Perspectives on the Yi of Southwest China

By Stevan Harrell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
Nzymo as Seen in Some Yi Classical Books
Wu Jingzhong

Nzymop is a Nuosu-language name for a member of a ruling stratum, a name that has long been used in Yi history, and which means “one who wields power. ”1 The Yi had a caste society for much of their history; during this time people were divided into several strata with different social positions, and the nzymo was the highest stratum in this society.

Because the nzymo held this illustrious position for a long period, they had great influence on every aspect of Yi history. As a result of their close relations with the feudal dynasties throughout history, the study of the nzymo is an important aspect of the study of Yi history.

China's feudal dynasties, beginning with the Yuan, practiced the tusi system among many minority peoples in the northwestern and southwestern areas of the country (see Herman 1997). They enfeoffed existing leaders of these minority peoples as local rulers, giving them titles such as tusi and tumu. The nzymo of the Nuosu in Liangshan were also deputed with the titles tusi and tumu. Consequently, nzymo were mostly referred to as Yi tusi. After the rulers of the Yuan dynasty began enfeoffing the nzymo as tusi and tumu, the Ming and Qing continued the Yuan system. Even though the policy of gaitu

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1
In the romanized form of standard Nuosu orthography, tones are indicated by an iconic “musical scale” graph, with “t” indicating a high tone, “x” a midrising tone, no graph a midlevel tone, and “p” a low falling tone. The standard romanization here is thus nzymop. To prevent unaccustomed English-language readers from interpreting the “p” graph as a bilabial stop, we omit the tone marks in this book.

Nzy and Nzymo are equivalent terms. The suffixmo occurs in many nominal forms, often indicating large size, high rank, or seniority, and sometimes opposed tosse,meaning small or junior. Thus bimo is a priest, bisse a disciple; gemo a senior artisan; another gemo is a large wardrobe, while a gesse is a small chest of drawers.

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