|The Pumi of Yunnan and Sichuan|
(English transliteration of Chinese pinyin) are also known as Prmi or
Primi in western texts. In the past they were known as Xifang. "Pumi"
is not Pumi language, but a Chinese word related to the way they know
themselves: Puyingmi, Peimi or Purimi. All these names mean "the
population reached 33,600 in 2000, according to this year official census,
but as some of the Pumi in Sichuan province are considered Tibetans, there
will be between 25.000 and 50.000 more Pumi, living in Sichuan. They are
scattered in a wide area of mountains in northwest Yunnan and along the
border of Sichuan and Yunnan provinces. (1) Most of the Pumi who live
in Sichuan are officially classified as Zang or Tibetan, but as Stevan
Harrell shows (2), they are "culturally and linguistically the same
people", and their different classification only a government affair.
Province, the Pumi concentrate mainly:
If we observe
Pumi situation in a map, we can discover that they have not a compact
territory for them, but their villages are "small and widely dispersed.
Most of them have scarce contact with others, governing themselves in
their mountains", mixed with villages of Moso, Tibetan, Naxi and
other peoples. This make for the existence of significant cultural and
linguistic differences among the Pumi that live in different places.
The Pumi language belongs to the Qiangic branch of the Tibetan-Burmese linguistic group.
have doubts about the really meaning of Pumi language. Most conservative
writers estimate that it is divided in two main dialects: North and South
dialect; with enough differences between them as to make impossible the
communication. These dialects have also local variations, sometimes very
Olson (4) writes:
is divided in three dialects, and Pumi ethnic identity is related more
to membership in a dialect group than to any generic Pumi membership.
They identify themselves by dialect, not by being Pumi. In this sense,
some ethnologists prefer to divide Pumis in three separate ethnic groups.
The three Pumi languages are Phzomi, Phzome and Tshomi."
More recent studies (5) show more than seven dialects spoken by the Pumi of different places.
areas the Pumi shamans have a kind of pictograms who use in their religious
also both the Tibetan and Chinese writing; Tibetan for their religious
activities; and Chinese for administrative ones.
Qingxia.- A Tibeto-Burmese Lexicon. Central Nationalities Press. Beijing.
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