Hidden in Plain Sight: Uncovering The Tai Zawti Buddhists of the Myanmar-China Border


The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Dissertation Fellowships in Buddhist Studies


Theology and Religious Studies


The elusive Zawti tradition is found across the Myanmar-China-Thai borders. With a reputation for strict and austere practices, it has been treated as peripheral to mainstream Shan Theravada in both scholarship and locally among the wider Shan monastic community. Until now, little has been known about the nature of these practices or their history outside of the group itself, despite being enigmatically mentioned in scholarship since the 19th century. Who are the Zawti and how did they manage to remain under the radar for so long? This thesis begins to piece together the Zawti network and history from the perspective of those within the community through ethnographic fieldwork and the first translations of key Zawti texts.