Taunggyi is the capital of Shan State and has a population of approximately 200,000, making it the fourth-largest city in Myanmar. Taunggyi sits at an elevation of 1,400 meters above sea level and its name means “big mountain” in Burmese language, a reference to a ridge on the east side of the city. Although it is located in Shan State, Shans do not make up the majority of the city’s population, with the Intha and Pa-O dominating. Prior to British colonization, Taunggyi was a small village of a few huts. Lying on a wide shoulder of the Sintaung Hills of the Shan Plateau, it was populated by the Pa-O at that time. The signs of the original village of Taunggyi are long gone, but nearby villages can still be discerned quite easily. During British occupation, the town became the chief city and capital of the Southern Shan States.
Taunggyi’s modern development began in 1894, when the British moved their administrative offices from Maing Thuak (Fort Stedman) on the eastern shores of Inle Lake to the higher elevation of Taunggyi, for health and geographical reasons. Although geographically within the state of Yawnghwe, the town was denoted as a “notified area” by the British, exempt from the administration of the Sawbwa, the hereditary Shan ruler. By 1906 the town had 1000 houses. Because of civil unrest throughout the Shan States during the early 20th century, Taunggyi served as the chief garrison for the military police.
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