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The Pumi ethnic minority (2)

(People's Daily)

15:29, August 28, 2011

Pre-1949 Life

Their main work was farming crops. More than 90 per cent of the Pumis, in fact, farmed land scattered on hill slopes. The Pumis' major crops were maize, wheat, broad bean, barley, oats, Tibetan barley and buckwheat. However, their output, relying largely on natural conditions, was generally very low. Their farm tools came mainly from Han areas. Their farming techniques were similar to those of their neighboring Hans, Naxis and Lisus, though the few Pumis who lived in isolated communities still farmed primitively.

Pumis also raised livestock, primarily cattle and sheep. Non-farm activities included manufacture of wool sweaters, linen, bamboo articles, liquor, charcoal and medicinal herbs. Hunting, bee-keeping, pig and poultry raising were also common. Some Pumis make fine crafts: lacquered wooden bowls made in Ninglang County are known for their fine workmanship. Before liberation, Pumis had no blacksmiths. Local tools were made of wood. All trade was bartered.

In the decades prior to 1949, landlords dominated the economy in Pumi areas in Lanping and Lijiang counties. Except for a limited number of "public hills," the landlords owned the land, and they exploited peasants by extorting rent in kind, that accounted for at least 50 per cent of the harvest. Pumi landlords and Naxi chiefs owned domestic slaves whom they could sell or give away.

Post-1949 Development

Since China¡¯s national liberation in 1949, Pumis have become their own masters. They have been amply represented in local people's congresses and government agencies as well as in the National People's Congress. Democratic reforms were completed between 1952 and 1956. The reforms were accompanied by a large-scale construction program, which included irrigation projects, factories, schools and hospitals. Their arid land was transformed into terraced fields. Even in the cold, high-altitude Maoniushan area of Ninglang County, the Pumis reaped good harvests from 1,120 hectares of new paddy fields. New industries have been developed: ironwork and salt and aluminum mining. Highways have been built linking Pumi communities with neighboring areas.

The educational opportunities and health care facilities for Pumis are rapidly expanding. Most children now attend primary schools and many of them go on to middle schools. Medical workers at clinics and health-care stations have replaced witches as primary providers of care.

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