The Achang ethnic group has a population of 33,936 (in 2000), gathering mainly in Longchuan, Lianghe, Luxi and Ruili counties in Dehong Dai-Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture in south-western Yunnan Province. There are also a small number of them scattered in Dali, Chuxiong, Yuxi, Xishuangbanna and other counties in Yunnan. Although small in number, they are one of the earliest inhabitants of Yunnan.
Achang people call themselves Mengsa or Echang. Their ancestors used to live in the area near the Jinsha, Lancang and Nu Rivers. After the 2nd century, a branch of them moved to the west bank of Nu River and later, about in 13th century, settled down in Longchuan County. Another branch later migrated along Yunlong, Baoshan and Tengchong, and finally made their pitches in Lianghe.
They have their own spoken language, which belongs to Tibetan-Burmese Austronesian of the Sino-Tibetan Phylum. Most Achangs can speak Chinese and Dai language. Some live in Husa can also speak Burmese and Jingpo language. The ethnic group has no written script and Chinese is widely used.
Achang people live on agriculture, in particular on rice planting. Situated on the southern tip of the Gaoligong Mountain, the area peopled by Achangs has a warm climate, vast fertile land and innumerable watercourses, which all give rise to the prosperity of agriculture. Major agricultural products are rice, corn, and beans.
Handicraft industries form another important aspect of the economy of the Achang ethnic group. Their handicraft industry is highly developed, boasting of rich traditions. They are adept at forging iron. In fact, almost every family can do it. Their 'Achang knife' or 'Husa knife', which is sharp, tensile, durable and tasteful, enjoys a high reputation among the people in the border areas of Yunnan.
In the form of Siheyuan courtyard, houses of Achang ethnic group are normally made of four materials: brick, tile, wood and stone. Their houses have two stories. The upper floor serves as a living space for the family while the ground floor is used as shelter for the livestock and a place to put firewood and farm implements.
The majority of Achang people will have three meals a day. The staple diet includes rice, corn, and potatoes, which will be supplemented with meat and fish. Achang people are fond of drinking. Wine make from sticky rice is especially popular with them.
Achangs' costumes are varied in styles. They like to wear black clothes. For women, their clothes vary somewhat depending on where they live, but in general married women wear garments buttoned on the front with narrow, long sleeves and close-fitting knee-length skirts. They usually wrap their heads with black or blue cloth that may go as high as thirty centimeters. Unmarried women wear trousers and plait their hair into a bun on their heads. The plait is wrapped with a black cloth. Achang women like to wear silver objects on festive occasions.
Most Achang men tend to wear blue, white or black jackets which button down the front, while some often wear jackets with buttons toward the left side. Unmarried men wrap their heads with white cloth, and married men indigo cloths.
Most Achang people believe in Hinayana Buddhist while some worship their ancestors, practice polytheism and animism. Also, believers of Daoism and Christianism also can be found in Achang villages.
Achang people have a rich heritage of singing ballads and telling folk tales. It is through these songs and stories that the Achang culture and history are passed down from generation to generation. Root in life, their songs and stories have a variety in their content. Some of them tell the origin of the ethnic group, some eulogize people's fighting spirit against the ruling class while some glorify the intelligence and industriousness of common people.
Achang people like singing folk songs. When they work on the mountain or in the farmland, gather at the holiday celebrations, or make friends between boys and girls, they would like to sing folk songs and ditties to express their feelings.
Woluo Festival is the most important festival of Achang people. It comes in the fourth day of the first month of the lunar calendar. During the festival, people of all ages come together, dancing and singing all day and night.
Splashing Water Festival is another important festival. During the festival, Achang people go and pick flowers in mountains, dancing and singing, and regard it as Buddha. With cheer, hail and hurrah, they go to river to wash and bathe their Buddha.
Besides, Dehong Fair Street is also a famous festival in local area.
More ethnic minorities of China: Bai Blang Bonan Bouyei