Jingpos, numbering 119,300, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 skir.