Hani Cultural Themes


A book by Paul W. Lewis and Bai Bibo (Piu Bo)

The first chapter, the people and the language, constitutes a very poor introduction to the Hani people. Without at least a short description of the mountainous environment where Hani people live it is very difficult to understand them. The paragraph about their location is vague, failing to describe more than the mere enumeration of names; and the same happens with the dialects that must be understood better as clusters of local dialects, whose names reflect the main branches of the Hani that speak them. While it is interesting to know some of the Hani proverbs, as are just after three pages about their language, we do not know to which kind of reader this book is written.

The second chapter consists of a translation of Mr. Ju Eq compilation of Hani proverbs, originally published in Hani language that as we are informed included in the original work a collection of stories as explanation. We think that at least part of these explanation should have been provided in the present book, otherwise is really difficult to understand sentences as "there are bad omen dogs and pigs sometimes."

In the third chapter some pages of a Hani book about their customs have been translated. The stories are good, and help the reader to understand the life in a Hani village, but again we think that its 15 pages are too few and we end the reading of this chapter with the feeling that some more stories should have been included.

The fourth chapter, Hani ritual, is very interesting, as a Hani ritual specialist relates his own history, but I consider that some of the ceremonies that are directed by other religious specialist must have been described, at least in foot notes.

Later there are three chapters describing birth, marriage and death among the Hani, and a last one about their daily life, describing the village, agricultural cycle, sickness and healing, the work of the shamans, and a short summary of their deities.

To sum up, this book provides some interesting information about the Hani culture, but drawing materials from different sources, lacks a sense of harmony, of being a single book and not a patchwork of different materials; the pity is that this would be avoided with a little editorial work that would have made the book a more comprehensible reading.

Paul W. Lewis and Bai Bibo (Piu Bo).- Hani Cultural Themes. White Lotus Press. Bangkok, 2002

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