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(self-designation, Jingphaw, or Chingpaw), a people inhabiting the forested mountain regions of northern Burma (the national states of Kachin and Shan). Population, about 400, 000 (1967, estimate). About 100, 000 Kachins also live in southwestern China, and there are small groups in northeastern India, Thailand, and Laos. The Kachins are divided into a number of ethnic groups speaking the Kachin language. They have preserved their traditional religious beliefs, ancestor worship and animism; a small number are Christians or Buddhists.
The ancestors of the Kachins inhabited eastern Tibet. They apparently first appeared on the territory of present-day Burma in the eighth century, although the main migration occurred later, between the 13th and 17th centuries. Early feudal relations combined with vestiges of primitive communal relations survived among the Kachins until the mid-20th century. Their chief occupation is slash-and-burn farming, with hill rice as the main crop. Their autonomous status within the Union of Burma has contributed to their ethnic solidarity and economic and cultural development.