Monba Ethnic Minority (Photo by Chen Haiwen)
The Monbas are scattered in the southern part of Tibet Autonomous Region. Most of them live in Medog, Nyingch and Cona counties. They have forged close links with the Tibetan people through political, economic and cultural exchanges and intermarriage over the years. They share with the Tibetans the common belief in Lamaism and have similar customs and lifestyles. Their language, which has many dialects, belongs to the Tibetan-Myanmese language family, and many of them can speak Tibetan.
In Menyu area, men and women prefer to wear robes with aprons and black yak hair hats or caps. They wear soft-soled leather boots, which are decorated with red or black striped designs. Women usually wear white aprons, earrings, rings and bracelets. People in the subtropical Medog County dress differently. Women as well as men wear short or long jackets, and the women wear long striped skirts and various kinds of jewelry.
The Monba's staple food includes rice, maize, millet and buckwheat. Maize and millet are ground and prepared to make porridge. Like the Tibetans, the Monbas also eat zhamba (roasted qingke barley), butter tea and pepper.
Their homes are two-or three-story, herringbone-shaped houses of wood with bamboo or straw roofs. The second and third floors are used for living quarters and the first for livestock. They observe monogamy in marriage. Some are believers of primitive shamanism, while others are followers of Lamaism. Water burial, ground burial, sky burial and cremation are all used for their dead. They follow the Tibetan calendar and observe the same festivals as the Tibetans.
The Monbas have composed many beautiful tunes and ballads over the centuries. Among their most popular folk songs are the "sama" and "dongsanba", which are similar to many Tibetan songs. Their dances are simple and dynamic.
Menyu area, at the foot of the Himalayas, enjoys abundant rainfall, swift rivers, beautiful landscape and fertile land, which bears rice, maize, buckwheat, qingke barley, winter wheat, soybeans and sesame. Virgin pine forests are inhabited by wild boars, bears, foxes and golden monkeys.
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