T'in - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities . Glutinous rice is the main crop. Maize, millet, and vegetables and condiments (including gourds, squash, capsicum, cucumbers, eggplants, Chinese mustard, and chili peppers) are also grown. Swiddens are cleared in January and February using axes and machetelike knives. Old swiddens that have lain fallow several years require less work to clear and are therefore favored. In April or May, the cut brush is burned. T'in plant crops in May or June before the monsoon, using digging sticks; they weed with hand hoes. The fields must be guarded against birds and other predators. The rice harvest begins in August, though most rice is harvested in October and November, using sickles. It is threshed by beating it against a bamboo frame or trampling it underfoot, and it is transported to the village in baskets using head tumplines. Rice swiddens are used for one or two years: a few are irrigated, though none is terraced. Households cooperate in agricultural labor: usually a couple, their married daughters, and their sons-in-law will exchange labor. In larger villages, miang is a major commercial product. T'in cultivate only small amounts of betel and tobacco for their own use. Opium has been grown by a few households (usually on fields abandoned by Hmong), but most of it is bought from highlanders. Domesticated pigs and chickens usually fend for themselves, though they may also be given rice bran, banana stems, vegetable leftovers, and maize. Only a few households own cattle (water buffalo and zebu). Pigs and cattle may be sold to outsiders or for village sacrifices. Chickens, pigs, dogs, and occasionally cattle are used as sacrifices to the spirits, though the meat is eaten later. Men and boys hunt with crossbows or rifles for wild fowl, rabbits, wild pigs, barking deer, bears, tigers, and rhinoceroses (the last two are now almost extinct). Fishing is less important; both nets and poison are used. Collecting of wild fruit, honey, medicinal herbs, benzoin, stick-lac, and firewood is done mostly by women and children. Until recent disturbances in the area, salt was collected from salt wells in two communes near the headwaters of the Mae Nam Nan, Bo Klüa Nüa, and Bo Klüa Tai rivers. (The water was boiled in large kettles until only the salt remained.) As a last resort, the T'in occasionally hire themselves out as agricultural laborers to the Hmong or Mien.

Industrial Arts. Most containers, rattan mats, rattan baskets, utensils, and everyday articles are made by hand in each household.

Trade. Miang is peddled door-to-door in Yuan or Lao communities. Yuan or Lao caravanners buy salt. Pigs, cattle, and hides (deer, bear, and tiger) are also sold to lowlanders. T'in buy rice, medicine, blankets, clothes, towels, pots, pans, axes, sickles, flashlights, matches, beads, earrings, and other manufactured goods.

Division of Labor. Both men and women perform agricultural chores, but men do the heavier clearing. Men hunt, trade, deal with lowlanders, hold the offices of headman and village priest, brew liquor, and are responsible for religious observances. Women are primarily responsible for child rearing, food preparation, hulling rice, fetching water and firewood, and cleaning clothes. Children fetch firewood and water, tend younger siblings, and collect wild foods. Elders take care of grandchildren, prepare food, weave baskets, make fishnets, and tend livestock.

Land Tenure. Whoever clears a piece of land enjoys its usufruct until it is abandoned. No claim on a piece of land can be maintained by someone who does not work it. These usufruct rights are sometimes rented or sold for a small sum. While the rice crop belongs to the sower, anything else—vegetables, condiments, trees, animals—found in a swidden can be taken by anyone. Villages do not have an exclusive territory: people from different villages (and ethnic groups) may be working adjacent fields. The headman may confirm field boundaries and inform villagers of areas that the government does not wish disturbed.


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