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The Naxi ethnic minority (3)

(People's Daily)

17:59, August 26, 2011

Social Economy

The Naxi communities had reached the stage of feudal society long before the nationwide liberation in 1949, though the stages of development were not the same. In Lijiang, southern Weixi and Yongsheng counties where a feudal landlord economy was prevalent, certain factors of capitalism began to take shape. In Jinjiang and Sanba in Zhongdian County the remnants of manorial economy could still be found. In northern Weixi and part of Ninglang counties in Yunnan Province and Yanyuan County in Sichuan Province, the main form of economy was manorial.

The level of agricultural production was higher in the landlord economy areas. The landlords and rich peasants, who accounted for 10 per cent of the population, owned 60 to 70 per cent of the land. They exploited the peasants through land rent, usury and hiring them as farmhands. The rates of the rent ranged from 50 to 80 per cent of the crops harvested and the annual interest rates of the usury reached as much as 300 per cent. They also exploited the peasants through their privileges, with the backing of reactionary political rulers. They forced the peasants to work for them without pay, to present them with gifts, and to render various kinds of corvee labor.

In the manorial economy areas, the manorial lords owned almost all the land, water resources, grasslands and forests. In some places, each peasant had to do as many as 150 days of unpaid labor a year. The manorial lords in the Yongning area invented 35 pretexts to exploit the peasants. They included the so-called fish tax, water tax, firewood tax, death tax, and passer-by tax.

Under the manorial lord, the commoners were second-class citizens. Generally, the commoners did not own any land, and only after they had accepted merciless exploitation, such as heavy taxes and corvees, were they given a small piece of land. In this way they actually became serfs tied to the land of the lords. If they failed to pay their debts or committed crimes, they could be reduced to the status of household slaves. Completely under their masters' disposal, they could be sold, bought, exchanged or given as presents.

During the War of Resistance Against Japan in the 1930s and 1940s, foreign trade in China's southeastern coastal area came to a standstill and transport between China and Myanmur was blockaded by Japan. This resulted in an unprecedented boosting of Sino-Indian trade, and Lijiang became a trading center for India, Tibet and China's interior. Millionaire businessmen (some being Naxis) began to appear.

Lijiang County had a more developed handicraft industry than the other Naxi areas where landlord economy predominated. It covered iron, copper, carpentry, tanning, textiles, papermaking, tailoring, construction and sculpture. Copper articles and leather products were particularly famous.

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