Photo by Chen Haiwen
Most of the 1,439,673 Hanis live in the valleys between the Yuanjiang and Lancang rivers, that is, the vast area between the Ailao and Mengle mountains in southern Yunnan Province. They are under the jurisdiction of the Honghe Hani-Yi Autonomous Prefecture, which includes Honghe, Yuanyang, Luchun and Jinping counties. Others dwell in Mojiang, Jiangcheng, Pu'er, Lancang and Zhenyuan counties in Simao Prefecture; in Xishuangbanna's Menghai, Jinghong and Mengla counties; in Yuanjiang and Xinping, Yuxi Prefecture, and (a small number) in Eshan, Jianshui, Jingdong and Jinggu counties.
Their language belongs to the Yi branch of the Tibetan-Myanmese language group of the Chinese-Tibetan language family. Having no script of their own before 1949, they kept records by carving notches on sticks. In 1957 the people's government helped them to create a script based on the Roman alphabet.
The areas inhabited by the Hanis have rich natural resources. Beneath the ground are deposits of tin, copper, iron, nickel and other minerals. Growing on the rolling Ailao Mountains are pine, cypress, palm, tung oil and camphor trees, and the forests abound in animals such as tigers, leopards, bears, monkeys, peacocks, parrots and pheasants. Being subtropical, the land is fertile and the rainfall plentiful -- ideal for growing rice, millet, cotton, peanuts, indigo and tea. Xishuangbanna's Nanru Hills are one of the country's major producers of the famous Pu'er tea.
The Hanis are monogamous. Before 1949, a man was allowed to have a concubine if the wife had born him no son after some years of marriage. However, he was not supposed to forsake his original wife to remarry. Marriages are mostly arranged by the parents.
The Hanis in Mojiang and Biyue have a very interesting custom for settling an engagement. The parents of both the girl and boy involved should walk some distance together, and so long as they meet no animals the engagement can go ahead.
The brides usually return to live with their parents only two or three days after the wedding ceremony and join their husbands again at rice-transplanting time. But this is not practised in the Honghe area.
A son's name begins with the last one or two words of his father's name in order to keep the family line going. This practice has been handed down for as many as 55 generations in some families.
The Hanis prefer clothing made of home-spun dark blue cloth. Men wear front-buttoned jackets and trousers, and black or white cloth turbans. Women have collarless, front-buttoned blouses with the cuffs and trouser legs laced. Hanis in Xishuangbanna wear jackets buttoned on the right side and decorated with silver ornaments. They wear black turbans. Women there, as well as in the Lancang area, wear skirts, round caps, and strings of silver ornaments. Both men and women wear leggings. In Mojiang, Yuanjiang and Jiangcheng, some women wear long, pleated or narrow skirts, while others have knee-length trousers with embroidered girdles. Women in general like to wear earrings, silver rings and necklaces. Married and unmarried women wear different hairstyles.
The Hanis build their two- and three-story houses of bamboo, mud, stone and wood on hill slopes. A village comprises from ten to as many as 400 households. In places like Honghe, Yuanyang and Luchun, houses have mud walls and thatched roofs, supported by wooden pillars placed on stone foundations, while in Xishuangbanna, houses are built of bamboo.
Xishuangbanna Tropical Plants
Xishuangbanna Wild Elephant