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English books about the Jino

Ceinos Arcones, Pedro. China's last but one matriarchy: The Jino of Yunnan. Papers of the White Dragon. 2013.

The first and only book in English about the Jino people. Hidden in the tropical mountains of China’s southern border lives one of the most interesting Chinese minorities: The Jino nationality. With a population of only 21,000 people they are one of the less known ethnic groups in China, who in the past were often confused with the surrounding minorities. The study of their culture started only in the last decades of the 20th century and showed the world an ethnic group characterized for the strength with which they preserved their matriarchal tendencies and their surprising adaptability to their tropical environment.


Books with fragments related to the Jino people

Bai Zhihong and Zhang Xiaoping. The Dai and the Jinuo people in Xishuangbanna. In Gan Xuechun. The Yunnan ethnic groups and their cultures. Yunnan Peoples Press. Kunming. 2000.

p. 31. “As a mountain-dwelling community close to the Dai community, the Jinuo used to be subject to the Dai chieftains and required to pay tribute to them. Slash-and-burn agriculture was their traditional farming method which also reveals their awareness of environmental protection… they divided their living area in thirteen plots. Each year they slashed and burned just one of the thirteen plots. So there was an interval of thirteen years before the same plot was recultivated.”

“At the age of sixteen, every teenager has his/her rite of passage with the family and the whole village. After the ritual, young people become spiritually qualified to be treated as an adult. Usually people just snatch the young man suddenly without his knowledge and bring him to the party. After the ceremony youngster start wearing the customs of adults, garments with symbols of the moon and carrying a bag. Most important, they have the right to love and to be loved.”

Brenzinge, Matthias. Language diversity endangered. 2007

p. 288. In northeastern Jinghong County are the Jinuo. Fewer than half speak the language: I never met a young Jinuo who can speak the language, despite years of trying. It has at least two dialects and is very interesting, both for its complex tone sandhi and for its conservatism with initial consonants.

Deng Qiyao and Zhang Liu. The Festivals in the Mysterious land of Yunnan. Yunnan Peoples Publishing House. Kunming, 1991.

p. 137. “The Temaojie (Blacksmiths) Festival is observed by the whole nationality. As one of their legends tells, once a Jinuo woman was pregnant for nine years with no childbirth. Sorcerers could not help. One day she suddenly had an acute pain in her belly. Her child, a sturdy boy, broke seven of her ribs and jumped out himself. With a pair of tongs in his left hand and a hammer in his right, he immediately began to do the blacksmith’s work and produced all sorts of iron tools…”

Du Roufu and Yip, Vincent F. Ethnic Groups in China. Science Press. Beijing. 1993. Pp. 224-229.

225. The Jino have a simple home-made musical instrument called the chik.  It is formed from seven bamboo tubes which produce seven different pitches that the bottom of each bamboo tube is its knot, the top is slanted with a vertical slot on the lower edge; the pitch of the sound is determined by the length of the bamboo, its diameter, and the length of the slot. This chik is played to celebrate the successful hunting of wild bulls.

Du Shanshan. Chopsticks only work in pairs: gender unity and gender equality among the Lahu of southwest China. Columbia University Press. New York 2002  

The Jinuo also associate the position of blacksmith with male-female pairs. However, rather than holding the position jointly with his earthly wife, a Jinuo leading blacksmith was traditionally initiated into his position by ritually marrying the goddess of blacksmith, who was believed to fall in love and empower him because of his dreams and extraordinary experiences.

Giersch, Charles Patterson. Asian Borderlands: the Transformation of Qing China's Yunnan Frontier. Harvard University Press. 2006.

52. In the highland villages southeast of Simao the “Pu’er” tea industry was big business. Akha and Jinuo highlanders harvested tea leaves, which were sold to Chinese merchants who had begun to flock to this region, known as the “Six Great Tea Hills.”… Some of the finer teas, such as maojian and Maiden (nu’er), allegedly picked by girls trying to earn money for their bridal trousseaux, were sent as tribute to Beijing, and could be found in the houses of Beijing’s elite.

Hanse, Mette Halskov. Lessons in being Chinese: minority education and ethnic identity in southwest China. University of Washington Press. 1999.

p. 138. All of the Akha, Blang, and Jinuo students I talked to were very embarrassed about the religious practices in their villages, which they themselves called “superstition”. The Tai students, on the other hand, were very conscious that theirs was a world religion accepted by the government.

Hattaway, Paul. Operation China. Piquant. 2000

p. 234. “There are two mutually unintelligible Jino languages: Jino proper and Buyuan Jino – which is spoken by 1.000 people. The differences are mainly in vocabulary… When a Jino dies, they are buried in a hollowed tree and small huts are constructed over the graves.”

He Yuanzhi et alt.- The traditional Chinese Festivals and Tales. Chongqing Publishing House. 2005. pp 281- 286.

p. 283. “This day (the first), also sees the ox-slaughtering ceremony. At the ceremony some of the slaughters first bind an ox’s four limbs, then a young man chops off the animal’s rear legs, cuts from its bottom a piece of beef as sacrificial offering, and finally distributes all the beef to the villagers… On the second day all the families’ heads attend a ceremony of symbolically forging iron to make farm tools for spring ploughing… In the daytime of the third day the villagers, led by the elder, repair roads and demarcate supposed boundary lines of the village.”

Li Jinyin. Jinuo Dances. In Chen Weiye, Ji Lanwei and Ma Wei. Flying Dragon and Dancing Phoenix – An Introduction to selected Chinese Minority Folk Dances. New World Press. Beijing. 1987.

p. 64. The main steps are niaovouke or show respect, erchege or happy dance, and temoami or holiday song. During the dance people form a circle around the drum. Two drummers first pay respect to the crowd then to the drum, and lead the crowd in the performance of these three movements.

p. 65. Great Drum Dance is the most representative dance of the Jinuo… another dance, “danced only by girls, is called Zhuguneng or Girls’ Dance. On a moonlit night the girls meet in an open field in their mountain village to sing and dance… They form a circle with their arms placed across one another’s shoulders, leaning forward… in movements simple and handsome.”

Ma Yin. China's Minority Nationalities. Foreign Languages Press. Beijing. 1989. p. 333-337.

p. 334.  “It seems likely that they still lived in a matriarchal society when they first settled around the Jino Mountain. Legend has it that the first settler on the mountain ridge was a widow by the name of Jiezhou. She gave birth to seven boys and seven girls who later married each other. As the population grew, the big family was divided into two groups to live in as many villages, or rather two clans that could intermarry. One was called Citong, the patriarchal village, and the other was Manfeng, the matriarchal village… The Jino matriarchal society gave way to a patriarchal one some 300 years ago.”

Lucien Miller. South of the Clouds: Tales of Yunnan. University of Washington Press. 1994

p. 68. The origin of Making Offerings to Ancestors. A Jino myth about their ancestor Apierer, and the way she helped the human beings to came out of the gourd, where they have survived the great flooding.

p. 279. “Culturally similar to the Hani, who live in the same area, and sharing linguistic affinities with the Yi and Burmese, the Jino were classified as Yi in China before 1979.”

Matisoff, James A. Handbook of Proto-Tibeto-Burman: System and Philosophy of Sino-Tibetan Reconstruction. University of California Press. 2003.

In the table of pg. 747. “TB Languages, Dialects, and Subgroupings”, appear five different subgroupings of the Jinuo language: Baka, Banai, Baya, Buyuan, and Youle.

Olson, James S. - An Ethnohistorical Dictionary of China (Greenwood Press, 1998).

p. 162, nothing interesting.

Song Liying. Indigenous Ethnic Groups in Yunnan. Yunnan University Press. Kunming. 2007.pp 269-281.

297.  Bailapao is a high ranking priest, in charge of fortune-telling and sacrificial rites. It is a hereditary position passed down from father to son.
Haoxizao or Fresh Rice Eating Festival. Celebrated in August or September when the rice is near ripe. In the morning every family should collect some grains and vegetables from their fields and kill several chickens. While they are steaming rice they examine the direction in which the steam comes out. To the east foretells offspring prosperity, to the south bumper harvest, to the west abundant hunt, and to the north is symbol of misfortune.

306. Calming a spirit is a way of naming a child. Nine days after a child is born the rite of calming spirit, when his parents must kill two red-feathered chickens. The name would be given by the sorcerer in charge of the rite.

Sun Wei. Selected photographs of traditional games of China’s 56 nationalities. Kunming. 1996. Pp. 98-99.

Among the most interesting games of the Jinuo people this book mentions Pole-of-war (p. 98), “Pole of war is often seen in different ways such as pulling, twisting and turning.”
p. 99. “Vine climbing: Towering trees are often seen in the dense forest where live the Jinuo people. Jinuo vine climbers are going all out to be the first to the top. The game is most favoured by young people because they can show their intelligence and strength in addition to having a better view of the height.”

Sun Wei. Oriental Rosy Clouds: Traditional costumes of the 56 Nationalities in China. Kunming. 1996. Pp. 111-112.

111. According to the myths of the Jinuo people, women’s clothes were made after the style of their fore-mother who created the heaven and earth. The stripe design is the symbol of their ancestor’s souls. The round design on the back of the jacket and the red stripes along the hat and sleeve are the witnesses of the love full of life and death. The diamond-shaped undergarment design in front of the chest can even be considered an epitome of the ancient mythologies.

Wei Ronghui. The Chinese National culture of Costume and Adornment. China Textile Press. 1992. Pp.  224-227.

p. 225. The dress and ornament of the Jino people is simple, elegant and has its own unique characteristics.
Men… wear cloth turbans, earrings and also put small bamboo or silver pipes in the holes of their earlobes. In the past, most men kept three strands of hair on the top of their heads. Tradition has it that the one in the forehead is to commemorate Zhuge Liang. While the other two are to remember their parents with longing.

West, Barbara A. Encyclopedia of the peoples of Asia and Oceania, Volumen 1. 2009

p. 349. Between 19149 and 1979 they were classified as a subgroup of the Dai, under whose rulers they lived till 1950 and the Communist takeover of heir region.
Male children inherited their land, position, or titles from their maternal uncles rather than from their fathers, as is the case in patrilineal societies. Today maternal uncles retain a high position in society and their spirits are worshipped by their sister’s children as well as by their as well as by their own.

Xing Li. China’s Minority Costumes. China Intercontinental Press. 2008.

p. 77. Men’s coats are long-sleeved, without collar or buttons, shoulder-through, open front, banded with nine stripes in red, blue and green color, meaning that men have nine lives… A sun-flower is patched with cloth in the center of the back of the coat, representing maturity of a man.

Xu Yixi. Headdresses of Chinese minority Nationality women. Beijing. 1989. Pp. 86-87.

86. “According to a legend, long, long ago, a kind old lady put a beautiful jacket on a miserable woman to make her look like a fairy princess. Jinuo women ever since have followed the style… Married women caps are supported high on their head by a bamboo frame, while girls before marriage wear their caps flat.”

89. “Big eraholes are considered to be beautiful. Women like to insert fresh flowers in them and change them several times a day. Some insert flowers in bamboo tubes in their earholes.”

Ye Dabing.- The Bridal Boat. Marriage Customs of China Fifty Five Ethnic Minorities. New World Press. 1993. It has a chapter dealing with the Marriage of the Jino, pp. 150-153.

p. 150. “Monogamy is practiced but remnants of previous marriage forms are apparent in some customs… Children born out of wedlock either go with the mother when she formally marries, or stay with a maternal uncle. Maternal uncles play important roles in Jino marriages and are often asked to preside over wedding and divorce ceremonies. When a couple gets married, a bowl is smashed and a maternal uncle keeps the broken pieces. If the couple wants a divorce, the uncle throws away the pieces of the bowl and pours two cups of wine on the ground.”

151. “At the age of fifteen or so young people go through puberty rites. Earlobes are pierced, teeth blackened, and tattoos applied to their bodies. Girls usually have only their legs tattooed, with lace-like patterns, while boys have their legs and shoulders decorated with designs of animals, flowers, grass, stars, and tools. The traditional belief is that persons without tattoos do not join their ancestors after death and instead become wild ghosts.”

Yin Shaoting. People and Forest – Yunnan Swidden Agriculture in Human-Ecological Perspective. Yunnan Education Publishing House. Kunming, 2001.

230. Based on differences in the natural properties of the land, the Jinuo distinguish three categories: zhexiao or low altitude land, is the land under a regime of fallow; Dieta or high altitude land with poorer soils, and zhejiao or medium altitude land; occupying these three kinds of land a 30%, 30% and 40% respectively… The Jinuo classification is rather scientific.

234. The Jinuo classify land in this way in order to deploy different methods of cultivation, those best suited for each category… The dieta land was cultivated for just one season, after which the land was left fallow… most villages divide this type of land into thirteen sections, and cultivate one each year with an ensuing fallow of thirteen years… the number thirteen originated in the legend that Amoyaobai was buried on the thirteen day after her death. Many villages have a laomaluo festival in the seventh month that last 13 days. The fact is that with 13 years of fallow they are sure of a healthy re -growth. Zhejiao land is cultivated for two or three years and is left fallow for 15 years or more. (238) zhexiao land is continuously used during up to ten years, the fallow is, preferably, more than 20 years.

Yin Shaoting. Work reports on the project for the construction of ethnic cultural and ecological villages in Yunnan Province, China. Yunnan Nationalities Press. Kunming. 2002.

p. 34. They had much work to do in changing the villagers attitudes towards the construction of the Ethnic Cultural and Ecological Village… The Jinuo Nationality Museum was established and contains a great amount of collected exhibition items… The first Competition of Jinuo Weawing and Embroidering was held to promote village participation. The project team also paid great attention to the quality of life in the village, such as the road in the village, courtyards, and village sanitation conditions… The attitudes of the villagers and the local government have been changed.

Zhang Weiwen and Zeng Qingnan. In Search of China's Minorities. New World Press. Beijing. 1993. p. 235-241.

236. “Bamboo growing in Jino Mountain is closely related to both the production and life style of the Jinos. They build houses with bamboo beams, bamboo columns, bamboo rattlers and bamboo floors, sleep in bamboo beds, work with bamboo handled choppers, shovels and hoes, carry loads in bamboo baskets, carry water in bamboo tubes, lead water to the fields in bamboo aqueducts, make tea and cook food in bamboo “pots” and use bowls, chopsticks, spoons and wine and tea mugs, all made of bamboo. Their recreation and handicap are also related to bamboo. Even records are kept on bamboo strips.”

Zhao Jie. The restless female souls- The Jinuos. Yunnan Education Publishing House. Kunming. 1995.

5. In the past clan leaders were all women… some were the wisest shaman… They could divine omens and chant incantations. In addition, they are credited with first using a trough to channel water and the invention of the stone knife, the domestication of plants and animals, and the invention of textiles… Mili Jide gave names to most of the valleys in Jinuo Mountains. She knew where there were animals or edible herbs. She taught the people how to catch animals and how to tell which herbs were safe to eat.”
“One of the most important thing for a man to establish himself as a shaman is to get married symbolically to a female ghost. When these male shamans conducted rituals, they were required to dress as women. Even to this day, male elders of the clan call themselves Yueka, which literally means grandmother.”

Zhi Exiang. The Jinuos: China’s newest Nationality. In China Reconstructs. China' Minority Nationalities. Beijing. 1984. Pp. 86-93.

87. “Another story has it that during the period of the Three Kingdoms (AD 220-265) troops commanded by Zhuge Liang, the famous Prime Minister and military strategist of the Kingdom of Shu, passed through the area and bivouacked in the mountains. Some of the soldiers were so tired from days of fighting and marching that they overslept and did not hear the bugle call for departure. When they awoke and rushed to the edge of the big river they found that the army was already on the other side. As punishment, Zhuge Liang ordered them to do three things: Stay and settle where they were, build houses the shape of his hat, and as a livelihood grew tea.”

The village was headed by its two oldest men. They inspected the borders each year with the villagers… Their main duty, however, was to officiate at the ceremony starting spring sowing – they slaughtered an animal sacrifice and buried some seeds in the soil… On the chosen day the headmen would beat a big drum and the villagers would gather at their houses to sing and dance.

Zhong Xiu. Yunnan Travelogue- 100 days in Southwest China. New World Press. Beijing. 1983.

p. 27. “Jinuo boys and girls pierce their ear lobes at the age of seven or eight. They insert Bamboo sticks into the holes and enlarge them by putting thicker ones in from time to time. In the past, when the holes became a certain size, the parents began to teach their children farming and house-keeping. Those who did not pierce their ears were considered crazy and were not accepted as one of the clan.”… (29) “men and women stuck fresh flowers into the bamboo tubes hanging from their ears… this signified their “maturity for love”.

Coming back the village from a hunting trip the hunters are singing, listening the rhythm the people knows how big the catch was. “As soon as the hunters return, the other villagers join in singing the hunting song. Then they carve up the animal into equal portions and share them… The foreleg is reserved for the oldest man in the village.”

Zhu Yangzhan. The Temaoke festival of the Jinuo people. Yunnan Peoples Press. Kunming. 2009.

This book contains a long abstract in English.
Traditionally the festival was held prior to sowing seed but the time was not standardized among the various branches of the Jinuo (that is, the Wuyou, Aha and Axi) and among different villages. Under normal circumstances, the elders of each village would determine the specific time for celebrating temaoke on the basis of two factors: firstly, according to Jinuo knowledge of seasonal changes in the natural environment, and secondly, according to the relative position of each village in Jinuo mountain.

In the festival the drum is very important because it is the symbol of the god of the village, responsible for keeping the village safe. That is why the sacrifice to the drum is the most important activity, followed by the ritual iron casting because the production of iron tools is essential for the life of the Jinuo people. They also believe that the new iron tools made in the festival would bring them good luck in farming and in the subsequence harvest.
The most important role in the festival is that of the blacksmith, who is respected by everyone because he tells peoples’ fortunes through dream interpretation and also makes iron tools for the villagers. The ritual, singing and dancing, sports and games which take place at the time of the festival serve to strengthen the cohesion of the villages and of the traditional culture.


In Spanish language:

Ceinos Arcones, Pedro. Leyendas de la Diosa Madre (y otros mitos de diosas y mujeres de los pueblos de China). Miraguano. Madrid. 2007. Pp. 93-110.

pp. 93-102. Amoyaobai, la diosa de los Jino. This is maybe the first translation to a western language of the foundational myth of the Jino. In the myth the great goddess Amoyaobai creates the world and all the animals, plants and human being that live on the earth. She regulates the relation between human and animals, and rules that the rooster must cry to call the sun every morning. She divided the human beings in Han, Dai and Jino and divided the world between them, giving to them the main tools and cultural artifacts that even today characterize these three peoples. Later she died.

pp. 103- 110. El origen de hacer ofrendas a los ancestros. Una leyenda Jino. It tells how after the flood only survived Mahei and Maniu inside a wooden drum. From the only gourd’s seed that they saved inside the drum, it grew a bid gourd tree with a huge gourd that the ancestral couple stored in the roof of their house. Inside this gourd the new humankind was growing; once they were ready to go out they called Mahei and Maniu to open a hole to let them out. But each time they want to open the gourd in a place somebody stops them for fear to be burned, until the old woman Apierer ask them to burn in her place, and in this way sacrifices her life to let the human beings go out of the gourd.

Ceinos Arcones, Pedro. El Matriarcado en China: Madres, Reinas, Diosas y Chamanes. Miraguano Ediciones. Madrid. 2011. Pp. 126-131.

With a lot of information about Jino myths, stories, rituals and traditions that point out that in the past their society could have been matriarchal. Their main goddesses and legendary women chiefs are introduced to the reader, as well as the ritual marriage that allows some men perform some task with a religious meaning: priest, shaman and iron-smith.  

Du Yuting. Etnia Jino. In Yan Ruxian's. Matrimonio y familia de las etnias minoritarias de China (Marriage and Family of China National Minorities). Foreign Languages Press, 1991. Pp. 408-418.

409. El hombre era jefe de familia, de clan y de comuna, y disfrutaba de una posición ventajosa. Pese a ello la mujer no se hallaba en posición de inferioridad en los aspectos sociales, de producción y domésticos; más aún, en la vida diaria se observaban vestigios de la comunidad matriarcal que se reflejaban en proverbios tales como “la madre maneja la casa” y “la madre tiene el exclusivo derecho de sacrificar gallinas con el f in de dar su alma a los hijos enfermos.” En la inauguración de una nueva vivienda, la mujer de más edad solía tomar una antorcha, subir al edificio de bambú y encender el hogar. Esto era una manifestación del poder tradicional representado por el consejo de ancianas de la comunidad matriarcal, y la palabra “abuela” que se había usado para referirse a las mujeres miembros del consejo seguía usándose para referirse a los hombres jefes de comuna.

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jino women
Jino Women Gathered in Temaoke Festival
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Jino woman weaving in Basa Village
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China's last but one matriarchy
jino embroidery
Jino embroidery

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