Remembering a Yi Headmanship
In 1953, a team of ethnographers taking part in the nationwide Nationalities Classification (minzu shibie) project visited the village of Yijichang in Yongren County, Yunnan.1 Their report analyzed patterns of land use, relations of exploitation, and local government structure in this area before Liberation and classed its people as members of the newly constituted Yi nationality. The preLiberation local state hierarchy, it stated, had here as elsewhere been an instrument of direct oppression, designed to extract wealth from the people through taxes and corvée labor. In the Qing dynasty and the Republic, the first level of this oppressive hierarchy had been an institution unique to this part of Yunnan. It was called a huotou (), and it administered a small group of Yi villages. Of the Yijichang huotou the report declared:
Grants from the Committee for Scholarly Communications with China and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research supported the field research for this chapter. I am indebted to Professor Liu Yaohan of the Chuxiong Yi Culture Research Institute and Professor He Yaohua of the Yunnan Social Sciences Academy for their indispensable aid in setting up this project, and to Luo Wengao for his patient help in gathering every aspect of this material. I also owe thanks to William Rowe, Emily Martin, Gillian Feeley-Harnik, Laury Oaks, Katherine Verdery, Sara Berry, Stevan Harrell, and the participants in the First International Conference on Yi Studies for their comments on earlier drafts.