In Buddha’s footsteps

Mae Hong Son, Thailand

Among the Shan every boy becomes a novice monk and spends a month in a monastery sometime between the age of eight and fourteen. The ordination ceremonies last for three days. First the boys’ heads are shaved. Then they are dressed up as princes in memory of Buddha, who was a prince in northern India before he went out to seek the meaning of existence. On the fourth day the boys are finally dressed in the orange robes of a novice monk.

Novice Monk

A boy who has just become a novice monk participates in prayers after the ordination ceremonies are over. His face shows traces of the makeup he wore when dressed as a prince.


Late in the afternoon the day before the ceremonies start, the boys' heads are shaved in the temple yard. This marks a new stage in the boys' lives, in which they put aside material things to learn the teachings of Buddha.


In the early morning of the first day, when the boys have been dressed up as princes and enter the temple yard, their male relatives dance with them on their shoulders. As princes, their feet are not allowed to touch the ground.

Collecting Food

Every morning, for the whole month they live in the temple, the boys make an alms round, collecting charity food from the citizens of Mae Hong Son. Through this gift the donor collects merits for the next stage in the eternal cycle of death and rebirth.

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