Poy Sang Long is a traditional Shan festival where boys are ordained before entering a monastery as novice monks. The ceremony is a time-honoured, ‘rite of passage’ with some boys perhaps only spending a token week or two as novices and others going on to spend years – or even a lifetime – as Buddhist monks.
While the majority of ethnic Shan people inhabit the eponymously-named Shan Plateau region of northeastern Burma there is – for obvious reasons – a large community of Shan refugees and migrants living today in Northern Thailand and this particular, well-attended ceremony was held at Wat Ku Tao in Chiang Mai City.
Traditionally the boys are dressed as ‘princes’ with elaborate costumes, which is supposed to reflect Buddha’s childhood as a prince prior to his departure from the royal palace as he answered his religious calling.
The ceremony is usually held for teenage boys – from around 12 years of age up to 20 – although in this case, many are clearly younger.
Younger lads, who would otherwise get rather lost in the crowd, are often carried on the shoulders of a close family member such as father, uncle or elder brother.
Thanks to Wi for all the great photos.