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Blang

Blang

ETHNONYMS: none


The Blang live primarily in Menghai County in the southwestern part of Yunnan Province, though some also live in Blang communities in nearby Lincang and Simao prefectures. They numbered 82,280 in 1990 and speak a language that belongs to the Mon-Khmer Branch of the South Asian Language Family. The Blang language is not written. Many also speak Dai and Va (the languages of neighboring groups) and Han. One distinguishing feature of the Blang is the men's practice of tattooing their limbs and torsos.

The Blang live in the mountains, typically between 1,500 and 2,000 meters in elevation. They raise dry rice, maize, and beans for their own consumption and cotton, sugarcane, and tea as cash crops. The tea is Pu'er tea, which was grown and processed and then traded to northern Yunnan and Tibet. Some Blang were involved in the marketing effort and it remains a valuable trade product today. They also raise livestock, which they keep on the ground floor of their two-story bamboo houses. The second story is the living quarters and features a fireplace in the middle of the main room. The Blang are able to erect new houses in three days or fewer because the whole community joins in. One of the effects of the Communist Revolution was the introduction of wet-rice farming.

The Blang are organized into exogamous clans. Some villages were traditionally composed of approximately 100 households representing up to a dozen clans. The land used by villagers belonged to the villagers in common, but each clan had permanent possession of a portion of that land. Each household held its own land by virtue of membership in a clan. Clan leaders orchestrated clan members in clearing forests, and they were responsible for allocating lands to individual households. If a clan left the village, its land would revert to village ownership. In some areas, there were other forms of village organization that commonly included private ownership of land and landlordism. In other areas, the Dai or other overlords controlled the land as fiefs well into the twentieth century. Village size ranged from as few as 20 households to the 100 more typical of the clan structure described earlier.

Blang religious belief is primarily Theravada Buddhism, which the Dai probably introduced to the Blang. A few Blang are Christian.


Bibliography

Ma Yin, ed. (1989). Chinas Minority Nationalities, 302-307. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press.


National Minorities Questions Editorial Panel (1985). Questions and Answers about China's Minority Nationalities. Beijing: New World Press. Prickly ash, apple, and walnut) on mountainsides; and the prohibition of the practice of polygyny.

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