Hani society is very egalitarian. There are no social stratifications. Patrilineage kinship, villages duties and marriage alliances are the primary boding forces. Older people are accorded respect. Patrilineal descent defines kin groups and clans which in turn forms the basis of village and community organization. Most villages are made up of members of a clan or group of clans that can trace their relationship back to a common ancestor, 40 or 50 generations ago, and who in turn is often said to have been conceived by spirits. [Source: Beth E. Notar, “Encyclopedia of World Cultures Volume 6: Russia-Eurasia/China” edited by Paul Friedrich and Norma Diamond, 1994]
Village leaders are known as dzoema. They often inherit their position but have to be approved by male elders. The dzoema represents moral and legal authority and supervises and looks after the welfare of the community. The buseh assists the dzoema. If needs be he replaces the dzoema and also represents him in dealing with local and national governments. The pima is responsible for administering and transmitting heritage and is thought to be aided in his task by supernatural forces with which he is in contact.
A Hani village is mostly made up of a single clan linked by paternal blood relationships. The term Qiboran in Hani refers to the offspring of the same ancestor or branches of a family tree. Qiboran vary in size. Some have only a few dozen households whereas others have several thousand. Regardless of size, each Qiboran has: 1) a sacred woods to make sacrifices to one's ancestors; 2) a moqiu tree trunk for making sacrifices to the God of Heaven in the Kuzhazha Festival; 3) the woods to scare away evil luck and ghosts; 4) the woods to separate families and homeless ghosts; 5) a spring well that supplies drinkable water for the whole village; and 6) a pair of drums catering to the special needs of the clan. [Source: Chinatravel.com \=/]
Almost every aspect of Hani life is governed by Hanizang (the "Hani way"), a social code which combines poetry, mythology and tradition with morality and tribal law. If laws are broken punishments are generally worked out by dzoema n conjunction with male elders. Hani go out of their way to avoid conflict. There are few examples of war in their history.
Ahjiujiu in the Hani language means to rotate and circulate hands. As the name implies, when the manual labor is need, a household can easily call on fellow villagers to come and help. Ahjiujiu helps distribute labor to where it is needed most. The custom of cow relatives exists between between Hani and Dai People in Honghe county. A cow is owned and raised by two families. When calves were born, they are shared by the two families. Once this "relative" link is established, it will remain unchanged. \=/
Opium used to be high in some Hani villages. It still is some Akha villages in Laos. Some Hani have teeth stained red from betel nut. Illness are treated by shaman, by chants from ritual specialists and herbal medicines. Massage is a welcoming gesture. The day usually begins with women pounding grain with mortar and pestles underneath their homes. Goods are carried by women baskets on their back with a strap around the forehead. An Hani innovation to this ancient means of transporting goods is plank connected to the forehead straps which also carries some of the weight.
Hani Men, Women and Children
Hani society is both patrilineal (descent is through the male line) and patriarchal (where things are controlled by men). In a family, males become part of their father's line and females become part of their husbands' lines. The oldest male is head of the household, and in general decision making women are subservient to men. In terms of inheritance, house and property are passed down through the male line. A woman can only inherit if her husband resides with her family. The youngest son is expected to live with the parents and take care of them in old age. In return he inherits the family’s property. A married son who builds a house of his own usually receives gifts of livestock, tools, seeds, money and household items as housewarming gifts. [Source: Beth E. Notar, “Encyclopedia of World Cultures Volume 6: Russia-Eurasia/China” edited by Paul Friedrich and Norma Diamond, 1994 |~|]
There is division of work in the family, with the husband occupying a dominant position in the family. Maintaining the family name and producing offspring and family continuity are very important. A son's name begins with the last one or two words of his father's name in order to keep the family line going. This practice has been handed down for as many as 55 generations in some families. The division of labor between men and women is enshrined in the Hani religion. Men have traditionally done heavy work such as plowing, slashing and burning, and hunting. They often do the cooking, especially for feasts. Women do household chores, weave, dye cloth, sew, harvest, carry stuff, process crops, gather wild herbs and cooking rice. Both the mother and father and older siblings help out in child rearing.
According to Hani tradition the entire world is divided into two opposite but complimentary male and female halves. Each has its own duties, responsibilities and rituals. Villages, forests and trails are within the male domain and houses and fields are in the woman's domain. Hani women are known as being hard workers while men often waste away much of their life smoking opium. Young girls usually take responsibility earlier than boys. Their primary duty is collecting firewood and water.
Parents typically let their children run relatively free until the age of six or seven, After that they are expected to start helping with household chores. Prior to 1949, there was only one elementary school in Hani region. Children were educated by their parents — boys in agricultural and tool-making skills; girls in household management, weaving, and sewing. As of 1985 there were 503 elementary schools and 3 middle schools; 80 percent of Hani children attended school. |~|
Hani marriage are generally monogamous. In some cases, polygyny was permitted. According to the “Encyclopedia of World Cultures”: “ In Xishuangbanna, taking a second wife incurred public condemnation and punishment by fine, as well as the obligation to return the first wife's dowry to her family. In the Honghe area, Hani marriage was polygamous, especially for the local leaders and wealthy households. Men were allowed postmarital sexual freedom, whereas such behavior was strictly prohibited for women. [Source: Beth E. Notar, “Encyclopedia of World Cultures Volume 6: Russia-Eurasia/China” edited by Paul Friedrich and Norma Diamond, 1994 |~|]
Traditionally, in Xishuangbanna, a young couple usually met with their parents' approval and nine ceremonial events between engagement and marriage took place. In Honghe the parents arranged the marriage while the children involved were young. Marriage ceremonies vary from place to place. In Lancang a couple was considered married when the groom passed through the village gate. In Xishuangbanna, a couple who wanted a divorce could simply pay the village headman a "processing" fee, and then both were free to find new spouses. In other areas, a husband could abandon his wife, but if a wife wanted a divorce, she would have to return the betrothal gifts to the groom's family. Widows who remarried were discriminated against. |~|
Hani have traditionally married in their teens or early 20s. Marriages within and outside the village are acceptable. When a young girl reaches marriageable age she dons a headdress that advertises the fact. Young people are generally free to chose their partners although they usually need approval from their parents. Marriage is often seen as exercise in wife taking or wife giving. This exercise is very important in Hani society, with wife giving regarded as superior to wife taking. Upon getting married a woman leaves her family and joins the family of her husband. The couple generally lives with the groom’s parents or his older older brother. Since only one married couple is allowed to occupy a house newlyweds generally live in an adjacent hut and take meals in the main house. After the newlyweds have children, they move into their own house and establish their own household with its own ancestor altar.
Before 1949, a man was allowed to have a concubine if the wife had born him no son after some years of marriage. However, he was not supposed to forsake his original wife to remarry. Marriages are mostly arranged by the parents. The brides usually return to live with their parents only two or three days after the wedding ceremony and join their husbands again at rice-transplanting time. But this is not practised in the Honghe area.[Source: China.org]
At least three kind of marriages are practiced by the Hani: 1) a usual marriage is decided by the parents, sometimes with the preferred match being with the offspring of the maternal uncle or a wife exchange among different families to avoid the excessive expenses of the gifts. 2) Kidnap marriages are practiced when young men and women don't want marry the partner their parents chose for them and secretly marry the the person they love, and run off to together, returning a few days asking for forgiveness. 3) Service marriage is chosen if a a man doesn’t have much wealth and is adopted in his wife's family, acquiring the same obligations of a son. 4) Widows have traditionally married her deceased husband's brother. During the wedding the bride typically cries loudly, showing the pain for leave her parents. Then there is a great party.
Marriage between relatives and people sharing the same family name are strictly forbidden. People should even avoid talking about sex and love between relatives. Divorces are not very common, and expensive. In some areas, post-marital sex is no big deal for men but is a big deal for women. The ease in getting divorced and remarried varies. In some places the couple merely have to pay a “processing” fee. In other places a wife who seeks a divorce has to return gifts given to her by the groom’s family. After a divorce the children generally stay with the husband’s parent’s family.
Hani Love and Courting
Young Hani men and women have traditionally had the freedom to enjoy sexual relations before marriage. Couples often met and courted one another at festivals or musical gatherings. Most non-Christian villages have a place where young people can gather. In the past they used to come to hear and sing traditional songs. Now they are more likely to listen to pop songs in their language on a radio or boom box.
In a Hani village, a place called Liuran is allocated for the unmarried young people. When the evening comes, youths dressed in their best clothes meet at Liuran and exchange songs there or in the woods at the edge of the village. In the Big Goat Street of the southern bank of the Honghe River, if the number of the young girls seeking boy friends exceeds five, a grand wine ball called Ahbaduo can be held. If the girl or boy falls in love with each other, they become Zhaha, which means stable friends. [Source: Chinatravel.com]
Every branch of the Hani has some tradition related to courting and marriage that differentiate it from others. In Menghai County, Xishuangbanna Prefecture, the young put a red dye in their teeth to indicate they have come of age and move a house with other youths like themselves. In Xishuangbanna there are some public houses where young couples can spend the night together. Older girls and young women display their age and their marital status with their headdresses. During this period of their life they live outside the family house and have many chances to get to know boys. The Hanis in Mojiang and Biyue have a very interesting custom for settling an engagement. The parents of both the girl and boy involved should walk some distance together, and so long as they meet no animals the engagement can go ahead. [Source: Ethnic China *]
Aini-Akha marriage and courting traditionally has had some special characteristics, most which have already disappeared with the arrival of modernity. When boys reached puberty age, they usually moved into a small hut near their parents' home. Among other ethnic groups living around the Akha, it was usually the girls not the boys who left their parents house. The Aini-Akha boy’s hut, usually built with the parents' help, was called the "Flowers' Room". It was a place where the boy slept alone or with a lover and was the place where young couples that weren’t married were allowed to have sexual relations. During the first year after marriage, newlyweds also lived in the "Flowers' Room". After one year a couple move to the house of husband’s parents or built a new house for themselves. *\
The wedding ceremony is usually at the home of the groom’s family. Ceremonies and customs vary. In some places the bride and groom walk through the sacred gate. In other places they engage in “bride teasing the bridegroom" games. As wedding gifts the bride is given a carrying basket, a hoe and a knife.
On the wedding day, the young man's family sends a matchmaker to the girl's home with gifts. When the young man and his friends come to receive the bride, the other girls in the village ambush and attack them with olives as a "penalty" for "stealing away" their sister. The olives indeed carry their best wishes and blessings for the young couple. The bitter taste of the olive means that the outset of one's life might be harsh and bitter, but it will be better and sweeter in the future. In the wedding banquet, the elderly people sing sad songs to see off the bride. At the same time the bride in Liuyan (place for unmarried girls) also sings and cry. In some Hani villages such songs begin to be sung three days before the wedding and many other girls or women may also join the singers. The more sadly they sing; the deeper love and attachment to their family are shown. In some places the bride should be carried by her brothers when leaving her home village. After arriving at the groom's home, the bride is supposed to kowtow before the shrine of the ancestors. Afterwards she should eat a bowl of half cooked rice served by the groom, which means that she will never change her mind and love. [Source: Chinatravel.com]
Aini-Akha wedding ceremony is presided over by a peimo or priest who formally bonds the couple in marriage. The crucial moment of the ceremony is very intimate, with only the bride, bridegroom and the priest in the room, and relatives and guests waiting outside. During this ceremony the priest usually dresses red clothes because the red is symbol of life and sacred to the Aini. (Among the Han Chinese and other minorities the bride often dresses in red). Before the priest a cooked egg, a glass of rice wine and a cup of tea are placed. The priest takes the egg and gives it to the bridegroom, who passes it to the bride. After a while she gives it back to the bridegroom, who peels it, and divides it into three pieces, which are shared by the bride, groom and priest. [Source: Ethnic China *]
After this, the peimo usually sings some auspicious songs and mixes the egg with wine and tea, which the bride, groom and priest consume. Next, the bride is given a cooked chicken leg. She eats a little and give the rest to the bridegroom, who eats it all. The peimo then proclaims that the marriage has been blessed by the gods, and the three leave the room to receive the congratulations of relatives and friends. *\
The Yuvxal yiv is one of the most important songs sung during the Akha wedding ceremony. It is not sung by the newlyweds, their relatives or friends, but by the old folks of the village in a tradition is said to be over 1100 years old. In this long song the singers express their best wishes to the newlyweds with a strong desire that they abide by traditional rules and behave properly inside their community and transmit these customs to their offspring. It is the duty of the village elders to keep and transmit the old traditions at a wedding not only for the benefit of the newlyweds but also for all the people in the village. *\
Dancing Wedding of the Amu Hani
The Hanis in Mojiang call themselves "Amu". Their whole wedding ceremony is permeated with dancing from beginning to end. As the wedding draws near, both the bridegroom's side and the bride's side build sheds with bamboo and pine near their parents houses as places for sending off the bride and receiving guests. On the wedding day, the party of the bridegroom follows the bridegroom to the bride's home. When they arrive at the entrance of the bride's village, music starts from inside the village, and a party sent by the bride does a traditional dance towards the entrance. After serving the bridegroom's party wine and tea, they all dance into the village straight to the shed. After a short rest, the new couple stands at a square table, and the bride's family, with a piece of bamboo between their fingers, dance around the table. The intention of this dance is to ask the gods to ward off calamities and send down blessings. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science of China~]
On the way to the bridegroom's home, the bride and the bridegroom, escorted by a big crowd, meet a group that has waited in the groom’s village for a long time. They form a circle and dance vigorously to the rhythm of gongs and drums, sending congratulations. Finally they reach the bridegroom's house for a feat inside and outside the wedding shed there. As soon as the guests are seated, a woman good at both singing and dancing gets up from the senior seat, singing and dancing from table to table. The host of the bridegroom's side follows closely, holding a bamboo basket with three bowls and a wine gourd on it, taking a little wine and food from every table. When the feast is near the end, a cook, holding a bamboo sieve with eight huge bowls, dances out of the kitchen to every table, and the guests symbolically put some food into the bowls. Finally, at the order of "Time to dance," guests get up from the feast table one after another and form circles, singing and dancing. People enthusiastically bless the new couple and urge them to be industrious and thrifty in running the household and to respect the old and love the young. ~
The Hanis in places such as Xinping, who call themselves "Kaduo", enjoy a comic wedding tradition called "Beating the Bridegroom". When the groom’s party arrives at the bride's house, hosts and guests begin to drink heavily and exchanging a few words of greetings. The parents of both sides also eat and drink extravagantly, chattering away on a variety of subjects, seemingly having forgot that it is the wedding day of their children. After a long while, the bride, with red silk on her head and silver ornaments hanging over her chest, appears meekly before the party. Approaching the bridegroom, she suddenly bursts into "irritation" and beats the bridegroom in the face with her hands. At this time, all the others start to boo and hoot. The bride, however, keeps crying and beating the bridegroom, who dodges her blows but never strikes back. When the bride thinks she has beaten him enough she suddenly smiles through her tears and the bridegroom says, "It is time to go now." At this moment, the bride and her mother cling to each other, singing and crying about their parting. The sisters and brothers of the bridegroom force them apart and carry the bride away on one person’s back, followed by the party from the bride's side. It is said that the true intention of the "beating the bridegroom" custom is to test’s bridegroom's love.
Birth Customs of the Hani
Once a married woman become pregnant, she will not travel away from home but do housework until giving birth. After the baby is born, a symbol of sex is hanged above the door to ward off the evil. At the same time a human image made of bamboo leaves is hanged above the bed aiming to protect the new born. [Source: Chinatravel.com]
When the child is born the person who helps deliver the baby—often a midwife—does not pick it up until it has cried three times, the first for a life span, the second for the whole village and the third as a request of help. The helper must give a temporary name to the baby the moment she picks it up, otherwise spirits might name the child and take it away, resulting in an early death. There is also a legend of a tiger taking off unnamed infants. After the delivery of the baby the helper ties the umbilical cord with a white string and cuts it with a pair of scissors, washes the baby and wraps it in a cloth. The placenta is buried in a hole inside the house. Many Hani feel they can not live far from their home, the place where their placenta is buried. [Source: “Hani Cultural Themes” by Paul W. Lewis and Bai Bibo, White Lotus, Bangkok. 2002, Chapter 5, Birth Customs, Ethnic China *]
During the following weeks the mother breastfeeds her baby before she eats. She is kept in near isolation for around two months and fed a lot of eggs during that time. When the two months is up she resumes her life with the exception of observing certain taboos such as avoiding touching cold water or letting the sun shine on her face. She also must wear the full Hani outfit with turban or headdress. When the child is about four or five months old both the mother and father begin to chew some solid food and feed that to the child. Different foods are given according to the sex of the child: game to the boys in the hope that they will become great hunters and fish to the girls in the hope that they become experts at fishing. *\
Naming Customs of the Hani
Three to eleven days after the baby is born, has come out, a ceremony of naming the child is held. The official name of the baby is given when the family kills a chicken and offers it to the ancestors. Respected elders discuss the official name. Only one syllable is chosen, since the first syllable is the second syllable of the father's name. Then the oldest person holds a cup of liquor and says the child’s name, blessing him immediately: "Grow up big. Grow up happily. Be healthy… May you have many domestic animals. May your crops be good… May the great ancestor Taoqpaoq protect you." *\
If the new born is a boy, a young boy from the village will be asked to carry a hoe and dig for three times before the mother and son outside the house in a hope that when the new born grows up he will be courageous and industrious. If it is a girl, a young girl from the village will be selected for the ceremony. The young girl, taking some sticky rice in her left hand and a chopping knife in her right hand, hacks firewood for three times before the mother and daughter, hoping the girl will know how to be a good housewife when growing up. Afterwards a name will be given to the infant. \=/
The Yeche Hani in Honghe have a very unique tradition when it comes to naming their children. Regardless of sex, a young child below the age of five or six normally has two or three names, in some cases, even seven or eight. But there is one point for certain, namely, these names should never be the same as that of any late male ancestors. After the child has reached the age of seven or eight, one name will be fixed and used for his or her entire life.
Hani usually live in villages interspersed with other ethnic groups in the mountains. Their villages usually have 40 or so households. Large villages have up to 400 households. Small ones may only have a dozen or so households. Foot paths connect houses in the village and one village to another. Many villages can only be reached by walking several hours or days along mountain trails. Hani villages generally consists of so thatch-roof wooden houses grouped around a open dirt area. In this area there is often a tall, four-posted village swing, used in annual ancestor offering.
Hani villages are normally located in those places featuring with lush forest, abundant water sources and fertile terraced field or hillsides. The Hanis generally build their two- and three-story houses of bamboo, mud, stone and wood on hill slopes. Common Hani buildings include straw houses, mushroom houses, sealing fire mansions as well as modern reinforced concrete structure buildings. In places like Honghe, Yuanyang and Luchun, houses have mud walls and thatched roofs, supported by wooden pillars placed on stone foundations, while in Xishuangbanna, houses are built of bamboo.
Hani villages are the political and social center of the Hani life. They are usually built into the slopes of the mountains. They are also serve as ritual and religious unit of the Hani. There is usually a some sacred place, where offerings and sacrifices are made and important festivals take place. The village gate is important to the physical and spiritual well being of the villagers.
Most villages are guarded by sacred gates that are intended to keep evil spirits from bringing disease and misfortune to the village. The gates are often made of bamboo and accompanied by male and female fertility statues that are indistinguishable from one another except for the exaggerated sex organs. There are usually two gates: one up slope and one down slope. Inside is the domain of people and animals. Outside is the realm of the spirits. It is strictly taboo for people to pass through these gates or touch them. For protection against hostile tribes, villages have traditionally been built on the crests of mountains, which also happens to be where most of the spirits reside. Often the mountain ridge serve as a kind of avenue dividing the village in half. Sometimes villages are built on a slope.
Hani Homes and Mushroom Houses
Hani houses are either built on the ground or raised about 1½ meters off the ground on low stilts. A typical house has a thatch roof, walls made with logs or bamboo and a storage area for produce below the living quarters. Many houses are located in a fenced compound, which contains a main house and a granary and smaller houses used by extended family members. Each house has a masculine and feminine side as a well a space for pigs. The men live in separate quarters with their own bucket-like stoves. It is taboo for them to enter the larger room where the women and children spend their time and prepare and eat their food. Each house has an ancestor altar.
A mushroom house, as name implies, is a mushroom-shaped house made of earth walls, bamboo and wood framing and a straw roof with four slopes. The ground floor of the house is for keeping livestock and furniture. People live on the first floor, which normally has three rooms and a fire pit with a constantly-burning fire. The second floor is covered with fireproof earth and serves as a warehouse. Not only pretty seen form afar, the mushroom house is also noted being warm in the cold winter but cool in hot summer. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science of China \=/]
Typical house of this kind is found in the largest Hani village – Mali Village of Yuanyang County, Honghe City According to the legend, in ancient times, the Hanis lived in caves. Later when they migrated to a place named "Reluo", they found a vast field of mushrooms all over the mountain and the plains. The mushrooms could resist wind and rain, and ants and worms build nests under them. The Hanis imitated the mushrooms and built the mushroom houses. ~ \=/
The base of the wall is built by stones or bricks, half a meter high both above and under the ground. Upon the base is the wall, which is made of earth, pressed hard between boards. The roof is covered with multi-layers of couch grass, shaped into four slopes. The inside is usually composed of the principal room, the front veranda and the penthouse. The architectural design of the two-or three-floor mushroom house is very special and charming. The front veranda is connected with the front wall of the principal room, and the penthouse is connected with one or two sides of the principal room. Both the front veranda and the roof of the penthouse are solid soil platform, where people rest and enjoy the cool or dry the reaped crops. The second floor of the principal room is completely walled with clay and the roof is covered with grass three or four meters above the floor. The space inside is called "Fire Banking Tower", which is divided with boards to store crops, melons and beans, also a place for the young people of the right age to spend the night. ~
The lowest floor is used to keep livestock and to pile up farm tools. The middle floor is separated into three rooms, in the middle of which is a square fire pit burning throughout the year. When guests come, the host sits by the pit and offers puffs from a bong-like bamboo water pipe, cups of hot "glutinous rice tea" and bowls of sweet "sealed wine". Mushroom houses are durable, warm in the winter and cool in the summer. The look quite charming groups together in a village perched on a mountains slope amid green staircases of rice terraces.
According to Chinatravel.com: “Hani food is divided into natural and cooked food. Rice being their staple food, and corn and barley also commonly eaten. Common Hani cooking methods are pickling, braising, stir-frying, steaming, baking, grilling, pot roasting and frying etc. Among the most typical Hani foods and drinks are steamed rice, sticky rice pie, Baiwang, Weiyan tea, meat porridge, banana pickle, meat ball and bean powder soup, sour meat, bee chrysalis jam, and stir fried bee chrysalis. Both Hani men and women are generally smokers and heated wine and teas are their favorite drinks. Chewing betel nut is also popular among the Hani People. The favorite Hani drink, Weiyan Tea is made by cooking the yellow baked tea with fresh water. The ready tea is bright in color and strong in fragrance. [Source: Chinatravel.com \=/]
To make steamed rice, called Heche in Hani language, the rice should be submerged in cold water for at least four hours and then be dried and steamed until half done in a vase. After that the rice is put in a wood basin filled with water. The rice is beaten up with a wood bat so that it can absorb the water soon and become softer. To make sticky rice pie soft and sticky, the sticky rice should be kept in water for at least seven to eight hours before being steamed. The cooked rice is then shattered and made into pie. Packed by banana leaves, the fragrant and delicious pie is a top gift for relatives and friends. \=/
Baiwang is a kind of blood cake. A small amount of salt is put into the blood of pig, goat or dog to help with concretion in a short time. Then the blood cakes are grilled on charcoal fire with pork, radish slice, garlic leaves, chili, pepper and some other vegetable and seasonings. Finally some peanuts are sowed upon the top of the cake. The ready cake is a mixture of many colors and tastes, a very good dish for treating guests.
Among the Hani people in Pengduo Village of the Yimen County, where fresh game and meat are relatively plentiful, deer, goat, wild birds, loach and yellow eel are all eaten. The Hani there have a special way to cook fish, called fish mud. It is made when the fish caught are not enough for a meal. To make it the fish gill and bowels and scales shall all be removed and the fish is grilled on a charcoal fire until golden brown. Hot peppers, salts, chili oil and other are added. The Hani in Pengduo like to eat it while drinking wine or beer.
Hani Customs and Taboos
The Hani are well known for being good hosts to traveler. They usually offer wine and tea to the people who arrive to their home. When guests come to a Hani house, the host sits by the fire pit in the main room and offers puffs from a bong-like bamboo water pipe, cups of hot "glutinous rice tea" and bowls of sweet "sealed wine". If the atmosphere is right, the host might sing a song in a rough and loud voice, wishing friendship and good luck to the guests.
According to Chinatravel.com: In general the center of a Hani house is the sitting room with the living room on the east the parents where there is an ancestral shrine, therefore not accessible to outsiders. The fire pool is the core of the Hani family life. Above the fire pool there stands a spider which can not be trampled. People should also avoid spitting at, striding over the fire pool and touching the firewood in the pool by one's foot. As to the doorsill, one ought not to stand or sit on it, and hack it with a knife. The unmarried ladies and widows are forbidden to give birth in the village. [Source: Chinatravel.com \=/]
“When visiting an ordinary Hani family, you will be served with the Hani home-made cigarette pipe. If you are not a smoker, you should decline this kind entertainment in a courteous manner otherwise the hosts will be unhappy. When an elderly people enter the room, the young are supposed to stand up and give seats, cigarettes and teas to him. Passing cigarettes, teas or wine and suchlike to an old man, one should use both of his or her hands to show respects and good manners. In front of an old man, the young should avoid folding their arms or legs, blowing whistles, or talking loudly. When walking together, one should not walk before an old man. At the table the chicken head and liver are set aside for the old. At the banquet the host may offer the guests the chicken head and liver, the young guest should transfer the head and liver to the eldest afterwards. Hani religious rituals or family banquets normally start with some blessing remarks made by the elderly. People take turns subject to one's age to have wine and food. The oldest is the first to have wine, and then the turn passes down counter-clock wisely. \=/
“Shortly after the birth of a baby, some human images made by ginger, bamboo leaves or a saw – like wood knife are hanged over the door of the family. Others should avoid entering the room of the lying-in woman when seeing the images. In the Hani belief one's uncle (the brothers of mother) is the most senior, so if a baby does not know his or her uncle, he or she can not grow well. Therefore there is a very important Hani custom called "recognizing the uncle". On the day to recognize one's uncle, both the mother and young baby get up in the early morning. The mother wash the baby's face cleanly and dressed him or her neatly. The mother should also paint a black mark on the baby's forehead and tie some garlic to the baby's hat, aiming to ward off the evils. When everything is ready, the mother will carry the baby on her back and set off to the uncle's home. In the mother's bag there are many fried stirred yellow beans, steamed chicken eggs, sticky rice pies. The mother also carries a white umbrellas and a sickle with each of her hand. On the way whoever they meet, regardless of sex, age, nationality or religious belief, the mother will offer some beans and a big smile as gift. Traveling in the Hani region if you are lucky enough to encounter such a Hani mother, you are advisable to accept her kind offer and give your blessings in return.” \=/
In China the Hani are famed for cultivating tea bushes that are source expensive Pu’er tea. Some of the bushes are over 100 years old. Puer is known as “green gold.” It was a key trading item on the ancient “Tea and Horse Route” (See Below). Prior to 1949, Hani men traded tea, animals, wild meat products, and grains with Han Chinese, Yi, Dai, and others at weekly markets. They also traded gold and tobacco for salt and cotton from Laos merchants. Wealthy merchantz used mule teams to transport goods.
Most goods are purchased in towns or at markets. In the village, one family may run a shop out of their home that sells cigarettes, kerosene and cooking oil and other items in their home. Itinerant traders and peddlers occasionally show up to buy, trade and sell goods. Baskets of various types are woven from bamboo or rattan. Chopsticks and other utensils are made from bamboo. Many villages traditionally have had a blacksmith who made tools such as knives and hoes. Silver crafts and ornaments are usually made by non-Hani craftsman. These days, more and more Hani are moving to towns to earn money from wage jobs.
The mountain forests have traditionally provided lumber as well palm, rattan, tung oil, camphor, pine, cypress, maple, , rattan, camphor, pine, other timbers and bamboo. The southern and western Yunnan region is rich in mineral resources such as copper, gold, silver, lead, and nickel. Since the 1950s, roads, mines and smelters have been built to exploit these resources. Chemical, concrete, and plastics factories have also been constructed. The economic reforms initiated in 1978 encouraged the development of tourism, forestry, animal husbandry, fishing, and sideline industries. [Source: Beth E. Notar, “Encyclopedia of World Cultures Volume 6: Russia-Eurasia/China” edited by Paul Friedrich and Norma Diamond, 1994]
Hani Agriculture and Hunting
In Xishuangbanna and Lancang, the Hani have traditionally practiced slash-and-burn agriculture. In the Honghe area, rice is grown in the region's famed terraced fields. Many Hani still hunt. Rifles of various kinds have replaced traditional cross bows. Most game is caught with traps and snares. Hunters used to catch deer, wild boars, bamboo gopher and jungle foul but many of these animals are gone due to overhunting. Wild animals such tigers, leopards, bears, deer, monkeys, and flying squirrels were hunted and used in traditional medicines.
The Hani who were semi-nomadic slash-and-burn agriculturalists grew dry-land rice on the slopes of mountains between elevations between 3,500 and 4,000 feet, and moved on to a new place when they had exhausted the soil. In mountainous areas in Honghe, Hani have traditionally been good are raising rice in terraced fields and on steep mountain slopes. Opium has been an important cash crop. Other cash crops include grown include peanuts, sugarcane, cotton, ginger, chilies, soybeans, tomatoes and cabbages.
Dry-land rice is nourished completely with rain water. Vegetables such as pumpkins, cabbages, beans, greens, peppers and yams can be planted in the rice fields. Maize, chiles and cotton are grown other fields. If enough water is available irrigation may be to grow paddy rice. The Hani also collect wild mushrooms and wild greens in the forest.
Slash-and burn agricultural land has traditionally been owned by a household only when the land was being used to raise crops. While it is left fallow it belongs to no one. Land used to grow wet rice belongs to the household that prepares the land. It can be bought and sold. Pigs, chicken ducks, goats, cattle and water buffalo are raised. Fishing is done with traps and nets.
Hani Rice Terraces
The Hani Rice Terraces refer the system of Hani rice-growing terraces located in Honghe Prefecture,Yuanyang County, Yunnan, China. Construction of the terraces began around 1,200 years ago. The total area stretches across 10,000 square kilometers in four counties: Yuanyang, Honghe, Jinpin and Lüchun, although the core area of the terraces is located in Yuanyang County. In 2013, 16,603 hectares of the Honghe Hani Rice Terraces were listed as a World Heritage Site. Yuanyang County is about 320 kilometers (200 miles, four hours) south of Kunming, the main city in Yunnan Province.
Among the continuous stretch of Ailao Mountain the Hani have created thousands of rice terraces that climb upwards like green staircases or watery pools—depending on the season— along the slopes of mountains. The Hani have built dykes and banks according to different kinds of topography and soils, making use of the regional conditions of "however high a mountain is, so is the water," to draw perennially flowing mountain springs into the terraces through irrigation channels and ditches. In early spring, terraces of varying shapes and sizes are filled with spring water, in the bright sunlight, generating shining ripples by mountain breezes. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science of China ~]
The Hanis in the Ailaoshan Mountain have a common saying: “terrace is the face of a young man. Whether a young man is good-looking or not largely depends on how his terraces are made. If he is expert at all jobs, such as building banks, scraping dykes and ploughing fields, he will gain praise by the people and win girls' love. Also, the crucial element of whether a girl is beautiful is how she behaves in terraces.” ~
The terrace are an important source of food for the Hani People. Therefore, they extremely treasure water. In order to conserve and allocate water for farm work in the right season, there has been a folk custom of "carving wood to ration water" since ancient times. According to the acreage a flow of spring can irrigate, people gather together and decide the amount of water every terrace and field needs. Then they put up a piece of crossed wood at the entrance of the field, and carve the amount of water needed on it. As the stream flows by the fields, an irrigation gate is opened and amount of water needed for that field flows in.
Pu’er, one of the most exotic teas, is green tea fermented with bacteria. Invented by Tang Dynasty traders. It is produced mainly from scrubby green tea trees that blanket the mountains of fabled Menghai County in Yunnan Province. Pu’er is pleasantly aromatic beverage that promoters claim reduces cholesterol and cures hangovers. The best pu’er teas are aged 20 to 60 years and has been described as being "like a monk — very plain, enduring."
Pu'er tea is sold as loose tea or pressed tea. Pu'er tea is considered different from other teas. The tea leaves are red brown. "Older is better." The older the tea the more concentrated the tea perfume is — and a better. About 20 grams of is used in 500 milliliters of boiling water. Boiling water can be added more than five times. This way drinking Pu'er tea more affordable.
The Jinou and Hani minorities are known in China for cultivating tea bushes that are the source expensive Pu’er tea. Some of the bushes are over 100 years old. Puer is known as “green gold.” It was a key trading item on the ancient “Tea and Horse Route.” Accounts of the health benefits and medical use of Pu'er tea have been documented in various ancient scripts and famous books throughout Chinese history. This tea is strongly believed to have wide ranging health benefits including diabetic control, prevention of heart disease, aiding digestion and losing weight. Pu'er tea has been popular in China for over 1,700 years.
Image Sources: Nolls China website, Joho Maps, Wikimedia Commons, YouTube
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, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Chinese government, UNESCO, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.
Last updated September 2022