People and Population
According to the latest census data, the Jingpo ethnic ethnic group has a population of about 132,000 (in 2000) people. Sharing land with the Deang, Lisu, Achang and Han people, the Jingpo people are concentrated in the Dehong Dai-Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan Province in southeastern China. Some of the Jingpo people also live in the Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture.
Historical records indicate that the ancestor of the Jingpo ethnic group has a close relationship with the Qiang and Di people. They used to live in the southern mountain area of the Xikang-Tibetan Plateau. Later, they gradually migrated to the northwestern Yunnan Province, west of the Nujiang River. The local people, together with the newly-arrived Jingpos, were called "Xunchuanman" (Xunchuan Barbarian). In the 15th-16th century, aiming to avoid the warfare, they continue to move west and finally settled down in the Dehong area, living together with the Deang, Achang, Lisu, Han and other nationalities.
They have been variously known as the 'Echang', 'Zhexie', and 'Yeren' since the Yuan Dynasty (1368 - 1644) and, with the founding of the PRC in 1949, following consultation with the ethnic group it was decided to agree upon the official name of Jingpo ethnic group.
They have their own language which belongs to the Tibetan-Burmese family of the Chinese-Tibetan language system. An alphabetic system of writing based on Latin letters was created and introduced to the Jingpo people about seventy years ago however, is not as popular as Han language.
The Jingpo people practice polytheism. Influenced by their primitive religion, they are Animists, believing everything in the nature as such the sun, the moon, birds, beasts, fishes and all other living creatures having souls. The Jingpo people worship their ancestors, who they believe bring safety and prosperity to their offspring. Furthermore, some foreign religions, such as Christianity, are also practiced by a small number of Jingpo people.
Agriculture is the way of life for the Jingpo people with rice and corn being the primary crops. Situated in the mountain area some 1,500 meters above sea level, the area populated by the Jingpo people has a warm climate, vast fertile land and abundant rainfall, giving rise to the success of agriculture. Major agricultural products are rice and corn. Other profitable cash crops include rubber; tea; shellac; silk cotton; coffee and tung tree.
Additionally, animal breeding, handicraft and other sidelines also develop as useful components of their economy.
The Jingpo area also abounds in unique woods, medicinal herbs and rare animals. Primary natural resources here are iron; copper; lead; coal; gold; silver; precious and semi-precious stones.
Typically, the Jingpo people have three meals per day. Rice is the staple food, which is served with the beans, potatoes and wild fruit. Their daily vegetables include beans; Murphy; bamboo shoots; cress; greens and other garden faire. Chicken and pork are their main sources for meat protein.
Zhutongfan (rice cooked with bamboo tubes) is their favorite food. To prepare Zhutongfan, a fresh and tender bamboo tube is stuffed with rice and soaked in water for some time. Both ends of the tube are plugged with bamboo leaves and roasted until the surface of the tube turns brown. Rice prepared this way is said to be sweet and very tasty. They people enjoy drinking fermented beverages. Wine is usually home produced and will likely be carried in containers at all times. The Jingpo people also enjoy chewing tobacco, Luzi, and betel nuts to prevent poisoning and sunstroke.
Jingpo men usually wear black or white short round-collared jacket with buttons down the front and short and loose-fitting trousers. They often wrap their head with white or black turbans, which are usually decorated with flower lace designs and small colored balls. When men go out in public places, they invariably wear long knives on their waist, or take rifles with them to show their valor and dignity.
Jingpo women usually wear black jackets with buttons down the front middle or front left. Their jackets are always sewed with numerous silver bubbles and pieces. Matching the jacket is a colorful knitted skirt and a woolen shinguard. Women like wearing silver ornaments. Women also wear a red or black lacquered rattan rings on her waist; neck; wrists and ankles. It is believed that the more rattan rings a woman wears, the more beautiful she is.
The friendly Jingpo people are known for being good dancers and good singers as well as good musicians. They always celebrate harvests; new buildings; welcoming honorable guests; marriages and funerals through traditional singing and dancing activities. Group dancing which are their major dancing form represents their travels; life; work; wars and sacrificial rites. It sometimes involves more than 1,000 people, with their singing reverberating in nearby mountain valleys. Popular music instruments are wooden drums; 'elephant-leg' drums; gongs; cymbals; bamboo flutes and traditional pipe instruments such as shangbi tuliang, kouxuan and, lerong.
They have a rich and colorful ancient culture. They have many legends, folk tales and stories. These culturally rich tales explain the Jingpo history, imparts knowledge and expresses their feelings to one another.
Usually built of bamboo and wood, homes are usually two stories, with the second floor reserved for the family accommodations and the ground floor used for keeping and tending to the livestock. Their house is oblong shaped with two entry doors, in which, the front door is used for the guests and the back door only for the family members.
The house of Jingpo people is often rebuilt every seven or eight year's. Building and rebuilding homes is a communal affair and the entire village will come together and help. When the new home is completed, the owner will fire a shot from his rifle in celebration. As soon as they hear the gunshot, the villagers flock to the house and gather around it, singing and dancing with delight, accompanied by the beating of the wooden drums. At the festive celebration, they congratulate the owner upon finishing the house, wishing him good luck and hoping his house will last forever.
The family's move is completed with the transfer of the fire with a torch from the old house to the new. They believe that an unbroken fire will allow the family lineage to continue for eternity.
One could say that the Jingpo people will celebrate most any occasion, but the most ceremonious festival of the Jingpo people is Munao festival. Munao is a large gathering intended to celebrate good harvests, to drive out evil spirits and to pray for happiness and success in cultivation and healthy crops to harvest. Munao means 'group singing and dancing' in the Jingpo language.
The festival normally comes on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month and lasts two or three days. Traditionally, four wooden poles, each about twenty meters high, are erected at the center of the stage, separately standing for good luck, victory, unity and bravery. The patterns painted on the poles portray scenes from their history, pictures of the Himalayas, and the route their ancestors traveled when migrating to their current homeland. All festival activities are conducted around the four Munao Poles.
The most wonderful part of the festival is the scene of chaotic dancing, participated by thousands of Jingpo people. The choreographed dance steps and sequences dramatize the route depicted on the Munao Poles. The singing and dancing festivities continue nonstop for two or three days.