De'ang - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The De'ang have traditionally practiced extensive agriculture with simple techniques. In the Dehong region, wet-rice cultivation is the most important economic activity, while in the Lincang region, important products are dry rice, maize, and starchy tubers. The De'ang depend for subsistence not only on grain crops, but also on tea production. Tea cultivation has been practiced since ancient times, and tea has been the main cash crop since the last century. In addition, the De'ang engage in handicraft production, including bamboo weaving, gunny weaving, gunnysack sewing, and making of silverware. There are no markets in De'ang villages. They sell their own products and buy metal tools, salt, cloth, and other manufactured goods at neighboring Dai or Han markets. Since the late nineteenth century, some De'ang who live close to towns and communication lines have engaged in trade during the leisure season, but trade is insignificant in their economy.

Division of Labor. Labor is divided by age and sex. The elderly engage in weaving and taking care of household chores. Men perform heavy work in the fields, such as plowing and harrowing, while women are responsible for transplanting rice seedlings. Everyone's primary work is directly related to agriculture, although a family member who has a professional skill is often assigned to do some other work, such as weaving or manufacturing silverware.

Land Tenure. Traditionally land belonged to the village, and each family had the right only to use the land, not to own it. In the Dehong region, the rice fields became private property during the nineteenth century and could be mortgaged or sold by the owner, who brought the field under cultivation first. However, the village still maintained ownership of dry land. In the late nineteenth century, the economic forces of the Dai and Han peoples began to infiltrate into the De'ang villages. By the time of the Agrarian Reform in 1956, the Dai and Han had occupied 80-90 percent of the rice fields in De'ang villages by buying the land from De'ang landowners. Losing the fields, many De'ang were reduced to being tenants of the Dai and Han owners. In the Lincang region, the majority of cultivated land is dry land or upland fields. Before 1956, the land near villages had been divided and given to individual families for a long time with the right of succession, but the land far from villages still belonged to the villages, and any village member could use such land. When the land lay fallow, it would be turned over to the village. Traditionally land could not be sold by anyone, and as soon as a villager migrated out, the land he owned had to be returned to the village. One could not even rent one's own land to an outsider without the permission of the village head. Since the Agrarian Reform of 1956, however, all of the lands in the De'ang areas have been nationalized, as have lands elsewhere in China.

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