The Padaung tribes are said to have originated from the Southern Mongoloids, but culturally, they are a group of Karen living on the Plateaus above the Salween River in the Kayah state of Burma which is close to the Thai border. The Padaung tribes has a population of thirty thousand.
The Padaung are peaceful, hardworking and their lifestyle can be compared to that of the Karen in Thailand. They grow rice on steps and circulative rice fields. They also cultivate cotton, tobacco, vegetables, and fruits.
Their houses are made of wood like teak and bamboo with elephant grass used for the roof. The houses are at a higher elevation and ladders are widely used. The Padaung tribes house has enough space to accommodate essentials and their pets are sheltered under their houses or in areas surrounding the house. Most of the Padaungs are Catholics, while the rest are Buddhists while they collectively believe in Ghosts and soul.
The Padaung women have a tradition of wearing winding brass rings around the neck and this is initiated anywhere between the age of five and nine. In former times, it was said that only pure Padaung tribes women who were born only on Wednesdays and on full moon days had to wear the ring.
Now, all Padaung women wear rings. The rings were gold but now are made of brass. They are also solid, 1/3 inches in diameter. Solid brass has been used since hollow brass could not be made into beautiful rings. The Padaung tribes women need to skillfully bend the brass in order to wear them. This is done by dipping the rings into lemonade to make it soft and then it is worn like a coil spring.
It is said that women wear these rings to show their beauty, class, status, and position to protect the marriage over the tribe. Tribes from different regions have a different way of covering themselves in order to avoid attention from people outside their tribes.
There are two ancient stories reasoning the rings, one of them describes that the ghost and the soul felt dissatisfied about the Padaung group and sent a tiger to bite them all. Worried about losing women, the ancestors asked the women to wear rings that protected them from the tiger.
The second story elaborates that the Padaung parents were a dragon and a swan and this gave birth to the need to wear the rings in order to have a beautiful long neck in dignified and handsome movement, and also it is suitable for them to be the heirs of a dragon and a swan.
The Padaung tribes in Mae Hong Son, Thailand, have evacuated from the war. They have settled in their village along the Thai-Burma border. To attract tourists they still maintain the unique symbols of traditions and cultures. Tourism is one of their incomes.