There are numerous chronicles of the frequent wars fought between the Chinese and the Qiang until the last days of the Han dynasty. Wars and natural disasters associated with
It is believed that the Achang are descendents from the Qiang tribes that 2.000 years ago inhabited the border region between Sichuan, Gansu and Sichuan provinces.
Their emigration took them over hundreds of years, more than 2.000 kilometers before reaching their current situation in the southern confines of China.
In the 8th and 9th centuries, scholars think that the Achang were living among the Yue. Later on, they are mentioned in the chronicles as one of the vassal peoples of the powerful Nanzhao Kingdom, and of the Dali Kingdom afterward.
During the Song dynasty, the stories of travelers who visited their lands speak of a confederation of Achang tribes, a name that they have conserved until now.
Until the 16th century they were bound to the Jingpo. After that time appears a clear differentiation among these two peoples.
During the Ming dynasty the Achang were governed under the tusi system of local chiefs, mainly Achang themselves, governing their people on behalf of the emperor. This system was effective until the end of the Qing dynasty (1911), and was preserved with few modifications during the Republic of China.
After the establishment of the Peoples Republic of China in 1949 Achang culture was totally transformed. Every single item of their economic and symbolic life was changed. The violence of the Cultural Revolution brought chaos to their culture.
In recent years, they have recovered many of their traditions, but new challenges remain ahead, as the Achang face a difficult future in a global economy that is slowly reaching them.
The transformation suffered by the Achang after the Chinese Revolution are well summarized in James Stuart Olson “An Ethnohistorical dictionary of China”
“The central government become increasingly involved in the economic life of the Achang. State programs to resettle Han people throughout the country as a means of encouraging assimilation have bought tens of thousands of immigrants to western Yunnan Province. The newcomers have succeeded in taking control -through outright seizure, legal purchase, or government condemnation -of large portions of Achang land.”
“Since 1956, the Achang still engaged in agriculture have been forced by law to sell their produce to the central government at a fixed price.”
The next 30 years saw a constant decrease in the agricultural output, only reversed when the first batch of economic reforms reached Achang land in 1982.
(1) James Stuart Olson “An Ethnohistorical dictionary of China”. Pag 3.