Poy Sang Long

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title.alternative : Poy Sang Long Ceremony
event date.month : March,April,May
event date.lunar month :
location :
province / region : North
: Mae Hong Son
subject : ethnic rites,rites of passage
relations :
keywords : Tai,Buddhist,Tai Yai, tradition, Luk Kaeo (beloved/jeweled son) Ordination
creator :
date.issued : 12 Jan 2016
date.last updated : 14 Sep 2016

Poy Sang Long Ceremony

                 To be ordained into monkhood is a very important traditional practice of the Tai Yai. Boys over 12 undergo this rite of passage by being inducted into the Buddhist novicehood. Before the ceremony takes place, the parents need to present their boys to the resident abbots in order that they will learn to read religious texts, and about the ordination rite. The boys must learn by heart some necessary terms e.g. for asking permission to be ordained as well as some blessing terms. As soon as they are thus prepared, they are ready for a novice ordination ceremony. March-May is generally the best time for the ceremony, which can be scheduled for 3-5 days. The ceremony is known as the Poy Buad Luk Kaew – ordination of the beloved (or jeweled) son (luk kaeo), or in their Tai Yai dialect the Poy Sang Long. This happy occasion is celebrated by the ethnic Tai people living in Mae Hong Son Province and some Chiangmai districts.

                   In the Tai language, “song” means a novice, and “long” or “along” refers to an heir. A Tai legend gives account of the origin of this traditional practice the people have adhered to for so long. This novice ordination is meant for boys to have an opportunity to be on the religious path, to learn the tenets of the Buddhist teaching. It is regarded as an act of devotion and gratitude for their parents because they too would earn the merits. This belief went far back to the Buddha’s time – when the Buddha’s mother Princess Yasodhara was encouraging her son Rahula to ask from his father Prince Siddhartha for his inheritance so that he would become king. But instead Lord Buddha bestowed on his son a priceless fortune, which was to have Rahula ordained as a novice monk. Rahula became the first Buddhist novice. Another legend goes that as a prince, Siddhartha had been invested with so much worldly wealth, yet he renounced it all and set out to seek the enlightenment. These legends have influenced significantly the Poy Sang Long tradition of the Tai Yai people.

                   The Poy Sang Long is importantly adhered to particularly in a family having a son. The parents eagerly await the day their son is ordained. They have this strong belief that the merits earned by their son would take them to heaven after their death. On the other hand, this could be regarded as the parents’ clever trick to persuade their boy to wisely spend his free time during the long summer school break by studying the Buddhist doctrine.

                   The neighbors are invited to participate in this merit-making event. Actually all the fellow villagers are invited, including acquaintances living in some other nearby villages. A messenger is appointed to go round, present each invited household with 1 candle, and inform them of the important day. The guests to the ordination will bring some gifts of money, foodstuff and some ceremonial essentials the host would need for the occasion.

                   The boy about to be ordained as a novice is called a sang long, whereas an older one to enter monkhood is known as a jong long. The big day (3 days actually) arrives. The young sang long in a merry, colorful procession is escorted to the temple to have his head shaved and be cleansed ritually. He is dressed colorfully and lavishly in the traditional outfit and adorned with valuable accessories such as necklaces, bangles, rings, etc. He wears a Burmese style turban, dark glasses, long white socks, also a heavy face make-up. The sang long is escorted by at least 3 attendants, or the ta pae sang long, as they progress to the temple. 

                   This rite of passage starts in the early hours of the ordination day. The sang long is to be “abducted” by the ta pae sang long in order to solicit some “ransom” from the ceremony host. The ransom paid, the sang long is set free and then will be carried aloft in a grand parade to the temple, surrounded by well-wishers. Leading the parade is a fully adorned horse which is shaded with a brightly colored ceremonial umbrella. There is no rider because the horse is supposed to be a regal one, belonging to a ruler who rides it on his trip to the temple to perform merit-making activities.

                   The sang long parade itself is a loud and joyful affair. The colorful procession as it is heading to the temple is accompanied by a Tai music band consisting of the drums, the cymbals, and musical performances of dancing and singing. The bejeweled, fully made-up sang long in brightly colored ceremonial costume is carried aloof on the shoulders of his ta pae sang long, forming a merry colorful entourage. Along the way, the sang long is brought to the village’s holy places e.g. the village spirit shrine, the ruler’s shrine, to pay his respects. He also needs to visit some important persons like the abbot, respectable elderly relatives and some other community members – to ask for their forgiveness for any wrongdoing acts he might have committed, and in turn are blessed by them.

                   The Poy Sang Long is celebrated for 3 days. On the second day, again the lavish parade heads off to the temple with the dancing and drumming entourage, to offer gifts as alms to the Lord Buddha and the resident monks. The procession passes through the streets before it ends at the temple.

                   On this second day, the evening ritual consists of prayer chanting and a blessing rite. The sang long is given lessons on how he must always show gratitude to his parents. The lessons are also meant to prepare him for the ordination rite due to take place on the following, or third, day.

                   On the day of the ordination, inside the ordination hall the sang long presents alms to the monks. Then he asks the senior monk for permission to be ordained. The permission granted, he takes novice monastic vows and changes his colorful glittering costume to the humble saffron robe of a Buddhist novice, ready to participate in monastic life for a period of time. The novicehood can be 15 days or 1 month.

                   The lavish Sang Long ceremony is very costly for the parents as it is always done on a grand scale. It sometimes requires years of saving. Yet this does not matter to them because they so much believe that the merits earned on this very important occasion would far outweigh the money spent.


รุ้งตะวัน อ่วมอินทร์.(2555). ดูคนไตทำปอยส่างลอง.7 สิงหาคม 2558. ฐานข้อมูลงานวิจัยชาติพันธุ์: http://www.sac.or.th/databases/ethnicredb/articles_detail.php?id=1177 (in Thai)

สงวน โชติสุขรัตน์. (2512). ประเพณีไทยภาคเหนือ. พระนคร : โอเดียนสโตร์. (in Thai)