in 1892 with this old writing system.

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