ĦĦMost of the 1,439,673
Hanis live in the valleys between the Yuanjiang and Lancang rivers,
that is, the vast area between the Ailao and Mengle mountains in southern
Yunnan Province. They are under the jurisdiction of the Honghe Hani-Yi
Autonomous Prefecture, which includes Honghe, Yuanyang, Luchun and
Jinping counties. Others dwell in Mojiang, Jiangcheng, Pu'er, Lancang
and Zhenyuan counties in Simao Prefecture; in Xishuangbanna's Menghai,
Jinghong and Mengla counties; in Yuanjiang and Xinping, Yuxi Prefecture,
and (a small number) in Eshan, Jianshui, Jingdong and Jinggu counties.
Customs and Culture
Their language belongs to the Yi branch
of the Tibetan-Myanmese language group of the Chinese-Tibetan language
family. Having no script of their own before 1949, they kept records
by carving notches on sticks. In 1957 the people's government helped
them to create a script based on the Roman alphabet.
The areas inhabited by the Hanis have
rich natural resources. Beneath the ground are deposits of tin,
copper, iron, nickel and other minerals. Growing on the rolling
Ailao Mountains are pine, cypress, palm, tung oil and camphor trees,
and the forests abound in animals such as tigers, leopards, bears,
monkeys, peacocks, parrots and pheasants. Being subtropical, the
land is fertile and the rainfall plentiful -- ideal for growing
rice, millet, cotton, peanuts, indigo and tea. Xishuangbanna's Nanru
Hills are one of the country's major producers of the famous Pu'er
The Hanis are monogamous. Before 1949,
a man was allowed to have a concubine if the wife had born him no
son after some years of marriage. However, he was not supposed to
forsake his original wife to remarry. Marriages are mostly arranged
by the parents.
The Hanis in Mojiang and Biyue have
a very interesting custom for settling an engagement. The parents
of both the girl and boy involved should walk some distance together,
and so long as they meet no animals the engagement can go ahead.
The brides usually return to live with
their parents only two or three days after the wedding ceremony
and join their husbands again at rice-transplanting time. But this
is not practised in the Honghe area.
A son's name begins with the last one
or two words of his father's name in order to keep the family line
going. This practice has been handed down for as many as 55 generations
in some families.
The Hanis prefer clothing made of home-spun
dark blue cloth. Men wear front-buttoned jackets and trousers, and
black or white cloth turbans. Women have collarless, front-buttoned
blouses with the cuffs and trouser legs laced. Hanis in Xishuangbanna
wear jackets buttoned on the right side and decorated with silver
ornaments. They wear black turbans. Women there, as well as in the
Lancang area, wear skirts, round caps, and strings of silver ornaments.
Both men and women wear leggings. In Mojiang, Yuanjiang and Jiangcheng,
some women wear long, pleated or narrow skirts, while others have
knee-length trousers with embroidered girdles. Women in general
like to wear earrings, silver rings and necklaces. Married and unmarried
women wear different hairstyles.
The Hanis build their two- and three-story
houses of bamboo, mud, stone and wood on hill slopes. A village
comprises from ten to as many as 400 households. In places like
Honghe, Yuanyang and Luchun, houses have mud walls and thatched
roofs, supported by wooden pillars placed on stone foundations,
while in Xishuangbanna, houses are built of bamboo.
They are polytheists and ancestor worshippers.
Rituals are regularly held to worship the Gods of Heaven, Earth,
the Dragon Tree and their village, as well as their family patron
gods. Believing they are protected by the God of the village gate,
the Hanis in Xishuangbanna also hold ceremonies to pay respects
to this deity. A shaman presides over the rites, at which sacrifices
of cattle are offered.
There are days devoted to animals,
such as Sheep Day, on which sacrifices are made. On days when someone
dies, a wild animal comes into the village, a dog climbs onto the
roof of a house, or a fire breaks out, people would be called to
stop working and hold ceremonies to avert misfortune.
The Hani people celebrate their New
Year in October, as their lunar calendar begins in that month. During
the weeklong festivities, pigs are slaughtered and special glutinous
rice balls are prepared. Relatives and friends visit each other,
go-betweens are busy making matches, and married women go to see
their parents. They also celebrate the June Festival, which falls
on the 24th of that month. This is a happy occasion especially for
the young people. They sing, dance, play on swings and hold wrestling
contests. At night, people in some places light pine torches while
beating drums and gongs to expel evil spirits and disease. Like
their Han neighbors, the Hanis who live in the Honghe area celebrate
the Spring, Dragon Boat and Moon festivals.
Legends, fairy tales, poetry, stories,
fables, ballads, proverbs, mythology and riddles form their oral
literature. Genesis is
a legend describing the origin of all things on earth. An Account of Floods tells
how men conquered floods. Labare
and Ahjigu are songs sung
on solemn occasions such as weddings, funerals, festivals and religious
The Hanis are good singers and dancers.
They use three- and four-stringed instruments, flutes and gourd-shaped
wind instruments. Popular are the "Hand Clapping" and
"Fan" dances. The "Dongpocuo" dance popular
in Xishuangbanna is a typical Hani dance; it is vigorous, graceful
Origins and History
Historical records indicate that a
tribal people called the "Heyis" was active south of the
Dadu River in the 3rd century B.C. These were possibly the ancestors
of the Hanis of today. According to the records, some of them had
moved to the area of the Lancang River between the 4th and 8th centuries.
Local chieftains then paid tribute to the Tang court and in return
they were included on the list of officials and subjects of that
dynasty. The Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) established a prefecture to
rule the Hanis and other minorities in Yunnan. The Ming Dynasty
(1368-1644) exercised its rule through local chieftains, who were
granted official posts. During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) court
officials replaced the chieftains.
The social development of the Hanis
was uneven in different areas before 1949 in 1949. Those in contact
with the Hans were more developed economically and culturally. The
feudal landlord economy was dominant during the Ming and Qing dynasties.
Productivity was more or less on the Han level but the peasants
were exploited harshly by the landlords who seized large tracts
of fertile land.
The situation in Jinghong, Menglong
and Xiding was different. Vestiges of primitive communal land ownership
still remained. There, the majority of land was public property.
Commune members owned paddy fields and tea plantations, and could
reclaim and cultivate communal land. However, private land ownership
was fairly developed in Menghai, Mengsong and Mengla counties. Landlords
and rich peasants possessed most of the arable land there, as well
as the tea plantations, forests and wasteland. Poor peasants were
subjected to exploitation in various forms.
In counties like Honghe, Yuanyang,
Luchun, Jinping and Jiangcheng, the economy was in a sort of transition
from primitive economy to the feudal landlord economy. Peasants
were burdened by exorbitant taxes and levies enforced by the chieftains,
who were both land owers and political rulers.
In the Ailao mountains, the Hanis were
impoverished and suffered under various forms of exploitation. In
one village, which had some 150 households 50 years ago, only 17
families were left at the time of liberation due to famine and disease.
A New and Prosperous Life
The Hani inhabited areas were
liberated in 1949. In the early post-1949 days, local governments
at different levels enthusiastically worked for the unity of different
nationalities while mopping up the Kuomintang remnants, bandits
and local tyrants. Between 1950 and 1957 the state allocated to
the Hanis large quantities of relief grain, clothing, seeds and
cattle, coupled with agricultural loans, to help them overcome their
difficulties and develop production.
The Honghe Hani-Yi Autonomous Prefecture
was set up in 1957 as a merger of the earlier Honghe Hani Autonomous
Prefecture and Mongzi Prefecture. Meanwhile, a number of autonomous
counties were established. Democratic reforms, with land reform
as the central task, were started in 1952 and completed within five
years. Land reform brought about profound changes in the relations
of production: The peasants became the masters of their own land,
their living standards improved, unity among different nationalities
was further strengthened, and social order in this border area was
enhanced. Land reform was followed by the socialist transformation
Many farmland capital construction
works have been carried out since liberation. These include opening
up terraced land, changing dry land into paddy fields, building
reservoirs and expanding irrigated acreage. More than 700 small
hydroelectric power stations have been put up throughout the Hani
areas, supplying electricity to 70 per cent of the townships, and
farm mechanization is on the rise. The post-liberation years have
also seen marked development in forestry, livestock breeding, sideline
occupations and fishing.
Industrial enterprises which have sprung
up after 1949 cover metallurgy, mining, machine-building, chemicals,
cement, textiles, plastics, cigarettes and food processing. In Honghe
Prefecture alone, 400 state- and collective-run factories are in
operation. A highway network, with Kunming to Daluo, Gejiu to Jingping,
and Simao to Jiangcheng as the trunk lines, links all the counties
within the area and facilitates communications with neighboring
places. Department stores now supply cheap salt, which used to be
in short supply, and other daily necessities, bringing most of the
comforts of modern life to the Hani people.