Dulong Ethnic Minority

Plan China ethnic culture tour of Dulong Ethnic Minority, visit the featured ethnic towns and villages of Dulong Ethnic Group, discover History, Food and Dining, Clothing, Customs and Traditions, Architecture, Festivals, Crafts, Religion,Language, Population and Distribution of Dulong Ethnic Minority.

The Drung is a small ethnic group in China. The Drungs mainly live in the Dulong River Valley in the Gongshan Dulong and Nu Autonomous County in the Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Canton of Yunnan Province. There are also a small number of them, numbering 7426, distributed in the areas along the Nujiang River in the north of Gongshan County.

According to historical records, during the Tang (618-907 AD) and Song (960-1279AD) Dynasties, the major settlement of the Drungs was under the jurisdiction of the Nanzhao and Dali principalities. From Yuan (1279-1363AD) Dynasty to Qing (1644-1911AD) Dynasty, the Drungs were ruled by court-appointed Tusi Mu (ruler of Yi nationality) from Lijiang. During the middle period of Qing Dynasty, their settlement was put under the administration of the Naxi headmen of Kangpu and Yezhi and then solely governed by the Yezhi headman. In 1909, a full-time Qiuguan (governor) was appointed to take charge of the Drung river valley. In 1918, the government established Changputong Prefectural Administrative Office in Gongshan County, which was transformed into Establishment and Administration Bureau of Gongshan County so as to further practice Bao and Jia household registration system of old China in that area.

Till the middle period of the 20th century, the Drung nationality was still in the disintegration stage of the primitive commune. They lived mainly on planting, hunting and food fathering. Their coverings were knitted flax. There were a few of them using leaves and hides to cover themselves.

The name of the ethnic group was first seen in the item of customs of Lijiang Road in The Records of Unification of Great Yuan Danasty. The ethnic people were called “Qiao” in Yuan Dynasty and “Qiu” or “Qu”, also “Qiuren” and “Qiuzi”, during the Ming and Qing dynasties. With the founding of the PRC in 1949, following the characteristics and will of the ethnic group, it was decided to agree upon the official name of Dulong ethnic group.

The ethnic group uses the Drung language, which belongs to Tibetan-Burmese group of the Chinese-Tibetan language family and is basically communicable with Nu language of Gongshan. However, they have no characters of their own.

The Dulong ethnic people normally wear black and white striped gunny or cotton clothes and a pair of short trousers. They habitually wrap their upper chest with a piece of gunny from the left armpit to the right shoulder, with the left shoulder and the right arm uncovered. The Drung women mostly wear colored oil vine ring on the waist for ornament. They used to tattoo their faces. The Dulong people, male and female, don’t wear hats, mostly have their hair disheveled and are barefoot. Now their clothing has greatly changed.

Women wear long-sleeve garments, following the lead of the Lisu nationality and colored bead necklace chains, while men love to wear a crossbow and a hunting knife on the waist.

The Drung men used to wrap their back with a cubic meter of blanket from the left armpit to the right armpit, pulling the blanket over the chest and then tying a knot. They wore short trousers which only cover up their buttocks in front and behind. Women wrapped themselves with two cubic meters of rectangular cloth obliquely from the shoulder to the opposite knee and tied a knot in front. Both male and female wore their hair down to their eyebrows in front, down to their shoulders behind and down to their tip of ears on both sides. They wore rings or refined bamboo tubes on their ears. Now the Drungs generally wear garments of cloth with striped blanket over that. The baldrics of the Drungs are of characteristic. They love to dye rattans red and make them into bracelets and waist ornaments. Men love to wear a chopper, a crossbow and an arrow bag when they go out. Women wear printed towels on their heads and beads around their necks. The textile of the Drung nationality is quite developed. Gunny blankets they produce are of high quality, harmonious hue and distinct characteristics.

The Drungs live on fried noodles made of highland barley, corn, rice or millet. They have a preference for baked potatoes, cakes and biscuits as well as porridge. They grind root tubers of all kinds of wild plants into starch and then make it into cakes and biscuits or porridge.

The daily food of the Drungs are planted potatoes, pods and melons as well as gathered bamboo shoots, bamboo leaves and all kinds of fungi. They usually cook them with peppers, wild garlic and table salt in the wok.

When they cook fish, they love to bake them over blazing fire or slow fire and then eat them with seasoning while drinking. Bee pupae are one of the exquisite foods among the people of the Drung nationality. It is said that the fact that there are relatively more people of over one hundred years old has something to do with eating bee pupae regularly. Their typical foods are potatoes with Hema (a kind of poisonous hemp), chicken braised with strong white spirit, Jimi (bamboo shoots with odor) and so on.

Their way of cooking has changed from using stones to using woks. Now they cook food by boiling and baking. They have a preference for spicy and crisp food and are addicted to drink. The most characteristic food is flagstone buns. Its uniqueness lies in that it is baked by using a flagstone, a local specialty, as the wok and spreading buckwheat starch on it. There comes special flavor when they bake blue sheep, cook large intestines and braise ( bamboo shoots with odor)、potatoes with Hema (a kind of poisonous hemp) on the flagstone.

Flagstone Buns:It is the ancient food of Drung and Nu nationality of Gongshan County. Its primitiveness lies in the fact that people take the flagstone as the wok and spread the thick liquid on it in order to make flagstone bun. The turnoffs are fragrant, sweet and tasty with special flavor and rich nutrition. In the vicinity of Qinglatong in the town of Bingzhongluo, Gongshan County there produces a kind of flagstone, which can’t be burnt out by fire and split by water. When you put the flagstone on the tripod of the fireplace and bake buns on it without adding oil, the buns will be extremely steep and fragrant without sticking to it.

Woodcut “Invitations”: The Drungs observe their unique traditional festival in December annually. Each family and clan chooses an auspicious day and cuts openings in specially made wooden chips as “Invitations”, which are delivered to stockaded villages and relatives to be invited. Cutting openings means that they will hold ceremonies and celebrate their New Year Festival in a few days. People who are invited will take all kinds of foods along and send their best greetings.

Marriage Customs

Marriage Persuasion: Marriage persuasion of the Drungs is civilized and interesting. When a young man takes a fancy to a girl, he will send a married man who has the gift of gab and prestige in the stockaded village as the matchmaker. If the matchmaker accepts the task, he will take a teapot in hand and carry a varicolored bag on back with tea, cigarettes and an urn inside from the young man’s home to the girl’s home.

When he arrives at the girl’s home, no matter whether the girl’s family are warm to greet him or not, the matchmaker will put down the teapot, fill it with water, make the fire in the fireplace burn fiercely, put up the tripod and then place the teapot on it in a smart way. And then he brings out the tea and the urn from the bag and fetches the bowls, each for one and without reference to age or sex, to make ready for making tea. At this moment, no matter whether the gril’s family consent to the marriage persuasion or not and no matter whether they are delighted or not, they will draw up around the fireplace. When the water is brought to a boil, the matchmaker will start to make tea. After a while, he will pour the tea into the bowls and put the bowls in front of them in the order of father, mother, elder brother, elder sister, younger brother, younger sister and the last one, the girl before talking about the marriage. If the girl’s father or mother knock off the tea and the others follow him or her to drink up the tea, it means the marriage persuasion is a success. If the tea turns from hot to cold and from cold to hot till 11 or 12 o’clock and there is still no one drinking the tea and if the second evening and the third one remain the same, that means the marriage persuasion fizzles out. If the young man has a mind to it, he has to send a matchmaker again one year later.

When a young man and a young woman fall in love with each other, they will present token of trust mutually as engagement. Generally girls present elaborately knitted Drung blankets or leg wrappings to boys while boys present to girls a hoe or a basket carried on back weaved by themselves.

Wedding: On the wedding ceremony, parents of both sides will introduce the circumstances of their own

son or daughter, encourage them to show loving care for each other, run their home through hardworking and thrift and getting along in harmony and admonish them not to get divorced even if one of them will get disabled or blind. After that, they will forward a bowl of rice wine to the bride and bridegroom. The couple will take the wine over and indicate in front of the guests to their parents that they will comply with the admonition of their parents to show respect for each other and take good care of each other for a lifetime and never to get separated. Finally, they will scoop up the wine bowl and drink up together the wine which is called “wine of one heart”.

The wedding banquet is quite oversimplified. Most of the food are fried noodles, buns, rice wine, and the like, which are made by the couple’s families or brought by guests. The masters hand out the food, each share for one guest and add one piece of meat to show respect for them.

On the wedding day, people of the whole stockaded village come to send congratulations.

After the ceremony, people without reference to sex and age start to take the lively Drung dance as much as they like and singing songs to celebrate the wedding.

Weird Laughs: When the Drung people encounter a stranger on the road, they will always put both hands on their chest, turn their face to the right and gurgle to demonstrate greeting. Then they will enquire in a low voice, “Excuse me, where are you going?” the man being enquired will reply with a smile, “Over there.” When a guest from a faraway place enter the Drung house, all the people inside the house will stand up together, bend their waist and give gusts of laughter to show greeting. Then they will greet him gently, “Please take the seat over here.” The guest will reply with a smile as well as a bow, “Thank you.” When the guest insists on leaving, the master will send him off till outside the village and stand there for a long time, looking after him with a smile as he disappears into the distance.

Funeral:The Drung nationality practices inhumation all through the ages. Following the nationality’s taboo, the dead should be carried out not directly through the entrance door, but through a crevice pried in the back wall or the floor of the house. It is said that only by doing this can there be no more dead people. All those who die naturally are buried not far from their own home. The Drung people believe that burying their families far away is unbearable.

Facial tattoos
Before the liberation of our country, according to the old tradition of the Drung nationality, once a girl gets into adulthood, she has to accept the ethnic baptism and get branded.

Getting tattooed in the face is painful. When tattooing faces, people first take some cigarette ash with a pointed slip of bamboo and draw a profile in a girl’s face. Then they tattoo along the lines with one hand holding the slip of bamboo and the other hand beating the needle stick. After the tattooing, they wipe away the blood seeping out and apply the mixture of Chinese ink and ashes. After a few days, there leave black and indigo-blue streaks in the skin which will be facial tattoos never to be washed off. It is said that tattooing faces can add beauty to women, make distinction between nationality and clique so as to prevent enslavement by the headmen of other nationalities and ward off evil.

Taboos on Marriage: People should comply strictly with exogamy and endogamy is forbidden. In the past, there are fixed marriage groups between clans. It is not allowed to get engaged or married without betrothal gifts. People should abstain from divorce. If the wife abandons her husband and still has a younger sister at home, then her sister should be married to her husband as compensation, otherwise she has to return all the betrothal gifts. If the husband abandons his wife, the wife can return part of or none of the betrothal gifts. The Drung people used to be forbidden to get intermarried with the Zang people.

Taboos on Childbearing: Lying-in women should abstain from indoor parturition because it is believed that their “impure” air will affront such hunting appliances as bow and arrow in the room with the result of hunting without success. They must be carried out of the room when bearing children and carried back to the room after giving birth to children and getting cleaned. Men are not allowed to attend the lying-in women because the “impure” air will bring infelicity and even blindness to men. If a woman has gotten married, she is not allowed to bear a child in her maiden home, otherwise it will has a bad influence on the prosperity of the descendants of her maiden family. Once it happens, the son-in-law needs to present two bottles of wine and some meat to his father-in- law’s family as compensation.

Taboos on Funeral: Before a dying person swallows his death, his family should transfer the seeds left at home to others’ home or other place,or the seeds will not sprout. When holding funeral procession, people should not carry the dead through the gate, but through the crevice in the floor. It is believed that if the funeral procession isn’t done in this way, evil spirit will dwell in the room with the result that more families may die and even the whole family may be gone. On the funeral day, the whole village has to cease the production altogether.

Taboos on Religion: People are not allowed to fell the trees in the damned woods; otherwise villagers may die of disease and have crop failure. When the master go out hunting, guests should not pay a visit to him, otherwise the soul of guests will take away the game. The flesh of captured beast and the fish caught should not be fried with balm. If all the above taboos are offended, people will hunt without success.

The Drung people has only one festival, Kaquewa, for the whole year. Every family or clan pitches on three to five days usually in Lunar December for the festival. The duration of the festival always depends on the quantity of food prepared. Festival activities include putting up colored gunny cloth, drinking while sitting around the fireplace, interchanging greetings, holding grand hunting ceremony and offering sacrifices the mountain god. On the first day of the festival, every family puts up colored blanket. At nightfall, the whole family drink and divine to pray for a good harvest in the coming year. On the second day, people make mountain god and beasts of all sorts with buckwheat. After the sacrificial rites, teenage hunters shoot arrows towards buckwheat beasts and the spectators beat the drum and dance in a circle. On the third day is the grandest ceremony in the festival, sacrificing ox to God. When killing ox, the festival preside first ties the ox to the spile; and then a young woman covers the back of the ox with a piece of gunny blanket, hangs bead necklace around the ox horns, puts sacrifices in place and lights the torch and pine needles; Finally a young man whose parents are still alive stabs the ox to death with a sharp bamboo spear, cut the flesh on the spot, and dance a simple ox-head dance with the ox head on back. After the dance, people bank up the fire, enjoy beef as they drink and sing all through the night.

Culture and Art
The Drung people have a fancy for singing and dancing. No matter whether it is for the sake of production, harvest, hunting, house building, marriage proposal or festival, they have a tendency to express themselves and confide inner feelings of pleasure, anger, sorrow and joy through songs and dances. Accompanying musical instruments for dancing are oral string, gong, flute, leather drum and the like. Women normally play the oral string, sing songs while dancing and also drink wine. All men and women are apt at making up songs impromptu or starting a dance on the spot when the sight stirs up their feelings. When taking a dance, some dance face to face with men in one row and women in the other row while some dance in a circle. Some ply knives and hold bows while others climb shoulders and join hands. All of them run high in feelings and dance with vigor and grace, which demonstrate boorishness and bravery of the Drungs.

Residence and buildings
Residence: The residence of the Drungs includes wooden houses and pile dwellings of bamboo split. Mainly in the area north of Kongmu, wooden houses are built by intersecting and overlapping timbers or wood blocks layer upon layer and fixed by sawing the wallboards or logs of the four corners into embossed dentiform.

The area south of Kongmu mainly has pile dwellings of bamboo split. Dozens of spiles are inserted into the earth of the sloping field. You can only see dozens of spiles in the earth under the house, which is customarily called house”landing on thousands of feet”. To build a house of bamboo split, people first build a structure with timbers, enclose the walls and cover the floor with bamboo split, then fasten them tight with bamboo ropes and vines, and finally cover the roof with couch grass.

Note: see a detailed introduction of wooden houses in the part of Nu nationality.

Bridges of Thin Bamboo Strips and Vines: Erecting vine-net bridges is a great event in the lives of the Drungs. Whenever they complete a bridge, they will dress in holiday wear, sound the gong and beat the drum and festively sing and dance for the celebration. The structure of a vine-net bridge is ancient and out of ordinary. People weave two ropes with vines and bamboo exclusively found in the Drung river valley, tie them in parallel to stout trunk or fixed spiles on side banks, then weave nets with wild vines or bamboo splits gathered from mountains and hang them on the vine ropes on both sides and finally lay boards wider than soles or several poles put together at the bottom of the nets for people to walk on. When one sets foot on the bridge, the raising of the foot and the taking of a step will shake or rock the bridge and he will feel very dizzy. It is no simple matter for non-natives to cross the bridge. However, the Drung people are able to walk freely even if they carry weights on back.

Arts and Crafts
Yueduo: Yueduo is a Drung blanket, the most precious article of the Drungs. It not only has rich ethnic characteristics, but also reflects the changes in the lives of the Drung people. This art ware takes cotton and gunny as the material, knitted with multicolored lines by hand. It is of tender quality and of primitive simplicity and elegance with duration of decades. It serves both as mattress and cover; it can not only keep out wind and rain, but also pack food; it can also serve as an artwork to beautify the room.

The Drung people used to believe that all things have spirits, therefore worshipping natural objects and believing in ghosts. They hold that wind, rain, lightning, thunder, high mountains, floods, huge rocks and odd trees all have ghosts. Since ghosts will bring curse to people, they are generous in offering such sacrifices as livestock and foodstuff to ghosts so as to pray for blessings and elude a blow. Powwows hold the sacrificial ceremony. They are of two kinds. One is called Namusa, taking charge of sacrificial ceremony and lots casting. The other is called Duomusa, specializing in laying the devil. The former has higher social standing than the latter.