Hani Women in Yuanyang County

The Hani are one of the poorest and least developed hill tribe groups in Southeast Asia, but they are also among of the best known to tourists. Hani women are famous for their beautiful, elaborate and distinctive traditional costumes. The Hani are known as the Akha in Southeast Asia and sometimes called the Haoni or Aini. In China, the they have traditionally been a highland tribe dominated by the lowland Dais.

The Hani-Akha are a group of culturally and linguistic related peoples that inhabit the southern part of Yunnan province and the northern part of Southeast Asia in Thailand, Laos and Myanmar). They are divided into many branches. In China, the Hani live mainly in southern Yunnan Province between the Honghe River and Lancangjiang (Mekong River) in the Honghe Hani and Yi Autonomous Prefectures, the Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture, and Jiangcheng Hani and Yi Autonomous County and the counties of Mojiang, Lvchun and Yuanjiang. They are also scattered in cities, prefectures and counties like Jinping Simao, and Lancang, They are also found in Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. The Hani, according to Chinese historical records, used to be called Heyi (Heman), Heni, Woni, Ani, Hani, and called themselves in more than 30 kinds of ways, such as Hani, Aini, Biyue, Kaduo, Haoni, Baihong, Budu, Duoni, Yeche, Amu. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities]

The Hani have traditionally been semi-nomadic slash-and-burn agriculturalists. In some places they are involved in the opium trade but generally have not been associated with it as much as other groups. The Hani are sometimes disliked by the other Thai and Burmese hill tribes who consider them dirty, ignorant and violent.

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; Books about the Hani include “Females with Strange Marital Customs” by Wang Qinghua and Shi Junchao and “In Pursuit of Beauty” by Ning Zhang and Liu Wenxiao. Yunnan education publishing house, 1995.

Hani Names, Population and Branches

The Chinese government refers to the ethnic group as "Hani." The Hani refer to themselves as the "Kaduo," the "Aini," the "Haoni," the "Biyue," and the "Baihong." In Han Chinese historical texts they were called called "Heyi," "Heman," "Heni," "Woni," "Ahni," and "Hani." The Hani in Thailand refer to themselves as "Akha" and other Tai groups call them "Kaw" or "Ekaw." The Hani are also known as Yani, Budu, Eoni and Haoni, [Source: Beth E. Notar, “Encyclopedia of World Cultures Volume 6: Russia-Eurasia/China” edited by Paul Friedrich and Norma Diamond, 1994 |~|]

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The Hani usually often call themselves by least three different names, based on: 1) where they live; 2) the hairstyle and headdresses of their married women; and 3) the clan they belong. Different names can used describe groups belong to other groups or are part of the same group. Such naming can be very complex and confusing. Among the names rarely used anymore are Nuobi, Nuomei, Gehe, Haliao and Nami. In the Tang and Song Dynasties, Hani were called "Heman"; in Yuan Dynasty they were called "Wuman"; the in Ming Dynasty. "Heni"; in the Qing Dynasty "Woni" or "Heni". Although there are so many names, their pronunciations are all close to He, which in Chinese means peace and harmony. [Source: Chinatravel.com]

The Hani are the 15th largest ethnic group and the 14th largest minority in China. They numbered 1,733,166 in 2020 and made up 0.12 percent of the total population of China in 2020 according to the 2020 Chinese census. Hani populations in China in the past: 0.1246 percent of the total population; 1,660,932 in 2010 according to the 2010 Chinese census; 1,440,029 in 2000 according to the 2000 Chinese census; 1,253,952 in 1990 according to the 1990 Chinese census. A total of 481,220 were counted in China in 1953; 628,727 were counted in 1964; and 1,063,300 were, in 1982. [Sources: People’s Republic of China censuses, Wikipedia]

The total population of the Hani is around two million. Numbers in other countries are sketchy. In many places in Southeast Asia they are known as the Akha. In addition to those living in China, around 150,000 live in Myanmar, 100,000 in Laos, 75,000 in Thailand and 25,000 in Vietnam. They are found mostly in mountainous area between the Red River and the Mekong. Many live in the Golden Triangle area in Thailand, Myanmar and Laos.

The Hani are related to other ethnic groups living in southern Yunnan Province in China, and in the neighboring countries: Burma, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. The Hani in China are divided into two main groups: 1) the Aini or Akha living in Xishuangbanna Prefecture of China, as well as in Burma, Thailand and Laos; and the 2) Hani proper living in the basin of Honghe River (Honghe Prefecture in China and north of Vietnam). The Hani inhabit the Ailao and Wuliang Mountains, known for their warm climate and abundant rains. The Aini or Akha inhabit the mountain areas of Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture. About three quarters of the Hani that live in China live in the Honghe Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnam. Some live the counties of Yuanjing, Mojing, Jiangcheng and Puer in Simao Prefecture. The rest mostly live in Xishuangbanna. [Source: Ethnic China*]

In China the Hani have the their own autonomous entities in Yunnan Province: 1) Honghe Hani and Yi Autonomous Prefecture; 2) Puer Hani and Yi Autonomous County; 3) Jiangcheng Hani and Yi Autonomous County; and 4) Mojiang Hani Autonomous County. Other ethnic groups live in these places. *\

Officially the Hani are divided in numerous branches, sometimes with few common characteristics. Most branches are defined by by geography. Some of them are: 1) The Aini, living in the basin of the Lancang River (Mekong River) in Xishuangbanna; 2) The Hani, in the Honghe River; 3) The Biyue (more than 100,000) that live in Simao and Yuanjiang counties; 4) The Haomi (100,000 people), living in Mojiang; 5) The Kaduos (100,000 people) from Simao and Mojiang. Other branches include: the Alou, Amu, Baihong, Bukong, Duoni, Emi, Jizou, Jiwei, Juhou, Kabie, Lami, Lobi, Menghua, Mika, Nisu, Pudu, Sansha, Sangkong, Yeche. *\

The Aini-Akha is the best known branch of the Hani nationality. In China, they are known as the Aini and live in the mountains of southern Yunnan from Xishuangbanna Prefecture to Menglian County. Their language is different from other Hani languages. They are called Akha outside China.

Hani Region

Where the Hani live, from Joshua Project

The Hani mainly live in the area between the Red River (Yuanjiang) and the Mekong (Lancang) rivers, which is also the valley between the Mengle and Ailao mountainsin southern Yunnan Province. They are under the jurisdiction of the Honghe Hani-Yi Autonomous Prefecture, which includes Honghe, Yuanyang, Luchun and Jinping counties. Others dwell in Mojiang, Jiangcheng, Pu'er, Lancang and Zhenyuan counties in Simao Prefecture; in Xishuangbanna's Menghai, Jinghong and Mengla counties; in Yuanjiang and Xinping, Yuxi Prefecture, and (a small number) in Eshan, Jianshui, Jingdong and Jinggu counties. [Source: China.org |]

Most Hani inhabit mountain areas between 800 and 2500 meters above sea level and are mainly engaged in agriculture. In China, they are famous for their rice terrace culture. Mojiang is the main shellac-producing region of China. Airushan, an Aini (Akha) area in Xishuangbanna, is one of the main growing areas of the famous Pu'er Tea. The Ailaoshan Mountain, where many Hani live, has some ancient forests and rare birds and animals. Geqiu city, capital of Honghe Autonomous Prefecture, is regarded at the "Tin Capital" of China.

The areas inhabited by the Hanis have rich natural resources. Beneath the ground are deposits of tin, copper, iron, nickel and other minerals. Growing on the rolling Ailao Mountains are pine, cypress, palm, tung oil and camphor trees, and the forests abound in animals such as tigers, leopards, bears, monkeys, peacocks, parrots and pheasants. Being subtropical, the land is fertile and the rainfall plentiful — ideal for growing rice, millet, cotton, peanuts, indigo and tea. Xishuangbanna's Nanru Hills are one of the country's major producers of the famous Pu'er tea. |

Hani Languages and Names

The Hani speak a tonal language similar to the languages spoken by the Lisu, Lahu and Yi. The Hani language belongs to the Yi branch of the Tibeto-Burman group of the Sino-Tibetan language family. Hani vowels, mostly have single syllable, are differentiated as tight and loose while compound vowels basically appear in the words imported from mandarin. Word order and empty words are important in the syntax. The ordinary sentence order is subject + object + verbs. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Chinatravel.com \=/]

The Hani have traditionally not had a written language. The Chinese, Thais and missionaries have developed Roman-based, Thai-based and Chinese-based scripts for the Hani language. The Chinese government helped them standardize their written language. Originally, the Hani kept records by carving notches on sticks. In the 1950s that a Pinyin Latin-alphabet system was created for them in China with the help of the central government. The Hani language spoken in Da Village of the Luchun County, a branch of the Haya dialect, was set as the standard Hani pronunciation. In addition, a number of Hani language teachers were trained and Hani textbooks compiled. Nowadays Hani language is taught in some local schools. ~ \=/

the name of a school: 1) top Hani language in Roman script; 2) written in Yi script; 3) in Chinese characters

There are a number of dialects. Some are so different they are can not be understood by other Hani. Many words have been borrowed from Thai, Chinese and other local languages. There are three main dialects: 1) as Ha(ni)-Ai(ni), 2) Bi(yue)-Ka(duo) and 3) Hao(ni)-Bai(hong), and several local dialects. The Haya dialect, spoken by those who call themselves Hani and Yani. This dialect is divided in two secondary dialects— Hani and Yani—that in turn are each divided in several local languages. Some 630,000 people speak the Haya dialect. Those that speak the Hani dialect are distributed by the Honghe Prefecture, districts of Honghe, Yuanyang, Luchun and Jinping.Those that speak the Yani are in Xishuangbanna and Lancang. 2) The Pi-ka dialect is spoken by those who call themselves Piyue and Kaduo. It is subdivided into Piyue, Kaduo and Enu. About 270,000 people—mostly in Mojiang, Jiangcheng, Zhenyuan and Jingdong— speak it. 3) The Hao-Bai dialect is spoken by those who call themselves Haoni and Baihong. It is divided in two secondary dialects: Haoni and Baihong. The 150,000 Hani who speak these dialects are distributed in Mojiang, Yuanjiang and Puer. [Source: Ethnic China *]

Each child is given a genealogical name in which the first syllable comes from the father’s name and the second syllable is added. The Hani have long employed a naming system in which father's and son's names are linked. This system has traditionally appeared at the transition period from matrilineal clan system to patrilineal clan system. The son's name takes the last word of the father's name. Some Hani families record their genealogies this way up to 55 generations. *\

Origin of the Hani

There is some debate as to whether the Hani originated in Tibet or Yunnan Province in China. The Hani are believed to be descendants of the Lo-Los, a tribe which once had a number of independent kingdoms in the eastern Tibet and the Sichuan region of China. Oral traditions describe a homeland by a large, northern river and a southward migrations across many rivers.

A Hani legend says their ancestors were nomads from a faraway northern river plain who gradually migrated south. Some Chinese sources say the Hani might have migrated south from the present Yunnan-Sichuan border area. During the Sui and Tang dynasties, the Chinese referred to the Hani as wu man, a general term for other southern peoples. Some anthropologists believe the ancestors of the Hani, Lisu and Lahu descended from the highlands in the second century B.C. after some of them lost their ability to deal with the harsh cold. By the A.D. seventh century they reached to the valleys of China's Yunnan province and were mentioned in Chinese records from the Sui and Tang dynasties. [Source: Beth E. Notar, “Encyclopedia of World Cultures Volume 6: Russia-Eurasia/China” edited by Paul Friedrich and Norma Diamond, 1994 |~|]

The prevailing view is thought that the Hani descended from the Qiang, a people that 2,500 years ago inhabited the lands located in the west and southwest of the Chinese Empire. Later they emigrated southward. On the origin of Hani People, there are four major theories: 1) Oriental Origin; 2) Multiple Origins and Cultural Blending; 3) Natives to Both Banks of the Honghe River; and 4) Shi Qiang Migrating Southwards. [Source: Chinatravel.com \=/]

1) The Oriental Origin school argues that Hani People share the same origin of Han People. This argument is based on the fact that in some Hani community of south Yunnan the names of father and son are interrelated, which originates from the Han regions of Nanjing, Shanxi, Henan, Jiangxi and Guizhou. 2) Multiple Origins and Cultural Blending holds the view hold that Hani People is a blend of nationalities including the Qiang and other tribes from the Qinghai - Tibet Plateau and southern agricultural people living on rice paddy from the Yunnan Plateau. 4) Natives to Both Banks of the Honghe River school argues that Hani are native to the Honghe River region and have nothing to do with north groups based on unearthed relics and archeological finds. 4) The Shi and Qiang Migrating Southwards theory is the most widely accepted view. It argues that the Hani, together with dozens of other nationalities in Yunnan speaking Yi language, are mainly derived from the ancient northern Shi and Qing clans that migrated southward. \=/

Ancient Hani Society

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Hani in Chinese characters
Hani Apeicongpopo is a Hani poem that describes the Hani migrations from the land where their ancestors lived to their current homeland in the southern Yunnan. The first chapter contains a description of Hani society in their ancestral home before their migrations began. A family is described in the following way: “There are not the concept of father and mother, the brother doesn't know his brother, the sister doesn't know who is her sister, nobody cares who is their uncle, nobody thinks who is their aunt." [Source: Ethnic China *]

The poem also describes how people in those times lived in caves and learned from the animals how to survive. Lewis Morgan wrote in “Ancient Society” (1873): "Seeing the monkey picking fruits, they learn how to pick them; Seeing the bamboo rat digging bamboo buds, they learn how to dig them; Seeing to the pangolin with the body covered with fish scales, they use leaves of trees to get dressed; Listening to the parrot speaking, they learn how to speak." After a great fire in the forest, they take some burning branches to the cave, and they understand that from then on they should not fear leopards neither snakes. When the population grows the first ecological crisis takes place. They can not live in caves anymore. Then they learn from the magpies to make their houses in the branches of the trees, warm in winter and fresh in summer. With their round door they no longer fear wolves neither tigers. In historical times the Dulong and other peoples speaking languages related with the Hani, have been reported as living in caves and in nests in the trees.[Source: Morgan, Lewis, Ancient Society, 1873 *]

The poem relates how the hero Redou encourages his men to go hunting in groups—killing elephants, deer, leopards and boars—after seeing thousands of ants take a rat. Redou has many ideas; it invents the arch and the arrows that use the people when they go hunting to the mountain. As consequence of hunting, the second ecological crisis is generated. As the poem says: "Before, the men escaped when see wild animals, but now the wild animals escape before the men, and soon people don't get meat." *\

On how fishing is discovered, the poem says: "Next to the river they see an animal fishing, extending its wings to form a kind of net, people imitates him entering to the river to fish and they take out fishes to the banks." After that cooking is discovered: "One day an old man drops a fish to the fire and the people surprised discover that it was delicious, from then on they began to cook the foods." This breakthrough appeared to lead to a depletion of resources: "The fish of the two rivers is more and more scarce. Following the route of the wild animals and the main current of the waters the ancestors were forced to emigrate...Aidigeye led them to a new earth, with wide ponds where they settled." *\

After their first migration, the poem goes on, the Hani learn about the domestication of animals and agriculture from two women, one of who also invents the calendar. A legend in the poem describes how after killing a wild boar, hunters took the piglets to their village. There a woman named Zhesi has the idea of feeding them and keeping them in the village: thus begin the domestication of animals. The Hani soon learn to domesticate 18 species and make wooden barriers so that they can't escape. This makes everybody praise Zhesi. *\

A woman named Zhenu is credited with discovering agriculture. According to the poem, the Hani gathered seeds and buried and watered them but plants didn’t always grow as they liked. Pondering this problem, Zhesi concluded that not all the seeds germinated and grew because they were not planted at the right time. She realized the importance of planting according to a proper schedule and divided the year into 12 months and the months in 30 days and assigned each year to one of 12 animals, beginning with the rat. With this advancement the Hani are able to grow grain and after this they learn the grain they cannot consume can be used to make alcohol, which becomes an inseparable companion in the Hani's lives. *\

Early Hani History

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Toward the A.D. 3rd century, Chinese chronicles talk about a people called the Heyi living in the region of the Dadu River (Sichuan province). It is thought that they were the ancestors of the Hani. The Heyi were closely related with the Yi. Even today the languages and cultures of the Hani and Yi have many similarities. According to historical records, some of Heyi had moved to the area of the Lancang River between the 4th and 8th centuries [Source: Ethnic China *]

During the period of the Dali-based Nanzhao Kingdom (seventh to tenth century), the ancestors of the Hani had already reached the central part of Yunnan Province. They were dominated by the Nanzhao kings. After the fall of the Nanzhao regime, they emigrated toward the south frontier. It is possible that during the years between the fall of Nanzhao and the Mongol conquest of Yunnan, the Hani formed a unified and independent political entity in southeastern Yunnan. *\

The ancestors of both Hani and Yi were called "Wuman" during the Shui and Tang Dynasties. At the beginning of Tang, Hani began to separate from Wuman. They spread sparsely across the regions of the Lao Mountain and Wuliang Mountain and were called Heni. The Clan of Heman that appeared in the Liuzhao Mountain, southeast of Dian established economic and political ties with central China at that time by paying tributes to the central government for many times. With the rising of Nanzhao, all the other Hani clans fell under its reign. Together with Yi people of northeast and south Dian, they were called 37 Mans. In the middle of the 10th century laird system was set up after Hani had been entitled and recognized by the Duan royal family of Dali Kingdom. [Source: Chinatravel.com \=/]

History of the Hani in Imperial China

Local chieftains then paid tribute to the Tang court and in return they were included on the list of officials and subjects of that dynasty. From the Yuan Dynasty onwards the Hani were drawn into the Chinese imperial system. Their population was dispersed in the mountains and loosely governed by means of the tusis or local headmen. The Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) established a prefecture to rule the Hanis and other minorities in Yunnan. The Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) exercised its rule through local chieftains, who were granted official posts. During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) court officials replaced the chieftains. [Source: China.org]

In the Ming dynasties the Hani were incorporated into the tusi system. Tusi, often translated as "headmen" or "chieftains", were hereditary tribal leaders recognized as imperial officials by the Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties . In early Ming Dynasty Hani clans helped the Ming Army to conquer the palace of King Liang, the last stronghold of the Yuan government in Yunnan. The Yunnan Xinzhongshu Province was renamed Yunnan Buzhensi. In the Ailao Mountain region, the chief of the local government was selected from the Hani people, which helped bring Hani closer to the central government. After the middle of the 14th century Hani clans in Xinping, Yuanjiang, Mojiang, Puer and Zhengyuan started their transition to the higher development stage of feudalist society. [Source: Chinatravel.com \=/]

At the end of Ming Dynasty, when the Qing army was coming at Yunnan, Long Tao, the Hani chief united other people in the Liuzhao Mountain and Ailao Mountain. In 1665 the anti Qing rising took place in central and south Yunnan and the local governor Lu Changxian was elected as the rebellion leader. After the failure of the rising, the Qing army dismantled the local government and allocated this region to the governing of two provinces of Guangxi and Kaihua, which marked the end of the 500 years ruling of the Long Family in southeast Dian. This period however witnessed the Hani's melting and blending with other nationalities. Some of them migrated to the area around the Ailao Mountain at the southern bank of the Honghe River. Until then Hani of the Liuzhao Mountain region, southeast Dian vanished finally. \=/

Hostilities and Migrations and the Hani

In the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), a system of rotating Chinese officials replaced the tusi system. he Hani were involved in the Taiping Rebellion (1850-1864), which resulted in as many as 20 million deaths. In the fall of 1853 under the leadership of Tian Silang (originally called Tian Yizhen, Hani nationality, living in Mojiang), 3,000 people of various ethnic origins rose in Zhenyan, Mojiang and Xinping. The rebels even took the whole Zhenyuan County and the region around Ailao Mountain. [Source: Chinatravel.com \=/]

At around the same time, hostilities, tensions and conflicts in Yunnan Province—caused in part by migrations of Han Chinese into the region and uprisings by local people—forced many Hani to escape to the south. Some crossed China’s borders. They are the ancestors of the Akha populations in Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. .

The Hani began arriving in Burma from China in the 19th century after being harassed by the Chinese and the other hill tribes. There are records of them in eastern Burma in 1860s when they established relations with a the Shan prince of Kengtung. Most of the Hani in Thailand arrived after World War II from the politically unstable northern states of Burma.

The Hani were involved in an uprising against local leaders in 1917 led by the "Miao Queen" Ma Bomai . The conflict began when people from the Banana River under Chief Jingpingmending revolted against their Chinese leaders, Due to her courage, Lu Meibei, a young lady from the Sha Village, Yuanyang County, was given the title Senior General by the "Miao Queen". In the spring of 1920 the uprising army was defeated in the Malutang and Mao Mountain. Lu Meibei survived thanks to the protection of the locals. Later she was called Duoshaahbo(it means the grandfather of the Sha Village).

Between 1895 and 1935 the Hani resisted French incursion into the region, and during World War II they resisted the Japanese. In 1947 the Chinese Communist party formed a working group in the area and carried out guerrilla warfare. In 1950 the Chinese Communist party declared the area "liberated" and made it part of the People's Republic of China. [Source: Beth E. Notar, “Encyclopedia of World Cultures Volume 6: Russia-Eurasia/China” edited by Paul Friedrich and Norma Diamond, 1994]

Hani After Communists Takeover of China

After the Communists took over China in 1949, things change rapidly for the Hani. Initial enthusiasm after the arrival of the first revolutionaries soon evaporated. One Hani told Paul Lewis and Bai Bibo: "During the period of Commune (1958-1961) we were not allowed to make our offerings, or even to maintain our ancestral altars in our homes...The Sacred Grove was destroyed. The period of roughly 1962-1965 was a tremendous relief to us. We can rebuild our ancestral altars and carry out our offerings again… Our land and animals, which had been taken from us, were returned. In the period around 1966-1976 there was another interruption… none of us were allowed to follow the Hani religion… a Hani man throw away the sacred stone in the center of the village…central to our yearly offerings. The three stones of the Sacred Grove were also removed, and the Sacred Tree was cut down… In late 1979 we were able to return fully to our regular offerings." [Source: Hani Cultural Themes by Paul Lewis and Bai Bibo, White Lotus. Bangkok, 2002]

The Honghe Hani-Yi Autonomous Prefecture was set up in 1957 as a merger of the earlier Honghe Hani Autonomous Prefecture and Mongzi Prefecture. Meanwhile, a number of autonomous counties were established. According to to the Chinese government: “In the early post-1949 days, local governments at different levels enthusiastically worked for the unity of different nationalities while mopping up the Kuomintang remnants, bandits and local tyrants. Between 1950 and 1957 the state allocated to the Hanis large quantities of relief grain, clothing, seeds and cattle, coupled with agricultural loans, to help them overcome their difficulties and develop production. Democratic reforms, with land reform as the central task, were started in 1952 and completed within five years. Land reform brought about profound changes in the relations of production: The peasants became the masters of their own land, their living standards improved, unity among different nationalities was further strengthened, and social order in this border area was enhanced. Land reform was followed by the socialist transformation of agriculture. [Source: China.org |]

“Many farmland capital construction works have been carried out since liberation. These include opening up terraced land, changing dry land into paddy fields, building reservoirs and expanding irrigated acreage. More than 700 small hydroelectric power stations have been put up throughout the Hani areas, supplying electricity to 70 per cent of the townships, and farm mechanization is on the rise. The post-liberation years have also seen marked development in forestry, livestock breeding, sideline occupations and fishing. |

“Industrial enterprises which have sprung up after 1949 cover metallurgy, mining, machine-building, chemicals, cement, textiles, plastics, cigarettes and food processing. In Honghe Prefecture alone, 400 state- and collective-run factories are in operation. A highway network, with Kunming to Daluo, Gejiu to Jingping, and Simao to Jiangcheng as the trunk lines, links all the counties within the area and facilitates communications with neighboring places. Department stores now supply cheap salt, which used to be in short supply, and other daily necessities, bringing most of the comforts of modern life to the Hani people.” |

Yeche Branch of the Hani Minority

The Yeche (or Yiche or Yicyu) branch of the Hani numbers about 23,000 people. They inhabit several areas of Honghe County and are concentrated in the villages of Dayangjie (called Yeche Township by the locals) and Langdi and Chegu Township. Most of the Yeche villages are situated on the southern side of the Yuanjiang River, usually about mid way up the mountains. The Yeche build their houses in the mountain, with the forest behind them and their fields before them because they think it is the best way to protect their homes from floods. The houses generally face to the south. With green, misty, forested mountains rising above the villages and carefully-tended rice terraces situated below makes the Yeche area once of the most beautiful in China. [Sources: “Fertility- The Kinship of China Yicyu” by Lan Qing, Yunnan Peoples Press, Kunming, 2009; Ethnic China *]

The Yeche speak a dialect of the Haya dialect group of the Hani language. Speaking their dialect they can communicate with some other branches of the Hani that live in the vicinity, such as the Bugong, Lami, Ruby and Rumei. Most of Yeche history is the same as other Hani branches and have legends about a time when they were oppressed by a powerful kingdom on the shores of a big lake, perhaps Dianchi Lake near present-day Kunming City, and were forced to migrate. According to their legends and historical traditions, in the Tang dynasty they migrated to the south with other Hani tribes. Then they settled as an independent tribe in the Ailaoshan mountains. According to the genealogies that have been carefully preserved (as other branches of the Hani do), they have been living in their current localization for the last 1,000 years. Their common ancestor was one of the grandsons of Yingzhe (a Hani hero), whose name was Yeche. Yeche was the third son of the fifth son of Yingzhe, a Hani leader that, according to Hani legends, led the people in a big migration to the part of Yunnan Province they inhabit nowadays. *\

There are three main characteristics that differentiate the Yeche people from other branches of the Hani: 1) The traditional dress of the women, who wear butt-hugging shorts trousers that have been highlighted in books and brochures emphasizing the erotic aspects of ethnic minorities. According to the Joshua Project: "They also wear conical hats, similar to the Jino people, and shortsleeved blue blouses held together by five-colored girdles. The clothes are layered one on top of each other, numbering from six to more than a dozen. ... The layers indicate a family's financial standing. Women wear black shorts with pleats at the legs." *\

2) Open marriage customs, called lihhahha in their language. The marriages of the Yeche people are arranged by their parents when they are very young, when the bride-price is paid. After the marriage the husband and wife don't life together; they live with their own parents. The wife, however, must visit her husband every twelve days until giving birth. During this period of lihhahha the wife has the freedom to have sexual intercourse with any man she likes. *\

3) Their third special custom is the way they celebrated the Kuzhazha festival. Kuzhaza festival, celebrated at the beginning of the rainy season, is one of the main festivals of the Hani. But among the Yeche this celebration is usually enjoyed like some ancient fertility ritual. Participants dress up in fantastic clothes or clothing of the other sex and engage in a dance that simulate the sexual act as a means of asking for more children, rice and livestock. *\

On the Yeche Stone Carnival one traveler posted: "It happens like wars in the ancient age, though no other weapons but stones are used. When the game begins, male adults from different villages come together to riversides and throw small stones at each other. People on each side seems like have been united as an army, and they are now exactly in a fight against their enemies on the other side — the atmosphere feels tense and dangerous, just like a real war. People at the first sight of such a "battle" must be confused, are they acting like their ancestors in real experience? However, according to old peoples' recount, this kind of "battle" is in fact in no means related to real wars or battles, but for corns — people can't get good harvest unless such a "battle" is held." [Source: en.twinshome.gov.cn, *]

Image Sources: Nolls China website, 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, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Chinese government, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, Wikipedia, BBC, and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated September 2022

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