Bulang Ethnic Minority: Teeth Dyeing-a Symbol of Maturity

The Teeth Dyeing ceremony indicates that a Blang youth has matured into a grown-up member of society, and can join in various social activities.

Little Buddhist MonksIn the past, the young men and girls were free in either social activities or courting. They were supported by their social conventions and the public opinion. Parents also cared about their growth and marriage. When a boy reaches the age of nine, he is sent by his parents to a Burmese temple to learn religion as a “Panian (small monk).” Five or six years later, he returns to secular life. At the age of around 15, his parents would prepare for him a small handbag (called Tongpa), a long sword, and a blanket. If they are rich, he might also get a silver or copper box with tobacco, betel palms, liquid lime for chewing betel nuts. His clothing changes, too. He would keep his hair and, have new clothes often and white cloth leg-wrappings. When a girl reaches the age of 14 or 15, her father gives her a small bamboo stool, a small bamboo basket, a spinning wheel, and a new dress. He also prepares a piece of pan steel for blackening her teeth. Then, they are to perform the ritual that suggests her maturity. The main business in that ritual is blackening teeth. All the boys and girls around 15 gathered in a bamboo storied-house, where they use the smoke of the burning branches of a tree name “Kaoagai.” Boys and girls will dye each other’s teeth black at their adulthood rituals. After that they can attend social activities as adults, and acquire the right to date and get married.

Another way of teeth dyeing is chewing tobacco. A little tobacco wrapped in a betel palm, together with some Saji, radish, betel nuts, red lime, is put into the mouth and chewed for about 20 minutes. The remains after chewing are fuchsia. The teeth gradually get black from day to day. Betel nuts are cool and can protect one’s teeth and improve one’s appetite.