|กกกกThe Jingpos, numbering 132,143, live mostly
in the Dehong Dai-Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan Province, together
with the De'ang, Lisu, Achang and Han peoples. A few of them are found
in the Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture.
The Jingpos mainly inhabit tree-covered
mountainous areas some 1,500 meters above sea level, where the climate
is warm. Countless snaking mountain paths connect Jingpo villages,
which usually consist of two-story bamboo houses hidden in dense
forests and bamboo groves.
The area abounds in rare woods and
medicinal herbs. Among cash crops are rubber, tung oil, tea, coffee,
shellac and silk cotton. The area's main mineral resources are iron,
copper, lead, coal, gold, silver and precious stones. Tigers, leopards,
bears, pythons, pheasants and parrots live in the region's forests.
The Jingpos speak a language belonging
to the Tibetan-Myanmese family of the Chinese-Tibetan language system.
Until 70 years ago, when an alphabetic system of writing based on
Latin letters was introduced, the Jingpos kept records by notching
wood or tying knots. Calculation was done by counting beans. The
new system of writing was not widely used, however. After 1949,
with the help of the government, the Jingpo people have started
publishing newspapers, periodicals and books in their own language.
According to local legends
and historical records, Jingpo ancestors in ancient times inhabited
the southern part of the Xikang-Tibetan Plateau. They gradually
migrated south to the northwestern part of Yunnan, west of the Nujiang
River. The local people, together with the newly-arrived Jingpos,
were called "Xunchuanman," who lived mainly on hunting.
During the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368),
the imperial court set up a provincial administrative office in
Yunnan, which had the Xunchuan area under its jurisdiction. As production
developed, various Jingpo groups gradually merged into two big tribal
alliances -- Chashan and Lima. They were headed
by hereditary nobles called "shanguan." Freemen and slaves
formed another two classes. Deprived of any personal freedom, the
slaves bore the surname of their masters and did forced labor.
During the early 15th century, the
Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), which instituted a system of appointing
local hereditary headmen in national minority areas, set up two
area administrative offices and appointed Jingpo nobles as administrators.
In the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the area inhabited by Jingpos
was under the jurisdiction of prefectural and county offices set
up by the Qing court.
Beginning from the 16th century, large
numbers of Jingpo people moved to the Dehong area. Under the influence
of the Hans and Dais, who had advanced production skills and practiced
a feudal economy, Jingpos began to use iron tools including the
plough, and later learned to grow rice in paddy fields. This learning
process was accompanied by raised productivity and a transition
toward feudalism. Slaves revolted or ran away. All these factors
brought the slave system to a quick end in the middle of last century.
Before China's liberation in 1949,
there were primitive commune vestiges in Jingpo society. An area
ruled by a "shanguan" was a rural commune. Each village
in the commune was headed by a tribal chief who assisted the "shanguan"
in administrative affairs. Even though private ownership had taken
root, the waste land and mountain slopes within the boundaries of
the rural commune belonged to all its members, who had the right
to reclaim a piece of land and would forfeit it if left in waste
again. Paddy fields, however, were either privately owned or tilled
permanently by certain people. Often, noblemen or headmen, taking
advantage of their privilege to allocate land, gradually gained
more paddy fields for themselves, or even took paddy fields away
from village members by force. This was followed by the selling,
buying, mortgaging and leasing of paddy fields. At the time of the
liberation of the Jingpo areas in 1950, landlords constituted one
per cent of total Jingpo households, and rich peasants two per cent.
The two groups had possession of 20 to 30 per cent of all paddy
fields and 20 per cent of farm cattle. Of the common Jingpo peasants,
only 15 per cent owned some paddy fields and farm cattle, while
the majority were poor laborers with little land and few farm cattle
and tools. Apart from being exploited in the way of land and cattle
rent, usurers' interest rates and ultra-low pay, poor peasants each
year had to pay a certain amount of "official rice" to
their "shanguan" and do three to five days of corvee.
The basic unit of Jingpo society was
the small family of husband and wife. Some "shanguans"
and rich peasants practiced polygamy. The family was headed by the
father. A family with only daughters might have a son-in-law to
live with it, but the son-in-law did not change his surname and
his children would take his surname instead of that of his father-in-law.
A childless family could adopt a son, who was required to support
his foster parents and had the right to inherit their property.
Elderly people without children were usually looked after by their
relatives. The Jingpo family retained the system of inheritance
by the youngest son. While the eldest son would set up a separate
family after marriage, the youngest son would remain to support
his parents and inherit most of their property. The youngest son
had a definitely higher status than his brothers. Women had a low
status in Jingpo society.
The Jingpos practiced a hierarchical
intermarriage system, that is, intermarriage between "shanguan"
families and between common peasant households. While young people
could freely socialize, their marriage, often involving many betrothal
gifts, was arranged by their parents. Bride snatching was a common
occurrence. When people died they were buried in the ground except
for those who died an unnatural death. They were without exception
cremated and their ashes buried.
Jingpo people lived in thatched cottages
of bamboo and wood except a few "shanguans" and headmen,
who had houses of brick and tile. The cottages, oblong in shape,
had two storys. The lower floor, about one meter above the ground,
is for keeping animals, while the upper floor, usually partitioned
into four to ten rooms with bamboo walls, is the living quarters
for family members. In the middle of every room is a fireplace,
around which people sleep. Every seven or eight years, cottages
have to be rebuilt. Rebuilding, having the help of all villagers,
is completed in several days.
Rice is the staple food, although maize
is more important in some places. Vegetables, beans, potatoes and
yams are grown in cottage gardens. Jingpos also gather wild herbs
and fruit as supplementary food.
Jingpo men usually wear black jackets
with buttons down the front and short and loose trousers. Elderly
people have a pigtail tied on top of their head and covered with
a black turban. Young people prefer white turbans. Jingpo men going
out invariably wear long knives on their waist or take rifles with
them. All carry elaborately-embroidered bags containing items such
as areca and tobacco. Jingpo women usually wear black jackets with
buttons down the front middle or front left. Matching the jacket
is a colorful knitted skirt and a woolen shinguard. Women like wearing
Jingpos are good singers and dancers.
Group dancing, their major dancing form, reflects their life, work,
war and sacrificial rites. It sometimes involves more than 1,000
people, their singing reverberating in nearby mountain valleys.
Jingpo musicians use wooden drums, "elephant-leg" drums,
gongs, cymbals and bamboo flutes.
Jingpos used to practice fetishism,
believing that spirits live in the sun, moon, birds, animals, boulders
and trees, bringing fortune or misfortune to human beings. As a
result, superstition dominates their lives and taboos abound. Sacrificial
rites accompanied sowing, harvesting, disease, weddings, funerals
In 1950, liberation came to the
Jingpo area. The Dehong Dai-Jingpo Autonomous Region was established
in 1953 (changed to an autonomous prefecture in 1956). The Jingpo
people elected their own representatives to the leading bodies of
the autonomous region. In addition, the Jingpos have deputies to
the Provincial People's Congress and National People's Congress.
To fundamentally change the backward
conditions in Jingpo areas, the central and local governments helped
the Jingpos get organized for cooperative production shortly after
liberation. Measures were taken to do away with class exploitation
and vestiges of primitiveness.
Since 1950, the Jingpo people have
transformed virgin forests into tea plantations and orchards, and
reclaimed barren mountain slopes into terraced fields. They have
built tractor stations, reservoirs and power stations. Their grain
production and income from sideline occupations have increased.
Industry, which was nonexistent in
Jingpo areas before liberation, also has developed. The autonomous
prefecture has built a number of small and medium-sized enterprises
including a power plant, a motor factory, a farm tools factory and
a factory producing daily-use chemicals.
There has been progress in other respects.
Highways have been built on the formerly inaccessible Jingpo Mountain.
High-tension power lines extend to many places, while a wire-broadcasting
network covers almost every Jingpo household. Brick houses have
begun to replace thatched cottages. Formerly poor peasants now have
enough grain and different clothes for different seasons. Some more
affluent peasants have bought radios, sewing machines and new hunting
rifles. An increasing number of small hydroelectric stations have
made electricity available to many Jingpo villages.
The ruling classes before 1949 established
no schools for the Jingpo people, resulting that very few people
were literate. Now, however, there are middle schools in every county
and primary schools in every community. Central and local ethnic
minority institutes have trained group after group of Jingpo officials
Violent epidemics, especially malaria,
used to ravage the area. Since 1950, clinics have been set up in
key Jingpo communities and many medical workers of Jingpo origin
have been trained. Efforts have been made to improve environmental
hygiene and drinking water. There has been a marked decrease in
disease incidence. Formerly rampant epidemics such as cholera and
the plague have been stamped out, and malaria, the most serious
threat to local people's health, brought under control. The once
desolate Jingpo Mountain is beginning to enjoy a prosperity it has
never known before.