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Old 10th September 2020, 09:00 AM   #1
Peter Dekker
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Default Kachin dha revisited

The recent days I was researching a "Kachin dha" I had. I always found it curious how some people call it "Naga dha" instead. A glance through old colonial writing reveals that these were consistently called "linkin dha" in the past and that neither Kachin nor the Naga produced them.

Instead they were produced by a people in the north as one of their main export products, catering to Kachins (especially the Jingpo), the Kampti Shan, Nung, and other groups.

Some period descriptions:

"The dha with the Chingpaw, as with the Burman and the Shan, is a national weapon. At the hilt the blade is an inch and a half in width, widening to about two and a half inches at the truncated tip. The back is slightly curved. It is half sheathed in wood and slung over the right shoulder by a rattan ring. In the case of well-to-do people or warriors, this rattan sling is sometimes adorned with cloth and embroidery, or with the claws or teeth of wild animals. It hangs with the hilt in front ready to the hand. This is the proper shape of the Linkin or Chingpaw dha.

Among the Kachins who have pushed farthest south there are other types, taken from their Shan or other neighbours, but the characteristic half-sheath is almost always retained.

East of Bhamo Mr. George says the Kachins use a long straight sword, about two and a half feet long, which they call ntugaht.

These, with the more orthodox Linkin are said to be manufactured mostly by the Tareng, the Nga-chang, and possibly also the Khunnongs. Like the wild Wa the average Chingpaw cannot or does not make his own dha.

-Gazetteer of Upper Burma and the Shan States, Part I Volume I, 1901

Adventurer and tea planter Errol Grey saw such dha being produced in northern Kachin in 1885:

"Mr. Errol Grey speaks of meeting Turengs on his way to the country of the Khumongs, above latitude 27 15' and in about longitude 97 30'. The Turengs, he says, are the great blacksmiths of that neighbourhood, just as the Ngachang are for the country round Hotha and Latha. They make all the dhas and daggers worn by the Singpho and the Hkamti Shans, and these under the name of Hkampti dhas form one of the chief articles of trade between the Hkamti valley and Assam.

The iron is found in the hills forming the boundary between the Turengs and the Khumongs.

It is of excellent quality and the knives are very durable.

The dhas are made in four varieties, the streaked, the indented, the white,

and the black dhas"

-Gazetteer of Upper Burma and the Shan States, Part I Volume I, 1900

The exact location Errol Grey is referring to is here on Google maps.

Now this begs two questions;
1. Where does the name linkin dha come from?
2. Who are these Turengs that Errol Grey is talking about? I'm having a hard time pinpointing the modern name for these people. But also in old British colonial writings, like the 1911 Census of Burma, they do not appear.


For reference, I add a photo of such a dha from the Metropolitan Museum collection.


EDIT: A hint, perhaps: "There are various languages that have gone by the name Taliang/Trieng, which means 'headhunters" - WikipediaWikipedia: Tariang Language
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