The Padaung people (Thailand) are known as the long-necked people because the women wear many tight, thick brass rings around their necks.
Girls first start to wear rings when they are around 5 years old.
Over the years , more coils are added and their necks appear to stretch, which is considered a sign of beauty among the Padaung. In fact the neck doesn’t actually stretch that much, but the weight of the rings pushes down the collar bone, giving the visual effect of the neck stretching.
A traditional punishment for women was to remove the rings. This can be fatal because the neck becomes weakened and the women cannot hold up their heads without the rings.
Younger women are reluctant to accept the rings, so the practice is dying out.
But why? Here are some possible theories:
- To make the women less attractive to other tribes
- To look more attractive by exaggerating the typically female trait of slender necks (just like chinese foot binding)
- To make women ressemble a dragon, an important figure in Kayan folklore*
- To protect against tiger bites
*The Kayans’ traditional religion is called Kan Khwan, and has been practiced since the people migrated from Mongolia during the Bronze Age. It includes the belief that the Kayan people are the result of a union between a female dragon and a male human/angel hybrid.September 2006
The Dragon Mothers Polish their Metal Coils
by Edith Mirante
Culture in Thailand by Melanie Guile