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The Mon, a distinctive branch of the Mon-Khmer peoples, were probably the earliest of modern day inhabitants to settle in the plains of Myanmar. They soon established themselves as the most cultured people in Southeast Asia at that time, as their art and architecture clearly show.

The Mons brought both Buddhism and writing to Myanmar and traded with India as early as the Christian era.


The earliest Mon writings date from the 5th century AD, and they are believed to have founded the world-famous Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, originally a Mon settlement.

For a thousand years, until the fall of Bago in 1757, the Mons ruled much of Lower Myanmar from their great cities at Thaton, Mottama and Bago. Mon State is home to the Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda, an extraordinary golden rock perched precariously on a mountain outcrop.

Although the Mons were once the dominant group in the region, today many have assimilated Bamar dress and customs. Nevertheless, red-coloured longyis remain popular among both Mon men and women. Today, traditional Mon language and culture survive mostly in rural areas and the southeast borderlands.