Achang - Kinship, Marriage, and Family



Kin Groups and Descent. Descent is patrilineal. The members of a patrilineal descent group can be distributed over either a village or several villages, but all of the members trace their relationship through males to a common ancestor. In Lianghe County, there is a patriarchal organization that prevails in local Achang communities. The organization has its own rules and a patriarch who is elected from among the senior males. General disputes between the members can be settled by the organization. As for marrying with Han people, some patriarchal organizations also include some Han under a common surname.

Kinship Terminology. Achang kin terms basically follow the Eskimo system. One exception is that there is only one kin term for each of the following pairs: brother and male cousin; sister and female cousin; son and nephew; and daughter and niece.

Marriage. There are no restrictions on marriage except that an individual must marry outside his or her patrilineage. Although the Achang allow boys and girls to be "in love," marriages are mostly arranged by parents for somewhat of a mercenary purpose. In the past, a young man could contract a marriage by snatching his chosen bride away. Decades ago, the Achang often practiced levirate.

Domestic Unit and Inheritance. The patriarchal family that includes two or three generations is the basic family unit. A young man, if not the youngest son of his parents, usually establishes a place of residence apart from his parents when he marries. The youngest son lives with the parents and inherits either the parents' house and property or the responsibility of taking care of the parents. Women receive a dowry but do not inherit unless they have no brothers.


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