Saopha, sao pha, chaofa, sawbwa, or saw-bwa (စော်ဘွား, pronounced: [sɔ̀ bwá]; Shan: ၸဝ်ႈၾႃႉ, literally meaning "lord of the heavens" or "lord of the sky") was a royal title used by the hereditary rulers of the semi-independent Shan States (Mong, Shan: မိူင်း, pronounced [mə́ŋ]) in what today is Eastern Myanmar (Burma). It may also be used for rulers of similar Tai/Dai states in neighbouring countries, notably including China's Yunnan Province.
According to local chronicles, some dynasties of saophas date from as early as the 2nd century BCE; however, the earlier sections of these chronicles are generally agreed to be legendary.
During British colonial rule, there were 14 to 16 saophas at a time, each ruling a highly autonomous state, until 1922 when the Federated Shan States were formed and the saophas' powers were reduced. However, they nominally kept their positions as well as their courts and still played a role in local administration until they collectively relinquished their titles in favour of the Union of Burma in 1959.
- Donald M. Seekins (2006). Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). Scarecrow Press. entry Sawbwa, p. 391.
- Barbara Watson Andaya; Leonard Y. Andaya (2015). A History of Early Modern Southeast Asia, 1400-1830. Cambridge University Press. p. 170.
- "Pinkaew Leungaramsri. - Women, Nation, and the Ambivalence of Subversive Identification along the Thai-Burmese Border - Sojourn: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia 21:1". muse.jhu.edu. Retrieved 2008-03-27.
- Media related to Saopha at Wikimedia Commons
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