THE HISTORY OF KCHO WRITING SYSTEM
By Kee Shing Mang
Like any other human race, KCHOs had no system to write their language in the
I. A pastor’s visits:
In 1924, Rev. Cope, an American missionary, came to Mindat and Kanpetlet. For
the first time, he attempted to develop a system to write the local language,
KCHO. At the time, we were known by the outside world as “Chinbok or
Chinme”. After his basic studies of the language, Rev. Cope announced that
there was no possibility to write “Chinbok language”.
Rev.Cope visited Kanpetlet for the second time in 1930. After a through study,
he concluded that “Chinbok language” can be written. Then, returned to
northern Chin state with a collection of data on KCHO language.
In 1932, Colonel Burma, Falam District Magistrate, request Rev.Cope to develop
a system to write the “Chinbok language”. At his real attempt to fashion the
Chinbok writing system, Rev.Cope had to get the help of the following
1. Saya Sang Ling (Pastor, Hakha Chin)
2. U Aung Dwe (Kanpet township Education Administration, Kayin/Karen)
3. U Ng’Bong Mang (Police officier in Falam, Mindat Chin)
Thus began the project of inventing KCho writing system, Rev. Cope as the
expert; Pastor Sang Ling as the medium between Rev. Cope and the two KCho
language speakers; U Aung Dwe, who, though a Kayin/Karen, spoke KCho
fluently; and finally’ U Ng’Bong Mang as the native informer.
KCho is written
The little group spent two whole months outlining a historical KCho writing
system. After a two-month headache of intense indoor labor, they can out with a
Romanized writing system and they christened it “Chinbok Ca or Chinbok Letter”,
faithfully preserving the name given by our ill-willed Burmese neighbors.
They charted the language for the first time as follows:
1. Vowels : a, e, I, o, u
2. Semi vowels : ä, ü, aw
3. Consonents : - Single consonants: b, c, d, g, h, k, l, m, n, p, s, t, v, w, z
- Consonant clusters: ch, gh, kh, hl, hm, hn, ng, hng, ph, sh,
4. Word Initials : M’… and Ng’…
Lecturing KCho writing system
U Aung Dwe triumphantly brought back the newly fashioned KCho Ca to Mindat
and Kanpetlet. He quickly set up a committee with the following members:
1. U Aung Dwe Kayin/Karen Chairman
2. U Mang Kyüün Vomthu Secretary
3. U K’Cüm Om Se K’Shit-Hmoi Member
4. U Hambung Htang Hambung Member
5. U Hlüng M’Cum Vomthu Member
6. U Htang Khui Shing Hleikong Member
7. U Om Kho Gei Hleikong Member
The committee assigned U Aung Dwe and U Mang Kyüün, to compile Text Books
for 1st to 4th grades. They compile the text books and presented to Falam District
Magistrate, who inspected them and printed in Yangon for teaching at schools in
Mindat and Kanpetlet townships.
With U Aung Dwe and U Mang Kyüün’s supervision, the committee rechristened
the language with its rightful name “KCho Ca” from the derogatory name
“Chinbok Ca”. The KCho Ca text books were printed in 1933, 1935 and 1936, and
taught at these schools:
Teacher were given special training at Hakha for teaching the KCho language. To
response to the increasing demand for KCho language learning, two more
schools joined the gropup of KCho language teaching schools. They were
Sontong and Lukse schools.
At these schools Burmese was not taught, only KCHo language was officially
taught with great momentum. However, the fledging KCho-language teaching
was thwarted by the Second World War in 1942. During the war, all KCho-
language teaching schools were closed dwon and students were sent to Buddhist
monasteries. Some people even began to think that KCho writing system never
II. 1946 – 1976 Attempted Revival
For thirty long years (1946 – 1976) KCho language was not taught at any school.
In 1963, U Küi Ng’Ling, District Educational Administrator, began a project on
reviving KCho language. He summoned school teachers and held a meeting. At
this meeting, he proposed revision of some of the original consonants:
1. “Z” be written with “Y”
2. “Th” be changed to “Ht”
3. “Ht” to “Th”
Both the former committee members and all the school teachers synchronously
accepted U Küi Ng’Ling’s proposal. But very soon, U Küi Ng’Ling was transferred
from Mindat and KCho language revival project came to an end with his absence.
Second Revival by young KChos
Again, the minds and hearts of KCho slipped into a 12-year long slumber until a
young active KCho came forward to stir them up. With supervision of U Ng’Bong
Mang and U Vomthu Ha Ghing, young U Ha Küi taught KCho language to (50)
people including university students from 16-06-1975 to 31-08-1975. The
initiaive was hailed by all and the closing ceremony was attended by the Party
and Council dignitaries, and KCho Language Committee was formed again.
1. U Lam Näng Council member, Chairman
2. U Le Khui Ghing Party Cadet Vice Chairman
3. U Kyün Mong Tax Officer Secretary
4. U Vul Za Thang D.E.O Member
5. U Khawng Ling A.D.E.O Member
1. U Kyün Mong Vomthu Chairman
2. U B. Ghung Om K’Shet Vice Chairman
3. U Ha Küi Ng’Bong Secretary
4. U Gei Khui Ghing K’Shet Member
5. U J. Ng’Ling Ghung k’Shit Hmoi Member
6. U Tam Om Ng’Bong Member
7. U Ha Ng’Ling Ghung Mindat Member
8. U Om Nün Sontong Member
9. U Ng;Law Ghing Rampang Member
10. U Ng’Boi Ng’Htang Vomthu Member
11. U Ng’Law Ha Ghing Ng’Bong Member
12. U Ng’Law Ha Om Vomthu Member
13. U Tam Küi Vomthu Member
14. U Ghing Phäi Ng’Ling Htailong Member
15. U Mang Kyün Küi Vomthu Member
16. U Khaw Gei Küi Cut Hmoi Member
17. U Le Khui Ghing Simsang Member
The committee held a workshop from 18-08-1975 to 07-10-1975, and came up
with the following resolutions.
1. Adopt U Küi Ng’Ling’s proposal to change (Z) to (Y), (Ht) to (Th) and (Th)
2. Add (K’…) or glottal initial, which was missed by the original developers.
3. Use (F, and R) as KCho consonants.
4. Write the short sound with a single vowel, and the long with 2 vowels.
5. (Ki, Pi, and etc.) are to be replaced by (Ky, Py and etc.) Expl. Kyap ci
(he/she wept)in stead of Kiap ci. Pyein ci (he/she said) in stead of Piein ci.
6. Formally, words were spelt following the pronounciation of actual speech
when two words come together. From now, the individual words should
be pelt in the way that will reflect its original meaning.
1. Mem ca be spelt as Me m’ca (he/male-goat)
Kam htei ci … as … Ka m’htei ci (I taught)
2. Hleing lung ….as …. Hlei ng’lüng (wild mythan/mithan)
Kang säi ci ….as ….Ka ng’säi ci (I am tall)
3. Uik gu …. As …. Ui k’gu (mad dog)
Nak hmat ci … as …. Na k’hmat ci (I have a fever).
The committee assigned U Kyün Mong and U Ha Küi to the task of compiling
KCho Ca (Beginner’s). The committee approved their text book in 04-01-1976,
and sent U Ha Küi to Falam for printing the new text book. Thus, 500 coppies of
the new KCho text book was printed with the help of U Kap Cung Nung.
1976, with the support of the party and the township council, the Mindat District
Educational Administrator organized a summer course for KCho Language, which
was compulsory for all school teachers. At this summer course, U Ha Küi and U
Kyün Mong taught KCho language writing system in line with the newly revised
principles. The course (19-04-1976 to 08-05-1976) was attended by 120 KCho
school teachers and other interested Kchos.
Eventually, teaching KCho Language at all schools began anew in June, 1976.
Kchos, old and young, ewre in high sprits for being able to enliven teaching their
language which was practically abandoned for 30 years.
III. KCho Language Teaching (1976 – 1986)
Until now, the same single text book is used for all grades of students in
teaching KCho language. In 26-05-1977, the township Council set up a
committee, with letter No. Lah Mah (61) 3500/350, for the making of appropriate
text for different levels of grade.
The committee was:
1. U Küi Ng’Ling Council Chairman
2. U Kyün Mong Tax officer Secretary
3. U Lian Kung DEO Member
4. U Ha Küi Member
5. U J. Ng’Ling Ghung Member
6. U B. Ghung Om Member
7. U Om Nün Member
8. U Ng’Boi Ng’Htang Member
9. U Le Khui Ghing Member
As the committee was working on the appropriate text books for different
grades, U Kyün Mong was transferred and the committee had to be reformed.
1. U Küi Ng’Ling Chairman
2. U Lian Kung Secretary
3. U Ha Küi Member
4. U Om Nün Member
5. U Ng’Boi Ng’Htang Member
6. U J. Ng’Ling Ghung Member
7. U Le Khui Ghing Member
The committee’s work was approved by U Lin Pe, township council chairman,
and a printing committee was set up.
1. U Ng’Htang Hnguh Chairman
2. U Ha Ghing Ng’Boi Secretary
3. U Lian Kung Member
4. U Ha Küi Member
5. U Le Khui Ghing Member
6. U J. Ng’Ling Ghung Member
7. U A. Tam Om Member
In 11-08-1987, with letter No. lah mah (1) 6367/6368, the township council U Ha
Küi to type the draft of the text books. However, the whole work failed at the
last stage because the text books were not successfully printed.
Let’s Write with Burmese Characters.
KCho Ca, since early stages, was not free of errors and imperfections coupled by
unsolved problems and even arguments among the committee. Therefore, some
began to look for other alternatives which would make writing KCho easier.
Understandably, Burmese was eyed by many as the source to provide solution to
their problematic attempt with the Roman Characters. (Obviously, U M. Ng’Bu
Nün tried to promote his own version of “KCho Text/Reader”).
In 1967, led by U Vomthu Ha Ghing, a committee was formed to mold a KCho
Writing System from Burmese Characters. At this time, Asho Chins were learning
their Asho language, which is written in a script adapted Burmese. The
committee sent U Ha Küi, U Ghing Phäi Ng’Ling and U San Khin to Thayet to
learn the Asho writing system.
The three representatives were tutored in the Asho language and its writing
system for one month in Thayet Myo and they return to Mindat. Now, the
committee entered in to its hearth and began work of forging Burmese
characters into that of KCho.
Work triggered a great uproar among KCho people. Beginning from KCho
students in Yangon and Mandalay, KCho elders and the people filed their strong
objection to the committee in person and by letters. They argued that the only
reasonable thing to do improve the existing writing system. Trying to develop
another writing system will not solve the problem overnight, but only add
confusion to the situation.
Thus, the committee had to drop its tools and abandon the work before it could
shape any system.
IV. 1986 – 1996
Despite its revival in 1976, the KCho language teaching lost again its momentum
after a few years. Since the KCho Language Committee’s failure to print the text
books in 1978, schools in Mindat and Kanpetlet townships went on without KCho
language classes for nearly another decade.
In 1986, a few educated and patriotic KChos regrouped and submitted their
request to Chin State Council for permission to teach KCho language at schools.
In 13-08-1987, sanctioned by the Chin State Regional Party’s Committee, the
Chin State People’s Council issued, with letter No. kha/pa/ka 13/6/1, its approval
for teaching KCho language at schools in Mindat and Kanpetlet townships.
Mindat and Kanpetlet township People’s Council’s jointly set up “Work
Supervision Committee” and “Text Book Committee” during the Executive
Committee meeting at 4/10 2nd session, dated 16.10.1987, as authorized in the
Work Supervising Committee (Central Committee)
1. U Ng’Htang Yom Tsp Party Unit Committee member Chairman
2. U Näng Küi E.C member, Tsp People’s Council Secretary
3. U Küi Ng’Htang E.C member, Tsp People’s Council Member
4. U B. Ghung Om E.C Member, Tsp People’s Council Member
5. U Khaw Gei Ng’Ling Jt. Secy of Tsp People’s Worker’s Assn: Member
6. Rev. Ng’Htang Ngai Om Pastor, Baptist Church Member
7. U Tin Aung Tsp Education Officer Member
The Work Supervising Committee (Central Committee) further founded three
batches of Executive Committee.
A. Text Book Committee
1. U B. Ghung Om Chairman
2. U Khaw Gei Ng’Ling Secretary
3. Rev. Ng’Htang Ngai Om Member
4. U P. Khaw Gei Küi Member
5. U J. Ng’Ling Ghung Member
6. U Mnai Ng’Ling Member
7. U Khäi Ng’Ling Member
B. Editing Committee
1. U Küi Ng’Htang Chief Editor
2. U Ng’Law Bu Küi Member
3. U Tin Aung Member
C. Printing and Publishing Committee
1. U Näng Küi Leader
2. U Soe Lwin Member
3. U Ghing Gei Ghing Member
The Text Book Committee began its work basing on two major themes:
1. Study of the Root Alphabets of KCho literature
2. Study of the procedure of lesson writings
Under the Theme 1, there will be:
1. The analysis of the whole alphabets of KCho literature (Lessons on KCho
Language Alphabets as a whole?)
2. The analysis of the Consonants (Lessons on Consonants?)
3. The analysis of the Vowels (Lessons on Vowels?)
Theme 2 will include:
1. Lessons based on Vowels (Phrases/sentence based on Vowels?)
2. Lessons on Words Arrangement (Syntax ?)
The committee worked within these guide lines:
1. The existing Alphabet must be adopted without new ones.
2. To make lessons according to International Linguistic Procedure ( Arrange
Lessons in the International Text Book Standards ?)
3. In writing and reading lessons, spell/form words in the way that will
correspond to their meaning.
4. Book One will include 30 lessons, and Book Two will contain 30 lessons.
The Text Book writing began in 01:04:1988 and lasted until 10:09:1988.
The finished draft was sent to the Township and Chin State People’s
Council for censorship, who approved and authorized for printing.
However, as it did in the past, luck had again its evil role to play against KCho
people in their endeavor to teach the language to their children. 1988 political
unrest thrown the country into confusion which finally toppled the socialist
government. The KCho Language Committee was inevitably dissolved when the
Army took the power and the KCho Text Books never reached from the store
rooms to the class rooms ever since.
To: [email protected]
From: ”peterhee”[email protected]
Date: Sat,17 Jan 2004 12:06:26+0100
Subject: [kchonet] KCho ca writing system history
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