Population and Distribution
The Dulong (also known as Drung) ethnic group is one of the smallest ethnic groups in China. With a total population of about 5,816 (data from the census in 2000), they mainly live in the Dulong River Valley in the Gongshan Dulong and Nu Autonomous County in north-western Yunnan Province. There are also a small number of them, about 10 percent of the total, distributed in the areas along the Nujiang River in the north of Gongshan County.
Few historical records were found regarding the origin of this ethnic group till today. But relative references show that they were once under the rule of court-appointed Naxi headmen through the Yuan Dynasty (1271 - 1368) to the end of the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911). They had no uniform name and were called 'Qiao' in the Yuan Dynasty and 'Qiu' or 'Qu' people after the Qing Dynasty. With the founding of the PRC in 1949, following consultation with the ethnic group it was decided to agree upon the official name of Dulong ethnic group.
The Dulong people have their own language which belongs to the Tibetan-Burmese group of the Chinese-Tibetan language family. They have no written script and traditionally, they made records and transmitted message by means of engraving notches in wood and tying knots. Some can speak and write Chinese.
For thousands of years, the Dulong ethnic group was kept in an isolated situation. Before the founding of P.R.C in 1949, the ethnic group maintained many vestiges of the primitive commune system. Productivity remained very low and the production tools they used were limited to some simple iron, steel, stone and wooden instruments. There are no clear divisions of labor that existed in their society at that time.
In agriculture, the slash-and-burn cultivation dominated in the production and crops grown were limited to maize, buckwheat and beans until 1949. After 1949, however, their living and working conditions have improved dramatically. Advanced techniques were introduced and new crops such as rice and potatoes were cultivated.
The Dulongs also 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 Dulong people eat twice a day. Their staple food consists of corn, millet and beets. Common vegetables are potatoes, bean pods and some others that they collect, such as bamboo shoots, bamboo leaves and mushrooms. Winter is the peak season for hunting. Meat from wild ox is the main food in winter. Besides, fish found in the Dulong River is another favorite food of the Dulong people.
The Dulongs like to build their houses on the steep mountain slopes and along the river. Those who live in the northern region always build wooden houses and those in the southern region prefer bamboo ones.
Their houses are often two storied with a ladder to go up and down. The second floor is the living quarters for the family while the ground floor is used for storage and provides accommodation for the livestock. The members from one family always live in the same large house. Each hearth in the house symbolizes one little family unit. Once a man marries, a new hearth will be set up in the large house. The married sons, instead of separating from their parents, will settle down in the house built for them beside the large house.
Women of the Dulong ethnic group normally wear black and white striped gunny or cotton clothes and the men wear a pair of short trousers. The Dulong people, male and female, wear their hair down to their eyebrows in front and down to their shoulders behind. Both women and men like to have their upper chest wrapped with a long piece of gunny from the left armpit to the right shoulder, leaving the left shoulder uncovered.
Men prefer wearing a crossbow and a hunting knife on the waist, which make them appear to be bold and brave. Women love to wear garments with colored chain necklaces.
The Dulong women used to tattoo their faces in the past. When a girl reached the age of twelve or thirteen, she had her face tattooed. Dulong women living in different areas had tattoos of different designs and on different parts of the face. Most of the women in the lower reaches of the Dulong River had tattoos of vertical lines only on the left and right of the philtrum, which look like a man's moustache. After 1949, the custom of tattoo gradually disappeared.
The Dulong people are brave, industrious, united and generous and set much store in morals and ethics. They are well known as a nation with good credibility and morality. Although the society is ruled by some simple disciplines, no thefts or crimes occur within the ethnic group.
The Dulongs are animists and believed that all living creatures have souls. Believing evil spirits exist everywhere and can bring calamities to people, they often hold various rites to expel evil sprit at all costs.
Now, some Dulong people are believers of Christianity.
Burying is the practice except in cases of death from serious disease when the corpses were cremated or disposed of in the rivers. Friends and relatives of the dead will attend the funeral with grain and wine to offer their condolences. On the day of burial, all people in the village will stop working to mourn for the dead. If the deceased were elderly, a shaman would conduct a sacrificial ceremony before the dead was buried.
Kaquewa Festival is the only New Year Festival of the Dulong ethnic group. It is held during the eleventh and twelfth lunar months. The exact date varies with the location and the duration of the celebration often lasts as long as the food does.
The most exciting activity during the festival is killing and sacrificing an ox. At the beginning of the ceremony, a sacrificial ox will be fastened onto the sacrificial pole by the presider. Then women will put a newly-woven carpet onto the back of the ox, hang a string of beads on its horns and say to the God of Hunting: "We present this ox to you and hope you will bestow us many, many animals". Everybody dances around it. A young man whose parents are both alive will be elected to kill the ox with a spear. The ox will be roasted after being killed. Everybody present at the festivities has a share. The celebration usually continues throughout the whole night and people will not leave until they enjoy themselves to their hearts' content.