Society is organized along patrilineal lines with each family belonging to a clan, which have a hierarchal rank, and they in turn are broken into lineages, which also have a rank based on closeness to the common ancestor. People have traditionally been divided into two classes — commoners and aristocrats — often based on the clan in which one is born or marries into. Chiefs were often hereditary. They traditionally oversaw some ceremonies, were responsible for reciting genealogical myths and took tribute of the hind quarters of killed animals but had little say in how land was used and other matters. In China, the chief system was largely terminated by the Communists. In Myanmar, it is still alive in some places but has been rejected in favor of a more egalitarian system in others. [Source: Wang Zhusheng, “Encyclopedia of World Cultures Volume 6: Russia-Eurasia/China” edited by Paul Friedrich and Norma Diamond, 1994]
Disputes are usually settled with the help of chiefs and village elders. For those involving adultery or other sex scandals, the perpetrators were often required to “face wash” by sacrificing cattle. In matters such as theft or failure to pay a debt it was quite acceptable for the victim to steal cattle from the perpetrator.
According to the Chinese government: Traditionally an area was led by a "shanguan" was a rural commune. Each village was headed by a tribal chief who assisted the "shanguan" in administrative affairs. Even though private ownership had taken root land was supposed to belong to all members of a community. Paddy fields, however, were often either privately owned or tilled permanently by certain people. Often, noblemen or headmen, took advantage of their privilege to allocate land, and 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 Chinese takeover 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 forced labor.
Jingpo Life and Customs
Rice is the staple food, although maize is more important in some places. Many Kachin eat rice with vegetable stew three times a day, sometimes meat or fish. They generally don’t eat the meat of goats, sheep, monkeys, horses, dogs and cat. Barley, kaoliang and taro are also widely eaten. Chicken, pork and beef are their main sources for meat protein. Vegetables, beans, potatoes and yams are grown in cottage gardens. Jingpo also gather wild herbs and fruit such as cordate houttuynia, wild celery, mushrooms, liana and water plant as supplementary food. Jingpo dishes include fried Xingu rice ("Xingu" means newly grown rice), muntjac blood rice ball (hot steamed rice mixed with muntjac blood), ants pancake (a kind of pancake made of rice flour and chopped ants). Among cooking and food preparation techniques they employ are pestling, grilling, boiling, chop, deep-frying and marinating. \=/
Some Jingpo chew betel nut and smoke tobacco.Rice is used to make beer and a distilled liquor. Men tend to do heavy work such as plowing, slashing and burning, hunting and watering the paddy fields. Women do weaving weeding, harvesting, carrying and processing crops, gathering wild fruits and vegetables, and household chores. Both men and women cook and sell stuff in the markets.
The Jingpo traditionally attributed health problems to nat bites or soul loss. Folk medicine was traditionally limited to medicinal plants and herbs, used mainly for injuries or wounds. Modern medicine was introduced in the Jingpo area by the Chinese since 1949, initially by barefoot doctors. These days many Jingpo turn to dumsa rituals and folk medicines before they seek out a clinic or hospital with Western medicine. One reason for this, in the case of serious illnesses, is that Jingpo believe that if a person dies outside the village, his or her spirit will become a "wild nat," which is unable to return to the old homeland but instead wanders around trying tormenting the living and trying to "bite" them. [Source: Wang Zhusheng, “Encyclopedia of World Cultures Volume 6: Russia-Eurasia/China” edited by Paul Friedrich and Norma Diamond, 1994 |~|]
According to Chinatravel.com: Jingpo people are hospitable but they believe everything has a spirit and have many taboos and superstitions. Among these are: 1) Jingpo people don't like their heads, headclothes, knives or weapons to be touched. They take this kind of behavior as an insult. 2) When in a Jingpo's family home, don't stand a long time and don't look all around. One should sit in his or her place. and should not sit with his or her legs crossed. Never whistle in the house. 3) When a visitor comes to a Jingpo's family, wine and cigarettes are are offered as a gesture of goodwill. Guests should take everything with both hands. 4) The Jingpo like to make bowls and food wrappings from broad leaves. One should not reverse the leaves, otherwise he will be regarded as enemy. 5) According to Jingpo legend, it was a dog that stole food seeds from heaven and rescued the common people from starvation. So eating dog meat is taboo in Jingpo villages. 6) At Munao festival (a Jingpo festival for group singing and dancing) a guest should not stand before the leading dancer, but follow the group. [Source: Chinatravel.com]
Jingpo Family and Kin Groups
All Jingpo people trace descent patrilineally along male lines. An individual inherits his or her surname from the father. Each family belongs to a lineage, which belongs to a clan containing other lineages. Individuals with a common surname are thought to be from the same patrilineage and generally are from the same clan; but individuals with different surnames may also be connected lineage and clan not usually connected with their surname The lineages from which wives are taken and given become mayu (wife giver) and dama (wife taker) to each other, with the mayu enjoying prestige and privileges over the dama. [Source: Wang Zhusheng, “Encyclopedia of World Cultures Volume 6: Russia-Eurasia/China” edited by Paul Friedrich and Norma Diamond, 1994 |~|]
Marriage ceremony Nuclear and stem families are the basic household units. A family is usually made up of parents, a son with his wife, and unmarried children. The average family size has traditionally been five. In most cases, elder sons separate from the parents' home when they get married, leaving the youngest son to live with and take care of the parents and inherit the family's property. Jingpo parents never beat their children and they do not subscribe to the idea that sons are superior to daughters. In the old days many children dropped of primary school years and only a few went on middle school, which have often been far away, in the valleys.
According to the Chinese government:“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. [Source: China.org]
Jingpo kin terms follow Omaha-type cousin terminology. Omaha descent groups are patrilineal. Relatives are sorted according to their descent and their gender. A father and his brothers are merged and addressed by a single term, and a similar pattern is seen for a mother and her sisters. Like most other kinship systems, Omaha kinship distinguishes between parallel and cross-cousins. While parallel cousins are merged by term and addressed the same as the father’s siblings, cross-cousins are differentiated by generational divisions. On the maternal side, cross-cousins are raised a generation while those on the paternal side are lowered a generation (making them the generational equivalent of the father’s children's). [Source: Wikipedia]
Male speakers refer to all the members of mayu-dama families with affinal terms regardless of generation. An individual calls his or her father's brothers' and mother's sisters' children by sibling terms. A man calls his brothers' children and a woman calls her sisters' children by the same terms used for his or her own children. A man calls his sisters' children and a woman calls her brothers' children by different terms than for his or her own children. A man calls his father-in-law and mother-in-law by the same terms used for his mother's brother and the mother's brother's wife, while a woman refers to her mother-in-law and father-in-law the same way she refers to her father's sister and the father's sister's husband.
The Jingpo marry outside their clan or village. The most preferable match for a man to marry his mother’s brother’s daughter, or a match that brings two lineages together in an alliance. In many cases if such a match is not made fines have to be paid to the mother’s brother. Traditionally, after a marriage occurs the wife returns to live with her family until the first child is born.
Among the Jingpo, marriages between cousins and couples with the same family name are forbidden. People with different family names but originating from the same clan cannot get married, either. Marriage is only between persons of different family names and of either "wife's-father" breed or "son-in-law" breed (in Jingpo respectively "Muyu" and "Dama"). Anyone who breaks these rules is accused of ignoring subgroup, age and generation traditions and is despised as pig or dog.[Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities]
Young people are quite free to flirt and date. Premarital sex is common. Many villages have a “public house” were adolescents can go and have sex. Young people have traditionally gathered here for singing, recitation of love poetry and lovemaking. Couples involved in trysts were not required to get married but a girl’s family could get fined if the girl got pregnant. Marriages however are more serious and usually arranged.
Sexual freedom enjoyed during the courting process disappears after marriage. Marriage is strictly regulated; those who violate marital restrictions are punished with strong punishments that can even involve the death penalty for men and exile for women. In a family withe daughters, young women usually get married in order of age. If one daughter gets married before her elder sisters, she has to pay them compensation. When a young woman from one family marries a young man from another family a historical link is established between the two families. Wedding expenses are very high. All arrangements are set through mediators from each side. Before the wedding a complex ritual is carried out with strong religious connotations, called "Crossing the Straw Bridge", marking the way for the newly-wed bride. [Source: Ethnic China]
The are four ways a Jingpo man takes a wife: 1) wife stealing, a popular method involving the staged theft of the bride and consent by both families to the marriage; 2) wife engaging, in which couple enter an arranged marriage when they are young and get married when they are older; 3) wife snatching, in which a man abducts a girl who refuses his love and marries her; and 4) wife seizing, in which a man has relations with another man’s wife or fiancé and marries her. Polygyny is rare but occurs. Some chiefs have multiple wives. Sometimes the brother of a deceased man takes the dead man’s wife as his own. Divorce is uncommon but when it does occur the bride usually has to pay back the bride price.
The so-called "wife's-father" breed and "son-in-law" breed is a kind of marriage relation based on the paternal side. The son of the father's sister is supposed to marry the daughter of the mother's brother, but the son of mother's brother cannot marry the daughter of the father's sister, which is described as not letting blood flow backwards. In real life, a family may have as many "son-in-law" breeds as daughters, and as many "wife's father" breeds as sons. Therefore, there is a proverb among the Jingpo people, "It is limited to only one family to get a bride or groom."
Most couples live with the groom’s family but it is not that uncommon for couples to move in with the bride’s parents. The youngest son is expected to live with the parents and take care of them in old age. In return he inherit the family’s property. Sons and daughters are treated equally. Jingpo parents never beat their children. Children are encouraged to attend Chinese school but most drop out by the time they attend middle school.
Jingpo youth enjoy sexual freedom before marriage. In the past, there used to have open “public houses” where young people could freely meet at night. Now, parents set up a special room in or near their for their daughters to receive the young men who visit them. The different phases of romance and seduction have traditionally been conducted through singing. It is said that the courting and premarital sexual life of the Jingpo is tremendously rich. Among the Jingpo it is not uncommon to see girls of thirteen or fourteen start to join the boys in singing and courtship activities. If there is a pregnancy, the girl's family takes care of the baby; the mother suffers no disapproval from society. [Source: Ethnic China]
The traditional "public house" in villages served as places for adolescents to gather together and make love. Until early 1950s, young Jingpo unmarried men and women all took part in "Gantuozong" (Zaiwa dialect, "Chuanguniang" in Chinese), meaning looking for a girl. It is a kind of communication activities for young men and women and a way of seeking a boyfriend or girlfriend. According the traditions, each Spring Festival is the best time for "Gantuozong". Young people seeking partners go outside the village, taking food and wine with them, and have a picnic in the open air. They sing and dance, indulgently enjoying themselves, while love secretly breaks in. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities ~]
Usually, when the evening falls, groups of young people walk into the forest or bamboo bush, whispering and singing gently, trying to get to know each other, or they go to the "public house", playing flutes, singing, telling legends and tales. Some young couples find a private place and whisper and express their affection to each other. At night, young men and women sleep together in the public house. Traditionally there have been rules that restricted sexual intercourse but these rules were not always obeyed. ~
Over time couples that like each other get to known each other better. If they are serious they give gifts to each other. The girl gives the guy exquisite flowery belts and handkerchiefs embroidered with flowers, while the young man gives her an exquisitely carved small bamboo tubes (empty or containing paper fan or mouth flutes), weaving shuttles or "Qiantong", which are worn on the ears. If a man and a woman want to publically express their love they report it to the male and female supervisors in the village. They invite old people and their fellows to have a celebration feast in the public house. Thus their love relation is recognized by the public, and let their love grow outside the public house. ~
When the love is ready for marriage, the groom's parents send a "Lejiao" (matchmaker representing of the male side) to negotiate with a "Qiangtong" (matchmaker on the female side), to propose to the girl's parents and bring them a mang gong, silk garments, eggs and wine. If the female side receives the gifts, that means they agree to the marriage. More gifts are exchanged during the negotiations about the wedding date. The groom’s family is required to pay a bride price, usually in the form of buffalo, cattle, horses, gongs and/or palajing (a kind of silk or nylon scarf). The amount is determined by the number of relatives the bride has. In return, the bride’s family gives a gift to the son, often a spear, knife or sword, and preferably a gun worth half the value of the bride price. Bride price negotiations can be complex and often involves go-between. Sometimes the bride price is paid out over several years. If the groom’s family can not come up with the full amount, the groom may spend several years doing bride service.
Jingpo Flower Language of Love
Pedro Ceinos Arcones wrote in Ethnic China: “Jingpo youth have developed a complex communication system, unique in China. It involves the use of leaves, flowers, vegetables and parts of plants to transmit messages between each other. In this system, each leaf may have a meaning. Sometimes the meaning depends on the shape of the leaf or flower, at other times it relates to its name or to a symbolic relationship that only the Jingpo understand. [Source: “The Jingpo, leaf-letters and straw-bridges, Yunnan Educational Press, 1995. Kunming; Ethnic China *]
“For example, when the flower known in English as pansy is placed in the path of the beloved, this means that a proposal is being considered. Rejections may also be conveyed through other floral or leafy expressions secreted in places known to those communicating, such as in a tree. This is an example of how Jingpo youth use a series of floral message exchanges that help them define their positions and feelings in relation to each other. The combination of particular leaves containing their own individual meanings allow for the creation of fairly complex messages. These messages are usually placed in a location where the recipient will find them. *\
“All Jingpo young women know how to sing and to create messages through leaf combinations before getting married. Young men and women exchange songs that can be heard everywhere 'till the night. A special occasion for young people to meet is during the Planting Flowers Festival in the second lunar month. In English, the word "florid" is used to express flowery language. As we can see from the above, the Jingpo give true meaning to this term in their unique system of courtship communication. *\
A Jingpo wedding is mostly finished within a day. The events start when the groom goes to fetch the bride with wedding gifts, accompanied by a man and a woman, who are both married and experienced in such things, and can hold on without laughing. The groom’s entourage carry dozens of tubes of cooked sticky rice (each is enough for ten persons eat), many steamed breads (the number just fits with that of guests from the bride's side) filled with cooked meat, vegetables and the traditional indispensable "Chongchong Dish". After arriving at the bride's home, they present the gifts, cut up the tubes, and give every guest a piece of bread and a serving of rice. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities ~]
After the meal, two sets of gifts are brought out - one is real and the other is unreal. Such items as a sword and spear made of banana tree are passed one by one to two companions of the groom, who carefully take them and hang them on their shoulders. It is not easy to do this job, because these sword and spear are made of easy-to-break-off banana tree, which are connected by bamboo sticks. If they fail in the task, they are punished by having to give a back real sword and spear. At this part of the wedding the groom companions have to succeed at their tasks without breaking into laughter while the others are jeering, cheering and laughing at them. Having received the gifts, the companions try hard to balance them and walk slowly out of the gate. They cannot take off the items until they are out of sight. At that time, they breathe a sigh of relief and go back to the groom and the others. ~
The female side invites the "Qiangtong", mother's brother, friends and other relatives to accompany bride to the groom's house. In some areas, while the bride’s entourage has to cross three "roadblocks" while traveling to the groom’s village. Children of the village create these blockages from twigs, bamboo sticks and broken fence. At the first block, the troop is stopped by a group of girls. A middle-aged woman walks out and seriously offers her watery wine from a bamboo tube, along with some small gifts. They do not receive the gifts, and cry out, "No pass for the bride!" At that moment, guarded by her companions, the bride crosses the roadblock from the other side. The second roadblock is guarded by a group of boys. There, wine and gifts are also useless. The "Lejiao" and "Qiangtong" pretend to be drunk and walk over staggering. The boys are afraid of being knocked down by these two "drunkards", and step back a little. At that moment, people rush through the block like the lightning. At the third roadblock are several three-to four-year-old toddlers, who go over and hug the bride's legs. Happily, the bride and other women hold them up and breach the roadblock. This last "road-block" is a wish for the bride to have many babies after marriage. ~
At the groom's home, there is another ceremony. In the yard, on the way to the new bamboo house, small pits are dug, several feet from each other. In the pits are put couch grass higher than a person. In the grass is a two-meter log (or a similar length piece of wood or a new ladder). Sometimes two pairs of banana trees and sugar canes are planted respectively at the ends. It is said that banana trees symbolize good luck and sugar canes, the sweetness of life, and couch grass, a flourishing and happy family. When the bride finally arrives, a shaman-priest is invited to make an offering to "family ghosts". Pigs, oxen and sheep are butchered as sacrifices, and the blood is splashed on the grass. Then, the bride walks on the log (or ladder) to the wedding room upstairs. This is called "crossing the grass", the most important part of the Jingpo wedding ceremony. ~
Double Wedding of the Chashan
The Chasan is a group usually considered a small branch of the Jingpo, but they have enough distinct characteristics to be considered as different ethnic group. The Chashan people enjoyed free sex before marriage. But that ended with marriage which have traditionally been arranged by parents without letting young people have much say. Generally speaking, a cow was given as dowry, although wealthier families sometimes gave two instead of one, in addition to other gifts such as rice, eggs, meat and wine. [Source: Ethnic China]
On the wedding day, the groom, the matchmaker and some of the young peoples' circle of friends set off towards the bride's home loaded with gifts. They are welcomed at the bride’s home with the playing of a gong. There, the matchmaker presents the gifts, and a pig and a cow are sacrificed to entertain the guests. Before eating, rice wine is used to make toasts and boiled eggs with a red cross painted on them are offered to guests. In addition, a ceremony on behalf of the God of Heaven takes place. Afterwards, the same is done on behalf of the ancestors. Later on, some respected elders introduce the groom to each of the bride's relatives.
At night, the wedding participants eat, drink and dance until dawn. The groom, after spending two nights at the bride's home, returns home with his retinue. After that, the bride leaves her parents' house with new clothes and some useful items. She is accompanied by her relatives to the groom's house. Once she gets there, the groom sacrifices a pig to entertain the bride and her relatives. A cock and a hen are sacrificed to honor the God of Heaven and other gifts are offered to the ancestors. Before the banquet, the groom's relatives introduce each relative to the bride and the head of the clan. Following the banquet, some of the aunts show the bride the different parts of the house. At night they sing and dance again until dawn. After being married for three months, the couple returns to the bride's house loaded with presents as a sign of respect to the bride's family.
Jingo Birth Customs
When a Jingpo woman is going to have a baby an old woman with experience in these matters is called to help. After the birth she take the newborn and, after his first crying, cuts the umbilical cord with a bamboo knife sterilized in a fire. Later she wraps the cord and the placenta with a bamboo leaves and they are buried beside one of the posts of the house. Jingpo people believe that burying the umbilical cord beside the house will help the child not forget the house he was born he grows up and gets old. [Source: Liu Gang, Shi Rui and Wang Jiao, “Jingpo zu wenhua shi” (Cultural history of the Jingpo Nationality), Yunnan Nationalities Press, Kunming, 2002. Ethnic China *]
Village elders play a very important role in the ceremonies that follow the birth. Just after the umbilical cordon is buried, the elders bind red cotton string around the wrists of the newborn: to the right wrist if the newborn is a boy; to the left wrist if she is a girl. At this moment an old man gives a name to the newborn. Giving a name means that the child has safely and quietly entered the human world and demons can not disturb him. After receiving a name, the old man blesses the newborn. He usually carriesy dry meat, dry fish, fresh ginger and some fragrant vegetables and utters the words: "My congratulations to the head of this family as it increases with a new member. Let the newborn grow healthy, be free of sickness and disgraces and the whole family enjoy fortune and happiness." *\
The most important ritual regarding birth—the Hka prupru ceremony— is celebrated on the seventh day after birth. On this day, at sunrise, an old lady carries the newborn at her back, with the father's sword and harpoon to the house where the mother is. Helped by the two old ladies the new mother leaves the house, and she and the elder women wash some things togther. From that point on the mother can resume her domestic labors. Later in the morning the family with the newborn invites the people from the village for a feast. A chicken is sacrificed and wine is generously offered. The food is wrapped in small portions in banana leaves that is offered to each visitor. It is a way of announcing the good news.
Binding of the wrists with cotton strings is a custom practiced by other peoples linguistically related to the Jingpo. Among the Lahu Nyi, living in north Thailand, according to Anthony Walker, a similar rite symbolizes the passing of the elders' blessings to the youngsters. Among the Hani, Paul Lewis and Bai Bibo wrote in Hani Cultural Themes: "On the 5th day of the 5th month peoples' wrists must have strings tied around them. It is a mark of being human, since spirits do not have strings. At night those who do not have such strings tied on the wrist, specially babies, will be taken away by the spirits. When going far away strings must be tied around one's wrist." The red colour symbolizes "life" among the Jingpo and other peoples living in China. The use of a string of this colour stresses the blessing of the old people. [Source: Anthony Walker, “Shi- Nyi Lon: Great merit days among the Lahu Nyi (Red Lahu) of North Thailand, “ Asian Folklore Studies, Vol. 43, 1984, 275-302]
Jingpo in China tend to live in small villages with around 20 households in areas where they can practice terraced rice farming and use ridge tops as walking paths. Most Jingpo villages are built on the mountain slopes, facing the valley. Within the village, family houses are scattered irregularly on several terraces of the hill slope. The crests of the ridges form rough roadways.
Kachin in Myanmar tend to live in villages with less than 100 households and have a sacred grove marked by pots, intended to attract good fortune from the gods, and shrines, where community sacrifices are held. In the old days, large villages were often stockaded for protection. Villages with a strong hereditary chief had longhouses, up to 30 meters long and 10 meters wide, where the chief lived with his large extended family. Each house has a granary. Chores such as weaving and pounding rice are done under an overhanging front gable. Under the house is an area for animals. The up slope rooms are used for sleeping while the downslope ones are left open for cooking, storage and entertainment.
Jingo houses are raised about 1 meter off the ground and have thatch roofs, wood frames and floors and walls made from mats composed of split bamboo. A house usually has five rooms, each with a fireplace at the center. As a rule the up slope room is reserved for spirits. It is empty except for a bamboo alter along the side wall. The center room usually serves as a kitchen. Some families have sheds for water buffalo. Wealthy families tend to have houses with mortised frames and planked floors. The house roof often extends at either end, supported by a post, and thus serves as a porch hut, where animals are fed, rice is husked and the children play. [Source: “Encyclopedia of World Cultures Volume 6: Russia-Eurasia/China” edited by Paul Friedrich and Norma Diamond, 1994]
Among the Dehong Jingpo generally, there are two house designs, with the main difference being the location of the entrance and corridor. The traditional style, found mainly in area inhabited by the Jingpo branch, has a main entrance on the side and its lengthwise corridor inside, while the other, influenced by Han Chinese styles and mainly seen in areas of the Zaiwa and other branches., has with a small entrance hall in the front of the house. Buffalo-owning families have buffalo sheds by the house. Many households have separate tower-shaped mud-brick granaries behind the houses to keep their grain dry and safe from fire.
These days there are two different styles of Jingpo's houses. 1) Traditional style houses constructed with bamboo, with the frame made of wood and roof covered with couch grass; and 2) modern oblong-shaped houses, with two entry doors: the front door by guests and the back door used only by family members. The traditional Jingpo cottages are oblong in shape and have two stories. 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. [Source: China.org; [Source: Chinatravel.com]
According to Chinese fengshui, Jingpo houses are usually backed by mountains and face a river or stream and typically feature a main gate at the entrance. Houses are primarily made from bamboo—as were virtually all of their daily utensils in the past. Traditionally, a newly married woman and her husband erect a new house near the wife's home. The youngest son—not the oldest son as is the case with most ethnic group—usually lives with and support his parents after marriage and later become the head of the family, inheriting the family wealth. [Source: Ethnic China]
Women wear long tight-fitting skirts. Women use belt looms to produce cloth with floral-geometric designs. Kachin men mainly wear Shan-style and Western clothes. At festivals many young Jingpo males wear white turbans while older men favor black turbans. In Myanmar, the Kachin wear a traditional costume consisting of a black shirt, edged with a red panel tied around the waist with a blue sash. Sometimes black, long-sleeve jackets are worn over white and black blouses with numerous strings of small red, blue and yellow beads covering the chest..
Jingpo men usually wear black jackets with buttons down the front and short and loose black trousers. They wrap their head with black or white headcloth decorated by colored pompons. When they go out, they often take satchels on their shoulders and sometimes long knives. n the old days many elderly people had a pigtail tied on top of their head covered with a black turban. Younger people prefered white turbans. Jingpo men going out invariably wore long knives on their waist or took rifles with them, carrying elaborately-embroidered bags containing items such as betel nut and tobacco. [Source: China.org]
Jingpo women often wear black jackets with a buttoned opening straight down the front or left and black straight skirts alternating with red. They bandage their legs with black strip of cloth. Jingpo women like wearing silver ornaments. At festivals, they wear special jackets decorated with silver bubbles and lots of silver chains, long earrings and large silver bracelets with decorative patterns. Many Jingpo women like to coil red or black lacquered rattan rings round their waists. They believe the more rattan rings you wear, the more beautiful you are. This is the unique taste of Jingpo people. [Source: Chinatravel.com]
The Jingpo are skilled in spinning and weaving. Their brocade is famous among ethnic groups in southwestern China . While weaving, a Jingpo woman sit on the ground with one point of thread hanged on a pole, and the other side wound around her waist. Weaving in this way is slow. Jingpo brocade is cotton woven using Jingpo's weaving loom and dyed with natural dyes from the Jingpo Mountains. Jingpo brocade with a blue background and red strips or black background with colorful patterns are common styles. This brocade can be made into skirts, knapsacks, bedcovers, pillowslips, turbans, and decorations. \=/
Many Kachin wear tall black hats with circular silver earrings and gaiters that reach from the knee to the ankle. In some places, women wear bright red skirts with a yellow border, fastened around the hips with a cane belt. Over a black jacket is a huge collar made of silver disks, which cover the shoulders, chest and upper part of the back. Ball-like silver ornaments and silver fringe hang from the collar. This worn with matching gaiters and sandals. The Lashi wear a similar costume but in blue and white with blue turbans and red bead necklaces. Jinghpaw women are famous for wearing dozens of silver-globule medallions arranged across the front of and shoulders of their blouses.
Jingpo Culture and Dance
Jingpo literature includes folk tales, legends and ballads. Many of them are a kind or oral history about chiefs passed down from generation to generation. Love songs are popular among young people. Oral literature is quite developed. The creation story epic Lebaozhaiwa incorporates poetry, singing and dancing and contains knowledge of nature and various aspects of society. It is deeply loved by the Jingpo and Kachin people and is also a significant work in folk literature of China.
Jingpo 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. [Source: China.org]
One of the dances that exemplifies the original sacred character of Jingpo dancing is the Munao dance. People usually dance in twos, fours or six in a circle in a ceremony that can last for hours. The dance follows a pattern that reflects the migrations of the ancestors of the Jingpo people. Sometimes the ceremony is attended by thousands of people that come down the mountains to participate in this sacred event. [Source: Ethnic China *]
Munao dances are performed every year on the 15th day of the first lunar month, but sometimes can be performed at special events happen in the community. According to Li Beida there are five different kinds of Munao dances: 1) Zeng Munao, danced to celebrate a good harvest; 2) Purdang Munao, danced when there is a war; 3) Nian Munao, danced to offer sacrifice to their main god, Modikui; 4) Gongrang Munao, danced when members of the family separate, divide up family property or move or settle elswehere; 5) Gongli Munao, performed when the family migrates or moves to a new house. [Source: Li Beida, Dances of the Chinese Minorities, China Intercontinental Press, Beijing, 2006 *\ ]
According to the legends of the Jingpo, Munao dance was first performed when the God of the Sun invited the birds to dance in the heaven. Later the human beings learn from the birds how to dance it. Even today, the leader of the dancing party, called Naoshuang in the Jingpo language, wears bird's feathers on his head. He must hold a boar's tusk and wear a dragon suit. *\
Of all the Munao dances, the most important is the one done at the ceremony held during the sacrifice asking Modikui for a good harvest and an increase in family members and livestock. The sacred character of this dance is continuously remembered. Situated at the center of the ground where it is held are four trunks "engraved with drawings and words, a representation of the migration map of the Jingpo ancestors from northwest plateau to their present living place." "The dancing pattern is a winding path which hints at the hardships faced by their ancestors in their migration." Sometimes thousands of dancers, all them wearing with their best clothes, take part on this dance. Men hold swords in their arms and women shake colorful handkerchiefs, following the rhythm marked by the leader. *\
Jingpo Economy and Agriculture
Traditionally, Jingpo and Kachin have been subsistence farmers and have had no other jobs or specialized skills other than making earthenware and weaving mats, baskets and house walls from bamboo, cane and grass. Pottery, tools and metal objects are obtained from the Shan or Chinese. Cattle, buffalo, pigs dogs and chickens have traditionally been raised for sacrifices but not for selling or eating. Pigs are fed mash in the evening and left to scavenge in the day. Some hunting is done with pellets, bows and guns. Fishing has traditionally been done with traps and poison
The Jingpo get most products they need from state stores or markets. In most cases they trade or use money earned from the agricultural product they grow. They also collect some forest products such as mushrooms, fruits and herbal medicines. They are not known as being traders or peddlers but they do earn money from cross border trade and smuggling between China and Myanmar. Opium was a major cash crop until the Chinese banned it 1958
The Jingpo and Kachin practice both terraced and slash and burn agriculture. Wet rice is grown in the terraces and dry rice and other crops are grown and slopes that have been slashed and burned. Water buffalo are used as plow animals for wet rice. Slash and burn farmers traditionally used heavy-handled hoes to break the soil, sticks to make holes for planting and knives and sickles for harvesting. Field are irrigated naturally by spring water. The main improvements have been the introduction of chemical fertilizers and improved varieties of hybrid rice. Traditional shifting cultivation is of two types: shifting field-forest cultivation and shifting field-grass cultivation. Shifting cultivation has been declining because of deforestation concerns and demise of grasslands.
The Jingpo and Kachin have traditionally prepared their fields in March, planted before the summer monsoons and harvested in October. Grain is threshed under the hooves of buffalo and stored in granaries. In the old days when slash and burn agriculture was mainly practiced the forest and farm lands were collectively owned. In China, farmers now largely operate under a contract system with the state owning the land and farmers cultivating it in return for paying taxes or turning over part of their harvest to the state. In Myanmar, chiefs decide who cultivates the slash-and-burn agricultural land. Irrigated land is often privately owned and can be inherited.
The Jingpo and Kachin raise a large variety of crops including maize, buckwheat, sesame, millet, tobacco, soybeans, beans, cucumbers, wax gourds, and various kinds of pumpkins. Vegetables and fruits are grown in household gardens. Opium used to be grown for money but now grow cotton and sugar cane are their primary cash crop. Weeding is an important activity as weeds grow faster than the crops.
Chinese View of Jingpo-Kachin Development in China
According to the Chinese government: “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 Jingpo 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 Jingpo get organized for cooperative production shortly after liberation. Measures were taken to do away with class exploitation and vestiges of primitiveness. [Source: China.org |]
“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 and professionals. |
“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.” |
Image Sources: Kachin Myitkyina website, Nolls Chiina website, Beifan http://www.beifan.com/, Joho maps
Text Sources: 1) "Encyclopedia of World Cultures: Russia and Eurasia/ China", edited by Paul Friedrich and Norma Diamond (C.K.Hall & Company, 1994); 2) Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science of China, China virtual museums, Computer Network Information Center of Chinese Academy of Sciences, kepu.net.cn ~; 3) Ethnic China; 4) Chinatravel.com \=/; 5) China.org, the Chinese government news site china.org | New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Chinese government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.
Last updated September 2022