Shan State

The Shan state occupies a large area in the northeast of Myanmar. Shan State borders China to the north, Laos to the east, and Thailand to the south, and five administrative divisions of Burma in the west. It is divided into Shan North, South and East and is the largest of the 14 administrative divisions by land area, and almost a quarter of the total area of Burma. The state gets its name from the Shan people, one of several ethnic groups that inhabit the area. Shan State is largely rural, with only three cities of significant size: Lashio (north), Kengtung (east), and the capital, Taunggyi (south).


The Shan Plateau, which is approximately 600 x 500 km, has the most extensive area of karst in Myanmar and is a complex series of mountain chains and plateaux with an average height of 950m. It comprises granite and gneiss with limestones, clays and alluvium covering the bedrock. The limestone is more than 2000m deep in places. It is mostly from the Carboniferous to Lower Triassic period, with some earlier Ordovician elements. In the north it is more brecciated, whereas in the south it is more compact and has cavernous development.

Towards the north there are scattered outcrops of the marbles and limestones of the Mogok Series. At Mogok, in the Mandalay division (and north of Mandalay city), rubies are found in the marbles, and sapphires occur in the adjacent granitic rocks. The gems are mined from deposits in the valley alluvium. A rich palaeontological fauna has been recorded from the caves (Colbert 1943).

The Plateau lies east of the Ayerwaddy (Irrawaddy) Valley and Myanmar's central lowlands. Inle Lake lies to the west and is a popular tourist destination. The Plateau is dissected by a series of deep gorges such as Gokteik, where there is a high railway viaduct and a cave below and those of the Thanlwin (Salween) River and its tributaries towards the east. West and southwest of Inle Lake impressive cave entrances on the Kalaw Chaung and Hziswan Chaung can be seen from the air. To the south in Kayah State, there are scenic waterfalls and lakes.


Some of Myanmar's better known caves are in the southern Shan State, in the Taunggyi and Kalaw areas. Kalaw lies west of Taunggyi and is a colonial hill station. To the northeast of Kalaw is Pindaya, and the very famous Pindaya Cave. This contains 8000 statues and has been easily accessible to tourists and is published in tourist literature. Myanmar's third longest cave, Leikte Guh, 960 m, is in the Kalaw district.

The longest and second longest known caves in Myanmar are in the Taunggyi area of Shan state. Khauk Khaung is 4790 m long, Mondowa Guh is 1770 m and White Water Buffalo and Tiger Cave is 1075 m. They are river caves.

Padah-Lin Cave is in the Taunggyi district, and is an important archaeological site and has Neolithic rock paintings, which were only discovered in 1960 by a local geologist.

Other archaeological caves are Mongtawaku and Tin-Ain, both southwest of Taunggyi. Paleng and Htamsang are east of Taunggyi. (Bates & Nwe 2001).

The deepest cave in Myanmar is Mai Lone Kho, -160 m, and is located in Pinlaung district, in Shan state.


Refs :

Bates, Paul &, Daw Tin Nwe (2001) Myanmar: an atlas of karst conservation. Intl. Caver, 2001, p. 36-39.
Colbert, E.H. (1943) Pleistocene vertebrates in Burma. Trans. Amer. Phil. Soc. NS, 32 (2), p. 341-393.
Dreybrodt, Joerg; Furlong, Imogen ; Loveridge, Fleur & Talling, Peter (2013) Speleological expeditions to the Shan Plateau in Myanmar. conference paper

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