|The History of the Deang|
It is believed
that the ancestors of the so-called Deang were the Pu, a people mentioned
in the chronicles of the Chinese Qin Dynasty (221 A.D.) as the native
population of the Western region of the present Yunnan Province. The long
arm of the Chinese emperors did not reach such remote areas until many
centuries later. These Pu people are mentioned again in the books of history
as one of the subdued peoples under the Nanzhao kingdom. Whatever happened
during that long period is unknown.
of the Deang way of life show that it was not influenced by the Nanzhao
kingdom, nor by the Dali kingdom that followed it.
did certainly change during the 15th century, when the Chinese Ming dynasty
handed over the administration of Deang lands to the Tusi (local
chiefs who were used to govern the minorities in the emperors' name) of
the Dai nationality. It was during this period that migration of Dai peasants
towards Deang lands began, forcing them further and further into the mountains
and to much poorer land.
of Dai culture and the Theravadan Buddhist tradition that came with it,
initiated a series of cultural and social transformations among the Deang.
However, the fundamentals of their economic life, including communal ownership
of the land by extended families, remained unchanged until the nineteenth
century, when increasing pressure by Han and Dai settlers brought about
of landlords, most of them Dai, held the majority of the land for themselves,
creating a miserable situation for many Deang families. In the winter
of 1814, there was an uprising by the Deang of Dehong against Tusi
government oppression. The Deang proclaimed, "the government is
unfair, let's destroy the government and gain equality". Although
they were ultimately defeated, the unchanged exploitation that was slowly
turning Deang peasants into landless laborers brought about a string of
uprisings that continued throughout the 19th century.
through the tusi administrative structure, attempted to retain
control over the Deang. Decentralizing their power, they appointed some
Deang as village heads who would support their policies and collect taxes
Deang local official was the Dagang, who usually enforced the Tusi's
policies over several villages. The Dajigang was the head of a
single village. He was assisted by the Dapulong and the Dajige,
who were in charge of different aspects of village administration, together
with the Dajigang, who led the village.
areas of Zhengkai and Genma Counties a type of local democracy was in
effect. The Dagang was elected by the heads of the villages he
administered, and the Dapulong and the Dajige were also
elected by the people of their respective villages.
century witnessed an increased presence of Chinese administration in Deang
lands, especially after 1956, when communist reforms began to be implemented.
These reforms brought about a complete upheaval of Deang traditional society,
and a definitive loss of control over their lives and future. The Cultural
Revolution and the wave of destruction that accompanied it, represented
a direct attack against the Deang way of life.
In the current reform era the Deang are today attempting to recover their culture and to find a ways of benefiting from the new society.
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