Greg Hugh, China Insight publisher, Outstanding Service Award recipient

It’s been long-time coming that someone who has played a critical connective-tissue role in the local Chinese community be recognized for his contribution. On Sept. 9, Greg Hugh, co-founder and publisher of China Insight, received the Outstanding Service Award at the Council on Asia Pacific Minnesotans Dinner held at the Heritage Center in Brooklyn Center.The award recognizes someone from the community who has “made significant contributions to the Asian Pacific Minnesotan community.”

Read More
Publisher’s Pronouncements
August 29, 2022
By Gregory Hugh, Publisher, China Insight.
CAPI Awards Dinner (202209)
August 29, 2022
China Insight.
3 notable local Chinese American women (202209)
August 29, 2022
China Insight.
Judge Gail Chang Bohr, retired but still on a mission
Judge Regina Chu retired, sleeping better
Professor Erika Lee, author and historian, Harvard bound
Jamie Ford's  Mpls book tour (202209)
August 29, 2022
By By Ralph Beha, USCPFA-MN | contributor | September 2022.
BBQ to go (202209)
August 29, 2022
By Elaine Dunn | September 2022.
Blvd of broken dreams (202209)
August 29, 2022
By Jorge Gonzales, contributor | June 2022 .
Harvest Moon (202207)
Harvest Moon Festival at Phalen Park
Poetry Contest (202207)
Poetry Contest
Book Review 2: By Moy (202207)
June 28, 2022
Revwiew by Afong Moy.
History: Jumbo (202207)
June 28, 2022
By Elaine Dunn, China Insight.
and their two-wheelers (202206)
June 5, 2022
By Elaine Dunn, China Insight.
Abortions and population growth in China (202206)
June 5, 2022
by Elaine Dunn, China Insight.


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Tensions Over Taiwan

The recent visit of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan was not well-received by Beijing at all. 

In retaliation, the People’s Republic of China dramatically scaled up military exercises in the Taiwan Strait.  It canceled eight key dialogs with the U.S.  It banned export of natural sand to the island state and halted imports of agricultural and fish products from Taiwan.

In video Tensions over Taiwan", three experts at The University of Wisconsin shed light on the economic and strategic implications of Taiwan’s semiconductor industry globally should Taiwan be governed by the PRC.

Well worth watching.

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202201 1 Future of CI

China has a population of 1.3 billion people and 56 ethnic groups.  Over 90 percent of the Chinese population belongs to the Han ethnic group.  The 55 ethnic minority groups in China have distinct languages, customs and identities that are also part of Chinese culture.  In this, and upcoming issues, we will present information about China’s ethnic minorities.

China has a population of 1.3 billion people and 56 ethnic groups.  Over 90 percent of the Chinese population belongs to the Han ethnic group.  The 55 ethnic minority groups in China have distinct languages, customs and identities that are also part of Chinese culture.  In this, and upcoming issues, we will present information about China’s ethnic minorities.

The Achang ethnic minority

Population: 27,700
Major area of distribution: Yunnan
Language: Achang
Religion: Buddhism

More than 90 percent of the 27,700 Achangs live in Longchuan, Lianghe and Luxi counties in the Dehong Dai-Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture in southwestern Yunnan Province. The rest live in Longling County in the neighboring Baoshan Prefecture.

These areas are on the southern tip of the Gaoligong Mountains. The climate is warm; the land fertile, crisscrossed by the Daying and Longchuan rivers and their numerous tributaries. The river valleys contain many plains, the Fusa and Lasa being the largest of them. Dense forests populated by deer, musk deer and bears cover the mountain slopes. Natural resources, such as coal, iron, copper, lead, mica and graphite, abound.

Achangs speak a language belonging to the Tibetan-Myanmese language family of the Chinese-Tibetan system. Most Achangs also can speak Chinese and the language of Dais. Their written language is Chinese.
Achangs treasure their oral culture of ballads, stories and folk tales. Singing alternating duets is a favorite evening recreation of young men and women. Musical instruments used by Achangs include the bamboo qin (a stringed plucked instrument), the bamboo flute, the gourd-shaped sheng (a wind instrument), the sanxian (a three-stringed plucked instrument), the elephant-leg drum and the gong. Drum and monkey dances are among the most popular. Handicrafts include embroidery, lacquering, dyeing, weaving, engraving and silverware making and are known for their elaborate patterns and detail. Achang engraving is extraordinary and can best be seen on furniture, buildings and Buddhist shrines, on which workers have etched vivid forms of animals and plants.


Achang men tend to wear blue, white or black jackets which button down the front, although on the Lasa plain many men wear jackets with buttons toward the left side. Achang women like to wear silver objects on festive occasions. Their clothes vary somewhat depending on where they live, but in general married women wear skirts and jackets with tight sleeves and wrap their heads with black or blue cloth that may go as high as three decimeters. Unmarried women wear trousers and tie their pigtails on top of their heads. Although the habit is disappearing, young men and women used to chew areca, blackening their teeth. For food, Achangs eat rice as their staple and prefer sour dishes. They live in courtyard houses of brick or stone with wood beam supports. Achang villages are connected by gravel paths or roads paved with stone slabs.

The basic unit of the Achang society is the patriarchal, monogamous family. Young men and women are free to choose their spouses. Courting rituals are quite specific. When dusk falls, young men go to bamboo groves near the homes of the young women they desire and play the sheng to win their favor. In some places, groups of young men and women gather around a bonfire, where couples flirt by singing alternate verses. This can go on until dawn. Before 1949, marriages were arranged by parents, which often led to forced marriage and misery for unlucky young lovers. The Achangs have a strict incest taboo: people with the same surname do not marry each other. But intermarriage with Hans and Dais has always been permitted.

Under the Han influence, Achangs generally practice ancestor worship. Most Achangs on the Fusa plain believe in Hinayana, a branch of Buddhism.

Achangs generally bury their dead. In Buddhist areas, funerals are scheduled on holy days and follow the chanting of scripture by monks. One monk leads the funeral procession. As he walks, he holds a long strand of white cloth tied to the coffin, as if he were guiding the dead into the "Heavenly Kingdom." The coffin is to be carried above the heads of the close relatives of the dead, figuratively providing the deceased with a "bridge" to cross the river to the netherworld. The dead are buried without their metal ornaments; even the gold coatings on false teeth must be removed to make sure nothing will contaminate their reincarnation. Those who die of infectious diseases or childbirth are cremated.

Past Socio-economic Conditions

Before 1949 Achangs in the Lianghe area lived within a familial organization called the "Jiahui" (family meeting). Similar to the patriarchal clan system, the Jiahui had written family rules and chose patriarchs to maintain the feudal order of exploitation. Regarded as inferiors to the men in the Jiahui, women had few rights. They had no right of inheritance. After 1949 these practices were gradually eliminated.

The Achangs' ancestors once lived in the Jinsha, Lancang and Nujiang river valleys in northwestern Yunnan. Some of them moved west of the Nujiang River where they gradually evolved from hunters to farmers. According to legends, Achang forbears in those days lived in a matriarchal society with women having a dominant familial and social position and lovers living in group marriages.

During the Tang and Song dynasties (618-1279), the Achang area was controlled by Yunnan's Nanzhao and Dali principalities. During the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1911), the Achangs were ruled by Achang hereditary chiefs appointed by -- and accountable to -- the imperial court. After the Revolution of 1911, warlords in Yunnan established an administrative bureau in the Achang area, installing the Bao-Jia system (an administrative system organized on the basis of households, each Jia being made up of 10 households, and each Bao of 10 Jia, by which the warlords enforced their rule at the primary level), oppressing and exploiting the Achang people in collaboration with local chiefs.
Before 1949, feudalism was the dominant economic form in the areas in which the Achangs lived. Farming was done according to the landlord system. Dai chiefs were the feudal lords; most landlords were Hans. Achang landlords were few.

Where they ruled, chiefs owned all the land. Aside from collecting taxes to enrich themselves, they used their political privileges to extort "gifts" from peasants on such occasions as holidays, weddings and funerals. The ruling classes, including Achang landlords, prospered through usury and the exploitation of labor.

Under the rule of chiefs, the Achang social structure was destroyed. Achangs were organized into the "gang" (township) and the "zuo" (district), through which the chiefs ruled them and levied tax upon them. "Official tax," "tax on opium," "tax on land" -- these and other taxes and levies squeezed the people, draining them of whatever comforts they could accumulate. In addition, many Achang villages were burdened with a fixed amount of required, unpaid labor.
Post-liberation Life

Liberation came for the Achangs in early 1950. Two years later, an Achang autonomous district was established in Longchuan County's Fusa area, where the Achangs were concentrated. This was followed by the establishment of three more Achang autonomous districts in the counties of Luxi and Lianghe in 1953 and 1954. When the Dehong Dai-Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture was created, the Achangs were amply represented in the prefectural people's congress.
Beginning in the autumn of 1955, a gradual land reform abolished feudal land ownership in the Achang area. Also abolished were feudal privileges, taxes and usury. Farmers were organized into cooperatives in 1958.
Achangs are famous for their rice cultivation. Before 1950, Achangs were kept so poor by the feudal system that they could not afford to eat rice. But since liberation, Achangs have been able to build irrigation systems that have transformed arid land into fertile paddy fields, ensuring steady rice harvests. They also have built small hydroelectric stations, and have bought farm machinery such as tractors, rice mills, diesel engines, threshers and winnowers.
Local industries, built up from nothing, are centered around Lianghe. They now include ironwork, oil pressing, dyeing, and farm tool, soap and rosin production. In Lasa, an ironworks produces water-powered fire blowers, replacing the manual ones that were in common use.

Development of education has been a priority. Before 1950, there was only one school, in Lasa, and that one mainly enrolled the children of chiefs. Today, however, several dozens of primary and middle schools have been set up and almost all Achang children are at schools.

In those areas, epidemics used to run rampant. After 1950, epidemic prevention stations and clinics have been established, and medical workers of Achang origin have been trained. Epidemics such as the plague, cholera and typhoid fever have been eliminated.

The Bai ethnic minority

Population: 1.59 million
Major area of distribution: Yunnan and Guizhou
Language: Bai
Religion: Buddhism

Of the 1,598,100 Bai people, 80 percent live in concentrated communities in the Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan Province, southwest China. The rest are scattered in Xichang and Bijie in neighboring Sichuan and Guizhou provinces respectively.

The Bais speak a language related to the Yi branch of the Tibetan-Myanmese group of the Chinese-Tibetan language family. The language contains a large number of Chinese words due to the Bais' long contact with the majority Chinese ethnic group--Han.

Situated on the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau, the Bai area is crisscrossed with rivers, of which the major ones are the Lancang, the Nujiang and the Jinsha. The river valleys, dense forests and vast tracts of land form a beautiful landscape and provide an abundance of crops and fruits. The area round Lake Erhai in the autonomous prefecture is blessed with a mild climate and fertile land yielding two crops a year. Here, the main crops are rice, winter wheat, beans, millet, cotton, rape, sugar-cane and tobacco. The forests have valuable stocks of timber, herbs of medicinal value and rare animals. Mt. Diancang by Lake Erhai contains a rich deposit of the famous Yunnan marble, which is basically pure white with veins of red, light blue, green and milky yellow. It is treasured as building material as well as for carving.

Origins and History

Archaeological finds from Canger and Haimenkou show that the Erhai area was inhabited as early as the Neolithic Age, and artifacts of that period indicate that the people of the region used stone tools, engaged in farming, livestock rearing, fishing and hunting, and dwelt in caves. Possibly, they began to use bronze knives and swords and other metal tools about 2,000 years ago.

The people in the Erhai area developed closer ties with the Han majority in inland provinces in the Qin (221-207 B.C.) and Han (206 B.C.-A.D. 220) dynasties. In 109 B.C. the Western Han Dynasty set up county administrations and moved a large number of Han people to this border area. These people brought more advanced production techniques and iron tools, contributing to the economic development of the area. During the Sui (581-618) and Tang (618-907) dynasties, the farming there had reached a level close to that of the central plains.

Bai aristocrats backed by the Tang court unified the people of the Erhai area and established the Nanzhao regime of Yis and Bais. Its first chief, Piluoge, was granted the title of King of Yunnan by a Tang emperor.

Slaves were used to do heavy labor, while "free" peasants were subject to heavy taxation and forced to render various services including conscription into the army. Some of them, who lost their land, were made slaves.

The Nanzhao regime lasted for 250 years. During that period of time, while maintaining a good relationship with the central government, the rulers cruelly oppressed the slaves and mercilessly plundered other ethnic nationalities through warfare. Productivity was thus seriously harmed. This caused slave rebellions and uprisings. Nanzhao's power came to an end in the year 902. Then a regime based on a feudal lord system, known as the Kingdom of Dali, was established. The kingdom adopted a series of measures such as abolishing exorbitant taxes and removing conservative ministers. As a result, social productivity was restored.

The kingdom lasted for over 300 years (937-1253) as a tributary to the Song Dynasty (960-1279) court. It sent war-horses, handicrafts and precious medicines to the court, and in return received science and technology, as well as books in the Han language. Economic and cultural exchanges with the Hans contributed greatly to the development of this border area.

The kingdom was conquered by the Mongols in the 13th century, and Yuan Dynasty (1206-1368) rule was established there. The Mongols designated Yunnan a province while establishing Dali and Heqing as prefectures. In order to strengthen their control over Dali, the Yuan rulers offered former chieftains official posts and granted their families hereditary privileges. Though land was mainly concentrated in the hands of the local aristocracy at that time, the feudal lord system began to give way to a landlord system.

The Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) took power from the Yuan rulers in 1381. The Ming court removed local chieftains and replaced them with court officials. This kind of reform resulted in the weakening of the political and economic privileges of the local lords, brought freedom to the slaves and raised the enthusiasm of the peasants for farming. Those Bais and Hans who had emigrated were encouraged to return, while Hans from other areas were persuaded to settle there. This measure accelerated the development of the landlord economy of Bai society.

In addition to the continuation of the Ming policy of dispatching officials from the central government, the Qing (1644-1911) court also appointed local officials and chieftains to rule over the Bais.

Some Bai people in remote areas still suffered feudal exploitation and oppression at the time of liberation.

Culture and Folklore

Over the centuries, the Bais have created a science and culture of their own. Agriculture was dominant in the Erhai area as early as the Neolithic Age. People then knew how to dig ditches for irrigation. During the Nanzhao regime, they began the cultivation of rice, wheat, broomcorn, millet and several other crops, and built the Cangshan water-conservancy project which could bring water to tens of thousands of hectares of land. To their credit are inventions and advances in meteorology, astronomy, calendar, architecture, medical science, literature, music, dancing, carving and painting. Among the representative works of the Bai people are Transit Star Catalogue for Time Determination by the Ming Dynasty scholar Zhou Silian, Collection of Secret Prescriptions by Chen Dongtian and Tested Prescriptions by Li Xingwei. These classics recorded and summarized in detail the valuable experience of the Bai people in astronomy and medicine.
The superb architectural skill of the Bai people is represented by the three pagodas at the Chongsheng Temple in Dali. Built during the Tang Dynasty, the 16-story main tower is 60 meters high and still stands erect after more than 1,000 years. It bears a resemblance to the Dayan Pagoda (Wild Goose) in Xi'an, an ancient Chinese capital city in today's Shaanxi Province. Figurines in the Shibaoshan Grottoes in Jianchuan County are lifelike, possessing both the common features of figure creation in China and the unique features of the Bai artists. The architectural group in the Jizushan Temple, with bow-shaped crossbeams, bracket-inserted columns, and gargoyles representing people, flowers and birds created with the open carving method, shows the excellent workmanship of the Bai people. The Bais also have high attainments in lacquerware.

They have created a wealth of literary works reflecting their life, work, and struggles against nature and oppression. The epic, Genesis, sings the praises of the communal life of Bai primitive society. Some poems by Bai poets have been included in the Complete Poems of Tang Dynasty. The History of the Bais, Anecdotes of Nanzhao and Kingdoms of Southwest China are among the best historical works written by Bai historians. They provide important data for the study of the history of the Erhai area.

The Bai people are good singers and dancers. The "Lion Dance," created during the Nanzhao regime, was appreciated in the central plains during the Tang Dynasty. Bai opera, known as chuichui, is an art form combining folk music and dancing. It has also absorbed some of the characteristics of Han operas.

The famous painting depicting the Resurgence of the Nanzhao was created in 899 A.D. by Bai painters Zhang Shun and Wang Fengzong. This masterpiece was stolen by foreign imperialists in 900 from Beijing.

Customs and Habits

The Bais are Buddhists and worshippers of "communal god." Dotted with monasteries and temples, Dali has been known as a "Scented Wonderland." Abbots who held huge amount of land and other property in the past were big landlords and usurers. The ordinary people were heavily burdened by this caste and by religious activities which required sacrifices of cattle and other valuables.

Monogamous families have been the basic social cells of the Bais, with a very few people who practiced polygamy. Parents live with their unmarried children, but only in big landlord families did four generations live together. Before the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, matches between young men and young women of the same surname or clan were not permitted, while marriages between cousins were encouraged, and were arranged by the parents. High bride prices caused many poor families to fall into debt. Women were discriminated against, and only men had the right to inherit family property. But all such feudal practices and customs have been fading away since 1949. Young people now enjoy the freedom to choose their lovers.

The "March Fair," which falls between March 15 and 20 of the lunar calendar, is a grand festival of the Bais. It is celebrated every year at the foot of the Diancang Hill to the west of Dali city. It is a fair and an occasion for sporting contests and theatrical performances. People gather there to enjoy dances, horse racing and other games. June 25 is the "Torch Festival." On that day, torches are lit everywhere to usher in a bumper harvest and to bless the people with good health and fortune. Streamers bearing auspicious words are hung in doorways and at village entrances alongside the flaming torches. Villagers, holding aloft torches, walk around in the fields to drive insects away.


Before 1949, the feudal landlord economy was dominant in most Bai areas. Incipient capitalism had developed in a few cities and towns, while vestiges of the primitive communalism and remnants of the slave system were still in existence.
About 90 percent of the people were farmers who possessed only 20 percent of the arable land.

In areas where the lord system prevailed, peasants were all serfs, who owned neither land nor personal freedom.
In the communal setup in Bijiang and Fugong areas, class distinctions were not clear. There was land which was tilled collectively and the harvest distributed equally among the people. Private ownership of land also was practiced on a small scale. There were also land sales and leasing.

Commercial capitalism found its way into some Bai areas at the beginning of the modern times. Trading companies owned by bureaucrat landlords emerged, shipped in commodities such as yarns and cloth from the United States, Britain and France via India, Burma and Vietnam, and exported gold, silver, and farm and sideline produce.

The Bai people had staged numerous uprisings against the Qing rulers and foreign imperialists. In one of these uprisings, which took place in the mid-19th century, they set up their own political power, the Dali Administration. The new government adopted measures to promote industrial and agricultural production, reduce land taxation and stamp out discrimination against the various nationalities.

New Life

Democratic reform and socialist transformation proceeded in the Bai areas in much the same way as in the Han inhabited areas, but the reforms were carried out in a more gradual manner in those areas with vestiges of pre-capitalist economic organization. Cooperatives were set up to boost production on the basis of abolishing class exploitation and the remnants of primitive communalism.

The Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture was founded in November 1956 after the completion of the democratic reform and socialist transformation.

The Blang ethnic minority

Population: 82,400
Major area of distribution: Yunnan
Language: Blang
Religion: Buddhism

The Blang people, numbering 82,400, live mainly in Mt. Blang, Xiding and Bada areas of Menghai County in the Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture in southwestern Yunnan Province. There are also scattered Blang communities in the neighboring Lincang and Simao prefectures. All the Blangs inhabit mountainous areas 1,500-2,000 meters above sea level. The Blangs in Xishuangbanna have always lived harmoniously with their neighbors of both the other minority nationalities and the majority Han.

The Blang people inhabit an area with a warm climate, plentiful rainfall, fertile soil and rich natural resources. The main cash crops are cotton, sugar-cane and the world famous Pu'er tea. In the dense virgin forests grow various valuable trees, and valued medicinal herbs such as pseudoginseng, rauwolfia verticillata (used for lowering high blood pressure) and lemongrass, from which a high-grade fragrance can be extracted. The area abounds in copper, iron, sulfur and rock crystal.
The Blangs speak a language belonging to the South Asian language family. The language does not have a written form, but Blangs often know the Dai, Va and Han languages.

According to historical records, an ancient tribe called the "Pu" were the earliest inhabitants of the Lancang and Nujiang river valleys. These people may have been the ancestors of today's Blangs.

Pre-1949 Life

Before China’s national liberation, the Blang people were very superstitious. Ancestor worship was a part of their way of life. The Blangs in Xishuangbanna area believed in Hinayana Buddhism, as a result of the influence of the Dai tribe. The Blangs' Buddhist temples and social systems were similar to those of the Dais.

Blang men wear collarless jackets with buttons down the front and loose black trousers. They wear turbans of black or white cloth. Men have the tradition of tattooing their limbs, chests and bellies. Blang women, like their Dai sisters, wear tight collarless jackets and tight striped or black skirts. They tie their hair into a bun and cover it with layers of cloth.
Their staple diet consists of rice, maize and beans. They prefer their food sour and hot. Drinking home-brewed wine and smoking tobacco are their main pastimes. Blang women like chewing betel nut and regard teeth dyed black with betel-nut juice as beautiful.

The Blangs live in two-storied balustraded bamboo houses. The ground floor is for keeping domestic animals and storing stone mortars used for hulling rice. The upper floor is the living quarters, and in the middle of the main room is a fireplace for cooking, heating and light. When a family builds a house, nearly all the grown-ups in the village offer help, completing the project in two or three days.

The Blang ethnic group has a rich store of folk tales and ballads transmitted orally. Their songs and dances show the strong influence of their Dai neighbors. Elephant-leg drums, cymbals and three-stringed plucked instruments provide musical accompaniment for dancing. People in the Blang Mountain area revel in their energetic "knife dance." Young people like a courting dance called the "circle dance." For the Blangs in the Mujiang area, New Year's Day and weddings are occasions for dancing and singing, often lasting the whole night.

The Blangs seek spouses outside their own clans and practice monogamy. With a few exceptions, mainly parental interference, young Blangs are fairly free to choose marriage partners.

The death of a person is followed by scripture chanting by Buddhist monks or shamans to "dispel the devil," and the funeral is held within three days. Each village generally has a common cemetery divided according to clans or people having the same surnames. The dead are buried in the ground except for those dying a violent death, who are cremated.

Past Social Conditions

Before liberation in 1950, social development was uneven in different Blang localities. The Blang communities in the Lincang and Simao prefectures were fairly developed socially and economically, as their members lived together with Hans and other more socially advanced peoples. Except for cemeteries and forests, which remained common property, land had become privately owned. A landlord economy had long been established, with landlords and rich peasants taking possession of the best land through exorbitant interest rates, mortgages, pawning and political privileges. Poor Blang peasants, aside from being at the mercy of landlords and rich peasants of Blang origin, were exploited by propertied classes of Han and other ethnic minorities. The Bao-Jia system (an administrative system organized on the basis of households, instituted by the Kuomintang government in 1932) tightened political control over all the Blang areas. The Kuomintang government, in collaboration with local landlords and tyrants, caused great suffering to the Blang people by excessive levying of taxes and forced conscription.

The Blang communities in Xishuangbanna's Mt. Blang, Xiding and Bada areas were less socially developed and more poverty-stricken. The Blangs had long been subjected to the rule of Dai feudal lords, who exacted from them an annual tribute of money and farm produce. The Dai landlords appointed a number of hereditary headmen called "Ba" from among the Blangs. Each "Ba" had several Blang villages under his rule and collected tributes for the Dai masters.
Blang society in Xishuangbanna retained varying degrees of public ownership of land by the clan or the village, aside from private ownership. A small number of villages had retained characteristics of the primitive commune, which was composed of 20-30 small families who had a common ancestor. Commune farmland, forests and pastures belonged to all the members. Families and individuals had the right to utilize this kind of land, but could not buy or sell it. As productivity developed, however, the patriarchs took advantage of their positions to gradually grab property for themselves, and began to exploit clan members.

Most Blang villages in Xishuangbanna had primitive commune features. Each village consisted of some 100 households belonging to several or a dozen clans of different blood relationships. While farm implements, houses and farm animals belonged to individual households, land, forests and water sources were the village's common property. The different clans took permanent possession of different parts of the public land and allocated their share to small families under them on a regular basis to enable farming on a household basis. The households were entitled to the harvest. Just as each small family depended on its clan membership for the use of land, each clan relied on its affiliation to the village for its right to use the village land. Once a clan moved elsewhere, its land reverted to the village. When a newcomer applied for land, a meeting of headmen would decide how much to allocate.

Members of a village commune were engaged in the same kind of political and religious activities. Public officials of the commune, namely the headmen, were elected.

Gradually, however, private ownership of land emerged. Many village commune members lost their land, becoming tenants of headmen or rich households. Their land henceforth assumed a completely private nature: it could be sold or bought, mortgaged or rented. Patriarchs or the elected headman of a village commune, taking advantage of their position, often took permanent possession of large amounts of good land.

Production was at an extremely low level before liberation in Xishuangbanna's Blang area. Agriculture was the economic mainstay of Blang society, with dry rice as the dominant crop, followed by tea and cotton. At the beginning of the spring ploughing season, patriarchs would organize clan members to clear forest land and allocate it among individual households for farming. Harvests were poor. The Blangs' low income contrasted sharply with their heavy economic burden, which included tribute, high interest to money lenders, different kinds of taxes and corvee.

Post-liberation Life

In the spring of 1950, the Chinese People's Liberation Army entered the Blang area. By driving out bandits and local tyrants, and taking measures to protect the lives and property of the people of different nationalities, the army soon stabilized social order in this frontier region. This was followed by the people's government sending work teams to help the Blangs develop production and establish grassroots organs of power. Blangs sent their representatives to the prefectural and county people's congresses, where they exercised their rights as masters of their own affairs.

In light of the actual conditions in the Blang area, the government conducted a series of social reforms aimed at gradually eliminating feudal exploitation and vestiges of primitive backwardness hampering social development. Between 1952 and 1953, a land reform similar to that in the Han areas was carried out in Zhenkang, Lincang, Yanxian, Jingdong, Jinggu, Mujiang and other areas. In 1955-56, land reform of a more moderate nature was conducted in Gengma, Shuangjiang and some parts of Lancang, followed by the setting up of production cooperatives. In Xishuangbanna and Lancang's Nuofu area, where vestiges of primitive communism still existed, social reform progressed more slowly. It was not until 1958 that some cooperatives were set up there on a trial basis.

Since 1949, with the help of their Han and Dai neighbors, but mainly relying on themselves, the Blang people have made much progress in adopting more advanced farming methods. They have created paddy fields, built water-conservancy projects, begun using fertilizers and advanced farming tools, and adopted efficient management methods. As a result, the grain harvest has kept going up every year, as has the production of tea and cotton.

Commerce, education and health care have also developed rapidly. An ethnic minorities trading corporation has been set up in every prefecture; in some villages there are shops with a fairly complete stock of farm tools and daily-use items. State trading organizations purchase local produce in large quantities, resulting in increased income for the Blang people.
There were almost no schools in the Blang areas before 1949. In some places, young men were able to learn a little of the Dai language through chanting Dai Buddhist scriptures as trainee monks. Now all Blang children attend primary schools, which are evenly distributed in Blang villages.

The absence of any medical facilities in the Blang area before 1949 used to compel sick people to seek help from shamans and other charlatans. In the early post-1949 days, the government sent medical teams to the area, providing free medical care. Later, clinics were set up, local medical teams formed, and medical workers of Blang origin trained. Epidemics such as dysentery, smallpox and malaria were basically brought under control. As a result, the general health conditions of the Blang people have greatly improved.

Source: People’s Daily Online (

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