Outline of Hani History


It is thought that the Hani descend from the Qiang, a people that 2,500 years ago inhabited the lands located in the west and southwest of the Chinese Empire, and that they emigrated to the South in remote times.

Toward the 3rd century the Chinese chronicles talk about a people called Heyi living in the region of the Dadu River (Sichuan province). It is thought that they were the ancestors of the Hani that in those times were closely related with the Yi. In fact their languages and cultures still present many similarities.

During the period of the Nanzhao Kingdom (seventh to tenth century), the ancestors of the Hani had already reached the central part of Yunnan Province. They were dominated by the Nanzhao kings. After the fall of the Nanzhao regime, they emigrated toward the south frontier. It is possible that during the years between the fall of Nanzhao and the Mongol conquest of Yunnan, the Hani formed a unified and independent political entity, a kind of kingdom that would occupy the southeaster part of Yunnan.

Subjected to the Chinese imperial power from the times of the Yuan dynasty, their population remained dispersed in the mountains, being governed by means of the tusis or local headmen.

From the middle of the 19th century, the increasing conflicts in Yunnan Province forced many Hani to escape to the south; some of them even crossed the national borders. They are the ancestors of the present Hani and Akha populations in the Southeast Asian countries.

After the Communist Revolution of 1949, things start to change among the Hani. The enthusiasm that the arrival of the first revolutionaries had caused, soon evaporated as the political movements of the political centers were reflected, some times with more intensity, in the minority regions. Informants describe this period to Paul Lewis and Bai Bibo:

"During the period of Commune (1958-1961) we were not allowed to make our offerings, or even to maintain our ancestral altars in our homes. .. The Sacred Grove was destroyed.
The period of roughly 1962-1965 was a tremendous relief to us. We can rebuild our ancestral altars and carry out our offerings again… Our land and animals, which had been taken from us, were returned.
In the period around 1966-1976 there was another interruption… none of us were allowed to follow the Hani religion… a Hani man throw away the sacred stone in the center of the village…central to our yearly offerings. The three stones of the Sacred Grove were also removed, and the Sacred Tree was cut down… In late 1979 we were able to return fully to our regular offerings."

Lewis, paul and Bai Bibi.- Hani Cultural Themes. White Lotus. Bangkok, 2002.

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