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The Yi ethnic minority (6)

(People's Daily)

15:42, August 28, 2011

New Life

The founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949 ended the bitter history of enslavement and oppression of the Yis and people of other nationalities in China. From 1952 to 1980, the Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture of Sichuan, the Chuxiong Yi Autonomous Prefecture and the Honghe Hani and Yi Autonomous Prefecture of Yunnan were established one after another. Autonomous counties for the Yi or for several minority groups including Yi were founded in Eshan, Lunan, Ninglang, Weishan, Jiangcheng, Nanjian, Xundian, Xinping and Yuanjiang of Yunnan, Weining of Guizhou and Longlin of Guangxi.

Transformation of the only existing slave society in the contemporary world over the past 30 years or more has been a matter of profound significance in the Yi people's history. In response to the aspirations of the Yi slaves and other poor people, the people's government, after consulting with Yis from the upper stratum who had close relations with the common people, decided to carry out democratic reforms in the Yi areas of Sichuan and in the Ninglang Autonomous County of Yunnan in 1956. The basic objective of the democratic reforms was to abolish slavery and let the laboring people enjoy personal freedom and political equality; to abrogate the land ownership of the slave owning class and introduce the land ownership of the laboring people to release the rural productive force and promote agricultural production so as to create conditions for the socialist transformation of agriculture and the movement of co-operation.

In accordance with the principle of peaceful consultation, the people's government granted an appropriate political status and commensurate material benefits to those upper stratum people who actively assisted with democratic reforms. In this way, many slave owners were won over, while the few unlawful and intransigent slave owners were isolated. Thus, democratic reforms went on smoothly.

In the spring of 1958, democratic reforms concluded in the Yi areas in the Greater and Lesser Liangshan Mountains in Sichuan and Yunnan. The reforms destroyed slavery, abolished all privileges of the slave owners, confiscated or requisitioned land, cattle, farm tools, houses and grain from the slave owners, and distributed them among the slaves and other poor people. In the Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture and the Xichang Yi areas, 120,000 hectares of land were confiscated, and 280,00 head of cattle, 34,000 farm tools, houses composed of 880,000 rooms and 8,000 tons of grain were either requisitioned or purchased and given to the poor and needy along with 4,700,000 yuan paid as damages by unlawful slave owners. The reforms emancipated 690,000 slaves and other poor people, making them masters of the new society.

The people's government also built houses and provided farm tools, grain, clothes, furniture and money for the slaves and other poor people and helped them build their own homes. In the Liangshan Mountains, the government set up homes for 1,400 old and feeble slaves who had lost the ability to work under slavery. Many former slaves got married and started their own families, and many families were reunited.

The emancipated slaves took the socialist road most firmly and shortly after the democratic reforms formed advanced cooperatives in agricultural production.

The democratic reforms inspired the emancipated slaves and poor peasants to reshape their land and expand agricultural production steadily. The Chuxiong Yi Autonomous Prefecture of Yunnan achieved a great success in increasing output of hemp, tobacco, cotton, peanut and other cash crops. The autonomous counties of Ninglang, Weishan and Eshan in the Honghe Yi Autonomous Prefecture built water conservancy projects, which have played a big role in farming.

There was no industry at all in the Yi areas in the pre-liberation days except for the Gejiu Tin Mine in Yunnan and a few blacksmiths, masons and carpenters taken from the Han areas to the Liangshan Mountains. Now people in the Liangshan, Chuxiong and Honghe autonomous prefectures have built farm machinery, fertilizer and cement factories, small hydroelectric stations and copper, iron and coal mines.


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