The Jino (Jinou) are a small ethnic group that wasn't recognized until 1979. Before that time they were regarded as a subgroup of the Dai. They live in The Jinos live in bamboo houses built on stilts on flat hilltops in the Jinoluoke mountains in Jinghong County in Xishuangbanna Prefecture in Yunnan Province and speak a Sino-Tibetan language that is closely related to Yi and Burmese. They have no written language.

The Jino are known in China as producers of Puer tea. They grow wet and dry rice on terraced fields. and raise bananas, papayas, maize and cotton. Men hunt with crossbow, poison arrows, shotguns and traps. Women gather fruits, medicinal plants and herbs and weave cloth with a waist loom. Women have traditionally had high status; premarital sex is acceptable; and there is no stigma attached to illegitimate children. Their wedding ceremony features the tying of a “lover’s lock” of the bride and groom by older relatives.

The Jino are one of the smallest and least studied minorities in China and one of the last to be included as "national minority" as they were only recognized in 1979. Living for centuries in the mountains near the Laos border they developed a complex culture with links to both ancient Han dynasty China and the matriarchal peoples of Northwest Yunnan. "Jino" is the name they call themselves. In their language it means: "Descending from the uncle", which shows that the Jino lived in a matriarchal society until recent times, in which the maternal uncle's authority was the most important in the family. [Source: Ethnic China]

Websites and Sources: Book Chinese Minorities stanford.edu ; Chinese Government Law on Minorities china.org.cn ; Minority Rights minorityrights.org ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Ethnic China ethnic-china.com ;Wikipedia List of Ethnic Minorities in China Wikipedia ; Travel China Guide travelchinaguide.com ; China.org (government source) china.org.cn ; People’s Daily (government source) peopledaily.com.cn ; Paul Noll site: paulnoll.com ; Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science Museums of China Books: Ethnic Groups in China, Du Roufu and Vincent F. Yip, Science Press, Beijing, 1993; An Ethnohistorical Dictionary of China, Olson, James, Greenwood Press, Westport, 1998; “China's Minority Nationalities,” Great Wall Books, Beijing, 1984; “Restless Female Souls: The Jinuos” by Zhao Jie is a booklet put out in 1995 by the Yunnan Publicity Centre for Foreign Countries as part of the a “Women’s Culture series, which focuses on different ethnic groups found in Yunnan province. The soft-cover 100-page booklet contains both color photographs and text describing the life and customs of women. The series is published by the Yunnan Publishing House, 100 Shulin Street, Kunming 65001 China, and distributed by the China International Book Trading Corporation, 35 Chegongzhuang Xilu, Beijing 100044 China (P.O. Box 399, Beijing, China).

Jino Population, Language and Groups

The Jino are the 13th smallest ethnic group and the 12th smallest minority out of 55 in China. They numbered 23,143 in 2010 and made up 0.0017 percent of the total population of China in 2010 according to the 2010 Chinese census. Jino populations in China in the past: 20,899 in 2000 according to the 2000 Chinese census; 18,021 in 1990 according to the 1990 Chinese census. A total of 11,260 were counted in 1982. [Sources: People’s Republic of China censuses, Wikipedia]

The Jino language belongs to Yi branch of the Tibetan-Burmese branch of the Chinese-Tibetan language family. Its structure and vocabulary have much in common with Yi and Burmese. There are two dialects: Youle (Shanmantou) and Buyuan, with differences large enough that they are mostly mutually unintelligible to their speakers.[Source: China.org]

The Jino never developed their own written language. In the past, they kept records with notchings on wood or bamboo. Since their number were so small, the Chinese government never felt compelled to develop a written language for them as it had done for ethnic groups. Many Jino use Mandarin Chinese as a written language and as their second spoken language. Faced with modernization, the oral language traditions of the Jino are struggling to stay alive except as historical recordings preserved in museums. [Source: Chinatravel.com]

There are three Jino branches: Wuyou, Axi and Aha. Historians, anthropologists and linguists believe they separated in these three branches many centuries ago, before they migrated to where they presently live. Each one of these branches reveres a female ancestor, which they worship at most important festivities. The Wuyou Branch inhabits Lewang and Jino Township. The Axi Branch live in the Jinoshan Mountains. The Aha Branch also live in the Jinoshan Mountains. [Source: Ethnic China]

Jino Region

The Jino live mainly in southwest Yunnan Province in Jino Ethnic Town (Jinoluoke Township) of Jinghong County in the Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture. A few are also scattered in towns like Mengwang, Mengyang, Ganlanba, Dadugang of Jinghong County, Xiangming and Menglun of Mengla County. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science of China, China virtual museums, Computer Network Information Center of Chinese Academy of Sciences ~]

Jinoluoke is a mountainous area stretching for 70 kilometers from east to west and 50 kilometers from north to south. The climate there is rainy and subtropical with an average annual temperature of 18 to 20 degrees. The rainy season lasts from May to September with July and August having the heaviest rainfall. The rest of the year is dry. The area land is crisscrossed by numerous rivers and streams, the longest being the Pani and the Small Black rivers. The major crops are upland and wet rice and corn. The famous Pu'er tea grows on Mount Jino. Jinoluoke also has a long history of cotton-growing and is abundant in such tropical fruits as bananas and papayas. Elephants and wild oxen roam the dense primeval forests which are also the habitat of monkeys, hornbills and other birds. Jinoluoke is also rich in mineral resources. [Source: China.org]

Sometimes wild elephants roam near Jino villages, as the biggest elephants reserve in China is nearby. The Jino Mountain, where the Jinos inhabit, has fertile soils is one of the six most famous mountains for the growing of the world-famous "Pu'er" tea. Sometimes the Jino are called Youle folk due to their homeland in the Youle mountains, a sparsely-populated, densely-forested, mountainous region not far from Xishuangbanna Nature Reserve. They live in a number of small enclaves in and around the village of Jino in Jinghong County, about 40 kilometers - as the crow flies - east-northeast of the city of Jinghong, capital of Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture. To get to Jino one must travel to the city of Mengyang, about 34 kilometers northeast of the city of Jinghong, then travel in a southeasterly direction a further 19 kilometers or so to Jino. Many cultural characteristics of the Jino are disappearing quickly. Now they only wear their elaborated dress at their main festivals. Projects aimed at generating cultural revitalization with the tourism have failed. [Source: Chinatravel.com ~ *]


The Jino, Dai and several other ethnic groups living mainly in the Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture and in the Dehong Dai and Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture in southwestern Yunnan Province, though smaller pockets of Dai live in and around the Yunnan cities of Xinping and Yuanjiang, as well as in other autonomous counties in Yunnan Province.

Xishuangbanna is a region in southern Yunnan, near Burma and the Golden Triangle opium-growing region, known for its tropical forests, green mountains, and ethnic minorities. About a quarter of the people are Dai, another quarter are Han Chinese and the remainder include members of the Miao, Zhuang, Jino, Bulang, Lahu and Wa minorities. Xishuabgbanna means “Twelve Thousand Fields” or “Twelve Principalities.” It was once the center of a kingdom that stretched into Burma, Thailand and Laos. During World War II it was the site of some bombing raids and many of the tribal people fled into Burma, Thailand and Laos. When the Communist took over the region they ended the kingdom, and the king became an academic in Kunming. Large numbers of Han Chinese moved in to the area during the Korean War when the region was used to grow rubber trees for the war effort.

The prefecture of Xishuangbanna is unique in China. For it's semi-tropical climate and abundance of flora and fauna, it enjoys special protection, as demonstrated by the declaration of numerous Nature Reserves and the development of a model of tourism that largely focuses on a respect for nature. Today almost one third of Xishuangbanna is protected forest. [Source: Ethnic China]

History of the Jino

Jinghong County in Yunnan

The name Jino did not appear in Chinese historical annals until the 18th century. For centuries they were mistakenly considered as a subgroup to the Dai. It was not until 1979 that the Chinese government officially recognized the Jino as a separate Chinese ethnic minority, China's latest, the 55th. Otherwise it is believed that the Jino have a long history. They are thought to be descendants of the ancient Qiang. as many Yunnan groups are, and migrated into present-day Yunnan from Sichuan, settling alongside the more dominant and much more numerous Dai ethnic group, to whom the Jino apparently served as vassals. [Source: Chinatravel.com]

In the past, the Jinos were named "Diuluo", meaning abandoned, for people believed the Jinos were the soldiers abandoned during Kongming's (Kongming is also referred as ZhugeLiang, a legendary politician in the Three Kingdoms) south expedition in the A.D. 3rd century. Actually, in Jino's language, "Jino" has no meaning of being abandoned. "Ji" stands for the maternal uncle, and "no" means behind. Therefore, the combination of "Jino" means "following behind the maternal uncle," which can be extended as "a people holding the maternal uncle in high esteem." [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities]

It appears that the Jino have lived in the present area since 13th century.According to Jinos' own traditions they are not the original inhabitants of where they presently live. They are believed to have originated some place not so far away, because the road the their dead follow, during funeral ceremonies, to carry the soul to the ancestors land is not long. Experts have been able to trace with certain precision origin and migrations of the Jino. In July 1979, they were identified as the 55th ethnic minority in China, the last one to be so identified. [Source: Ethnic China *]

Legends About Jino Origins

The Jino believe their world was created by a goddess called Amoyaobai. Each branch of the Jino is considered to have been founded by a female ancestor. According to their legends, confirmed in some aspects by the Dai's chronicles, there was a Jino queen among the Dai, who married one of the kings of Xishuangbanna. [Source: Ethnic China *]

According to the Chinese government: “It is said that the Jinos migrated to Jinoluoke from Pu'er and Mojiang or places even farther north. It seems likely that they still lived in a matriarchal society when they first settled around the Jino Mountain. Legend has it that the first settler on the mountain ridge was a widow by the name of Jiezhuo. She gave birth to seven boys and seven girls who later married each other. As the population grew, the big family was divided into two groups to live in as many villages, or rather two clans that could intermarry. One was called Citong, the patriarchal village, and the other was Manfeng, the matriarchal village. With the passage of time, the Jino population multiplied and more Jino villages came into existence. [China.org]

It is widely believed that during most of their history, the Jino lived in a matriarchal society. They have several myths that narrate how the matriarchal society was transformed in a patriarchal one. In general, they consider that the transformation of the society occurred after the introduction of iron's tools and weapons among and militarization of masculine society. The man who ended Jino matriarchal society is famous in Jino history for his hatred of women and is said to have murdered some of them. Even though was eventually killed for his action he is regarded as the founder of the first patriarchal villages. For many years there were both patriarchal and matriarchal villages among the Jinos.

In 1942 a new cult arose among them that shook its social structure. In many villages the traditional ceremonies in praise of the goddesses Bailebao and Mopei stopped, and they never resumed again. Some rites and myths associated with them were lost forever.

20080305-Jinup goddess statue in Xishuangbanna twip. org2.jpg
Jinou goddess

Jino Religion and Funerals

The Jino are animists and ancestor worshipers. They still practice divination before make important decisions or doing some action and frequently carry out sacrifices. Traditionally, the yearly sowing did not begin until after the village elders had animals slaughtered and offered to the spirits at a ceremony during which the elders put a few seeds in the soil. The dead are buried under little huts, where relatives leave offerings of food.

The Jino have traditionally believed that all things on earth have souls. Ancestral worship constitutes an important part of their religious activities. The name Jino means "descendants of uncle" or "the ethnic group that respects its forbears". When there was a drought or something untoward happened, a shaman was sent for to mumble prayers and kill oxen, pigs or dogs to appease the trouble-making spirits. Shamans also used to cure diseases with herbal medicines. [Source: China.org |]

The Jino deeply revere the sun. According to Chinatravel.com: “The sun-drum is a sacred musical instrument in Jino culture. Each Jino village has two sun-drums, the Father Drum and the Mother Drum, which are the embodiment of the divine spirits and which therefore may not be handled except during sacred ceremonies, or festivals, where villagers pay homage to the divine spirits and entreat them to bless the Jino with a bountiful harvest, ward off disease. [Source: Chinatravel.com]

After a Jino person dies, the dead dead body is put in a coffin carved out of a single log and buried in a communal cemetery. The personal belongings of the dead — work tools and clothing, and a copper pot of silver for some of the rich — are buried as sacrificial objects. Above the grave, a small thatched hut with bamboo tables inside is set up to provide a place for the relatives of the dead to offer meals to the departed soul for a period of one to three years. |

Jino Festivals

There are many Jino festivals. There are worships for "Large Dragon" and "Small Dragon," both of which meant to get rid of disasters and pray for good harvests. A festival is held annually in the wake of a harvest, at which all Jinos gather to help themselves to newly harvested rice. The Jino celebrate a torch festival in which participants light torches in front of their houses and set large fires in their village squares. The festival honors a woman who leaped into a fire rather make love with a king. Before the village torch is lit people gather around it and drink rice wine.

The Temaoke Festival is the biggest event on the Jino calender. It features the big drum dance. The big drum is regarded as a divine instrument by the Jino. According to legend when the Jino homeland was inundated by a flood the ancestors of the Jino survived by holding on to the big drum. Music is also made with a qiek, an instrument made from bamboo that looks like a large stake.

Jino dancing

Temaoke Festival (literally "Iron-Forging Festival") is held over a three-day period, January 6th - 8th on the Western calendar. Village men, dressed in festival clothes, form a circle around a chosen water buffalo bull and stab it with spears until the animal dies from a loss of blood. The ritual pays homage to Jino ancestors who, in the past, killed fiercer animals with more primitive weapons to survive. [Source: Chinatravel.com \=/]

The meat from the killed oxen is divided equitably amongst the households, After this there is feast at the house of the head of the village, where the sun-drum ceremony will take place, and villagers sing and dance through the night, placing sacrificial items ranging from rooster feathers to fresh flowers to iron hammers before the sacred sun-drum. The next day, village blacksmith arrives at the home of the head of the village and receive instructions to forge new agricultural implements for the villagers. Other parts of the festival include a coming-of-age courtship ceremony for young men and women and a coming-of-age career-choosing ceremony. For the courtship ceremony, 15-year-old girls change their hairdo to that of an adult and they receive many presents of clothes and kitchen utensils. For the career-choosing ceremony, 15-year-old boys are given the tools they will need to ply the trade they have chosen. From this age onwards, young people may marry and take on any other adult obligations. \=/

The New Rice Festival is a harvest festival to celebrate the ripening of rice. It usually falls during the 7th or 8th lunar month. Chickens are slaughtered and a feast is prepared. Family and friends gather to sing and dance and give thanks for the good luck that they have enjoyed during the previous year. It is not unusual for such feasts to last until daybreak the next day. \=/

Jino Society and Village Organization

Jino mountain village boundaries are defined by wooden and stone markers carved with images of swords or spears. Jino villagers have tradionally held land within their village in common. Their bamboo houses rest on stilts and are built on higher slopes. Two or more surname groups make up a village. At the beginning of the 20th century, large extended families were common. These included as many as twenty men linked by descent and their wives and children, sharing labor and a common budget. By the 1930s this system had begun to disappear in favor of separate residences and nuclear families. Some Jino villages today have as many as 100 households, butthe average is 30 to 40. Villages have traditionally been led by an elder man and woman, and the sole requirement for office was that they were the oldest man and woman in the village. [Source: “Encyclopedia of World Cultures Volume 6: Russia-Eurasia/China” edited by Paul Friedrich and Norma Diamond, 1994]

According to the Chinese government: “Until the 1970s, Jino people still offered sacrifices to their ancestors in the matriarchal and patriarchal villages every year. The early ancestors of the Jinos, united by ties of consanguinity into a big family, dwelled in the Jizhuo Mountains in very ancient times. Traditionally, each village was inhabited by at least two clans whose members could intermarry. Two elders were elected to take care of village administration as well as sacrificial rites and production. Each village was a small, self-contained world. [Source: China.org|

“Egalitarianism still manifests itself to these days in Jino customs. The meat of wild beasts brought back by hunters is divided equally among all adults and children in a village. Even a small deer is cut into very tiny pieces and shared out among all the villagers, including the new-born. Because of low crop-yields resulting from basic farming methods. But despite that, the Jinos stored what little grain they had in unguarded straw sheds outside their houses, and never worried that it would be stolen. |

“Zhuoba (the village father) and Zhuose (the village mother) were the leaders in a communal village. Being the oldest people in the village, they were respected by all. They became village leaders by virtue of their seniority, not because they were brave in war or eloquent in speech. No matter how mediocre they might be, even if they were blind or deaf, they had to serve as village elders so long as they were the oldest people in the community. After their death, the next eldest in the same clan would be chosen as successors. The elders fixed the dates for holidays. The beating of a big drum and gong in elders' homes ushered in the new year, and all the villagers, young and old, would rush to the elders' homes to sing and dance.” |

Jino Food

Jino women traditionally gathered 40 or 50 different edible wild herbs and wild fruits and men carried crossbows, bow and arrows or primitive guns with them while working, in order to capture any wild animals or birds they encountered. Game has always been an important part of the Jinos' diet. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities ~]

There is a common saying among the Jinos-"Han fries, Dai dips and Jino pounds," which means that the Hans prefer frying the dishes, and the Dais love dipping the food into seasonings, while the Jinos mainly eat cold pounded food. The common Jino seasonings are hot pepper, lemongrass, turmeric leaves, wild anise, peppermint and ginger. Unique materials and cookery give birth to many rarely known, even unbelievable dishes, such as "chopped raw meat", "polliwogs mixed with smelly vegetable", "river crabs steamed in banana leaves", "dried squirrel meat soup" and "braised sour ant eggs". ~

"Chopped raw meat" is made with fresh meat chopped into shreds, adding some seasonings like salt, hot pepper, ginger powder, peppermint and chives, and then stirring and molding it repeatedly until the meat turns white in color. For "polliwog mixed with smelly vegetable", immature tadpoles are caught and washed clean, cooked in boiling water for a short moment, and eaten mixed with seasonings. The dish smells like the "Smelly Tofu" in Beijing, and tastes refreshing, leaving a lasting and pleasant aftertaste. The Jinos are used to hanging the hunted squirrel meat over the edge of the fire pit in their bamboo house and smoking the meat until it dries. This keeps the meat from going bad. When eating it, they the meat into pieces and make it into a soup, which is delicious but not greasy.

The areas where the Jinos inhabit have plenty of ants, which are quite out of the ordinary. They live in trees instead of underground and their eggs are extraordinarily huge, as big as soybeans. The eggs of these ants are deposited in bag-shaped sacs that hang on trees. The sacs can be quite big and heavy, weighing over five kilograms. The Jinos are fond of eating ant eggs. In the third, forth and fifth lunar months—when the ants lay their eggs—they go out to search for the sacs. Having found the sacs, they cut them open with knives, taking out the pure white and sparkling bright ant eggs and cook them with sour seasonings. The eggs not only are nourishing and delicious, but also make a cracking sound when chewed in the mouth. ~

Jino cooking and dining both take place around the fire pit on the second floor of their bamboo housea, with certain etiquettes. While having dinner, the whole family should be seated in proper order around the bamboo table by the pit, the head of the family facing the pit and the guests beside the pit. When ladling food for guests, a little is ladled each time and this is repeated many times. Jino seldom pick up food for the guests as this is viewed as impolite behavior, implying that guests are not welcome to eat as much as they like. Due to their belief that all things have souls, the Jino think that grains of rice have souls too, so the rice in the steamer should not be eaten completely even though they are still hungry. If the rice steamer is empty, the Jino believe, the grain's soul will fly away and never come back, and people will starve. ~

Jino Tea Eating

Xishuangbanna is one of the areas that produces famous Puer tea. Areas around Mount Nannuo, Mount Youle, Mount Xiangming and Mount Yiwu are famous for it. Tea is believed to have originated from here and wild tea plants still grow in the rain forests.

All the ethnic groups that live in Xishuangbanna, not only drink tea, but also eat it. The Jino are good at making mixed cold tea dishes. They collect some young leaves from the tea plants in the rain forest in the morning, cook them over a fire for about 30 minutes and mix them with salt, spicy pepper and fresh ginger, then drop some balm, add some garlic paste and mix them into a dish. This kind of cold mixed tea dishes are eaten together with sticky rice, they are faintly sweet and also have good aftertastes. In summer time, these dishes can help people to wipe out the inner heat; in winter, they can help people to get rid of coldness. In the International Tea Festival held in April of 1993, the cold mixed tea dishes were made by beautiful Youle girls beside the Peacock Lake of Jinghong; the cold tea dishes were presented to the tea experts from 12 countries and districts, after these distinguished guests tried the tea dishes, they all spoke highly of them.

Masuda Atsushi wrote: The Jino people eat liangban tea by soaking the tea leaves to remove bitterness. One group of the Tai people fermented tea leaves to eat them as pickles (suancha). The practice of fermenting tea leaves for consumption is also found in northeastern Myanmar (Lahpet-so), in northern Thailand and northwest Laos (Miang). The consumption of pickled tea leaves thus extends over a wide area, from Yunnan throughout Southeast Asia. Leaves used for tea-eating are comprised of raw, dried, and pickled leaves, the former being used during the harvest season, while dried and pickled leaves are processed for preservation when the leaves cannot be harvested. [Source: Tea as Commodity in Southwest Yunnan Province: Pu’er and the Sipsongpanna in Qing China Masuda Atsushi journal or publication title Cultural Reproduction on its Interface: From the Perspectives of Text, Diplomacy, Otherness, and Tea in East Asia, March 31, 2010]

Jino Clothes

Jino men's cotton and hemp clothes

Jino men and women wear short sarongs, which makes it easier to work in the fields. Women traditionally wore a white cowl, a cotton tunic with colorful stripes, a black sarong and had large holes in their ear lobes which were sometimes adorned with flowers. Jino women sometimes painted their teeth as a sign of beauty and as protection from tooth decay. In the old days Jinos lived in long houses containing 25 or more families. each family had a hearth, with the largest hearth belonging to the oldest man. Long houses are rarely built anymore and the Jino are losing their old customs.

Jino men usually wear collarless white jackets and white or blue trousers made of flax or cotton. Before liberation most men divided their hair into three tufts. Women, as a rule, prefer multi-colored and embroidered collarless short gowns and short black skirts rimmed in red and opened at the front. They also wear their hair in a coil just above the foreheads. Both men and women used go barefooted, and have thick bamboo or wooden sticks plugged into the holes in their earlobes. Jino women blackened their teeth with the sap of the lacquer tree (Toxicodendron vernicifluum), partly because blackened teeth in Jino women is considered a thing of beauty, and partly because the sap of the lacquer tree reduces the incidence of tooth decay. The Jinos carry things in baskets on their backs with straps tied on their foreheads. [Source: China.org |; Chinatravel.com \=/]

Jino women are experts in spinning and weaving. In the old days, and to some extent today, it was common to see Jino women, both inside and outside their homes, twisting threads with spindles and making cotton cloth. Jino cotton cloth, named "Chopper Cloth", is hand-weaved with a spinning machine. While spinning, women sit on the ground, with one end of the warps tied to their waists and the other end to two sticks opposite. The wefts are wound the bamboo shuttles. During the operation, they use their hands to handle the shuttles back and forth, and push the wefts taut with chopper-shaped board after each round. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities ~]

Jino men are fond of wearing broad trousers or shorts and collarless, black-and-white-squared coats, open on the front with no buttons. On the front in front of the chest are several red and blue stripes. A 20-centimeter-squared pattern of the sun is often sewn on the back. The long-sleeve tunic worn by men is similar to the one worn by Jino women, except that the male's tunic is of white cotton with a band of narrow, horizontal stripes near the mid-section, and with similar but vertical stripes on either side of the front opening. There are also a couple of broad bands of narrow, horizontal stripes on the sleeves of the tunic, in the same color scheme as the stripes on the body of the tunic. Their knee-length, broad-legged trousers are made of either flax or cotton, dyed black or blue. ~\=/

Jino women wear a piece of heart-shaped embroidered cloth as a bra-undershirt and a collarless embroidered, cotton tunic — with blue, red, yellow and white— open on the front. The tunic typically has horizontal stripes in eye-catchingly bright colors on the front and an embroidered image of the moon on the back. Their skirts are edged with red cloth, under which they wrap their legs with blue or black leggings or heavy stockings that go from the ankle up to just below the knee. Their distinctive a white, pointed, cape-like hood, or cowl, reaches the shoulders in back like a cloak. This hat is made with a piece of 60-centimeter-long and-23-centimeters-wide vertical-lined chopper cloth, which is folded in the middle and is sewn on one side. When wearing the hat, women usually fold up the brim a width of one finger. ~\=/

Jino Holy Wooden Drums

Jino woman's cotton and hemp clothes

The Jinos like singing and are good at improvising poems and setting them to music. At holiday gatherings, the young dance to songs sung by elders. Jino festivals often feature singing and dancing.

During the 12th lunar month, flowers bloom and people celebrate the harvest comes, Zhuoba, an old man of the village, starts to beat the ox hide drum: "Dong-Dong-Dong". Upon hearing these sounds, villagers throng to the Zhuoba's house and dance the traditional "Sun Drum Dance" around the huge drum. This wooden drum is the most sacred instrument for the Jinos. Generally, every village has two sun drums—the bigger Father Drum and the smaller Mother Drum. The main body of the drum is made from a solid round tree trunk. The cylinder-shaped drum is about one meter in length, with a diameter of 50-70 centimeters. Both two sides are covered with ox hide, nailed tightly with square wooden nails. In the middle are 20 wooden handles and square holes used for hanging the drum on ropes.[Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities ~]

The Jinos regard the wooden drum as the embodiment of divinities and the symbol of the village, and believe that it can bless and protect the whole village and bring prosperity and abundant harvests. In normal times, the drums in the houses of Zhuoba and Zhuosheng (another elder whose position is just below Zhuoba), and no one is allowed to touch or beat them. Only when Zhuoba announces the New Year and people have Sun Drum Dances, or in some special circumstances, are the drums allowed to be used. ~

Making the wooden drum is an extremely important activity for every village and has a set of strict procedures. The first thing is to select one tree and choose a propitious day to sacrifice chickens to the gods and cut the tree. The cutting of the trees is carried out at night, and cannot be seen by women or animals. Preparing drum body takes place in a particular thatched shack in the village. The drum covering is fixed at the very moment of day-break as the Jinos believe that at this time the moon is falling down, the stars are sparse, and the ground is gloomy without light, so that the shadows of the people covering the drum will not fall into the drum. Before covering the drum, villagers kill chickens to offer sacrifices to the drum. When the covering is finished, the ceremony of sacrifice is repeated again, and people dance the Sun Drum Dance. After that, villagers carry the wooden drum, singing and dancing, to the Zhuoba or Zhuosheng's house to be consecrated. ~

Why do the Jinos have such a great respect for the wooden drum? According to legend, once in the remote antiquity, heaven fell, the earth cracked, and fierce flood-producing storms filled the skies. In the whole world, only the brother Mahei and his sister Maniu—who hide in the base of a drum covered with ox hide, following the direction of the Creator—escaped death. In order to reproduce human beings, the brother and the sister had to get married and bear sons and daughters, becoming the ancestors of the Jinos. They felt deeply indebted to the kindness of the wooden drum for saving their lives, so they beat the drum when celebrating the harvest in 12th lunar month. When their descendants heard the sounds, they came around the drum one after another and danced for joy to their hearts' content. Since then, the wooden drum and the Sun Drum Dance have been handed down from generation to generation. ~

Jino Economy, Agriculture and Hunting

The Jino are farmers, hunters and gatherers. They grow famous the Puer tea, rice, maize, bananas, papayas, and cotton. The traditionally practiced slash and burn agriculture and began to irrigating crops in the mid 20th century. Land was communally owned by clans or villages and farmed collectively except in some villages where land was privately owned.

Every community traditionally has had men who were blacksmiths and silversmiths. Men also made bamboo and rattan furniture and other household items while women spun and wove cloth. In the past the Jino exchanged tea and cotton with the Han and Dai for iron and foodstuffs.

The Jinos are great hunters. When men go out hunting, they shoulder crossbows with poisoned arrows or shot-guns. They are also experts in the use of traps and nooses to catch wild animals. They hunt in groups and divide the game equally among the participants. But the pelts of animals go to the men who shot them. The pelts are sometimes used for clothing and as a trade item along with tea, cotton, and handmade rattan items. While the men hunt, the women gather wild fruit and nuts in the forests. Edible herbs are also collected for soup. [Source: China.org]

Jino Development Under the Communist China

According to the Chinese government: Changes began to take place in Jino life in 1954 when teams sent by the government arrived for the first time in the out-of-the-way mountainous areas. They brought relief supplies and helped the local people to step up production. After winning over the powerful village elders, they helped the Jinos undertake democratic reforms to put an end to outdated institutions that had kept them backward for centuries. [Source: China.org |]

“And in 1955, the Jinos set up cooperative teams to work the land more effectively. Formerly upland rice was cultivated in small jungle clearings where the trees were felled and burnt before each sowing. Today the crop is grown on well-prepared paddy fields, and the yield has jumped up enormously. The paddy is irrigated by water lifted by electric pumps. The service of prayer-mumbling priests is no longer needed, nor was the slaughtering of animals, to appease evil spirits in times of drought. |

“Small reservoirs and hydroelectric installations have been built, and electric lamps have replaced the flickering oil-lamps that once lit Jino homes. The wooden mortars formerly used for pounding rice have gone, too, with the advent of milling equipment powered by electricity. In 1981 there were 14 primary schools and middle schools with an enrolment of 1,600 in the mountainous areas where most people used to be illiterate. The Jinos now boast their own college students and university-trained doctors. Another thing the Jinos welcome most is the emergence of a network of trading stores that offer farm implements, clothing, food, salt and a long list of goods at moderate prices. Gone are the travelling cut-throat merchants who used to squeeze every cent out of the pockets of the Jino people.” |

Pu'er Tea

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 Twip.org and CNTO, Wiki Commons, China.org

Text Sources: 1) “Encyclopedia of World Cultures: Russia and Eurasia/ China”, edited by Paul Friedrich and Norma Diamond (C.K. Hall & Company; 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

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