The Dulong are one of the smallest minorities. They mostly live a valley surrounded by 5,000-meter-high mountains in northwestern Yunnan near the Myanmar border and speak a Sino-Tibetan language with no written form and practice animism. In the old days some extended families lived in large communal longhouses. The Dulong are very isolated and have relatively few contacts with outsiders. The Chinese government has tried to get the Drung to forsake their traditional ways. In some cases they have simply moved deep into the mountains to get beyond government control.

The Dulong are among the poorest peoples in China. They practice slash and burn agriculture and hunt and collect wild foods in the forest. Both men and women wear squares of distinctive striped flax cloth that is used a cloak, skirt or wrap around during the day and a blanket at night. In the old days women wore facial tattoos that indicated which clan they belonged to. The Dulong are also known as Drung, Derong, Trung, and Qiu. They call themselves "Dulong" and "Dima", and were known in different historical periods as the "Qiao", "Qiu", "Qiu Ren", "Qiu Zi", "Luo", "Qu Luo". In 1952, their formal name was decided as "Dulong" by the Chinese government.

The Dulong language belongs to the Zang and Mian language branch of Sino-Tibetan family of languages. It is similar to the Nu language in Gongshan area. There are two Dulong dialects: the Dulong River dialect and Nu River dialect. There are some linguistic and cultural differences between the people who speak these dialects. Maybe there are two different ethnic groups included under the common denomination of Dulong. [Source: Ethnic China ethnic-china.com *]

The Dulong people mainly live in a difficult-to-reach area of northwest of Yunnan Province in 1) Nujiang Lisu and Nu Autonomous Prefecture in western Gongshan Nu and Dulong Autonomous County on the banks of the Dulong River (upper Irrawaddy River) and 2) along the Nu River in Qile Village in the Weixi Autonomous County of the Lisu Minority Group. 3) Some also live in Chawaluo of Chayu County in Tibet. 4) On top of this a small number of Dulong live in Myanmar. The area where the Dulong is isolated and mountainous, with dense forests, abundant rains but soil with low fertility. [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, kepu.net.cn ~]

The Dulong River valley extends 150 kilometers from north to south. It is flanked on the east by Mt. Gaoligong, 5,000 meters above sea level, and on the west by Mt. Dandanglika, 4,000 meters above sea level. The area has abundant rainfall due to the influence of monsoon winds from the Indian Ocean; the annual precipitation is 2,500 mm. Virgin forests cover the mountain slopes, and medicinal herbs, wild animals and mineral deposits abound. Crops grown in the area used to be limited to maize, buckwheat and beans, but since the mid-20th century rice and potatoes have been introduced. [Source: China.org china.org |]

Dulong population in China: 0,0005 percent of the total population; 6,930 in 2010 according to the 2010 Chinese census; 7,431 in 2000 according to the 2000 Chinese census; 5,816 in 1990 according to the 1990 Chinese census. In 1982 they were only 4,600 Dulong. [Sources: People’s Republic of China censuses, Wikipedia]

History of the Dulong

Little is known about the history of the Dulong in part because they have lived in very isolated area of Yunnan Province as along as anyone has ever known. Even today the Dulong Valley is closed to external communication during half of the year. There is scarce information about them in the imperial histories and travelers' chronicles refer to them in passing, and usually through secondary sources. Some scholars have argued that because their language belongs to the Tibeto-Burmese family, they probably came from the northwest of China, migrating southward through Sichuan to Yunnan provinces as did other ethnic groups in their linguistic group did. According to their tradition, and transportation routes in the area suggest they arrived in the valley of the Dulong River from Lanping and Jianchuan counties and believed to be the first inhabitants of the region they occupy. [Source: Ethnic China ethnic-china.com *]

The Dulong are believed to have been living in the Dulong River (upper Irrawaddy River) Valley from at least the time of the establishment of the Nanzhao Kingdom, near present day Dali, in the 8th century. According to historical records, during the Tang (618-907 AD) and Song (960-1279AD) Dynasties, the major settlement of the Dulongs was under the jurisdiction of the Nanzhao and Dali principalities. From Yuan (1279-1363AD) Dynasty to Qing (1644-1911AD) Dynasty, the Dulongs were ruled by the Chinese imperial court-appointed Tusi Mu (a Yi ruler) from Lijiang and paid imperial tribute to the Tusi of Lijiang, under whose jurisdiction they were officially living. During the middle period of Qing Dynasty, their settlement was put under the administration of the Naxi headmen of Kangpu and Yezhi and then solely governed by the Yezhi headman. [Source: Chinatravel.com chinatravel.com \=/]

The Dulong’s life changed two hundred years ago, when their isolation was broken by the arrival of two powerful neighbors, the Tibetans from the north and the Lisu from the east. Both imposed themselves on the Dulong, causing significant modifications to their society. The Lisu carried out sporadic expeditions in Dulong territory to capture Dulong for slaves. The Dulong sought aid and protection from the Tibetans, exchanging slaves (orphans or people separated from Dulong society) for cows. *\

In 1909, a full-time Qiuguan (governor) was appointed to take charge of the Dulong river valley. In 1918, the government established Changputong Prefectural Administrative Office in Gongshan County, which was transformed into Establishment and Administration Bureau of Gongshan County. It introduced the Bao and Jia household registration system of old China to the Dulong area. \=/

Toward the end of the 19th century some French missionaries arrived among the Dulong. In 1935, American missionaries also arrived there, and converted some. Christian churches were built in four Dulong villages. Many Dulong had no contact with the outside world until the arrival of the communist government after the establishment of the Peoples Republic of China in 1949. The socialist reforms of the fifties didn't have much impact on the Dulong but some aspects of Dulong culture, such as the face tattooing of the Dulong women and the sacrifice of cows, were considered primitive by the Chinese and all but eliminated. *\

Until the mid the 20th century, the Dulong still a very undeveloped life based on limited agriculture, hunting and food gathering. Their clothes with primitive coverings made of knitted flax, leaves and hides. The Dulong’s relationships with the outside has increased significantly in recent decades. Many young Dulong have received education in the regional centers and even in the provincial capital, Kunming. The first major road to their region opened at the end of 1999 (before, it was necessary to walk three days from Gongshan) and this has further reduced their isolation. However many Dulong still live in a very undeveloped state, relying on slash-and-burn agriculture, collecting and hunting for most of their food and income. *\

Dulong's Traditional Religion

right The Dulong retain their traditional spiritual religion, a form of animism that considers all things to be embodied with spirit, including animals, natural phenomena and their ancestors. The Dulong believe that wind, rain, lightning, thunder, high mountains, floods, huge rocks and odd trees all have spirits. Dulong religion is tightly bound to their daily lives. Normal activities are carried in ways that conform to their spiritual beliefs. Illness and other misfortunes are attributed to demons and ghosts. Shamans, and sometimes the kashan, perform rites to obtain the help of favorable spirits and cast out bad ones. These generally include offerings of wine and the sacrifice of chickens, pigs and cows. There are of two kinds of shaman: Namusa, who preside over sacrifices and divining ceremonies and Duomusa, who specialize in casting out demons. Namusa have higher social status than Duomusa. [Source: Ethnic China ethnic-china.com *]

The main Dulong gods are: 1) Jubolang, god of the mountains; 2) Shenghua, god of the trees; 3) Waqiang Bulang, god of the waters; and 3) the Goddess of the Forests. The Dulong believe that each wicked spirit can cause a certain illness. Pomolang is thought to be responsible for pain in the gut, Mulang for pain in the eyes and head and Jibulang for a range of illnesses. The cult of the ancestors is important in their concepts of death, ghosts and avoiding sickness. *\

The Dulong consult with the spirits on important matters from time to time using different kinds of divination, such as: 1) Divination by eggs, involves the pressing of an egg when a person asks a question (a broken egg implies a favorable response); 2) Divination with water, interpreting the waves that arise in a bowl of water placed on a plane surface (waves that go towards the fortune-teller are good); 3) Divination by millet grains, to determine whether or not it is auspicious to go out hunting or to erect a house; and 4) divination with the rooster, involves catching a rooster by the neck, suffocating it, and twisting the claws and releasing them (if claws meet that has a good meaning). Other methods of divination are carried out with bamboo sticks, with bamboo tips or with a knife.

Dulong Funerals

In their funeral ceremonies the Dulong try to lead the dead to the land of the ancestors, thus preventing their ghosts from bothering the living. A person is generally buried with all their belongings, since they believe that these things also contain spirit power. Sometimes, instead of burying the dead, cremation of the body or a "water funeral" is carried out. For the most part the dead were buried in the ground in hollow logs, except in cases of death from serious disease, when the corpses were cremated or disposed of in the rivers. Funerals were attended by all the relatives, who brought sacrificial offerings of food. [Source: Ethnic China ethnic-china.com , China.org]

In accordance with a Dulong taboo, the dead should not be carried directly through the entrance door, but through a crevice pried in the back wall or the floor of the house. It is said that only by doing this can there be no more dead people. All those who die naturally are buried not far from their own home. The Dulong believe that burying family members far away from home is unbearable for them. [Source: Chinatravel.com chinatravel.com \=/]

Dulong funeral taboos: 1) Before a dying person takes his last breath, his family should transfer the seeds left at home to others' home or another place, or the seeds will not sprout. 2) When holding funeral procession, people should not carry the dead through the gate, but through the crevice in the floor. It is believed that if the funeral procession isn't done in this way, evil spirit will dwell in the room with the result that more families may die and even the whole family may be gone. On the funeral day, the whole village has to cease the production altogether.

Dulong Written Language of Gaps and Knots

The Dulong have traditionally not had a written language. Instead they recorded things and exchanged information by tying knots and carving wood. [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, kepu.net.cn ~]

In carving method, wooden boards of various kinds, with different signs, were used as ordinary letters and books, and to record and convey the landlord's orders, common people's debts, gift lists. Carved boards with landlord messages were large and resembled a wooden swords, about 20 centimeters wide and 70 to 80 centimeters long, with thinner edges, a slanting point and a handle at the bottom. Boards with different contents contain different gaps, lines and graphics. For instance, on the board conveying the landlord's tax demands, there is a big gap on the top left edge and several small gaps at the bottom, which means a chief supervisor will come, with several attendants, while a big and two small gaps on the right side means that a headman will come and two villagers should go to greet him. ~

The boards used by ordinary folk are smaller, and used to record things like debts and gift items. If, for example, a family has no ox to offer as a sacrifice and they want to borrow one from their relatives or friends, they measure the circumference of the animal’s chest with a piece of thin bamboo, then measure the length of the bamboo with their fists to see how many fists long the piece is, and lastly to carve the number of fists respectively on the edges of a board. The board is cut in two so each side has one. When the ox is returned, the same procedure of measuring is carried out. The difference is made up with grain. After the debt is paid the two boards are put into the fire, finalizing the transaction. ~

The Dulong have also traditionally counted time with knots. Knots are made on a thin flax rope, with one knot representing one day. When going out, one knot is tied every day, and on the way home, one knot is untied every day. In this way, time and the journeys are accurately calculated. The New Year is the happiest day for Dulong people. But since there is no fixed date for the festival, every year people have to set the date beforehand, which is also done using knots. If it is agreed that the New Year is in 10 days, many ropes with 10 knots are made and sent to friends and relatives. One knot is untied each day, and after the last one is untied, the festival comes. ~

Dulong New Year and the Bull-Butchering Ceremony

There is only traditional Dulong festival: their New Year celebration, which is called "Ka'erjiangwa" (Kaquewa) in the Dulong language. Irregular in length with no fixed date, it is held after the autumn harvest, usually from December to the next January. People butcher pigs and oxen, sing and dance to celebrate the New Year.[Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, kepu.net.cn ~]

The Dulong New Year celebration is usually held on the large family or village level, the date fixed shortly beforehand (See Knots and Time Above). Families invite friends and relatives using oral messages for those nearby, and knotted ropes or carved boards as "invitation" for those living far away. For the woodcut "Invitations", each family and clan chooses an auspicious day and cuts openings in specially made wooden chips. These "invitations" are delivered to villages and relatives to be invited. The day before the festival, wine, meat, rice and "Lada'er" (bamboo with a new flax blanket on it) are prepared. The number of the blankets should coincide with the number of people partaking in the feast. There can be to many blankets, but never too few. In their opinion, more blankets foresee a larger population of family members and cattle, while fewer blankets could mean a death or something else ominous. ~

For the Dulong, New Year is both a celebration of the harvest and a ceremony of offering. Three to five days are set aside for the festival. The actual duration depends on the quantity of food prepared. Festival activities include putting up colored gunny cloth, drinking while sitting around the fireplace, exchanging greetings, holding grand hunting ceremony and offering sacrifices the mountain god. On the first day of the festival, every family puts up colored blankets. At night, they drink, conduct divining rituals and pray for a good harvest in the coming year. On the second day, people make mountain gods and animals out with buckwheat. After sacrificial rites, teenage hunters shoot arrows towards the buckwheat beasts and the spectators beat the drum and dance in a circle.

The most important event, which usually takes place on the third day, is the butchering a bull and offering it to the god "Gemeng" and other gods. "Gemeng" is the ancestor and creator of human beings in Dulong mythology. Dulong believe, that by butchering a bull to offer to him, they can get his blessing and protection from disasters and diseases, plus get good the weather for the next year to ensure a good harvest. ~

The bull-butchering ceremony is presided over by a shaman. At the beginning of the ceremony, a bull wrapped in a Dulong blanket is brought into the field, and its halter is fastened to a big pole. A young woman hangs bead necklace around the bull’s (ox’s) horns. Pine needle torches are lit. People form circles around the bull, and commence dancing, swinging swords and spears to the sound of a mang luo (a musical instrument). When the other offerings are ready, the shaman—or a young man whose parents are still alive —burns incense and murmurs some words, praying to Gemeng for safety of both people and the cattle, and stabs the bull with a sharp bamboo spear under the bull’s leg, and the bull is killed and butchered. The beef is cooked and everyone eats together. The shaman carries the head of the bull on his back and everyone dances around him as the bull head is offered to the gods. This is the climax of the celebration. People are drinking and eating, singing and dancing. The bank of the Dulong River is filled with joy and laughter. ~

Dulong Marriage and Wedding Customs

Marriages have traditionally been arranged by parents. Monogamy was the rule although some polygamy was practiced. Grooms paid a bride price in cattle, iron items or cloth. Men who couldn’t raise the pride price often did a bride service instead. Women usually had high status in their households, overseeing the distribution of goods and participating in economic decisions.

Dulong can not marry within their clan and marriages between cousins is forbidden. In the past, there were fixed marriage groups between clans. Betrothal gifts are an important part of the engagement and marriage process. If a wife abandons her husband and has a younger sister who is not married she is expected to marry the abandoned husband as compensation, otherwise the wife’s family has to return all the betrothal gifts. If the husband abandons his wife, the wife can return part of or none of the betrothal gifts. The Dulong people used to be forbidden to intermarry with Tibetans. [Source: Chinatravel.com chinatravel.com \=/]

When a young man a fancies a girl enough that he wants to marry her, he sends a married man who is good at talking and has prestige as a matchmaker to girl’s village. If the matchmaker accepts the task, he takes a teapot and multi-colored bag with tea, cigarettes and an urn inside from the young man's home to the girl's home. When the matchmaker arrives at the girl's home, no matter whether the girl's family is friendly or not, the matchmaker makes a fire in the fireplace and makes some tea. He then brings out the tea and the urn from the bag and fetches the bowls and prepares tea for everyone present. He pours tea into the bowls and puts the bowls in front of them in the order of father, mother, elder brother, elder sister, younger brother, younger sister and the last one—the girl who is the jubject of the marriage proposal. If the girl's father or mother drink the tea and the others follow the proposal effort is a success. If no one drinks and the tea gets cold, it is a failure. The matchmaker can try the same thing three times and if the tea remains cold the marriage proposal has been firmly rejected and young and the a matchmaker can not try again unitl one year later. \=/

If a young man and young woman fall in love with each other, they give each other presents as tokens of mutual trust for engagement. Generally girls present elaborately knitted Dulong blankets or leg wrappings to boys while boys present to girls a hoe or a back-carrying basket woven by themselves.

For the wedding ceremony, parents of both sides introduce their own son or daughter, encourage them to show loving care for each other, to run their home through hard work and thrift and to get along in harmony, advising them never to get divorced even if one of them is disabled or blind. After that, a bowl of rice wine is given to the bride and bridegroom. The couple takes the wine and indicates in front of the guests to their parents that they will comply with their parents’ advise and show respect for each other and take good care of each other for a lifetime. Finally, they take the wine bowl and drink the "wine of one heart" together.

Afterwards a wedding banquet is held. Among the foods are fried noodles, buns, rice wine, and foods made by the couple's families and brought by guests. The host of the wedding hands out food, one share for each guest and adds one piece of meat to show respect for them. People of the whole village offer congratulations and join the lively Dulong and singing.

Traditional Dulong Society

According to the Chinese government: “Before the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Dulong society maintained many vestiges of the primitive commune system. There were 15 patriarchal clans called "nile." Each nile consisted of several family communes, and each commune occupied a separate territory marked off by boundaries such as streams and mountain ridges. The clan was further divided into "ke'eng," or villages, where people dwelt in common long houses. [Source: China.org china.org |]

“Agricultural production remained at a very low level until 1949, due mainly to the primitive nature of the Dulongs' farm tools. Every year saw several lean months when their diet had to be supplemented by food gathering, hunting and fishing. The ke'eng members pursued collective farming on common land and held their hunting, fishing and gathering grounds in common. However, in modern times this system was slowly giving way to ownership of the means of production by blood-related families. Following financial difficulties due to illness or debt as a result of the imposition of taxes, land sales gradually led to the emergence of oppressive landlords. And rich households used to make seasonal workers and destitute children work for them. The Dulongs produced some primitive handicrafts, including bamboo and rattan articles and engaged in the weaving of linen. But the absence of both traders and towns made barter the only form of exchange. |

“The ke'eng was the grassroots organization of Dulong society. Its members regarded themselves as being descended from the same ancestor. A Dulong's personal name was preceded by that of the family and his father's name. In the case of a woman, her mother's name was included. Each ke'eng was headed by a "kashan" whose duties were both administrative and ceremonial. He also directed warfare and mediated disputes. The ke'engs were politically separate entities, which formed temporary alliances in times of great danger threatening from outside communities. Marriage within the clan was forbidden and monogamy was the rule in recent times, but vestiges of primitive group marriage remained, such as several sisters marrying one man. Polygamy was also not unknown.” |

Dulong Customs, Taboos and Weird Laughs

According to Chinatravel.com: “When the Dulong people encounter a stranger on the road, they will always put both hands on their chest, turn their face to the right and gurgle to demonstrate greeting. Then they will enquire in a low voice, "Excuse me, where are you going?" the man being enquired will reply with a smile, "Over there." When a guest from a faraway place enter the Dulong house, all the people inside the house will stand up together, bend their waist and give gusts of laughter to show greeting. Then they will greet him gently, "Please take the seat over here." The guest will reply with a smile as well as a bow, "Thank you." When the guest insists on leaving, the master of the house will accompany him to the outside of the village and stand there for a long time, looking after him with a smile as he disappears into the distance. [Source: Chinatravel.com chinatravel.com \=/]

Taboos on Childbearing: Women should not give birth in their house because it is believed that their "impure" air will contaminate their crossbows and hurt their hunting success. They must be carried out of the room when bearing children and carried back to the room after giving birth to be cleaned. Men are not allowed to attend women giving birth because the "impure" air will bring bad luck and even blindness to men. If a woman is married, she is not allowed to bear a child with her maiden home, otherwise it will bring bad lack to the descendants of her maiden family. Once it happens, the son-in-law needs to present two bottles of wine and some meat to his father-in- law's family as compensation. \=/

People are not allowed to cut down the trees in sacred woods; otherwise is believed that villagers may die of disease or there may be crop failure. When the master of the houses goes out hunting, guests should not visit him, otherwise the soul of guests will take away the game. The flesh of captured beast and the fish caught should not be fried with balm. If the aforementioned taboos are offended, people will hunt without success. \=/

Dulong Life, Honesty and Security

The Dulong raise corn and buckwheat as their staple foods. They love watery wine, roasted meat, tea and tobacco. Their dress is plain and simple. They used to wrap their bodies with one or two pieces of flax cloth, as clothes in the daytime and quilts at night. Women used to tattoo their face. Now the tattooing is largely a thing of the past and most Dulong wear normal Western-style or Chinese style clothes. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, kepu.net.cn ~]

The Dulong people live a simple and honest life. They would never think of picking up something left by others on the road and claiming them as theirs. There is no need to lock or even close their doors at night. When they find things on the road, they wait there for the owner or try to find the owner, to give the things back. When traveling far away, the Dulong divide their carried food into many portions, and put some in trees or caves, to eat on the way back. The passersby, no matter how hungry, would take this food without permission. Even, items like clothes can be put anywhere on the road, with a stone on top, showing the owner puts it there intentionally. No one would touch them.

Dulong live in wooden or bamboo houses. Their barns are mostly built behind the house, or even on a hill or near a field, a some distance from the house. Even though there valuable tools and animals are kept in the barn, there is only a bamboo or wood stick on the door. People are never worried about thieves. Even if they leave their house for a long time they don’t lock it without worries. A break-in, in the Dulong mind, would never happen. Other Dulong traditional village virtues include respecting elders, caring for children, warmly helping the poor and being polite and hospitable. When one family is in trouble or needs help the whole village pitches in to assist them.

Dulong Houses and Bridges

Dulong residence include wooden houses and pile dwellings of bamboo split. Mainly in the area north of Kongmu, wooden houses are built log-cabin-style by intersecting and overlapping timbers fixed by sawing the wallboards or logs into the the four corners. The area south of Kongmu mainly has pile dwellings of bamboo split. Dozens of piles are inserted into the earth of of a slope. To build one of these" landing on thousands of feet" houses, people first build a structure with timbers, enclose the walls and cover the floor with bamboo split, then fasten them tight with bamboo ropes and vines, and finally cover the roof with couch grass.[Source: Chinatravel.com chinatravel.com \=/]

The traditional ke'eng long house — made of logs in the northern areas and of bamboo further south — is made up of a large, oblong room which serves as the ke'eng's common quarters, with two rows of smaller rooms at the back. Each small room has a fireplace in the middle and is the home of an individual family. At one time, each ke'eng had a common granary, but this was replaced by granaries owned by small groups of families.[Source: China.org china.org |]

Erecting bridges made of thin bamboo strips and vines is a great event in the lives of the Dulongs. Whenever they complete a bridge, they dress in their best clothes, bang a gong and beat the drum and sing and dance in celebration. To make this vine-net bridge: 1) people weave two ropes with vines and bamboo exclusively found in the Dulong river valley, 2) tie them in parallel to stout trunk or fixed piles on the sides of the river, 3) then weave nets with wild vines or bamboo splits gathered from mountains and hang them on the vine ropes on both sides and 4) finally lay boards wider than foot soles or several poles put together at the bottom of the nets for people to walk on. When one sets foot on the bridge, the movement of the feet can cause the bridge to shake, sway and rock. It is often not so easy for non-natives to cross such bridge, which sometimes are at great heights over rushing rapids. However, the Dulong people are able to manage it even when carrying weights on their backs.

Dulong Food

The Dulong staples are fried noodles made of highland barley, corn, rice or millet. They also like baked potatoes, cakes and biscuits as well as porridge. They grind root tubers of all kinds of wild plants and use the starch to make cakes and biscuits or porridge. Side dishes are made from planted beans and melons as well as from gathered bamboo shoots, bamboo leaves and various kinds of fungi. They usually cook them with peppers, wild garlic and table salt in the wok. [Source: Chinatravel.com chinatravel.com \=/]

The Dulong bake fish over a blazing fire or slow fire and then eat it them with seasoning while drinking. Bee pupae are popular exotic food of the Dulong nationality. Some attribute their rapid population increase over the past hundred years to eating bee pupae regularly. Among the typical Dulong foods are potatoes with Hema (a kind of poisonous hemp), chicken braised with strong white spirit, Jimi (stinky bamboo shoots) and baked blue sheep large intestines and braised Jimi and Hema cooked on a flagstone.\=/

The Dulong way of cooking has changed from using stones to using woks. Now they often cook food by boiling and baking. They have a preference for spicy and crisp food and love drinking. The most characteristic food is flagstone buns, which are made by pouring thing dough on very hot flagstone. The area around Qinglatong in the town of Bingzhongluo, Gongshan County is famous for producing a kind of flagstone, which doesn’t burn in a fire and isn’t split by water. When you put the flagstone on the tripod of the fireplace and bake buns on it without adding oil, the buns don’t stick to the stone and come out fragrant and delicious. \=/

Dulong Clothes and Hairstyles

In the old days both Dulong males and females wore wear their hair down to their eyebrows in front and down to their shoulders in back Both sexes used to wrap themselves in a covering of striped linen fastened with straw ropes or bamboo needles. The poorer ones often had no other clothing than a skirt of leaves. A lot time their hair was disheveled and they went barefoot. Now their clothing has greatly changed. Women wear long-sleeve garments similar to those the Lisu minority, and colored bead necklace chains. Men still often carry a crossbow and have a hunting knife on the waist.

The Dulong normally wear black and white striped gunny or cotton clothes and a pair of short trousers. They wrap their upper chest with a piece of gunny from the left armpit to the right shoulder, with the left shoulder and the right arm uncovered. The Dulong women mostly wear colored oil vine ring on the waist for ornament. Dulong males don't wear hats. [Source: Chinatravel.com chinatravel.com \=/]

Dulong men used to wrap their back with a cubic meter of blanket from the left armpit to the right armpit, pulling the blanket over the chest and then tying a knot. They wore short trousers which only cover up their buttocks in front and behind. Women wrapped themselves with two cubic meters of rectangular cloth obliquely from the shoulder to the opposite knee and tied a knot in front. They wore rings or refined bamboo tubes on their ears. \=/

Now the Dulongs generally wear garments of cloth with striped blanket over that. They love to dye rattans red and make them into bracelets and waist ornaments. Men like bring a machete or knife and a crossbow and when they go out. Women wear printed towels on their heads and beads around their necks. \=/

Dulong Blanket: Both Clothes and Quilt

Dulong blankets are durable, wearable and convenient to use. They have traditionally been worn as clothes during the day and used quilt a a quilt at night. Before the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the dress of Dulong people was very simple. Both men and women wrapped themselves in Dulong blankets, woven with flax, about one meter wide and two meters long. Usually a single blanket was worn on the back, one end running over the right shoulder and the other under the left arm, meeting on the right shoulder and leaving left shoulder and right arm naked. Some women used two blankets: both slanting from the shoulders to the knees, overlapping with each other. One was tied tightly at the waist, covering both the front and the back, while the other hung naturally. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, kepu.net.cn ~]

After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, from 1951 to early 1960s, the central government distributed and transported large amounts of cotton clothes to the Dulong people every year. Afterwards, along with the rapid development of economy, culture, transportation and other enterprises, various types of clothes have been imported to the Dulong region. However, whatever they wear, many Dulong people still love wearing Dulong blankets as decoration and a mark of their identity. Today they are often worn over modern clothes like a poncho. ~

Dulong blankets are woven on the manual loom. They used to be made of flax only. Today they are also made with cotton and wool. Dulong women like weaving soft-textured blankets with cotton, wool and flax of different colors, making graceful and beautiful stripe patterns. ~

Dulong Face Tattoo

In the old days, Dulong girls tattooed their faces at the onset of puberty, with the patterns varying according to the clan. According to the custom, usually called "Hua Lian" (painting the face) or "Wen Mian" (tattooing the face), a girl was tattooed at the age of twelve or thirteen as a symbol of her being grown up. When it was done, an experienced old woman first drew a pattern on the girl’s face with a bamboo stick and a mixture of soot and water. Then, using a hard thorn, a needle or a sharpened wood stick, the old woman stabbed the skin according to the pattern, and then put some soot or grass juice into the wound, which became a blue tattoo after it healed. The pattern was mainly divided into two styles. In the upper and middle reaches of the Dulong River: 1) five to six connecting diamonds were tattooed between the brows down to the bridge of the nose; 2) a square of joined small diamonds was made with the mouth as the center, from the nose to the chin; 3) vertical stripes were made within the square; and 4) spots were made between the square and the eyes, intended to look like a butterfly spreading its wings, ready to take off. In the lower reaches of the river, the patterns were considerably simpler, usually only several stripes on the chin. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, kepu.net.cn ~]

The People’s daily reported: “Dulong facial tattoos often took the form of butterflies, in accordance with their belief that the souls of the dead turn into butterflies. The tattoos were etched onto the faces of the girls using bamboo needles and an ink made out of ashes from the bottoms of cooking pans. The process lasted seven or eight hours, and the girls were not allowed to wash their faces for at least five days after the ordeal in order to keep the pattern intact.[Source: Hu Hongjiang, Yang Wenming, Editor: Leo Yin, womenofchina.cn, People’s Daily December 6, 2013 ^^]

“The exact history of facial tattoos in the Dulong ethnic group is still open to debate, with many scholars saying that the minority was recorded as early as the Tang Dynasty (618-907). As for the reasons for the facial tattoos, there are various explanations. Some experts have posited that the tattoos were to make the women less attractive, lest they be taken as slaves or raped by enemies during conflicts between the Dulong and other ethnic tribes. Some say that it marked a girl's transition to womanhood, while still others believe that it was a sign to differentiate various clans or families. Others hold that the Dulong people regarded tattooing as a beauty enhancer and a way to exorcise evil spirits.” ^^

Some sources say the custom of female face tattooing was done in the past as form of identification to thwart Lisu and Tibetan slave traders by making Dulong women look attractive to Dulong eyes but ugly to their Tibetan and Lisu captors. According to the Chinese government: Two or three centuries ago,Tibetan and Lisu landlords expanding their influence into the Dulong region and cruelly exploited and oppressed the Dulong people. The Tibetan landlord Chawalong demanded by force various tributes and taxes from the Dulong people every year, even including tax on mouth, ears, nose and hair. If the Dulong could not pay the tax, their women were taken away to Tibet as slaves. Young and beautiful women were especially of high risk of being taken away. In this peculiar social and historical environment, in order to avoid being captured as slaves, the Dulong had no other choice but to adopt a passive resistance method: to blacken the cheeks with soot, or even carve and dye the face into black and blue patterns, which cannot be washed away for ever. Therefore they looked like ghosts rather than human beings, and people were too scared to get close. By and by it came to be a custom of face tattoo, until after founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Therefore, face tattoo is a passive style of struggle of the Dulong women, against oppression from other minority groups.” ~

Last Remaining Dulong Women with Face Tattoos

As of the 2010s, there were only 28 living Dulong women with facial tattoos and experts say when these women die so too will the facial tattoo custom. Many face-tattooed women do not remember when, or why, they had their faces tattooed. "It was very painful and my face was swollen after it was tattooed," Bing Xiufang, a Dulong woman in her 80s and one of the few remaining Dulong women with facial tattoos, told the People’s Daily. "Both my mother and older sister had their faces tattooed, so I did as well." [Source: Hu Hongjiang, Yang Wenming, Editor: Leo Yin, womenofchina.cn, People’s Daily December 6, 2013 ^^]

The People’s daily reported: “Born in 1953, Dong Chunlian is the youngest Dulong woman with facial tattoos. Unlike most of her fellow Dulong people, she has traveled around to raise the profile of the Dulong people. She attended the Ethnic Expo held in Taiwan in 2000, and once visited Japan. The local government now attaches great importance to the health conditions of the remaining women with facial tattoos and has established electronic health archives for each of them. "There are so few written, photo and video materials of the history of these women and the work of recording oral history has not been carried out," said a historian. "Although the living face-tattooed women do not suffer from serious illness, most of them are plagued by various minor illnesses such as rheumatism," said one doctor who regularly attends to the women. "The medical conditions here are not so advanced so we should pay close attention to their health." ^^

"The year before last there were 38 living face-tattooed women, but the number was then reduced to 31," said Li. "This year there are only 28 still alive and I am so sad when the family of the dead come to cancel their residence registration." Local authorities are planning to publish picture books of 66 face-tattooed women. The books are slated for publication in January 2014. Scholars have said that the Dulong facial tattoos are a symbol of local tradition and should be respected as part of the Dulong customs. The government should improve the living conditions of the Dulong people and focus more on their health.” ^^

Dulong Culture, Creation Myths and Literature

The Dulong enjoy singing and dancing. They have songs related to production, harvesting, hunting, house building, marriage proposals and festivals. Accompanying musical instruments for dancing include the oral string (a kind of Jew’s harp), gong, flute and leather drum. Women typically play the oral string, sing songs while dancing and drinking wine. Both men and women are apt to suddenly make up impromptu songs or starting a dance on the spot something inspires them. In some dances, dancers dance face to face with men in one row and women in the other row while in a circle. Some dancers swing knives and hold bows while others climb shoulders and join hands. [Source: Chinatravel.com chinatravel.com \=/]

Pedro Ceinos Arcones wrote in Ethnic China: “The complex spiritual world of the Dulong is embodied in a rich oral narrative in which are found the myths that explain virtually every activity sanctioned by Dulong tradition. All these myths have evolved out of their original creation myth. This myth tells how the first human beings were created and how the Dulong culture developed. It has five sections: 1) The first section depicts how the supreme gods Gamei and Gasha created the first man and woman. 2) The second tells the story of how the ant broke the stairs that allow human beings to ascend to heaven to communicate with the gods. Ever since, man and the gods have been separated. 3) The third part relates how the hunter shot the suns that threatened life on earth. 4) The fourth is about the fight between men and demons. 5) And the fifth depicts the flood that ended with everything on the earth. [Source: Ethnic China ethnic-china.com *]

“The creation of human beings starts with the two gods Gamei and Gasha fashioning out of mud the first human beings: Pu and Mu, the first father and the first mother. Linked with this basic mythological cycle are the stories of Penggenpeng, the hero of the Dulong people. Penggenpeng was born inside a large tree. One day he met the God of Heaven, who offered him his daughter to marry. But first he had to accomplish some difficult tasks: To catch a viper without being bitten, to gather honey without suffering the stings of the bees, and to climb a large tree. Penggenpeng was successful in all of these tasks and married the god's daughter. They received all the animals on earth as their dowry, but they disobeyed the god's will and most of the animals escaped. Penggenpeng could only catch some of them.” The animals that were caught became the fathers of domestic animals of the Dulong. “If they want to have another animal, they must go to the forest to hunt for it.

“The world of the Dulong is populated be many monsters that can harm the people.” The Dulong have many tales about the fight between men and giants, ogres, and different kinds of demons and harmful spirits such as "Burning devils", "Pressing the devils" or "Why the people beat the devils?" Dulong literature also includes trickster tales, love songs, fables and animal tales.

Dulong Development

According to the Chinese government: The year 1956 saw the establishment of the Gongshan Dulong and Nu Autonomous County, with a Dulong as the county magistrate. The first task for the government was to provide the Dulongs with clothing and farm tools, and promote farm production and education. In light of the conditions in Dulong society, the government decided that land reform would be inappropriate, and concentrated on the development of production. [Source: China.org china.org |]

“Beginning in 1954, about 6,000 hectares of arable land was brought under cultivation in the Dulong River valley. Irrigation projects transformed part of the land into paddy fields, which had been non-existent up until then. A few years later, the area began to sell surplus grain to the state. Along with the increased farm production went a boost for livestock raising (cattle, goats and pigs), the cultivation of medicinal herbs and the processing of animal hides. |

“Primary schools, unknown in the Dulong area in the past, numbered over 20 in the 1980s. Clinics and health stations have put the shamans out of business. Special attention has been paid to making the mountainous Dulong area accessible to the outside world. Some 150 km of roads have been constructed, and ferries and bridges now span the roaring torrents of the hill streams. Modern commodities are now available to the Dulongs. There is also a post office, bookstore and film-projection team in the valley. Several small hydroelectric power stations, built in the last couple of decades, have brought electricity to the Dulong villages. |

Image Sources: Nolls China website http://www.paulnoll.com/China/index.html

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 ethnic-china.com *\; 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 July 2015

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