Inle Lake Market Rotates Between Villages
Inle Lake in eastern Myanmar’s Shan State is located in a valley, surrounded by mountains. hill tribe people, who dwell in the mountains, found the centrally located lake and its surroundings an ideal place to trade goods, ideas and gossip. Marriages are arranged and, according to historical accounts, markets in Myanmar are also the places where stories, legends and news were circulated long before someone wrote them down. One example is the book, Bagan Market, in which the legends and the wisdom of a long gone era were compiled.
However, since Inle Lake alone covers an area of 116 square kilometers, a rotating market system is a useful innovation to give equal chance to the widely spread villagers interested in attending a local market. These markets are called “5 Day Markets” because the hill tribe people rotate the Inle Lake market between five different locations over a 5-day period.
Another advantage, that is perhaps unknown to many, was the fact that a rotating market enabled all of former Shan princes (46 Shan princes ruled what today is know as Shan State) to collect taxes, instead of just one. Depending in which area the market took place, one of the Shan princes had the authority to collect taxes.
The Shan princes are gone, but today the rotating market system still prevails, and offers insights into a society that is unique in Myanmar. Many different tribes descend from their mountain dwellings to take part in this colorful congregation of people with different traditional clothing that designates tribes such as the Pa-O, Intha, and many more. To quote the historian Furnivall: “Each group holds by its own religion, its own culture and language, its own ideas and ways.” However, despite their differences, the language spoken to facilitate trade is the national language, Burmese also known as Myanma. Travelers can discover one of the markets during Khiri’s day tour ‘A Day on the Lake!’.
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