A long time ago a wise female dragon lived in the sea. She had many friends in the sea, but longed to see what humans looked like, so one day she decided to leave the sea in search of humans.
When she left the sea she saw a frog in a stream and she asked the frog whether he knew where to find a human. The frog said he was not sure, but that everyday he saw a creature flying through the sky. The creature would fly to the forest in the morning and fly back to the mountain every night. The dragon asked the frog if he could show her where the creature went at night. The frog said he could and he led the dragon upstream towards the top of the mountain where they came upon a cave. The frog said: “I think this is where the creature lives”.
The dragon asked the frog to wait outside and she entered the cave. When she entered the cave the dragon turned into a human form. She looked around the cave and could see that someone had been living there as it was dirty and there was an unmade bad and cooking pot in it.
She decided to clean the cave and make the bad. When she had finished she hid outside to see who would return that evening. That evening a man return home and found his cave clean to go to sleep.
The next day he woke up and went to the forest to collect fruit and medicines. The dragon, in female form, came out of hiding and returned to the cave and once again cleaned it up and made the bad. Once she had finished she again went outside to hide and wait the man to return.
That evening the man returned home to find his bed made again and his cave neat and tidy. He was now very curious to find out who was doing this. He decide that the next day he would not go deep into the forest, but return early to find out who was visiting his home.
The next day the man left as usual and the dragon women once again set about cleaning his cave. The man only traveled half way to the forest and then turned around and returned home.
Upon his return he saw a girl cleaning his home. He thought she was very beautiful. He entered the cave and began to ask her question, such as: “Where do you come from?” and “Why are you doing this?”
The girl did not want him to know that she was a sea dragon, so she lied to him. They talked for a while and they realized very quickly that they were in love, so from that night the girl stayed with the man in the cave. However she had to be careful as when she slept her shadow was that of a dragon not of a human, so she was always careful to fall asleep after him and wake up before he did.
Many months passed and the girl was now pregnant. She felt very tired, so one day while the man was in the forest she decided to sleep a little in the afternoon. Unfortunately that day the man decided to return early and he found his wife asleep. He noticed that her shadow resembled a dragon. He was vary very angry as he realized he had been tricked and he left her.
Later on the girl woke up and waited for the man to return, but days passed and he did not return. Broken hearted she left the cave to return to the sea, but before she entered the sea she laid two eggs on the beach and then she disappeared into the ocean.
A monk called Tay Taa came to the beach to wash some medicinal herds in the ocean. He saw the two eggs and decided to take them back to his home on another mountain. When he returned home he built a fire to signal his friend, another monk called Dee Ha, to come to visit him. He showed his friends the eggs and they decided to keep one each. Dee Ha returned to his home with his eggs and soon after his egg hatched and inside there was a baby girl. He named her Shway-nan-dor and she was the first Kayan women. Tay Taa’s egg also began to hatch and he was so excited that he held to crack open the egg. Inside was a baby boy. He named him Tay Taa Dee Ha Ya-sah and he is believed to be the father of the Pa-o people.
Dee Ha couldn’t keep the baby girl as he was a monk, so he took her to a village nearby and gave her to the headman of the village. Tay Taa decided to give the boy to the King and he added Ming to his name, so be become Tay Taa Dee Ha Ya-sah Ming.
Eighteen years passed and the king wanted Ya-sah to marry, but Ya,sah didn’t like any of the girls he had seen so far. One day the king’s soldiers visited Shway-nan-dor’s village and they saw her. They returned and told the king and Ya-sah about this beautiful girl, so Ya-sah traveled to the village with the soldiers and immediately they saw each other they fell in love. He invited her back to the palace and she accepted. The king was delighted that Ya-sah found a girl he loved so he gave his approval and they married.
They lived happily in the palace and they had two children, a girl and a boy. After the children were born, Shway-nan-dor wanted to visit her adopted father in the village. She’d only been there for a day when she fell ill and died because the sprits were angry as on their wedding day they had not made offerings to the spirits.
When their children grew up the daughter wanted to follow the traditions of her mother and returned to the village where her mother had lived and did her hair in a style that resembled a dragon. The son followed the example of the king, his adopted father. This is the reason why in Kayan culture the women follow the path of the mother and it is believed that they wear the brass coils around their neck to resemble their ancestor, the female dragon.
(This legend comes from the Pa-O people who recorded it so the legend was not lost.)
See also: Karenni and Its Sub-Tribes