Pa'O Religious and Literary Manuscripts

The ethnic Pa'O (Tibeto-Burman, Karenic branch) minority group number close to one million persons and currently occupy areas as far north as the southern Shan State and as far south as the northern Mon State in present-day Myanmar. The Pa'O Literary and Cultural Council Committee (PLCCC) Library in Taunggyi, Shan State has begun to collect endangered materials, largely consisting of Theravada Buddhist texts in palm leaf manuscript and parabaik (accordian-folded paper manuscript) form as well as scrolls of both religious and literary texts. All texts are written in either the Pa'O language or in Pali employing a slightly modified Pa'O script. There is no doubt as to the significance of these texts as they represent Pa'O interpretations of the Buddhist canon, an alternative to the Burmese lineage that now essentially dominates religious discourse within Myanmar. Further, they represent a major collection of the Pa'O literary tradition in as much as recent political conditions have effectively quelled Pa'O literature. Sources of these collected Pa'O texts are disparate; some are harvested from homes in rural villages while most have been gifted by local Pa'O monasteries.

Due to the nature of parabaik, each manuscript has two sides (Side 1 and Side 2). In all cases a single text is continued from one side to the other, though there are some instances when a single manuscript contains two texts, one on each side of the folded manuscript.