The Bulang: aborigines of Yunnan rainforest


The Bulang are one of the original peoples of southwest Yunnan Province. It is thought that they have lived, as they do now, in the mountainous border area between China and Burma for more than 2,000 years.
They live in steep mountains with humid forests and eke out an existence in border area lands at an altitude of approximately 1500 meters.

According to the National Census of 2000, there were 91,900 Bulang living in China, with others dispersed in neighboring countries, notably Burma (Myanmar).

Bulang population has increased after 1949. According to the different census their population grew in the following way:

1978 - 52,000
1982 - 58,476
1990 - 82,280
2000 - 91,900

In China they live in the:

- Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture: Menghai County (Bulangshan, Badashan, Xiding, Qitu and Daluo Townships) and Jinghong County.
- Lingcang Prefecture: Shuangjiang, Yongde, Yunxian, Gengma and Zhengkai Counties.
- Simao Zone: Langcang, Mojiang and Jingdong Counties.

They refer to themselves in different ways according to the area in which they live.

Those living in Xishuangbanna refer to themselves as "Bulang."
Those living in Zhengkai and Jingdong refer to themselves as "Wu."
Those of Langcang and Wendong refer to themselves as "Weng hong"
Those of Shuangjiang, Yunxian, and Mojiang refer to themselves as "Awa."
Before 1949 the Chinese and other neighboring peoples called them all Puman.

Their language belongs to the Austronesian family, Mon-Khmer branch, Bulang or Wa-Deang sub branch.

There are two dialects: the Aerwa and the Bulang. But, as the Bulang are locally mixed with the Han Chinese, the Dai and the Wa, they usually also speak one of these three languages. The isolation of Bulang communities makes mutual linguistic understanding very difficult and complex. Even Bulang people living in Bulangshan cannot understand Bulang from Batashan (about 30 km away).

The Chinese government considers all the Bulang to be one national minority, in accordance with its limited policy in the field of ethnic identification. However, considering the different names for themselves used by the peoples labeled Bulang, the different dialects or languages that they speak, as well as the fact that their cultures have evolved in different ways in the different regions in which they live, it is clear that further independent studies must be carried out in order to clarify the true ethnic identities of the Bulang peoples.

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