The Gai branch of the Li


The Gai language or Gai dialect, of the Li of Hainan, it is spoken by 24% of the Li peoples. Inside it there are three local variations according to the Chinese authors that could be considered different dialects in other countries. Those dialects are mutually intelligible, but the cultural differences among those that speak each one of the dialects are quite remarkable. A diversity due more to the different historical influences received than to have had different origins.

The people that speak these three Gai's local variants, all call themselves Gei.

Therefore, according to the customs and linguistic variations, the Gai branch of the Li, can be divided in three sub branches:

1. Tongzha sub branch. They inhabit fundamentally in Baoting and Tongzha Counties, as well as the area west of this counties. They call themselves "fenta" or "tshontshan".

Formerly the men made braids and they coiled their hair in a red or black cloth. In the superior part of the body they dressed a Chinese shirt without buttons. The women tattooed their face with two lines, simpler than the Ha, they used to wrap up the hair in stamped cloth. They got dressed with a blouse of Chinese style without buttons, with red embroideries and flowers in the back, a white cloth hanging before and a collar of white pearls. They used to wear a short skirt, until the knee, with embroideries of animals and plants in red.

They live in boat shaped houses made of vegetable fibers. Due to the influence of their Chinese neighbors, most of their customs and festivals have disappeared.

2. Zhidui sub branch. They live to the south and the east of Qiongzhong, in Zhidui County. They are almost completely acculturated. Nowadays most of them dress as Chinese, and speak Chinese local dialects. Young people can no longer understand their own language. The women do not tattoo any more, and dress as the local Chinese.

3. Baocheng sub branch: They live to the west of Baoting, in the area of Chengxiang.
All understand Chinese, they sing Chinese songs. The tattoos and other customs have completely disappeared.

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