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The Blang ethnic minority (2)

(People's Daily)

17:31, August 26, 2011

Pre-1949 Life

Before China?¡¥s national liberation, the Blang people were very superstitious. Ancestor worship was a part of their way of life. The Blangs in Xishuangbanna area believed in Hinayana Buddhism, as a result of the influence of the Dai tribe. The Blangs' Buddhist temples and social systems were similar to those of the Dais.

Blang men wear collarless jackets with buttons down the front and loose black trousers. They wear turbans of black or white cloth. Men have the tradition of tattooing their limbs, chests and bellies. Blang women, like their Dai sisters, wear tight collarless jackets and tight striped or black skirts. They tie their hair into a bun and cover it with layers of cloth.

Their staple diet consists of rice, maize and beans. They prefer their food sour and hot. Drinking home-brewed wine and smoking tobacco are their main pastimes. Blang women like chewing betel nut and regard teeth dyed black with betel-nut juice as beautiful.

The Blangs live in two-storied balustraded bamboo houses. The ground floor is for keeping domestic animals and storing stone mortars used for hulling rice. The upper floor is the living quarters, and in the middle of the main room is a fireplace for cooking, heating and light. When a family builds a house, nearly all the grown-ups in the village offer help, completing the project in two or three days.

The Blang ethnic group has a rich store of folk tales and ballads transmitted orally. Their songs and dances show the strong influence of their Dai neighbors. Elephant-leg drums, cymbals and three-stringed plucked instruments provide musical accompaniment for dancing. People in the Blang Mountain area revel in their energetic "knife dance." Young people like a courting dance called the "circle dance." For the Blangs in the Mujiang area, New Year's Day and weddings are occasions for dancing and singing, often lasting the whole night.

The Blangs seek spouses outside their own clans and practice monogamy. With a few exceptions, mainly parental interference, young Blangs are fairly free to choose marriage partners.

The death of a person is followed by scripture chanting by Buddhist monks or shamans to "dispel the devil," and the funeral is held within three days. Each village generally has a common cemetery divided according to clans or people having the same surnames. The dead are buried in the ground except for those dying a violent death, who are cremated.

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