Wat Ku Tao in Chiang Mai was the setting for the 2011 Sang Long Festival, a Rites of Passage ceremony held annually by the Shan people from Myanmar. The Shan people of Chiang Mai, who are known in Thailand as Tai Yai, gather together for this three day festival of music, dancing and competitions which culminates on the third day with the ordination ceremony or Rites of Passage ceremony where the 95 young Shan boys aged from 7 – 14 years old will take their vows and enter the Temple as novices for a short period of time. For the first two days of the Sang Long festival, the young boys, who will be entering the Temple, are dressed as young Princes wearing exotic colourful costumes symbolizing the life of Siddhattha Gotama, who was to become the Lord Buddha, before he abandoned his lavish life to go in search of Enlightenment. The young Shan Princes are carried about on the shoulders of older male relatives, a practice known as “Khi Kho”.
The 2011 Shan Sang Long Rites of Passage Festival took place on the 26th-28th March and was especially poignant with prayers and donations being offered for the Shan people who lost their lives in the recent earthquake which occurred on the border of Myanmar and Thailand.