#1 Best Guide: Poy Sang Long Festival In Thailand

Have you heard of the Poy Sang Long Festival in Thailand? It’s a really cool Buddhist tradition held in certain northern towns. The name literally means “festival of entering the monkhood,” and it’s when local boys get ordained as novice monks.

I stumbled on it a few years ago when I was backpacking around Chiang Mai. The first thing I noticed were these young dudes, some looking younger than ten years old, decked out in these flashy costumes with heavy face makeup and huge ornate helmets. They looked like little princes marching in a parade!

Curious? In this guide, I’ll be telling you all about Poy Sang Long Festival. And while I’m at it, I’ll be teaching you some useful Thai phrases, just in case you decide to pop by!

What Is The Poy Sang Long Festival?

First, let’s break down what “Poy Sang Long” (ปอยส่างลอง) stands for. The word “Poy” (ปอย) means an ordainment or religious ceremony in Shan language. Meanwhile, “Sang Long” (ส่างลอง) translates to “beloved sons,” referring to the young Shan boys getting ordained. Put together, Poy Sang Long is “Festival of the Crystal Sons” when translated into English.

So now we know it’s a festival celebrating Shan boys aged 7–14 years old entering monkhood to dedicate themselves to spiritual life. The Shan trace their ethnic roots to Myanmar and China before migrating up north to places like Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son in Thailand long ago. That’s why you’d have to take a trip away from Bangkok up to Northern Thailand if you wanted to experience Poy Sang Long.

The mass novice monk ordination party happens at two main Shan temples – Wat Ku Tao and Wat Pa Pao. The ceremonies last for three days every year between late March to mid-April. It’s a major event for the Shan community, when their young sons decide to embark on the Buddhist path and monastic training. It’s similar to how Buddha’s legendary son Prince Yahura gave up princely comforts to follow in his father’s footsteps way back when.

Now you gotta be wondering – what actually unfolds over the three days of celebrations? Read on, and I’ll fill you in on…

An image of the poy sang long festival

How To Celebrate The Poy Sang Long Festival?

Here’s how the Shan community celebrates the Poy Sang Long Festival.

Day 1: Rup Sang Long (รับสางลอง)

Rup Sang Long (รับสางลอง) refers to the first day of the Poy Sang Long Festival. The word ‘Rup’ (รับ) means ‘to receive,’ while the words ‘Sang Long’ (สางลอง), as mentioned earlier, refers to the young boys who are going to get ordained as monks. As such, Rup Sang Long translates to ‘receiving the young boys for ordination’ or ‘welcoming the beloved sons for ordainment.’

The day begins with preparations being made for Poy Sang Long, where the young boys get ready to embark on their journey towards monkhood. Here’s what will happen on this day:

  • Family members of the boys get together, exchange gifts, and enjoy a delicious feast.
  • After the meal, the boys are carried on the shoulders of one of their older male relatives and taken to the temple.
  • Once they reach the temple, the boys first have their eyebrows and heads shaved. They are then bathed in holy water as part of the purification ritual.
  • The boys are then dressed in splendid gowns with makeup on their faces. They are pretty much dressed as jewel princes, as the name of the ceremony suggests.
  • The Sang Long Parade commences as soon as they are done. The boys are paraded around, while being accompanied by musicians who play all sorts of musical instruments, such as drums, gongs, and flutes.
  • Each young boy has three attendants tending to them during the Sang Long Parade. The first carries him on his shoulders, the second shades him from the sun with a tall gold umbrella, and the third protects him and the precious jewels he wears.

Day 2: Kham Kaek (คำแขก)

Kham Kaek (คำแขก) is the second day of Poy Sang Long. In this context, the word ‘Kham’ (คำ) denotes a specific day within the ceremony, while the word ‘Kaek’ (แขก) translates to ‘visitor’ or ‘guest.’ With this, Kham Kaek translates to ‘guest’s day’ or ‘visitor’s day,’ referring to family and community members coming together to support the young boys. Here’s what happens on this day:

  • The boys are dressed in snow-white turbans.
  • Family members continue feasting and dancing in celebration of the boys.
  • The boys are once again taken to the temple. There, they pray to Buddha, as well as offer gifts to and seek the blessings of the resident monks.

Day 3: Hae Khrua Lu (แห่ครูหลุ)

Hae Khrua Lu (แห่ครูหลุ) is the third day of Poy Sang Long. The word ‘Hae’ (แห่) means to ‘to escort’, ‘Khru’ (ครู) means ‘teacher’, and ‘Lu’ (หลุ) means ‘novice’. Together, it refers to the ceremony of leading novice monks. And in the right fashion, here’s what happens on the last day:

  • The boys are seated on thrones and once again led to the temples.
  • There, they seek permission from senior monks for their ordination.
  • Once accepted, the boys exchange vows and swap their princely gowns for monk robes.
  • With this, they are finally accepted as novice Buddhist monks.
poy sang long festival procession

Easy Thai Phrases For Poy Sang Long

Whether you know someone who’s getting ordained, or if you just want to congratulate a Shan boy, or one of his family members on his ordainment, here are some great Thai phrases you can use! You should definitely experience Poy Sang Long for yourself one day.

EnglishThai ScriptThai PronunciationSound
Congratulations on your ordainment.ยินดีด้วยที่ได้รับการบวช.yin dii dûay thîi dâay ráp kaan bùat.
I wish you lots of happiness.ขอให้มีความสุขมาก.khɔ̌ɔ hây mii khwaam sùk mâak.
All the best.โชคดี.chôok dii.
Well done.เก่งมาก.kèŋ mâak.

Ready To Experience Poy Sang Long?

There’s lots to witness at the Poy Sang Long ceremony, even as a bystander! Celebrate Shan culture with the Sang Long Parade, food stalls, dancing, music performances, and more! Many exciting activities await you at this vibrant and colorful festival.

And while you’re at it, why not download the Ling app to learn some useful Thai phrases? Just imagine the newly ordained boys widening their eyes in surprise when you congratulate them in Thai. Besides, you might be able to have simple conversations with them and their family members, too! So, don’t forget to download the app and learn some Thai before you go!

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