Hani's ancient society


Hani Apeicongpopo (1) is a poem of the Hani that relates their migrations from the land where their ancestors lived, until their current territory in the south of Yunnan.

The first chapter contains an interesting description of the society of their ancestors in their ancestral home, before beginning their migrations. We cannot be sure that the Hani ancient society was exactly this way, but at least it shows us the concept that the Hani have of that time. Surprisingly their legend reflects interesting evolutionary aspects, as well as successive ecological crisis that force their ancestors to adapt to new conditions.

The family is described in the following way:

There are not the concept of father and mother,
the brother doesn't know his brother,
the sister doesn't know who is her sister,
nobody cares who is their uncle,
nobody thinks who is their aunt."

What seems to be adjusted quite well to the epoch of the group marriage described by Morgan (2)

In those times people lived in caves. Learning from the animals how to survive:

"Seeing the monkey picking fruits, they learn how to pick them,
Seeing the bamboo rat digging bamboo buds, they learn how to dig them
Seeing to the pangolin with the body covered with fish scales, they use leaves of trees to get dressed.
Listening to the parrot speaking, they learn how to speak."

After a great fire in the forest, they take some burning branches to the cave, and they understand that from then on they should not fear leopards neither snakes.

When the population grows the first ecological crisis takes place. They can not live in caves anymore. Then they learn from the magpies to make their houses in the branches of the trees, warm in winter and fresh in summer. With their round door they no longer fear wolves neither tigers.

In historical times the Dulong and other peoples speaking languages related with the Hani, have been reported as living in caves and in nests in the trees.

Seeing thousands of ants that take a rat, the hero Redou encourages the men to go hunting in groups, getting elephants, deer, leopards and boars. Redou has many ideas; it invents the arch and the arrows that use the people when they go hunting to the mountain. As consequence of hunting, the second ecological crisis is generated. As the poem says:

"Before, the men escaped when see wild animals, but now the wild animals escape before the men, and soon people don't get meat."

They get the solution fishing:

"Next to the river they see an animal fishing, extending its wings to form a kind of net, people imitates him entering to the river to fish and they take out fishes to the banks."

After the fishing they discover the form of cooking the foods:

"One day an old man drops a fish to the fire and the people surprised discover that it was delicious, from then on they began to cook the foods."

This should increase the fish demand, because the third ecological crisis arrive soon:

"The fish of the two rivers is more and more scarce. Following the route of the wild animals and the main current of the waters the ancestors were forced to emigrate."

"Aidigeye led them to a new earth, with wide ponds where they settled."

There have not still been carried out detailed studies on the indigenous cultures of China and their paper in the protection of the nature. During several decades the specialists have been devoted to try to frame their social systems in the strait corset that provided the Marxism, and to laud the progress that the new regime carries to their lives. Only in the last years, the Chinese anthropologists, more and more free of ideological conditions, are beginning to discover and describe the paper played by the indigenous cultures in the conservation of the nature. The paper played by sacred forests, mountains and rivers in the regulation of the rains, so necessary for survival.

After their first migration the Hani experience a new step in the economic development of their society with the discovery of the domestication of animals and the agriculture, both work of two women that in their myth are supposed also to invent the calendar. We can not doubt that these two inventions take place along an extended process covering hundred of years, but the protagonism of the women in that phase of the Hani social development is evident.

The legend describes how after killing a wild boar, the men take the puppies to the village. Then a woman, Zhesi has the idea of feeding them so that when the puppies grow they will have them at hand. With her the breeding of domestic animals begins, of those the Hani soon counts with 18 species. They make wooden barriers so that they can't escape.

This makes everybody praises Zhesi and discuss with her all the matters of importance.

Zhenu is the woman that discovers the agriculture. According to the legend picking up, burying and watering the seeds of the plants. Later on, meditating with Zhesi on the reason that not all the seeds germinate, they realize the importance of the yearly stations. They divide the year in 12 months and the month in 30 days. They assign years, months and days to the 12 animals, beginning to count from the rat. From then on, they plant according to the calendar.

With the grain that they cannot consume they manufacture liquor that becomes an inseparable companion in the Hani's lives.

(1) Yunnan Nationality Press. Kunming.1986
(2) Morgan, Lewis. - Ancient society. 1873

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