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The Jino ethnic minority (3)

(People's Daily)

09:27, August 10, 2011

Zhuoba (the village father) and Zhuose (the village mother) were the leaders in a communal village. Being the oldest people in the village, they were respected by all. They became village leaders by virtue of their seniority, not because they were brave in war or eloquent in speech. No matter how mediocre they might be, even if they were blind or deaf, they had to serve as village elders so long as they were the oldest people in the community. After their death, the next eldest in the same clan would be chosen as successors.

Their functions were tinged with time-honored traditions or religion. For instance, the yearly sowing could only begin after the elders had animals slaughtered and offered to the spirits at a ceremony during which the elders put a few seeds in the soil, before the other villagers could start sowing on a big scale. The elders also fixed the dates for holidays. The beating of a big drum and gong in elders' homes ushered in the new year, and all the villagers, young and old, would rush to the elders' homes to sing and dance.

Life Style

The Jinos live in bamboo houses built on stilts on flat hilltops. The men usually wear collarless white jackets and white or blue trousers made of flax or cotton. Before liberation most men divided their hair into three tufts. Women, as a rule, prefer multi-colored and embroidered collarless short gowns and short black skirts rimmed in red and opened at the front. Many wear long skirts and puttees. They also wear their hair in a coil just above the foreheads, and sling across their shoulders sharp-pointed flax hats. Both men and women go barefooted, and have thick bamboo or wooden sticks plugged into the holes in their earlobes. Those with big holes in their earlobes are considered most beautiful. The Jinos carry things in baskets on their backs with straps tied on their foreheads.

Monogamy is practiced in Jino society. But before marriage the prospective brides and grooms are permitted to have sex. If a woman brings her illegitimate child to live in the home of her husband, both the mother and child are not looked down upon. In some villages, special houses are built for unmarried young men and women to spend the night. But once married, a woman must remain faithful to the husband throughout life. Divorce is rare.

A dead body is put in a coffin carved out of a single log and buried in a communal cemetery. The personal belongings of the dead -- work tools and clothing, and a copper pot of silver for some of the rich -- are buried as sacrificial objects. Above the grave, a small thatched hut with bamboo tables inside is set up to provide a place for the relatives of the dead to offer meals to the departed soul for a period of one to three years.

Being animists, the Jinos believe that all things on earth have souls. Ancestral worship constitutes an important part of their religious activities. When there was a drought or something untoward happened, a shaman was sent for to mumble prayers and kill oxen, pigs or dogs to appease the trouble-making spirits. Shamans also used to cure diseases with herbal medicines.

The Jinos learn to sing when still very young. They are good at improvising poems and set them to agreeable melodies extemporaneously. At holiday gatherings, the young dance to songs sung by elders. There are many Jino festivals. The biggest one takes place on New Year's Day in March and is celebrated at different dates in different villages. There are worships for "Large Dragon" and "Small Dragon," both of which meant to get rid of disasters and pray for good harvests. A festival is held annually in the wake of a harvest, at which all Jinos gather to help themselves to newly harvested rice.

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