Who are the Achang?

 

Achang is the name given to one or several ethnic groups who live un Southwest China and Northeast Burma (Myanmar).

In China they are an officially recognized minority, with a population ot around 35.000 people (33.600 in the National Population Census of 2000). All them live in the southwest of Yunnan Province, especially in two counties of Dehong Dai Autonomous Prefecture: Longchuan and Lianghe. There are also some ethnic groups considered Achang living in Luxi and Longlin counties (also in Dehong)

In Burma there are only 2.000 Achang, locally called Maingtha.

There are at least two ethnic groups included in the name Achang. Separated by more than 100 kilometers of mountain ranges they have many cultural and linguistic differences. There are also, some small groups called "Achang" whose identity is not yet clear.

The two main groups are:

The Achang of Lianghe County, who comprise 45% of the Achang's population.

The Husa of Longchuan County who comprise 54% of their population.

The Achangs from Husa think that they are the descendants of Chinese soldiers garrisoned in this area during the Ming Dynasty.

In fact, in the decade of the fifties in the 20th Century, when China carried out the process of ethnic identification, they asked to be recognized as a differentiated ethnic entity, without success. They keep the ancestral tablets in their homes and believe in a kind of Theravada Buddhism with Taoist influences.

Between the small ethnics groups considered Achang, one of the less numerous are the Chintau or Xiandao. They are only 100 people. They live in two villages in Dehong Prefecture, Yingjiang County, Jiachang zone. One is Xiandao village in Mangmian, and the other is Le'e village in Manxiang.

The religion and folkways of the Xiandao's Xiandao are similar to the Achang's. Men dress as the Jingpo people, women as the Dai. In Le'e village Xiandao people are mixed with the Han, from whom they have received many influences.

But the Xiandao language is different to the Achang, and to their neighbors' languages. So, though they are officially considered Achang, more research is need, before determine their ethnic identity.

Achang language belongs to the Tibetan-Burmese family, Burmese branch. It has three main dialects, called according to the place where most of their speakers live:

Lianghe dialect.
Longchuan dialect.
Luxi
dialect.

Some scholars think that the speakers of the Luxi dialect migrated from Lianghe some generations ago, and consider that the two dialects (who have a 60% of correspondence of the most frequently used words with the same origin) are, in fact, only one dialect.

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