Karians Kayrens Karens, or Rarrans, a rude people of Burmah, Siam, and parts of China, supposed to extend from lat. 10° to 28° N. They inhabit the jungles and mountainous districts, and number from 200,000 to 400,000, the majority of whom live in British Burmah. The number of the Karens in Siam is estimated at 50,000. Those on the frontiers of the British possessions are called Red Karens from the usual color of their dress. They reckon themselves by families, and each family, though it should number 200 or 300 souls, has but one house. Their dwellings are built of stout posts and bamboo, and thatched with palm leaf. The floor consists of a matting of split bamboo, stretched over a strong timber framework which is raised 6 or 7 ft. above the ground. The immense edifice is divided into compartments for eating, sleeping, and other purposes, and the inmates are under a regular patriarchal discipline, which is the only form of government recognized by this people. They are described as industrious husbandmen; they raise hogs and poultry, and hunt game in the forests. A long, loose, sleeveless shirt of coarse cotton is their principal article of dress, but they are fond of ornaments, which they wear on their necks, arms, and ankles.
Women among them are treated with respect, and they are said to be hospitable, frank, and more virtuous than their neighbors. The Sgau or Chegaws, and the Pgho or Pgwos, are their principal tribes. These are pagans, but some of the other tribes are Buddhists. There are evidences that at some remote period they received ideas of Scriptural history. They have a tradition of white messengers from the sea coming to teach them; they believe in one eternal Supreme Being; and besides the story of the creation and the deluge, they have an account of " the fruit of trial" appointed by God, of which two persons, deceived by the bad spirit, ate, and thereby became subject to age, disease, and death; and of a confusion of languages in consequence of disbelief in God. The labors of American missionaries among the Karens, which were commenced in 1828 by Messrs. Boardman and Judson, have been remarkably fruitful. In 1865 the numerous native churches were formed into a "Burmah Baptist Convention," which has since met once a year.
At the convention held in Rangoon in November, 1872, the number of churches in connection with the convention was reported as 365, all Karen, with the exception of 19 Burman, 1 Shan, and 2 English; the Karen members numbered about 18,000. At Rangoon there is a Karen theological seminary, and since 1872 a Baptist Karen college. - The origin of the Karens is unknown. Some suppose them to be aborigines; others, immigrants from India; and others again derive them from the north, which opinion, according to Latham, is the most probable. The same authority calls their language Burmese with notable Singhpo affinities.