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Along with the Kayin, the Shan are the second largest ethnic group in Myanmar after the Bamar. They live mainly in Shan State, which is the biggest state in Myanmar with a population of over 4 million, and is a melting pot of over 35 races and tribes.

Most Shans are valley-dwellers. They are among the first migrants into the area and are thought to have come from Yunnan, south-west China, where related Tai peoples still live.


One division of Shans migrated south to the Menam valley and became known as the Siamese or Thais, while others remained in Myanmar or moved into Laos.