The Mon, a distinctive branch of the Mon-Khmer peoples, were probably the earliest of modern day inhabitants to settle in the plains of Myanmar . They soon established themselves as the most cultured people in Southeast Asia , as their art and architecture clearly show.
The Mon brought both Buddhism and writing to Myanmar and traded with India as early as the dawn of the Christian era. The earliest Mon writings date from the 5 th century AD, and they are believed to have founded the world-famous Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon , originally a Mon settlement. For a thousand years, until the fall of Bago in 1757, the Mon ruled much of Lower Myanmar from their great cities at Thaton, Mottama and Bago.
The Mon were once the dominant group in the region, but now most have adopted Bamar dress and customs, although their distinctive red longyis are still popular for both men and women. Traditional Mon language and culture now survives mostly in rural areas and the south-east borderlands.
Mon State is home to the Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda, an extraordinary golden rock perched precariously on a mountain outcrop.