Descendants of Ming royalist’s fleeing the Manchu conquerors in China, the Khokant are ethnic Chinese who live in a thin strip of land along Myanmar’s north eastern Shan State. Like many of the ethnic communities they have endured decades of conflict, though unlike many of the ethnic groups their language and literature has escaped relatively unscathed. Teaching the Khokant script in schools was illegal until the transition, but the Khokant were able to work around this ban, due to writing in the Chinese alphabet, claiming their classes as foreign language instruction, then allowed rather than an indigenous language class that wasn’t. Registered with the government, much of the Khokant CLA activities are limited due to the region they live in, with a relatively small population and a remote territory, but in Lashio, the largest city in Northern Shan State, they have come under the wing of the Shan Culture and Literature Association, a much larger organisation, who work with the KCLA in larger, Shan State wide literary events, including their annual Literature Development conference which attracts overseas academics.
To read more about the Khokant, their censored literature and my travels with them, take a look at my award-shortlisted political travel book, ‘The People Elsewhere: Unbound Journeys with the Storytellers of Myanmar’.