Moinba Ethnic Minority

General Information

Moinba people mainly reside in Moutou, Nyingchi, and Tsona County. "Moinba" mean people who live in Monyu. Moinba Ethnic Minority has its own colloquialism, but there is no letter. Most of the people know Tibetan and use it. They believe in Lamaism, while some of them worship Originality Barbarism. The Moinba people's folk song is very beautiful with longinquity among which Sama wine songs and Kalung love songs are forthright and moving. The famous poem collection A Collection of Love Songs by Cangyangjiaco keeps many of the meters and styles of the Moinba love songs. The people mainly live on agriculture besides graziery and forestry.


In the Monyu area, the residential rooms, which are in the middle storey, are spacious, with the fireplace (other than the hearth) in the middle of the room, with a supported iron tripod which is used to cook rice and boil water. The room is furnished with a Tibetan-style clothes closet and a wooden case, which are used to store rice or clothing.

Pans, bowls and butter are put in a cupboard, bamboo furniture and production tools are put in the corners indoors, or hung from overhead beams. There are no beds in the room, and people sleep on the floor on Bainiu mats, covered with Tibetan carpet or quilt; they sleep with their clothes on. Among the Moinba people in the east, there is a wooden stand at the right of the hearth and by the window when entering into the principal room. This is laid with cooking utensils or foodstuffs, such as a stone pan, an aluminum pan, bowls, bamboo scoop, packaged salt and fat, etc. This is the patriarch's seat, as he is responsible for cooking and distributing food. Brewing instruments are kept at the left of the hearth, where the housewife engages in her activities.

The upper corner of the wall is fully hung with horns and wolf's teeth that have been captured by hunters, and so on. The curved "Guodong" knives used by women for labor are put in a bamboo basket above the calabash and the "Guoda" hoes used by others for labor are put at the wall corner of the guest room or at the first small "Guopei" room upstairs. This small room is used for storing sundries and is where unmarried men or women live. It's also the where lovers meet lover. The waist knives and bows and arrows of hunters are hung on the wall at the left behind the principal room, or hung on the wood column of the principal room.

Women's treasures, such as silver girdle, necklace, headwear Bazhu, coarse silk cloth, Gawu, and gold and silver hand adornments and so on, are put in a three-layer case (the outside layer is a finely woven vine case, the next a bamboo-woven case, and inside is the small bamboo case for putting articles); the case is put beside the treasure jar. There is no large-sized furniture such as wooden cabinet in the principal room among Moinba people, which looks simple and spacious. There are no beds, and people sleep on floor. Fireplace is by the wall, and people sleep around it. Parents usually sleep at the left of the fireplace, children sleep in the middle, and married women sleep at the right of the fireplace and under the window.

Guests usually live in guest room. In winter, "Suideng" weaved with bamboos is laid, which has five or six layers and is warm, in summer, "Bada" weaved with banana peel is laid, which also has five or six layers and is cool. Some people also lay bearskin and wild ox skin as winter mattress. When Benzong (county head), Caoben (district head) or Lama is received, two "Suideng" or "Bada" shall be laid as cushion. Pillow is made of fine cut vine threads bundled into rectangle, with a clothes put on; old clothes is also sewn into a long bag, loaded with chicken claw and bran coat and crust, and hunters usually load with perfumed lint; some people fold multilayer banana peel into rectangle as pillow, and some use palm tree hairs as pillow; and many people use square wood as pillow, which depends on different peoples and different places. In summer, they sleep in dress, in winter, they cover with double layer quilt made of two layers of handloomed cloth; people in high and cold villages are covered with Tibetan quilt or more than on Tibetan garments. In the hot summer, people burn argyi leaf in their rooms to cope with mosquitoes for sleep.


The dressing and personnel adornments of Moinba Ethnic Minority are derived from the color, line and rhythm of the nature, and are characterized with the features of bright color, elegant line and beautiful tailoring, which shows the vigor of the Ethnic Minority and their aesthetic sentiment to the nature, and are the representation of the spirits of the people of Moinba Ethnic Minority . Moinba men grow long hairs, and adorn themselves with earrings with two beads clustered, with rhombic "Gawu" adorned on chest, with long knife known as "Qiawo" hanging on waist, with silver or copper bangle and finger ring on hand, with long boots on feet, and with bows and arrows on hands; they look very sturdy and manly. Moinba women's dresses and adornments are flowery and colorful. They like to comb two long braids, which are coiled on head, or they wear Moinba cap, and are cloaked in calf skin. They like girdles, including silver girdle, copper girdle and copper-silver alloy girdle, which are the important adornment articles for dressing by the women of Motuo Moinba Ethnic Minority .


Custom of giving names:Names are important to Moinba people. According to the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, people choose names with an auspicious meaning for children. In Tibet there are two main ways of giving children names. One way is that parents give a name to the child. The other is to invite the great lama to name the child. The second way is quite common in Tibet nowadays. Many people nowadays request His Holiness of the 14th Dalai Lama to give names to their children. Some people even request a name for the child before he is born. When people go to the Dalai Lama, they will be given a name written on a thread of blessed cloth. Sometimes they will also be given some blessed pills of Tibetan medicine. Tibetan people believe that these blessed things are a combination of religious power and mercies from the lama. What's more, they believe that these things can bless the child with an auspicious beginning in life and protect him from physical and mental harms.

Three days after the baby is born, the parents will ask the lama to name it. The lama sometimes name the child according to the day on which it is born. People believe that the custom can place the child under the protection of that day's deity. e.g. Nyima is a name for a child born on Sunday (By taking the name, he gains the protective power of Sun, the ruler of Sunday). Every time his name is spoken, that protective power is re-affirmed. The names for children born on the following days are: Da-wa---Monday, the Moon; Mingmar--Tuesday, planet Mars (Tibetan pronunciation can be "Mikmar"); Lhak-pa--Wednesday, planet Mercury; Phu-/ Phur-ba--Thursday, planet Jupiter; Pa-sang--Friday, planet Venus; Pem-ba--Saturday, planet Saturn. Another way is to name the child according to the date of birth. For example, a child born on the first day of the month may be named as Tshe je.

And Tshe ne is a name for children born on the second day of the month, Tshe song for the third of the month, and Jiu'a for the fifteenth of the month, Langang for the thirtieth of the month. Moinba people also have names related to male or female Buddhas or enlightened beings. Some names such as "Tenzin" or "Dawa" can be both male or female although females are often named after a female Buddha or deity such as "Dolma" (Tara in Sanskrit), which means the "one who liberates others from suffering. There are also female names such as " Dicky Dolma" which means "one who is healthy, happy and liberates other by leading them to Nirvana." Some Moinba names have important religious symbols. For example, "dorje" symbolizes indestructibility, compassion, and skillful means. People are also named after simple Buddhist terms such as " sherap", a word meaning wisdom, or " sopa", meaning patience. Some Moinba names have special meanings. For example, "Dawa" means both "moon" and "Monday."

Being a name for a child born on Monday, "Dawa" conveys the symbolic meaning of one who "gives light and removes darkness" as moonlight does. Other Moinba names with special meanings are as follows: Byang-chub = jang-chu (purified, one who has reached spiritual perfection), Sang-gye(Gautama), Gom-bu( Meditation), Gya-tsho (Ocean), Gyel-tsen /Gyeljen, Geljen(royal courage, conqueror), Gyel-bu (royal), Gyel(King), Byang-ba(wise, learned, skillful, clever), Ka-rma(work, effort, discipline), Lha-mo (Goddess ), Lob-sang / Lop-sang(disciple), Nam-kha(spacious sky, essential space, energy of space), Nor-bu/Nur-bu(precious jewel, wealth), Phu-dorje (knowledge) (a power of Jupiter, the day ruler) plus clarity (a quality of diamond), Rin-che /Rin-ji/ Rinchen(precious, great), She-rap / She-rab(wisdom ), Ta-shi (good luck), sTen (good ,happiness), Thugs-rten ("the holder of the heart or mind" as manifest in a holy person), Tshe-ten(good life), and Tshe-wang(powerful life) etc.

If some children die young in a family, the parents would rather give some embarrassing names with bad meanings for the new babies in the wishes of surviving them and making their life easier and happier (according to the Chinese tradition, these embarrassing names, often connected with animals, can help bring up the children and prevent the them from harms). Some examples are Gyigyai(dog's dung), Paygyag(pig's dung) and Shileg(one who has returned to life after death). After the naming ritual, the grandmother will bring the baby out of the house. With a lit firewood, a gourd of water, a piece of farming tool and a handful of earth, they will follow the lama and circle the house three times.

After that, they throw away four things, which symbolize the flesh borrowed from the earth, blood from water, breath from fire, bone from iron and stone, and heart from the sky. The families will express their gratitude to gods for giving them so good a child, and say they will bring him up to be an outstanding hunter or a clever girl. After discarding the four things, a man holding a peacock made of corn flour will go out of the house, walk after the baby and nod his head frequently to him. Moinba people believe that the auspicious peacock has the miraculous power of reducing poison and help digesting, thus can help keep the baby safe in his life.


As the famous Galug love song goes: "The sun would never be blotted out even the mountains in the northeast are high; Young people would not be discouraged from finding a partner even their parents strongly object". Young people of Moinba ethnic group feel free to love and to be loved, and their parents usually do not prevent them from finding their love. Generally, if two young people fall in love with each other, either the girl's or the young man's parents will send for a matchmaker to arrange for the marriage. The betrothal gifts from the bridegroom to the bride's family are considered necessary in the wedding.

The maternal uncle of the bride is the most honorific figure at the wedding. This is a reflection of ancient matriarchal practice in the culture. In this ancient family system, a family was controlled by the mother rather than by the father. The oldest brother in a family was the guardian of his sisters and her family. Although these matriarchal practices seem obsolete nowadays, the role of the oldest brother of the mother, i.e. the bride's uncle, remains same. There's still a popular phrase: "In heaven there is the god of thunder; on earth there is the maternal uncle". Because of this tradition, the uncle is the most respected guest at the wedding. Everyone on the groom side makes great effort to please him. As soon as the maternal uncle arrives, representative on the groom side should present the Hada with sincere respect.

Then the uncle will be seated at the wedding feast. A lot of courses will be served to him. Dishes made from the heads, tails, ears, hearts, lungs and livers of buffalo, pig and sheep are indispensable. The uncle, who seems very difficult to please, will say something fastidious on purpose to create difficulties for everyone on the groom's side: why is the meat so cold? Why is the wine so hot? Why are you so indifferent to me? Why don't you serve enough food on the table first? Is my attitude not polite enough?

Is my dear niece not as good as you expect? The uncle tries his best to act "angrily", showing he is the spokesman of the bride and the most honorable guest in the wedding. Certainly, the groom and people on his side will try their best to please the maternal uncle. For instance, they present hada to show their respect, money to show their wealth, and presents to show their friendship. In addition, they will try hard to say as many polite and pleasant words as possible to praise the bride as well as the maternal uncle. The uncle, feeling content to his hearts, will allow the groom to marry his niece in the end. Actually, we can imagine that no uncles today stand in the way of their nieces' marriages. The uncle, putting on a peremptory yet humorous show, actually adds even more fun to the wedding ceremony. Maybe that's why "uncle on the mother's side raising hell on the wedding" is still in existence as part of their folkway.


Monyu , at the foot of the Himalayas, is high in the north and low in the south, falling from 4,000 meters above sea level to 1,000 meters, enjoying abundant rainfall, swift rivers, beautiful landscape and fertile land, which bears rice, maize, buckwheat, qingke barley, winter wheat, soybeans and sesame. Virgin pine forests are inhabited by wild boars, bears, foxes and golden monkeys. Moinyu area is famous all over the world, which was firmly related to the 6th Dalai lama who had been a famous and respectable leader of the Gelug sect (yellow lamaism), a part of Tibetan Buddhism. The 6th Dalai Lama Tsangyang Gyatso was born in Moinyu area in Tibet and belonged to the moinba ethnic minority.

He had composed a large number of poems and left people a poetry anthology named " Love Songs of Tsangyang Gyatso" which has earned great reputation both home and abroad. The hand-written copy of his poetry anthology written in Tibetan has been known to almost all the Tibetan people long before, and it had been translated in to Chinese, Tibetan and English by the end of nineteen thirties. The romantic and mysterious legends of Tsangyang Gyatso are handed down and still attract people's hearts in the district of Moinba ethnic minority. The Moinbas have composed many beautiful tunes and ballads over the centuries.

Among their most popular folk songs are the "sama" and "dongsanba," which are similar to many Tibetan songs. What's more, their dances are simple and dynamic. As the highest leader and the most respectable "living Buddha" of the Gelug sect (yellow lamaism), Tsangyang Gyatso dared to break the canon which forbids monks and nuns from having emotional feelings such as happiness, sadness, desire for love, grudge, etc. He composed large amount of love songs to show his loneliness, his irritancy, his eagerness and expectations.

His love songs, based on the folk songs of the Moinba ethnic minority, have kept and developed the unique rhythm and style of Moinba love songs. In the region of Moinba minority, young people can feel free to be in love with each other, hence, the love songs, which have become the bridge connecting young people's heart closely, have been playing a very important part in the Moinbas' life. The Moinbas have created and collected thousands of love songs from generation to generation. People of Motuo and Moinyu always amuse themselves by singing these sweet and emotional songs called "Jialu".

The Moinbas are fond of singing love songs, as well as madrigals and ceremonial songs. The ceremonial songs (called "Sama") are popular in Moinyu area. With vivid and humorous lyrics and cheerful rhythm, "Sama" songs are enjoyed by a lot of people in Tibet. "Sama" ceremonial songs are usually composed with lines containing seven to nine characters each, and no regular stanzas are labeled for their patterns. Composers like to use the techniques of comparison, metaphor and exaggeration to express their passionate desire pursuing lofty ideals and ambitious aspirations. It is said that "Sama" ceremonial songs were created first by a singer named "Labre", who had been singing songs for a whole life, bringing people pleasure and happiness while he himself finally attained Buddhaship. Therefore, the Moinbas respect him and regard him as "God of songs".

Pulu Clothes

The Moinbas have close link with the Tibetans. They share with the Tibetans the common belief in Lamaism and have similar customs and lifestyles, so their customs are strongly influenced by the Tibetan ethnic minority. Nevertheless, the Moinbas still have their own characteristics. They like to wear Pulu clothes made of woven wool. Pulu is rich in colors and styles, and it has become a daily necessity in the Moinbas' lives. In Menyu area, men often wear Pulu robes or crimson cloth robe. They prefer to wear robes with aprons and black yak hair hats or caps. Men's hats are usually decorated blue or red Pulu on the top and red at the bottom. These colors are glaring and of great contrast and impressive.

The Moinbas wear soft-soled leather boots, which are decorated with red or black striped designs. Women usually wear white aprons, earrings, rings and bracelets. People in the subtropical Medog County dress differently. Women as well as men wear short or long jackets, and women wear long striped skirts and various kinds of jewelry. In Moinba area, women often wear multicolored pullovers under red or black coats made of Pulu, and they also like to wear a piece of sheepskin or calfskin on the backs. When it is warm, Moinba women like to wear thin white-colored little garments or vests to go with colored skirts.

With all these necklaces and earrings, they look very graceful. The custom is said to have handed down from princess Wencheng when she came to Tibet from the central plains. These kinds of clothes were first made for avoiding the evils and praying for happiness. Women like to wear ornaments, such as strings of red corals, agates or other stones. Their underwear is a kind of colorful clothes without collar or any buttons. And their garbs, named "Dongu", are made of red or black Pulu. Some of them wear a metal box with Buddhist images or scriptures inside. The box is called Ga'u, meaning "blessing and fortune." Both men and women wear a two-meter-long, six-meter-wide red Pulu belt round their waists.

Glaring Wooden Bowls

The people of Moinba ethnic group took hunt as their way of living long time ago, but now their life has been improved a lot. Even though, the living standard of Moinbas is still rather low, the level of productivity has long been developing slowly owing to the geographical environment and the historical reasons. The Moinbas use the simple slash-and-burn method of agriculture. Fields are left to nature's mercy. Hunting is an important part of survival. Games are distributed among villagers, with the hunters getting double portions. Some games are bartered for grain and other necessities. There are sufficient bamboos and woods where the Moinbas live. The Moinbas are widely famous for their household handicraft industry.

Their workmanship in making wooden bowls and weaving bamboo utensils is ever flourishing. Wooden bowls, which are unique and glaring, attract people's eyes and gain great reputation both home and abroad. There is an interesting legend telling the origin of wooden bowl. Long long ago, all bowls Tibetan people used were made of mud. One day, a Moinba carpenter went to the forest to cut wood. Unfortunately, his bowl was pressed into pieces by a tree for his carelessness. In order to make something to hold his food, the smart carpenter made a container out of the wood with his cutting knife. Later, other people got to know about his wood bowl, and they found out that the wood bowl was lighter and more durable.

That's how the wood bowl went into the life of Tibetan people. Right materials, such as roots of hard trees like azalea trees, or trunks or knots of tung and birch trees, are collected to make wood bowls. Then they are cut, whittled and scraped into the shape of bowls. An exquisite wooden bowl can only be produced after five or six processes. Because these bowls are beautifully patterned, durable and convenient to carry about, they are greatly treasured by Tibetans and Lhobas living nearby. Mahma village, lying in the north of Menyu area, is the well-known "Village of wooden bowl". The wooden bowls made by the old skilled handicraftsman Garbay are delicate and well known. Many tourists like to buy these small and exquisite wooden bowls at the rural fair and take them home.

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