Thailand: Karen (Yang) woman

Front view
Front view

General description Young unmarried Karen woman with a bamboo basket on her back and holding a winnowing tray.

Dimensions 19.5 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm

Date when acquired 2014

Original Date 2014

Source Chang Mai Doll Making Center, designed by Vanida S. Mongkhon, Hand made by Yuthana Boonprakong

Bought by Sally B.



Wire covered with material, plastic head with painted features. She is standing on a thin wooden block covered in a black velvet-like material on the top and sides, with thick red cotton on the base.


Back view
Back view


This young woman is wearing a long white dress with short sleeves (Say Sa Kee). The bottom of the skirt is decorated with a border embroidered with wool. The pattern shows red flowers with blue middles surrounded by a geometrical design in red, yellow and green. The dress has three large silver “buttons” down the front. Six red tassels hang down from the waist to the hem at the back of the dress and one from the front of the dress. Underneath the dress is a black long-sleeved cotton blouse.

A hat made of red and green scarves covers her hair completely. The green material covers her head and flows down her back to her waist, while the red material is used as a band around her forehead and crosses over at the nape of her neck.



Around her neck are three silver chains and three bead necklaces with orange, blue and green beads. A silver torque lies close to her neck.

She has silver ear-rings, each with three strings of multi-coloured beads with tassels made from differently coloured threads.

A bamboo basket with mangos rests on her back held in place by threads around her shoulders.

She is holding a rice winnowing tray in her hands.


View from the right
View from the right

Background information

Although the majority of Karen (Yang) live in Burma, more than 250,000 Karen live in Western Thailand. The Thai Karen are divided into 2 major groups, the Sako-Karen and Pow-Karen, and two smaller groups, the Kaya and Pa-o. Most of the Karen houses are built in the foothills as they live at a lower altitude than the other Hill Tribes. The Karen, like the Thais, grow their rice in flooded terraces instead of in unirrigated “slash-and-burn” hillside paddies used by most of the other Hill Tribes. The Karen are more accepted in Thai society than the other Hill Tribes as they have not been involved in the drug trade, unlike the Hmong and Akha.

The different Karen sub-groups have different designs for their clothing and shoulder bags, but they all follow the same basic pattern. Traditionally, unmarried Karen women wear a long white dress (Say Moe Wah), while married Karen women wear a sarong and sleeveless shirt. Karen men also wear a sarong and a sleeveless shirt, but the design of the male and female shirts and sarongs are different. In addition, men and women tie their sarongs differently.

The long dress on this doll shows that she is unmarried. As the dress is decorated, it is most probably a Say Sa Kee (decorated dress). The decorations can be very variable: flowers, mountains, ocean waves, barns, fish bones and chicken foot designs. The dress has long threads hanging down it, which may be like the long threads on the Say p’lo of the Eastern Mountain Karen people.

Source(s) of information

Blurb with the doll

Condra Jill (2013) Encyclopedia of National dress. Traditional clothing around the world. Volume 1. ISBN 978-0313-37636-8 (accessed 1st August 2015) (accessed 1st August 2015) (accessed 1st August 2015)

See Thailand: Hill tribes




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