Shan Style Burmese Buddha Statues from Burma are among the most diverse in dress and facial expressions which is not surprising especially as the Shan state covers a large portion of Myanmar, and share a border with China to the north, Thailand to the south, and Laos to the east with many groups of people of different ethnicity. Some call themselves Tai, even their language is similar to Thai language although written Shan is similar to Burmese writing.

Burmese Shan Style Buddha Statues are seen in a variety of styles, the Tai Yai style statue in particular have evolved through the influence of the Tai people of Burma, also referred to as Shan.

Tai people also migrated to areas of China, they are referred to as Dai people, this also added another dimension to the Shan style Buddha images found in Burma.

Burmese Shan style Buddha statues can be seen in many different forms from plain to those adorned in royal attire with crowns, side flanges and jewellery with an elongated torso and narrow waistline, often seated on a high throne. Tai Yai images of the Buddha using the hollow lacquer technique as well as teak wood are highly decorated with Thayo Lacquer resembling fish scales and glass mosaics, these Buddha statues are mostly gilded with gold leaf.

The Shan Jambhupati style (King Buddha) is frequently seen with side flanges, long pronged crowns, and seated on a high tiered thrones. The Burmese Tai Yai style is frequently shown with a long finial on top of a rounded or fancy carved usnisha, the eyebrows are highly arched and ears often reaching or touching the shoulders. The crowned Buddha image made its first appearance during the 10th to 13th century in Rakhine, Bagan, Northern Thailand and Cambodia. It regained popularity in the 15th century during the early Konbaung period.

In contrast to the Tai Yai style some Shan Buddha statues are extremely plain, wearing a simple monks robe with no other ornamentation but still with a large finial.

The following is an excerpt from an excellent publication about the Shan peoples of Burma written by Leslie Milne regarding the origins of the Tai and timeline.

The Ancient Kingdoms – The Shan of Burma was ruled by Kings since BC 2000 up to 16th Century AD when the last Shan kingdom was overthrown by Burman King Anawrata. There were nine Shan kingdoms recorded in early history.

1. Tsu Kingdom (BC 2000 – BC 222)

2. Ai Lao Kingdom (AD 47 – AD 225)

3. Nan Chao Kingdom ) (AD 649 – AD 1252)

4. Muong Mao Lone Kingdom (AD 764 – AD 1252)

5. Yonok Kingdom (AD 773 – AD 1080)

6. SipSongPanNa (AD 1180 – AD 1292)

7. Waisali Kingdom (AD 1227 – AD 1838)

8. Sukhothai (AD 1238 – AD 1350)

9. Muong Mao Kingdom (AD 1311 – AD 1604) Muong Mao Kingdom was the last kingdom of Shan.

The different Shan Style Burmese Buddha Statues

Map Showing Shan State in Myanmar

Myanmar Map with Shan State
Myanmar Map