¡¡¡¡The Mulam ethnic
minority has a population of 207,352, of which the majority live in
Luocheng County in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Others are
scattered in neighboring counties.
The Mulam language is a member of the
Zhuang-Dong language group of the Chinese-Tibetan language family,
but because of extensive contacts with the majority Han and local
Zhuangs many Mulams speak one or both of these languages in addition
to their own.
Their homeland is one of rolling hills
interspersed with lush green valleys. The Wuyang and Longjiang rivers
cross their territory, which has an ideal climate for growing paddy
rice, maize, beans, potatoes, melons and cotton. The area is famous
for its tea and medicinal herbs, as well as mineral resources such
as coal, iron and sulfur.
Historical records trace the Mulam
ethnic group back to the period of the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368),
when their society seems to have been entering the feudal stage.
The Mulam villages paid tribute in grain to the imperial court twice
In the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) the
Mulam areas were divided into "Li," under which were "Dongs"
-- units of ten households.
The Dong chief was responsible for collecting taxes and
law and order. The Dongs were mostly inhabited by families sharing
the same surname. Later, when they increased in size, the Dongs
were divided into "Fangs."
Even prior to 1949n, the farming economy
of the Mulams was comparatively advanced. Farming techniques, crop
varieties and tools were basically the same as those of their Han
and Zhuang neighbors. Oxen and water buffaloes were the main draught
animals, although horses were sometimes used also. Some 60 per cent
of arable land was taken up by paddy fields, and the Mulams had
long known the use of manure fertilizer.
The Mulams' well-developed irrigation
system, unfortunately, was under the control of the rich landlords,
who channeled most of the water off for themselves. The encroachment
of insects and wild animals was a serious problem for the Mulam
In the past, each household was a basic
production unit. The division of labor between men and women was
not strict, but ploughing, carrying manure and threshing were usually
men's jobs, while women did the rice transplanting, sowing and housework.
Also well developed were sideline products,
which included collecting medicinal herbs, raising livestock, blacksmithing,
making pottery and weaving cloth.
Prior to the founding of the People¡¯s
Republic of China, land in the Mulam areas was heavily concentrated
in the hands of the rich landlords, especially the most fertile
parts. The landlords demanded that their tenants pay rent in kind
and provide unpaid labor service. They also exploited the poorer
peasants by means of usury.
Customs and Culture
Mulam houses consist of three rooms,
usually one-storied, with mud walls and tile roofs. Inside, on the
left of the door, the ground is dug away to form a cooking pit.
The livestock are kept away from the living quarters.
Rice, maize and potatoes are the staple
diet of the Mulams, who also enjoy eating hot peppers and glutinous
rice. It is taboo to eat cats or snakes. Mulams who bear the surnames
Luo and Wu are forbidden to eat dog meat or the internal organs
The Mulams used to be famous for their
spinning, weaving and dyeing, and their favorite color is deep blue.
Traditionally, men wore jackets with large buttons down the front,
long, baggy trousers and straw sandals. Young girls wear their hair
in braids, which is coiled up onto their heads after marriage. Women's
jewelry includes silver earrings, bracelets and finger rings.
Early marriage arranged by the parents
was common before 1949. Brides did not live with their husbands
until the first child was born. Intermarriage with the Hans and
Zhuangs was permissible, but weddings were costly affairs which
drained the wealth of a family.
The Mulams used to be animists, and
celebrated a festival every month, the most important of which was
the Yifan Festival. At this celebration, pigs and sheep were slaughtered,
dramas and lion and dragon dances were performed, and the shamans
chanted incantations. The lunar New Year's Day was the Mulam's New
Year, and the eighth day of the fourth lunar month was "Ox
Birthday," when the oxen were given a rest and fed glutinous
rice, and wine and meat were offered to the Ox God. On the fifth
day of the fifth lunar month the Dragon Boat Festival was celebrated.
Unlike the Han and Zhuang Dragon Boat festivals, the Mulams used
to carry a paper boat into the fields and a shaman would chant spells
to drive away insects and ensure a good harvest. The 15th day of
the eighth lunar month was Youth Festival, when young people gathered
to sing folk songs and make lovers' trysts.
Folk songs and "Caidiao"
(a form of local drama) are very popular among the people. The songs
are antiphonal and sung in the Han language.