กกกกThe Lahus ethnic minority has a population
of 453,705, mainly distributed in the Lancang Lahu Autonomous County
in Simao Prefecture, Southern Lincang Prefecture and Menghai County
in western Xishuangbanna in Yunnan Province. Others live in counties
along the Lancang River.
The subtropical hilly areas along the
Lancang River where the Lahu people live in compact communities
are fertile, suitable for planting rice paddy, dry rice, maize,
buckwheat as well as tea, tobacco, and sisal hemp. There are China
fir and pine, camphor and nanmu trees in the dense forests, which
are the habitat of such animals as red deer, muntjacs, wild oxen,
bears, peacocks and parrots. Found here are also valuable medicinal
herbs like pseudo-ginseng and devil pepper.
Mineral resources in the area include
iron, copper, lead, aluminum, coal, silver, mica and tungsten.
The Lahu language belongs to the Chinese-Tibetan
language family. Most of the Lahus also speak Chinese and the language
of the Dais. In the past the custom of passing messages by wood-carving
was prevalent. In some parts the alphabetic script invented by Western
priests was in use. After liberation, the script was reformed and
became their formal written language.
Legend says that the forbears of the
Lahu people, who were hunters, began migrating southward to lush
grassland which they discovered while pursuing a red deer.
Some scholars hold that during the
Western Han Dynasty more than 2,000 years ago, the "Kunmings,"
the nomadic tribe pasturing in the Erhai area in western Yunnan,
might be the forbears of certain ethnic groups, including the Lahus.
Then, the "Kunming" people still lived in a primitive
society "without common rulers." They belonged to different
clans engaged in hunting. The Lahu people once were known for their
skill at hunting tigers. They roved over the lush slopes of the
towering Ailao and Wuliang mountains.
In the 8th century, after the rise
of the Nanzhao regime in Yunnan, the Lahu people were compelled
to move south. By no later than the beginning of the 18th century
they already had settled in their present-day places. Influenced
by the feudal production methods of neighboring Han and Dai peoples,
they turned to agriculture. With economic development, they gradually
passed into a feudal system, and their life style and customs were
more or less influenced by the Hans and Dais.
Customs and Habits
Lahu men wear a collarless jacket
buttoned on the right side, baggy long trousers, and a black turban.
The women wear a long robe with slits along the legs. Around the
collar and slits are sewn broad strips of color cloth with beautiful
patterns and studded with silver ornaments. Women's headdress extends
a dozen feet long, hanging down the back and reaching the waist.
Where the Lahus come into frequent contact with the Hans and Dais,
they also are fond of the garments of those two ethnic groups.
Their houses are built on stilts, with
the space below reserved for domestic animals. The style of building
is similar to the Dais'.
Monogamy was practiced. In some areas
such as Bakanai Township in Lancang County and Menghai County in
Xishuangbanna, young people were free to choose their marriage partners,
and only a few marriages were arranged by parents. Women played
the dominant part in marital relations. After the wedding, the husband
stayed permanently in the wife's home, and kinship was traced through
the mother's side. In other areas, men played the dominant part
in marriage. Betrothal gifts were sent through a matchmaker before
the wedding. On the evening of the wedding day the husband was required
to stay in the bride's home with his production tools. After 1949,
with the implementation of the marriage law, the old custom of sending
betrothal gifts had been less strictly observed.
Traditionally, the dead were cremated.
During the burial, mourners were led to the common cremation ground
by women, who carried on their backs articles used by the deceased
people during their life time. In some places, the dead person was
buried, and the tomb piled with stones. The whole village stopped
working in mourning on the burial day.
The Lahu people used to worship
many gods. Their super god was "Exia," who was believed
to have created the Universe and mankind, and had the power to decide
the good or bad fortune of people. Exia was placed in a forbidden
place in the depth of mountainous forests, unapproachable by non-Lahu
peoples. They also worshipped the deities of earth and revenge
Bakanai Township in Lancang County
has retained Lahu people's traditional facilities for making offerings
-- erect poles carved with geometric designs.
In the early Qing Dynasty, Mahayana
(a sect of Buddhism) was introduced into the Lahu areas from Dali
by Buddhist monks. These Han and Bai monks obviously were opposed
to the Qing regime, and in the peasants' wars that followed Buddhism
played an important part in mobilizing the people. In Shuangjiang
and Lancang counties, religion had come to merge with politics.
Military suppression by the Qing government and defeat of the peasant
uprisings led to the disintegration of local Buddhist bodies. However,
as a religion Mahayana still prevailed among the people.
The music and dances of the Lahu people
have their unique styles and are permeated with life. There are
many melodies and songs. Traditional musical instruments include
the lusheng (a reed pipe wind instrument) and
three-stringed guitar. Their dances, numbering about 40, are characterized
by foot tapping and swinging to the left. The Lahus have a rich
stock of oral literature, most of which is related to physical labor.
The most popular form of poetry is called "Tuopuke" or
The social economy in the Lahu
areas had remained stagnant for a long time. Before 1949, it fell
into two categories: -- Feudal landlord economy, which was prevalent
among the Lahus in Lancang County as well as among those in Shuangjiang,
Lincang, Jinggu, Zhenyuan, Yuanjiang and Mojiang counties, who accounted
for one half of the total Lahu population in these areas. Compared
with the other Lahu areas, economic development in these areas was
faster. As a result of the influence by the Hans, a feudal landlord
economy was formed between the 1880s and 1920s. The Lahus used the
same farm tools as the Hans, but due to their relatively backward
farming technique, yields were low.
Handicrafts included ironwork, weaving
and bamboo handiwork, but few of the products were sold on the market.
In agriculture, land ownership was rather concentrated. Besides
Han landlords, there were a few Lahu landlords. Land rent came to
50 per cent of the crop yield. Han landlords and merchants exploited
the Lahu peasants through usurious interest.
-- Dai chieftain-dominated feudal manorial
economy having remnants of primitive communes, which was prevalent
in southwestern Lancang, Menglian, Gengma, Ximeng, Cangyuan and
Xishuangbanna, where another half of the Lahu population lived.
The Lahus led a poor life and their production was backward under
the rule of Dai chieftains and the exploitation by Han landlords
One of the ways in which the Dai chieftains
ruled and exploited the Lahu peasants was through establishing the
tribute-paying system. This made the peasants subordinate to them.
Dai lords also reduced Lahu peasants to the status of serfs who
were required to do such jobs for the chieftains as husking grain
and clearing night soil and manure. Remnants of the primitive communal
system included mutual aid in production, common ownership of land
and matriarchal clan system.