De'ang - Kinship, Marriage, and Family

Kin Groups and Descent. A De'ang village is usually composed of several patrilineal groups. Each patrilineal group is composed of several to thirty or forty nuclear families with a patriarchal authority structure and patrilineal inheritance of Sinicized family names.

Marriage. Customarily, mates come from the same village but from different patrilineal groups. Asymmetrical cross-cousin marriage—in this case, a man marrying a daughter of his mother's brothers—has become the preferred form. Postmarital residence is patrilocal. A matrilocal marriage can sometimes occur when a man is not able to afford the bride-price. If a husband wants a divorce, some charge and the approval of the village head will be necessary. If the divorce is demanded by the wife, her family must repay the bride-price.

Domestic Unit and Inheritance. In the Dehong region, the nuclear family that consists of a married couple and their children is the most common form. The eldest and second sons usually establish their respective new houses after marrying, and the youngest son inherits the parents' house and property and the responsibility of taking care of the parents. In the Lincang region, the large extended family was common until the early twentieth century. Such a family contained many nuclear families and included three or four generations. All the family members, varying between twenty and ninety in number, lived in one large bamboo house. The house was divided into several rooms. Each room was usually occupied by a nuclear family. Often the responsibility of running the household rested with the senior male. The property of the family was owned by all family members. Owing to the development of a monetary economy and the accumulation of property by the nuclear family, this large-family form has gradually disintegrated since the early twentieth century and the independent nuclear family has become most common in De'ang communities. As a kind of transitional form from the large extended family to the nuclear family, independent nuclear families have sometimes lived together in the previously used large house in close relationship with each other, although they have been independent households.

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