Ho Pong Township is situated in the Southern Taunggyi District, Shan State, which has a lot of items for Intangible Culture. Taunggyi District consists of Taungyi, Pindaya, Pinlaung, Pekhon, Yatsout, Ywaghan, Nyaungshwe, and Hopong towns. Hopong Town was once ruled by Shan Sawbwas who relinquished their powers.
Presently, Hopong is the capital of Pa.O Self-Administered Zone which is composed of Hsihseng and Pinlong townships. Hopong is situated at the lowest point between an East mountain range of Inle Lake, a Lwepat range in the east of Nipon Stream.
Ho Pong Town for Mywedaw Pagoda, Htansan Cave, and Hopong Fountain
The location of Hopong is suitable for the water resources of Nataphat Stream for paddy cultivation. A valley in the Shan language is known as pong and an upper part of the ravine is” Ho” thus the name” Hopong”. As the area of Hopong township is 1220.56 square miles and is situated 12 miles away from Taungyi Town and east of Hsihseng Towns, west of Loyilem and Laika Town, north of Minkin town and north of Hsihseng town. The area of Hopong is 2.48 square miles by itself.
Situated 3541 feet above sea level, Hopong Town has a population of Pa-O, Shan, Kachin, Kayal, Kayan, Chin, Bamar, Rakhine, Intha, Danu, Lishaw, and Palaung with a large majority of Pa-O and Shan ethnic people. According to the statistics compiled up to September 2017, Hopong has a population of 103241: 70776 Pa-Os and 23394 Shans; among the population, 103075 are the Buddhists.
The intangible Culture of an area is closely related to religion
The Buddhists have successively lived in Hopong, letting Intangible Culture flourish with the inclusion of traditional festivals of lily chandeliers. With 6 wards, 22 village tracts, and 292 villages, Hopong has as many as 101 pagodas with Thirimingalar Hmwedaw Pagoda standing as the most significant one among them.
Traditional Festivals of Lily Chandeliers As it is a well-known festival, people worship Buddha with lights. Every ward in Hopong is filled with multi-colored lights, thus getting the name of the lights. Lighted candles festooned atop bamboo sticks are somewhat like lilies, damsels go around the wards of the town. In Shan State, Kalaw, Aungban, and Hopong towns, in turn, celebrate yearly the festivals of lily chandeliers.
Ho Pong’s lily chandelier festival celebrates two times every two years; it is usually held a week for five days after Taunggyi Hotair Balloon Festival together with Hopong’s Hmwedaw Buddha Pujaniya Festival. Pa-O ethnic nationals celebrate a lily chandelier festival on the full moon of Tabaung which is also their national day.
Hopong’s Hmwedaw Pagoda popularly known as Thirimingala Shwechantha Pagoda in which Buddha’s relics were believed to be enshrined by Bagan King Alaungsithu. The height of the original Pagoda is 12 taungs (one taung is roughly 36 inches) and during the reign of King Badon(1782-1819) in Konbaung Era, the original Pagoda was enclosed up to the height of 80 taungs by Hopong Mayor Kyunkyar.
The compound of the Pagoda with 200 taungs within was covered with great walls. The Pagoda was named in 1923 as Thirishwemingala Chantha Pagoda by monks and laypersons to bring good omens for the benefits of the region. Pagoda festivals are yearly held on the 6th waning of Tazaungmon and 6th waning of Tabaung.
During the nights, Pa-O and Danu nationals wear traditional costumes and go around the wards of Hopong town by holding a series of lights.
Pa-O women wearing black clothes, Shan, Danu, and Intha ethnic women wearing traditional costumes, walk around with bamboo sticks festooned atop with multi-colored lights. At that time, young men wearing their national dresses played music and danced along the procession.
The outstanding character of the Festival
Every young man in Ho Pong is in the habit of participating by offering lights to the Buddha during the cold evening of Tazaungmon. A young man during the lighting procession tries to drag the hands of a girl he is in love by revealing his love to her; that is one of the peculiar characteristics in Hopong. If a girl gently accepts his offer, thereby visiting her house and getting a chance of falling in love with her. If a girl strikes back, there is no chance of making friends with her, a local explained. Every Myanmar ethnic-national has kinds of traditional lovely habits.
The people of Ho Pong town end their traditional tours of Lily chandeliers in the compound of Thirimingala Shwechantha Pagoda where they worship and stay up for some time singing and dancing and then they go home; they have maintained that tradition for a long time. The traditional tours of multi-colored lily chandeliers which were candlelit atop bamboo sticks are now replaced with dry cell batteries.
The tour of multi-colored candle lights is an outstanding symbol for Hopong, however. It definitely attracts local and foreign tourists so that it will last as an intangible culture for a long time.