Perspectives on the Yi of Southwest China

By Stevan Harrell | Go to book overview
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A Comparative Approach to Lineages among the
Xiao Liangshan Nuosu
and Han
Ann Maxwell Hill and Eric Diehl

A recent period of fieldwork among the Nuosu of the Xiao Liangshan area of northwestern Yunnan Province in the People's Republic of China provided convincing evidence that lineage organization was at the heart of Nuosu society and culture in the days before the Chinese Communist pacification of the area in the mid-1950s.1 While much has been written about Nuosu kinship by Han Chinese scholars and, more recently, by a new generation of Nuosu ethnologists, generally there have been no systematic discussions of the Nuosu lineage in the context of Western anthropological conventions about lineages. Taking the first step in the direction of a fuller, comprehensive treatment, we present here some insights into the Nuosu lineage, or cyvi, derived from a limited comparison with Han (Chinese) lineages. Because the “lineage paradigm” in the anthropology of China has informed so much of our thinking about lineages—certainly for those of us studying China's minorities—and because historically the Nuosu have lived “lips by teeth” with the Han, a comparative perspective on this dimension of Nuosu and Han cultures may provide a better understanding of the internal structure of Nuosu society, as well as some facets of Nuosu relations with local Han groups.

This fieldwork was funded by Dickinson College's Mellon Student Faculty Research Fund. We wish to thank our colleague Mr. Lasha Lunuo (Zheng Chengjun) from the Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences for sharing with us his expert knowledge of the Ninglang Nuosu and for his translations from Nuosu into Han. We also are indebted to the head of the Foreign Affairs Office in Ninglang Yi Autonomous County, Mr. Su Xuewen, who accompanied us on many of our interviews and extended to us all the courtesies of his office. A special thanks to Ms. Yang Wenying, also of the Ninglang County Foreign Office, for her help with arrangements and for her enthusiastic support of our research project.


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