History of Jino Ethnic Minority

It is said that the Jinos migrated to Jinoluoke from Pu'er and Mojiang or places even farther north. It seems likely that they still lived in a matriarchal society when they first settled around the Jino Mountain. Legend has it that the first settler on the mountain ridge was a widow named Jiezhuo. She gave birth to seven boys and seven girls who later married each other. As the population grew, the big family was divided into two groups to live in as many villages, or rather two clans that could intermarry. One was called Citong, the patriarchal village, and the other was Manfeng, the matriarchal village. With the passage of time, the Jino population multiplied and more Jino villages came into existence.

The Jino girls festively singing and dancing, in 2005. (Photo by Shi Yongting, from gb.cri.cn)

Until about 40 years ago, Jino people from far and near still went to offer sacrifices to their ancestors in the matriarchal and patriarchal villages every year.

The Jino matriarchal society gave way to a patriarchal one some 300 years ago. But the Jinos were still in the transitional stage from a primitive to a class society at the time the People's Republic was founded in 1949.

Most Jinos are farmers. In 1949 they still cultivated land by the slash and burn method, not knowing how to irrigate their crops. Land was communally owned by clans or villages and farmed collectively except in some villages where land was privately owned.

The Jinos are great hunters. When men go out hunting, they shoulder crossbows with poisoned arrows or shot-guns. They are also experts in the use of traps and nooses to catch wild animals. They hunt in groups and divide the prey equally among the participants. But the pelts of animals go to the men who shot them. While the men hunt, the women gather wild fruit in the forests. Edible herbs are also collected for soup.

The early ancestors of the Jinos, united by ties of consanguinity into a big family, lived in the Jizhuo Mountains in very ancient times. But the social structure of the Jinos had changed by 1949. The basic unit of society was no longer the clan by blood-ties following the emergence of the communal village in which people of different clans lived together. The boundaries of the villages were marked with wooden or stone tablets on which swords and spears were carved. The land within the boundary was communal property, and each village was inhabited by at least two clans whose members could intermarry. Two elders were elected to take care of village administration as well as sacrificial rites and production. Each village was a small, self-contained world.

Primitive egalitarianism still manifests itself to these days in Jino customs. The meat of wild beasts brought back by hunters is divided equally among all adults and children in a village. Even a small deer is cut into very tiny pieces and shared out among all the villagers, including the new-born. Because of low crop-yields resulting from primitive farming methods and extortion by Dai overlords, there was always a shortage of grain for three or four months every year. But despite that, the Jinos stored what little grain they had in unguarded straw sheds outside their houses, and never worried that it would be stolen.

Zhuoba (the village father) and Zhuose (the village mother) were the leaders in a communal village. Being the oldest people in the village, they were respected by all. They became village leaders by virtue of their seniority, not because they were brave in war or eloquent in speech. No matter how mediocre they might be, even if they were blind or deaf, they had to serve as village elders so long as they were the oldest people in the community. After their death, the next eldest in the same clan would be chosen as successors.

Their functions were tinged with time-honored traditions or religion. For instance, the yearly sowing could only begin after the elders had animals slaughtered and offered to the spirits at a ceremony during which the elders put a few seeds into the soil, before the other villagers could start sowing on a big scale. The elders also fixed the dates for holidays. The beating of a big drum and gong in elders' homes ushered in the new year, and all the villagers, young and old, would rush to the elders' homes to sing and dance.

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