Water pipes of the Wa Nationality


In the past every Wa village had an interesting system of water pipes that provided water for the villagers. Built from bamboo tubes, every pipe can be as long as some hundred meters or even few kilometers, depending on the localization of the source of water. In the past every village has several water pipes, one for every cluster of families living around a "house of the drum". One person was held in charge of the maintenance of the water pipes, and sometimes also, of the near "house of the drum".

Wa people believed that every water-pipe has a deity, to whom every year they must perform a ceremony. This ceremony, called Afu in Wa language was held in the last month of the Wa year, with one person of every family attending. During the time when the ceremony was held no outsiders were allowed to enter the village.

Basically the ceremony lasted for two days. The first day the people worked along the water pipe until the source of their water to repair the bamboo structure. The second day, a ceremony presided by a Moba (their ritual specialist) was held in the source of water, when a rat was offered to Dana, deity of the water, asking him for good rain and favorable winds for the next year. When the pray ended a new wooden structure was built to support the bamboo pipes.

Back in the village the Moba (ritual specialist) will carry the new water to the house of the person in charge of the pipes, where they will cook rice with the new water that will be shared between them. There they ask the gods for good water and offered them 6 rats.

Later in every house a small ceremony was held also asking for good luck for this family in the coming year.

After the 1980s most of the traditional constructions in the Wa villages were transformed. Today most of the villages have water provided by metal pipes funded by the local government. Middle aged people still remember their traditional system of bamboo pipes. With water made easily accessible to most of the families in the Wa villages, the sacredness of the water and the bamboo tubes is disappearing quickly.

More information: Han Junxue.- Wa zu cunzhai yu wa zu chuantong wenhua (Wa nationality village and Wa traditional culture). Sichuan University Press, Chengdu, 2007

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