Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture


One of the autonomous prefectures of the Dai Nationality, it was formerly a Daile Kingdom vassal of the Chinese Emperors. Due to the malaria that infested these lands, before the 20th century it has a scarce presence of Chinese population. The mass movements of the 1950s brought to Xishuangbanna waves and waves of Hunan migrants. The development and modernization that started in the last years of the 20th century have effectively integrated the main cities of Xishuangbanna in a big network of roads that will link China with Laos and Myanmar through new highways.

Xishuangbanna Prefecture follows the elevation pattern common to mainland China, with higher lands in the west and lower ones in the east. With an extension of 19,700 square kilometers, Xishuangbanna is a succession of well irrigated valleys, traditionally the home of the Dai Le (the Dai branch living in Xishuangbanna, also called Dai Lue) separated by well forested mountains (the home of the Akha-Aini, Bulang, Lahu, Yao, Wa and other not recognized minorities with scarce population). These forests were well protected during many centuries as the Dai Le, the dominant population in Xishuangbanna, knowing the relation between a protected forest and rain balance, required from their vassals living in the mountains to preserve their forest. In the central part of Xishuangbanna some of these forests were destroyed after the 1949 revolution and destined to grow rubber tree.

Xishuangbanna has three administrative divisions:

- Jinghong municipality. In the center of the prefecture, comprising Jinghong City and some townships where Dai, Jino, Lahu, and other minorities live.

- Menghai district. In the west, it is inhabited by the Dai in the valleys, and Bulang, Akha, and Lahu populations in the mountains.

- Mengla district. Situated in the east, on the road to Laos. It is inhabited mainly by Dai (in the lowlands) and Yao (in the mountains) nationalities.

The official population of Xishuangbanna was near 1 million people in 2000 census, but due to the exclusion in these figures of the migrant population, it can be at least a ten percent more. Of them about 30% are Dai, other 30% Han Chinese, 20% Akha-Aini, and a small proportion Yi, Lahu, Bulang, Jino, Yao and Miao.

Xishuangbanna has a rich ethnic variety:

- Dai nationality. Most of them are Dai Le, living in the lowlands, but there are also some other Dai populations locally known as Dry Dai. They were 296,930 in 2000 census.
- Hani nationality. Most of the Hani living in Xishuangbanna are the Aini or Akha branch of the Hani, one of the best differentiated branches of the Hani. Usually inhabit the mountains. Their population was of 186,067 in 2000.
- Yi nationality. There are some branches of the Yi living in Xishuangbanna, with a total population of 55,772.
- Lahu nationality. Living mainly in the mountains of north and northwest Xishuangbanna, they have a population of 55,548.
- Bulang nationality. They inhabit Bulangshan, Badashan and other mountainous areas of western Xishuangbanna. Most of them follow the Theravada Buddhism due to Dai influence. They have a population of 36,453.
- Jino nationality. The almost 20,000 Jino inhabit some villages in the Jinoshan and other slow mountains near Mengyang Township (north of Jinghong City).
- Yao nationality inhabits the mountains in the eastern part of Xishuangbanna. They are 18,679.
- There are also some Miao villages in the eastern part of Xishuangbanna, with a total population of more than 10,000 people.
- Wa nationality. There are some villages in the northwest of Menghai inhabited by the Wa, with a total population of about 3,000 people.

In Xishuangbanna there are also some ethnic groups with small population, not officially recognized as National Minorities, some of them preserve interesting languages and cultural tracts.

- Kongge or Hu. About 3,000 people living in the Kongge Mountains, in Mengyang Township.
- Ake. Only 500 people living in three villages in the eastern part of Menghai district.
- Bisu or Laopin. Some isolated villages heavily influenced by the nearby populations.

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