Kayin legends refer to a 'river of running sand' which ancestors reputedly crossed. Many Kayins think this refers to the Gobi Desert , although they have lived in Myanmar for centuries.
The Kayin were most probably among the earliest inhabitants to descend from China down the Ayeyawaddy, Sittaung and Than Lwin Rivers into Myanmar , but over the centuries they retreated into the mountains of the south-east and the forests of the Ayeyawaddy Delta.
The Kayins constitute the biggest ethnic population in Myanmar after the Bamars and Shans. The term Kayin usually refers to the major sub-groups of the Pwo and Sgaw as well as the Bwe-speak ers around Taungoo.
Myanmar is home to around 4 million Kayins, half of whom live in the Delta region and the rest in the Thai borderlands. Most are Buddhists, about 20 per cent are Christian and in the eastern mountains regions some are still animists.