文：孙 敏 刘 怡
Headwrap -nothing is more important
ncle Bai has a bad vision. He has just received an eye surgery for the retina trouble. But when coming to sing, his eyes are full of light. òThe girl I eulogize is like this: the flowers on the mountains are in full bloom; the bamboo shoots by the house have shown up. The girl in my heart, you are as warm as the morning sun; your shadow is as bright as the full moon; your eyes are like the green tea balls made by the Hans; your lips are like the areca piece; your teeth are blackish yellow; your fair is like moss in the black river; your arms are as smooth and tender as new banana stalks;your fingers are like the bees on the ground; your nails are like glistening beetles; your legs are like sugar cane; your feet are like bananas ........
Isn?t it a beauty? We jeered. But Uncle Bai seemed not care much. These are our criteria, he contended. Our ancients sang like this. Look at the cameraman in your team. He ties a hair plait at the back of his head. Isn?t it his liking? If a man wears a plait like that in our Jino Mountain, he would become a laughing stock. It looks nice to us to see teeth painted blackish yellow. It prevents the teeth from being decayed. My grandfather died at 89, with only two teeth fallen.
The Jino people chew areca and paint their teeth. So their lips are red and teeth are blackish. In the past, young people used to gather in Ni Gao Zuo, which is like a club in the village, every evening. Girls make fire by the pond and burned a kind of wood that would emit black liquid and people used the liquid to dye their teeth. The blacker the teeth, the more beautiful a man or a girl looks. The liquid also functions to clean the teeth and drive away bad smell. Tooth-dyeing is a routine, especially after eating something that smells not good or eating meat or drinking wine. Lac can also used to dye teeth, his wife chimed in. Chew a kind of pigment grass and then lac and that will make the teeth blackish red. Very beautiful.
Very beautiful! Uncle Bai ended virtually every sentence with the phrase in a particular emphatic way. It is more than 40 years since he began to dye his teeth and they still look blackish. But he feels it regret that the young people have changed the habit and they no long dye their teeth. TV commercials adjoin the people that white teeth are the most beautiful. So we could only see the shadows of the kind of beauty eulogized in ancient songs among people of over 60 years.
Uncle Bai is a happy man. His rich and colourful experience when young can be seen from the beetle shells dripping from his head-wrap. He cares that head-wrap most. To him, nothing is more important. The two-stranded black cloth winding over his head make him spirited and handsome. The head-wrap of boys and the skirts of girls are symbols of adulthood, he went on. Without the head-wrap, a man does not look good enough. What makes a man handsome? New clothes can make a man handsome and old clothes can make a man handsome, too. But in the past, the financial made it impossible to wear new clothes all year round. People used to dress up only during festivals or when moving into new houses and that was the best opportunity to court girls. But that is not always the case. I have seven brothers and two nieces. My mother died young. Only the daughter-in-law makes clothes. We did not have new clothes to wear. Yet we did not feel poor and I had no less girls or lovers following me.
We laughed and his loyal old companion laughed, too. Never mind, he added, very much contentedly. That was my boyhood. If no girls had their minds on you, it was a lost of face. In fact, clothes are not as important. What is the most important is whether or not you are hardworking.
The making of a dress would cost all the leisure time of women
The Jino Mountain is situated inside the Xishuanbanna in southern Yunnan Province. Half a century ago, the mountain was covered with dense virgin forests. It was not like what we see today. At that time, the Jino people lived in rain forests, almost completely cut off from the outside world. The traditional costumes of Jino are made of cotton cloth woven by themselves. Men would clear a plot of land, plant it with cotton in the first year, corn or arid rice in the second year and the third and abandon it in the fourth. Growing cotton was men?s business. After cotton was picked and sent home, everything was left to women: making thread, spinning and weaving and making clothes. When we visited the Jino Mountain a few years ago, all the women we met on the road were making thread, without exception. In recent years, however, some Jino families choose to buy machine-made thread in shops, which saves time and energy. But what the women do in slack seasons is still to weave cloth. The making of a dress is very time consuming. It would take a woman all her time to make it as they have to cut firewood, take care of children, collect wild fruits and herbs and do field work before they can sit down before the weaving frames. It would be not easy for a woman to have a new dress a year.
In the past, the Jinos had to rely on cotton to exchange for daily necessities: buying salt, doing iron work, paying household tax and conducting all kinds of sacrificial services. When I was 17, at the prime of youth, I gathered only 300 jin cotton a year. But they were not enough to feed the whole family. Cotton was our cash. At that time, it was not free to reclaim the land, which was owned by the village master. Uncle Bai intended to stress that he relied on his labor but not new clothes to attract girls in his joyful youth.
The costumes and adornments of Jinos are mainly white in color, with colorful stripes sometimes. The thread is colored by themselves. Black comes from indigo; red comes from sorghum; yellow comes from a kind of dyeing flower. Other colors were brought in by tea merchants who passed by. As Jinos are living scattered in the forests, costumes vary from village to village. But the pointed white hat and the inlays in seven colors in the front of the short clothes for women are the same. Just as a song goes: Girls with small noses, small mouth and smiling eyes, which family on earth do you belong to; the beautiful girls with the seven-color inlays, whom on earth do you have a crush on?
Costumes and love
Uncle Bai has turned over 70. He is the last singer of the older generation and has become the most authoritative interpreter of the Jino culture. Nobody else can tell you what the mysterious Goddess of Shell means and which God Temuke pays homage to and how to interpret the details of the traditional everyday life, all the interpretations come from the ancient songs. Everything, from the daily life, to the history, the origin of man, religious services, production, all come from ancient songs that have been passed on. They learned from such people of the older generation as Sha Che and Sha Du, who had learned from their fathers and grandfathers. To a people group without a written language, the history continues only by passing on from mouth to mouth.
We asked Uncle Bai and Sha Che to think back whether Ah Pu Che and Ah Pu Zhi sang any ancient songs about the origin of Jino costumes, because there are many stories among the many ethnic groups in Yunnan are associated with costumes. For a people group without a written language, the whole history is almost all recorded in the costumes. According to the local people, the legend has it that long, long time ago, there was an ill-hearted man who fell in love with a pretty little girl, a lover of another man. He stole the girl when her lover was working away on a mountain and injured her lover with his arrow. An old granny with the magic power rescued the young man and healed his wounds and mended his trousers. The young man snatched back the girl. On their way home, they became thirsty and climbed a big tree to drink water dripping from leaves. When the bad man came back again, a piece of cloth dropped from the sky and carried the girl away up and up, to the sky. The young man, who was unable to go up to the sky, came and sat in the big tree every day to wait for the girl, until his death. An ancient Jino song also goes: There is a big green tree in the moonlight; there are many sheep and dear that do not shut their eyes when die, just because they cannot get the leaves of the big green tree in the moon. Fish in the river also refuses to shut their eyes because, it can eat everything in water but the fruit of the big green tree. From then on, Jino men wear coats with a big pattern embroidered on the back, which is called Moon Flower and they wear trousers with two patches on both sides. The color stripes on the white clothes symbolize the blood strains from the skin of the young couple bruised by the thorny undergrowth in the forests.
Compared with some other ancient ethnic groups, the story seems to be too modernistic. Why the costumes are associated with love rather than with history? Sha Che does not know. Neither does Uncle Bai. They said that there were some other ancient songs that have left some traces about costumes, which associated the color stripes in the white clothes with the migration of their ancestors from the middle reaches of the Red River. But nobody could sing those songs. Sha Che only heard about this.
Rules of attire
All Jino children are called Sha ever since they were born. People say that such children are adopted by the Pei Mo Goddess and all have the natural endowment as artists. Several of our prestigious singers, such as Ah Pu Sha Che and Ah Bi Sha are like that, said Sha Che.
Sha Che has been the head of a cultural center for dozens of year. He can be found in all the wedding or house warming parties. All scientists who come to Jino to get to know about the ethnic group know him. He could find the answer to every question from the songs he sings. For this, he earned the honorary title Dr. Sha.
Sha Che is gentler in temperament than Uncle Bai. It is a happy experience to chat with him. When others took the come-of-age ritual at 13, he did it at 15. Before coming-of-age, a man can wear whatever clothes and in whatever way he likes. But after coming of age, he has to be more formal. He said that he had traveled from village to village during the two years before 15 and that an old man taught him to sing and to attract girls. But later on, he himself was not clear what the girls loved him for, his liveliness or his singing. When together with people like Uncle Bai, he likes to call to mind the things when they were young. The beetle shell in his head-wrap is one of the frequently turned up subject. Many people have lost it and only Uncle Bai has retained it. It turned out that the beetle shell came from his lover as a gift. The more the beetle shells, the greater the number of girls that have loved him. Is that true, we asked him. He smiled from ear to ear, saying :I can?t say it. I even can tell you I stole a buffalo and sold them, but not my lovers. I can tell it before marriage but not after.
Childhood is happy. There is no burden, no worries. My step-mother was very good to me. She often told me that it would be too late to find a woman when you need a son. But the love songs sing like this: ‘You are a tadpole in the water. When you have legs, you want to go up the mountains. But it would impossible for you to come back to water again when it is dry; you are like a quail in the groves. When you have the hind paws, you would want to fly to the trees. Once you go, you’ll never return. This means that you should not come out of the sweat love nest lightly. Once you do, you’ll never return.’Some Jinos marry at 30 because most of them are like quails that do not want to come out of the groves.
When he was 25, Uncle Bai came out of the grove at last and the couple has lived happily together for nearly half a century.
Colorful dresses of women and flowers in the earlobes of old women
Festivals are the busiest times for Jinos. But what is the most beautiful is not the color dress of a woman but the flowers in the earlobes of old people. The flower is not a single flower but a bunch of flowers that sends out fragrance. Set against the wrinkles on the hardship warned but peaceful smiling faces, the scene is moving. Written on the face are strains and stress in the adulthood rather than the short-lived agitating youth and the hopes for future life of these sons and daughters of rain forests.
Both men and women have holes in their earlobes, with those of women bigger than those of men and the smallest being big enough to let a small bamboo barrel to come through. Uncle Bai told us: People with ear holes are industrious and hardworking and those without are lazybones. The wife of my niece looks very beautiful, but nobody married her. My niece took her on only after she gave birth to four children, only because she did not have ear holes when she was young. He was very resentful to the quiz on costumes of ethnic groups held by CCTV. One of the questions says, the bigger the ear holes, the more beautiful a person looks. The ear holes are determined by the shape of the face. If they are too big, the earlobes would be broken and a broken ear would be the arrangement by ghost.
There are many kinds of ear rings: bamboo and lantern tree wood. The lantern tree wood is soft. A person would put the ear ring in the shape of the sun on one side and that in the shape of the moon on the other side. There are also engraved motifs on them. But now such ear rings are no longer be found. Chang Sheng’s sister used to have such ear rings and I do not know whether they are still there. When she was young, she was very beautiful, Uncle Bai used the phrase again for emphasis.
The frequently used materials for ear rings are flowers, which are easily available in the rain forests of the Jino Mountain. People are very finicky about flowers. They do not wear those that look ugly, do not have fragrance or have cat’s eyes. The flowers with cat’s eyes are for Goddess. Flowers are mostly sent by lovers. After marriage, a couple often presents each other with flowers. Fresh flowers are everywhere, in the forests, around the fields. All families plant flowers and the habit of planting flowers is dated back to very early times. People wear flowers and they use flowers at sacrificial services. Flowers are essentials during the harvest season, which is called soul of rice. Without the fragrance of flowers, people cannot call back the soul of rice, which is said to return home following the fragrance.
Sha Che has a profound knowledge about the plants in the rain forests. What flowers should be given to lovers; what flowers should be presented to the soul; what flowers can be worn; what flowers bloom in what season and where - all these are deeply engraved in the minds of Sha Che. The star flowers are the most fragrant in the Spring Festival. The fragrance can be smelled here when it is in bloom on the other side of the mountain. There is the Ge Chu flower when building new houses; there is the Lu bo flower in June and July. The flowers are most in variety during the rice harvest season. Burma rose has to be bought from the place where the Thai people live. Just as the ancient song goes: No matter how tall the mountains and how deep the ravines are, climb over ten mountains and cross ten ravines, the bees would follow you when you have the flowers.
All people can wear flowers, men and women, old and young, only when they feel happy. When you pass by an old person, Sha Che said, you’ll smell of light fragrance. That is a personal liking, isn’t it.
Men like sweet grass most. There are too many kinds of sweet grass on the Jino mountain, countless, all year round, with different fragrances during different weathers. The most common are White wax cut and sweet grass roots. Te Lan can be used as a remedy for bone injuries. There is also a kind of sweet grass called Die Mi, which is very fragrant. Then there is the big-leaved Blue cut. Ren Mi can be found only deep in the mountain. Side Blue sends out fragrance only when it is dry. There is also a kind of sweet grass called Jie Mi, which cannot be found any more..
In the past, old people used sweet grass when wrapping their hair, put sweet grass in their head-wraps, into clothes. When flowers whither, they put them in the linings of their hats or hang them on the walls near their beds. It is impossible for them to throw them away. When people are so kind as to send you flowers, whether flowers or areca, if you do not cherish them, they would look down upon you. The flowers are the same, whether they are sent by lovers or friends, unlike your people of the Han majority... Sha Che stopped short, with a broad smile. I know that he respects the traditions of other ethnic groups and that is why he has won the esteem from the people.
Sha Che is advanced in age and diseases have come to haunt him. He has been hospitalized for several times. In the ward, he saw that people sent flowers to patients. But when two days later, the flowers withered and they were thrown into the garbage can. The practice is very unacceptable to Sha.
Head-wrap - not to be changed
Uncle Bai is old and so is Sha Che. They belong to the generation that has experienced the changes in the lives of Jino people. Over the past decade, Jino people have lived a much better life and modernization has also swept the villages. With the roads came TVs and telephone services. Everything is changing. If we say there have been changes in the customs and conventions, beliefs and religious services have caught little attention, the changes in the attire of the people are the most significant.
As the clothes of Jino people used to be made by hand, the cloth is thick and heavy. Even Uncle Bai, who is the most conservative, does not deem the traditional clothes so comfortable. Today, he is wearing a T-shirt, without his beloved head-wrap. Traditional clothes are thick and heavy, clumsy and hard. I would sweat all over under such high temperature, he confessed. Uncle Bai held the post as a district head in 1960 and he seems not so stubborn in this regard. He thought that the clothes of the Han people are better. But he said that it is necessary to keep at least one suit of the traditional clothes for special occasions like the Spring Festival.
But Uncle Bai has his conflicting side. He deems it necessary to make the clothes softer and lighter. We can make clothes with machine-woven clothes bought from the department stores. Wear them to look like a Jino and that would do. You can change them as you like but men’s head-wrap cannot be changed. It does not look good if you make it smaller. It would not bear witness to history. My head-wrap is quite standard, black clothes, double-stranded, with flowers put on it and sweet grass inside it, very beautiful.
We know that he was alluding the reformed clothes worn by Sha Che, especially his modified head-wrap.
Since the beginning of the 1980s, Sha Che has been a delegate to the National People’s Congress and the member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Consultative Conference, China’s advisory body, for three terms. He saw the world and has his own views. On the Jino Mountain, he was the earliest to change the traditional clothes. He designed several new styles of Jino clothes and used light and thin chemical materials as the rim. He even designed a short-sleeved shirt. It is indeed fashionable, said Uncle Bai. But nobody follows him. The township held a fashion show and Sha Che got the third class award. But everything goes on as usual after the show. Sha Che often wears his award winning clothes, but only he wears it. Uncle Bai would not let any chance slip to mock at Sha Che.
Sha Che does not care about what Uncle Bai said. He goes on with his fashion designing hobby. He designs; his wife makes; and he himself wears. The making of the fashion is not as simple as we imagine. Even a modification of a collar, his wife would start from all over. To preserve the traditional clothes is one thing and reform is another, Sha Che said. I’m the only one to go abroad with a national costume. All the others wear western style suits, recalling the performance of Japan two years ago by a drum team he led.
He did not go to any school, but he is a man of reason. Ten years ago, when he went to Beijing for the CPPCC conference, he mooted to ban the use of toxic rat killers. It is too harmful to the ecology, he said. Cats are dying; dogs are dying; the eagles in the sky and small birds are dying. Even the small fish and shrimps are nowhere to be found. The wildlife in the forests is being threatened. But only at the beginning of this year, he saw an announcement by the state on banning the use of toxic rat killers in the Xishuangbanna News.
You asked what the biggest changes have taken place on the Jinou Mountain. It is culture. The traditional customs and conventions are gone; festivals are not like those before. Sacrificial services that used to take three days are now finished by holding a meeting and a dance party in just two hours. You cannot control people. In the past, the people were under the control of divine. When you did something bad, the divine was watching you. But now, when divine is gone, disorder prevails. The songs we three people of the older generation sing are not pleasing to the ears of the young people. Now people would invite us when a new house is completed. But we do not want to sing any more. We are singing here, young people would be singing pop songs nearby or playing poker games. I feel heart-ache to see all this.
The Jino Mountains are changing. Many big trees are gone. In the past, there were tigers, elephants, leopards, wild buffalos, red deer, wild bores, bears, wild dogs, too many, small birds, colony after colony of monkeys in the forests behind the villages. But they are all gone. There are few red-tailed fish now. There is only water in the ditches and grass on the mountains. Although it looks lush green, there are not useful trees to be found. The sky has also changed. There is no rain. The crops would be a failure this year.
Although they have a sense of the traditions being lost, they would not grin and bear. Uncle Bai, Sha Che and another old man spent nearly a year writing down all they got to know from their ancestors. It was said that there are piles and piles of manuscripts, enough to make ten large copies of books. With these, they would tell their forerunners what they have done to carry over the traditions. Of course, there is another thing that makes them pleased. In recent two years, the people are becoming more and more interested in the traditional costumes. As more and more tourists are coming, women can weave some traditional cloth and sell to them.
They told us that they are duty-bound to tell the next generation what the Jino’s tradition is.
Since the 1980s, Sun Min worked for more than ten years in the ethnic minority areas in Yunnan Province. She conducted field investigations in oral culture there. She did extensive research on the history, culture, traditions and religions of the ethnic groups in southwestern China. Since 1998, she has been an editor-in-chief of the journal Camellia: Humane Geography. She is widely involved in the research on the lifestyles, nature, ecology, and civilization development of ethnic groups. She contributed numerous articles to many Chinese journals on geography and folk customs. These articles are about the lifestyles, witchcraft, ecology and environmental protection, paleontology, natural disasters, and history of ethnic minorities. Her publications include A Tour of the Dai Region.
Liu Yi conducted field investigations in oral culture in southern Yunnan Province. She made extensive research on such ethnic groups such as the Jino, Dai and Hani. She used to edit A Collection of Songs of Ethnic Minorities in China: The Yunnan Volume and was a deputy editor-in-chief of A Collection of Folk Literature of the Jino Ethnic Group. Her publications include A Panorama View of Jino Culture and Fishing and Hunting of Ethnic Groups in Yunnan.