History of Dehong Dai and Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture

Dehong was called “Ancient Mengmao Kingdom” in the recording of The Pattra Sutra; it was named as the “Dianyue Elephant Riding Kingdom” under the pen of Simaqian; it was the Jinchi Kingdom in the book of “Marcopolo and His Travels”. Dehong is not only the outlet of the ancient “The Southwest Silk Road of China”, but also the outlet of the Yunnan-Myanmar Road. At present,it is still the golden port leading to South Asia and Southeast Asia. Since its founding in 1953, the Dehong Dai-Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture has been a great concern of the leaders of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council. The older generation of party and state leaders such as Mao Zedong, Liu Shaoqi, Zhou Enlai concerns the troops stationed in border areas, cadres and the people of all nationalities. Whatever, different ethnic groups live in the pure land in harmony.

The area was declared an autonomous region in 1953, and in May 1956 became an autonomous prefecture. In 1960 when interprovincial migration took place many farmers came to Yunnan to farm bananas. This was during the “Great Leap Forward” when a biologist working for Mao Zedong wrote an article about the weather in Yunnan being very suitable for bananas to be planted. A very long time ago before this many Chinese were in fact very scared of going there because of an illness that lurked about. It was later discovered that this was an identifiable tropical disease. The farmers helped to get rid of the disease. They made clearings, roads and space for fields and plantations.

Dehong region was inhabited long before Emperor Wu (Han Dynasty 156 – 87 BC) decided to pave parts of the Southern Silk Road in 109 BC. The Southern Silk Road was an important trade route through the mountains and valleys of Yunnan, linking Baoshan with Dehong and delving far into Burma, India and other bordering countries. During the Han and Tang Dynasties (618 -907 AD) this line of communication created ties between China and the countries in Asia, Africa and Europe. It also played a role in developing the economy and culture of the minority groups on China’s southwestern border.

In 1277, Kublai Khan fought a famous battle in Baoshan, the neighboring region to Dehong. With 12,000 Mongol troops, Khan beat out the 60,000 Burmese soldiers and their 2,000 elephants in large-scale warfare against the Burmese king. As the story goes, Khan’s archers were able to start a stampede of the Burmese elephants back against their own lines. Khan then left relatives to govern from within walled towns.

Later, the area was mainly controlled by hereditary land owners. In the 1940s, 250,000 Chinese troops fought to keep the Japanese from invading through Burma. The Japanese Air Force repeatedly bombed the Flying Tigers base not far from Dehong. The Flying Tigers were a volunteer group from the American army who trained in Burma before the Americans joined WWII. They are famous for downing 300 enemy aircraft with a loss of only twelve of their own in combat.

In most recent times, Dehong has gotten a reputation for the types of weird and wonderful goods that have passed through the border. Yunnan’s most western town, Ruili, has especially become notorious for being the main entry point for Burmese heroin to China. The illegal drug trafficking has lead to a local pun “Feed a chicken in China and you get an egg in Burma.”