The Jingpo people, numbering 132,143, live mostly in the mountainous areas of Dai-Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan Province. Half of them live in Longchuan County, Dai-Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture. Some of the Jingpo people also live in the Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture.
According to historical stories and records, the ancestors of the Jingpo ethnic group were ancient Di and Qiang people. They lived in the southern mountain area of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau named "Muzhashenglabeng", which means mountain with a flat top. Then they moved to the northwestern part of Yunan Province, west of the Nujiang River. After that, they split up into two parts, the eastern Jingpo and the western Jingpo. The eastern Jingpo lived to the east of Lancang River and Jinsha River. And the western Jingpo distributed in the area of Magulang and Gangfang, which in history was called Xunchuan, and in Han Dynasty was under the jurisdiction of Yongchang County. So the western Jingpo, together with the local people, were called "Xunchanman" (Barbarian in Xunchuan area). In the Yuan Dynasty, the Xunchuan area was under the jurisdiction of the provincial administration of Yunnan, which was set up by the central government. During the Ming Dynasty, two big alliances, Chashan and Lima, gradually came into being. They were headed by hereditary nobles called "Shanguan". And the Shanguans of the Jingpo people were pointed as local administrators by the Ming court. In the Qing Dynasty, the Jingpo area was under the domination of county offices established by the Qing curt. Beginning from the 10th century, they migrated in large numbers to the Dehong area.
Because of the different living areas, the Jingpos also call themselves Jingpo, Zaiwa, Laqi, Polo, etc. and they are named "Dashan", "Xiaoshan", "Langsu", "Chashan" etc. by the Han people.
The Jingpo language belongs to the Tibetan-Burmese family of the Chinese-Tibetan language system. Not until the 1890s, a Jingpo alphabetic system of writing based on Latin letters was created by an American priest in Burma and was introduced to the Jingpo people. After the establishment of People's Republic of China, Chinese language workers have made great improvement on the original Jingpo language and created a set of alphabetic system of writing for the Jingpo people who speak Zaiwazhi language. Nowadays, the two sets of alphabetic system are still used by Jingpo people.
The dressing style of Jingpo people is rugged and bold. Jingpo men generally wear black jacket with a buttoned opening straight down the front and black trousers which are short and loose. They wrap their head with black or white headcloth decorated by colored pompons. When they go out, they often take satchels on their shoulders and bear long knives on their waist and just look like warriors with remarkable presence.
Jingpo women often wear black jackets with a buttoned opening straight down the front or left and black straight skirts alternating with red. They bandage their legs with black strip of cloth. On holidays, Jingpo women wear special jackets decorated with silver bubbles. They wear a lot of silver chains on their necks, long earrings on their ears, large silver bracelets with decorative patterns on their hands. Many Jingpo women like to coil red or black lacquered rattan rings round their waists. They believe the more rattan rings you wear, the more beautiful you are. This is the unique taste of Jingpo people.
Staple food: Jingpo's staple food includes rice, maize, barley, kaoliang and taro. Chicken, pork and beef are their main sources for meat protein. And they gather potherbs as their daily greenstuff, such as cordate houttuynia and wild celery. They also pick some fungus, liana and water plant as their supplementary food.
Jingpo's famous dishes are fried Xingu rice ("Xingu" means newly grown rice), muntjac blood rice ball( hot steamed rice mixed with muntjac blood), ants battercake (a kind of battercake made of rice flour and chopped ants).
The Jingpos are good at cuisine. They are adept at various cooking techniques such as pestling, grilling, boiling, chop, deep-frying, marinating etc..
Jingpo people are simple, bright zealous and hospitable. But they believe everything has a spirit and hold to many taboos and superstitions.
- One should never ride the Jingpo villages.
- Jingpo people don't like their heads and headcloth to be touched, neither do their weapons. They take this kind of behavior as an insult.
- When In a Jingpo's family, don't stand long time and don't look all around. One should sit in his or her place. and should not sit with his or her legs crossed. Never whistle in the house.
- When a visitor comes to a Jingpo's family, wine bottle and cigarette case are presented to show the host's goodwill. And the guest shoud have everything with both hands and toast too. Before leaving the house, the guest must say goodbye politely.
- the Jingpos like to pick broad leaves to take as bowls. One should not reverse the leaves, otherwise he will be regarded as enemy.
- According to the Jingpo's legend, it was a dog that stole the food seed from heaven and rescued the common people from starvation. So eating dog meat is taboo in Jingpo villages.
- In Munao festival (a Jingpo festival for group singing and dancing), as a guest one should not stand before the leading dancer, but follow the group.
Munao Festival, which is also called "Munaozongge Festival", means sing and dancing together in Jingpo language. It is the most important song-and-dance pageant for Jingpo people to usher holy gods and exorcise evil spirits. During the Munao Festival people sing and dance to express their best wished and celebrate good harvests. The festival starts on the fifteenth day of the first Chinese lunar month and lasts two or three days.
According to a Jingpo legend, it was Ningguanwa, a Jingpo hero who brought Munao from heaven to the Jingpo villages. One day, Ning's father told him on his deathbed, "After my death, you should sing and dance in my funeral, then I can become the land, and you and your people can work on it." So Ningguanwa decided to learn dancing and singing from the Sun God. On the road he was encounter with hundreds of birds from the Sun God's birthday party, where they learned many graceful dances. And the birds taught him the skills of Munao. So every year on the 15th day of the first lunar month, the birthday of the Sun God, the Jingpos will held huge parties to show their gratitude to the Sun God for his gift of happiness and sing praises to the feats of their forefathers.
All Munao festival activities are conducted around four erect Munao Poles. The patterns, such as square, brakes, the pictures of the Himalayas, crop and livestock, are painted on the poles. In front of the four erect Munao Poles, there are two hathpaces. According to Jingpo's legend, standing on the two hathpaces, people can enjoy a distant view of Himalayas, the homeland of their ancestors and can have an overlook of their future.
As firelock signals start the festival and music of horns and flutes is played aloud, Jingpo men with broadswords in the hand and Jingpo women with colorful fans in the hand, led by a sacrificial ceremony master, wearing a long gown and feather-made headwear, line up and dance into the square, one moment striding proudly ahead and lowering their heads and detouring the next in forms of migration to commemorate the history.
Residence and buildings
There are two different styles of Jingpo's houses. For the traditional style, the houses are mainly constructed with bamboo, with the frame made of wood and roof covered with couch grass. But nowadays, the Jingpos more like to live in the modern style houses. This kind of house is oblong shaped with two entry doors, in which, the front door is used for the guests and the back door is only for the family members.
The Jingpos are skilled in spinning and weaving. The Jingpo brocade has a long reputation among the ethnic groups in southwestern China . While weaving, a Jingpo woman sit on the ground with one point of thread hanged on the pole, and the other side winded around her waist. The weaving is slow.
The Jingpo brocade is cotton woven product made with Jingpo's own primitive weaving loom and dyed with natural dyestuff from Jingpo Mountains. The product remains the primitive style, and it is splendid and luxurious with modern sense. The Jingpo brocade with blue grounding and red strips or black grounding with colorful patterns is the common style.
The Jingpo brocade can be made into skirts, knapsacks, bedcovers, pillowslips, turbans, and decorations etc..
The Jingpo people believe in polytheism, which believe that ghost can bring happiness or disaster to people. So the sacrificial ceremony prevails in the Jingpo area. Besides running the sacrificial ceremony, wizards also play a role as doctors. The activities of sacrificial ceremony include eating the newly reaped rice, sacrificing paddy stocks and so on. All these activities have something with agriculture. A small amount of Jingpo people also believe in Christianity. The Jingpo people abutting against the area of Dai people believe in Hinayana.