in all, the Jinos live in the Jinoluoke Township of Jinghong County
in the Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan Province.
The language of this ethnic minority
belongs to the Tibetan-Myanmese group of the Chinese-Tibetan language
family. Its structure and vocabulary have much in common with Yi
and Myanmese. Without a written language of their own, the Jino
people used to keep records by notching on wood or bamboo.
Jinoluoke is a mountainous area stretching
for 70 kilometers from east to west and 50 kilometers from north
to south. The climate there is rainy and subtropical with an average
annual temperature of 18 to 20 degrees. The rainy season lasts from
May to September with July and August having the heaviest rainfall.
The rest of the year is dry.
Jino land is crisscrossed by numerous
rivers and streams, the longest being the Pani and the Small Black
rivers. The major crops are upland and wet rice and corn. The famous
Pu'er tea grows on Mount Jino. Jinoluoke also has a long history
of cotton-growing and is abundant in such tropical fruits as bananas
and papayas. Elephants and wild oxen roam the dense primeval forests
which are also the habitat of monkeys, hornbills and other birds.
Jinoluoke is also rich in mineral resources.
It is said that the Jinos migrated
to Jinoluoke from Pu'er and Mojiang or places even farther north.
It seems likely that they still lived in a matriarchal society when
they first settled around the Jino Mountain. Legend has it that
the first settler on the mountain ridge was a widow by the name
of Jiezhuo. She gave birth to seven boys and seven girls who later
married each other. As the population grew, the big family was divided
into two groups to live in as many villages, or rather two clans
that could intermarry. One was called Citong, the patriarchal village,
and the other was Manfeng, the matriarchal village. With the passage
of time, the Jino population multiplied and more Jino villages came
Until some 40 years ago, Jino people
from far and near still went to offer sacrifices to their ancestors
in the matriarchal and patriarchal villages every year.
The Jino matriarchal society gave way
to a patriarchal one some 300 years ago. But the Jinos were still
in the transitional stage from a primitive to a class society at
the time the People's Republic was founded in 1949.
Most Jinos are farmers. In 1949 they
still cultivated land by a slash and burn method, not knowing how
to irrigate their crops. Land was communally owned by clans or villages
and farmed collectively except in some villages where land was privately
The Jonos are great hunters. When men
go out hunting, they shoulder crossbows with poisoned arrows or
shot-guns. They are also experts in the use of traps and nooses
to catch wild animals. They hunt in groups and divide the game equally
among the participants. But the pelts of animals go to the men who
shot them. While the men hunt, the women gather wild fruit in the
forests. Edible herbs are also collected for soup.
The early ancestors of the Jinos, united
by ties of consanguinity into a big family, dwelled in the Jizhuo
Mountains in very ancient times. But the social structure of the
Jinos had changed by 1949. The basic unit of society was no longer
the clan by blood-ties following the emergence of the communal village
in which people of different clans lived together. The boundaries
of the villages were marked with wooden or stone tablets on which
swords and spears were carved. The land within the boundary was
communal property, and each village was inhabited by at least two
clans whose members could intermarry. Two elders were elected to
take care of village administration as well as sacrificial rites
and production. Each village was a small, self-contained world.
Primitive egalitarianism still manifests
itself to these days in Jino customs. The meat of wild beasts brought
back by hunters is divided equally among all adults and children
in a village. Even a small deer is cut into very tiny pieces and
shared out among all the villagers, including the new-born. Because
of low crop-yields resulting from primitive farming methods and
extortion by the Kuomintang and Dai overlords, there was always
a shortage of grain for three or four months every year. But despite
that, the Jinos stored what little grain they had in unguarded straw
sheds outside their houses, and never worried that it would be stolen.
Zhuoba (the village father) and Zhuose
(the village mother) were the leaders in a communal village. Being
the oldest people in the village, they were respected by all. They
became village leaders by virtue of their seniority, not because
they were brave in war or eloquent in speech. No matter how mediocre
they might be, even if they were blind or deaf, they had to serve
as village elders so long as they were the oldest people in the
community. After their death, the next eldest in the same clan would
be chosen as successors.
Their functions were tinged with time-honored
traditions or religion. For instance, the yearly sowing could only
begin after the elders had animals slaughtered and offered to the
spirits at a ceremony during which the elders put a few seeds in
the soil, before the other villagers could start sowing on a big
scale. The elders also fixed the dates for holidays. The beating
of a big drum and gong in elders' homes ushered in the new year,
and all the villagers, young and old, would rush to the elders'
homes to sing and dance.
The Jinos live in bamboo houses built
on stilts on flat hilltops. The men usually wear collarless white
jackets and white or blue trousers made of flax or cotton. Before
liberation most men divided their hair into three tufts. Women,
as a rule, prefer multi-colored and embroidered collarless short
gowns and short black skirts rimmed in red and opened at the front.
Many wear long skirts and puttees. They also wear their hair in
a coil just above the foreheads, and sling across their shoulders
sharp-pointed flax hats. Both men and women go barefooted, and have
thick bamboo or wooden sticks plugged into the holes in their earlobes.
Those with big holes in their earlobes are considered most beautiful.
The Jinos carry things in baskets on their backs with straps tied
on their foreheads.
Monogamy is practiced in Jino society.
But before marriage the prospective brides and grooms are permitted
to have sex. If a woman brings her illegitimate child to live in
the home of her husband, both the mother and child are not looked
down upon. In some villages, special houses are built for unmarried
young men and women to spend the night. But once married, a woman
must remain faithful to the husband throughout life. Divorce is
A dead body is put in a coffin carved
out of a single log and buried in a communal cemetery. The personal
belongings of the dead -- work tools and clothing, and a copper
pot of silver for some of the rich -- are buried as sacrificial
objects. Above the grave, a small thatched hut with bamboo tables
inside is set up to provide a place for the relatives of the dead
to offer meals to the departed soul for a period of one to three
Being animists, the Jinos believe that
all things on earth have souls. Ancestral worship constitutes an
important part of their religious activities. When there was a drought
or something untoward happened, a shaman was sent for to mumble
prayers and kill oxen, pigs or dogs to appease the trouble-making
spirits. Shamans also used to cure diseases with herbal medicines.
The Jinos learn to sing when still
very young. They are good at improvising poems and set them to agreeable
melodies extemporaneously. At holiday gatherings, the young dance
to songs sung by elders. There are many Jino festivals. The biggest
one takes place on New Year's Day in March and is celebrated at
different dates in different villages. There are worships for "Large
Dragon" and "Small Dragon," both of which meant to
get rid of disasters and pray for good harvests. A festival is held
annually in the wake of a harvest, at which all Jinos gather to
help themselves to newly harvested rice.
Improvement in Life
Changes began to take place in Jino
life in 1954 when teams sent by the government arrived for the first
time in the out-of-the-way mountainous areas. They brought relief
supplies and helped the local people to step up production. After
winning over the powerful village elders, they helped the Jinos
undertake democratic reforms to put an end to outdated institutions
that had kept them backward for centuries.
And in 1955, the Jinos set up cooperative
teams to work the land more effectively. Formerly upland rice was
cultivated in small jungle clearings where the trees were felled
and burnt before each sowing. Today the crop is grown on well-prepared
paddy fields, and the yield has jumped up enormously. The paddy
is irrigated by water lifted by electric pumps. The service of prayer-mumbling
priests is no longer needed, nor was the slaughtering of animals,
to appease evil spirits in times of drought.
Small reservoirs and hydroelectric
installations have been built, and electric lamps have replaced
the flickering oil-lamps that once lit Jino homes. The wooden mortars
formerly used for pounding rice have gone, too, with the advent
of milling equipment powered by electricity.
In 1981 there were 14 primary schools
and middle schools with an enrolment of 1,600 in the mountainous
areas where most people used to be illiterate. The Jinos now boast
their own college students and university-trained doctors.
Another thing the Jinos welcome most
is the emergence of a network of trading stores that offer farm
implements, clothing, food, salt and a long list of goods at moderate
prices. Gone are the travelling cut-throat merchants who used to
squeeze every cent out of the pockets of the Jino people.