Origins and History of Hani Ethnic Minority

Historical records indicate that a tribal people called the "Heyis" was active south of the Dadu River in the 3rd century B.C. These were possibly the ancestors of the Hanis of today. According to the records, some of them had moved to the area of the Lancang River between the 4th and 8th centuries. Local chieftains then paid tribute to the Tang court and in return they were included on the list of officials and subjects of that dynasty. The Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) established a prefecture to rule the Hanis and other minorities in Yunnan. The Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) exercised its rule through local chieftains, who were granted official posts. During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) court officials replaced the chieftains.

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A Hani Family (Photo from www.lsqn.cn)

The social development of the Hanis was uneven in different areas before 1949. Those in contact with the Hans were more developed economically and culturally. The feudal landlord economy was dominant during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Productivity was more or less on the Han level but the peasants were exploited harshly by the landlords who seized large tracts of fertile land.

The situation in Jinghong, Menglong and Xiding was different. Vestiges of primitive communal land ownership still remained. There, the majority of land was public property. Commune members owned paddy fields and tea plantations, and could reclaim and cultivate communal land. However, private land ownership was fairly developed in Menghai, Mengsong and Mengla counties. Landlords and rich peasants possessed most of the arable land there, as well as the tea plantations, forests and wasteland. Poor peasants were subjected to exploitation in various forms.

In counties like Honghe, Yuanyang, Luchun, Jinping and Jiangcheng, the economy was in a sort of transition from primitive economy to the feudal landlord economy. Peasants were burdened by exorbitant taxes and levies enforced by the chieftains, who were both land owers and political rulers.

In the Ailao mountains, the Hanis were impoverished and suffered under various forms of exploitation. In one village, which had some 150 households 50 years ago, only 17 families were left at the time of liberation due to famine and disease.




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