Hani - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The main food staples of the Hani are rice and maize. Other crops include beans, buckwheat, and millet. In Xishuangbanna and Lancang, the Hani practice slash-and-burn agriculture. In the Honghe area, rice is grown in narrow terraced fields. Peanuts, sugarcane, cotton, chili peppers, ginger, and indigo are important cash crops. The area is known for tea and shellac. Most families also raise pigs and grow vegetables and tobacco. The mountain forests provide rich lumber resources—palm, rattan, tung oil, camphor, pine, cypress, maple, and bamboo—as well as a diversity of wild animals—tigers, leopards, bears, deer, monkeys, and flying squirrels—which can be used for traditional medicines. The region abounds in mineral resources: bronze, gold, silver, lead, and nickel. Since the 1950s, roads, mines, smelters, and chemical, concrete, and plastics factories have been constructed. The economic reforms initiated in 1978 have encouraged the development of forestry, animal husbandry, fishing, and sideline industries.

Industrial Arts. Traditionally, each Hani village had a blacksmith, a silver- or goldsmith, and a stonemason. Hani women wove and dyed their own cotton cloth for clothes. Old men wove bamboo/rattan baskets, curtains, and mats.

Trade. Prior to 1949, Hani men engaged in trade of tea, animals, wild meat products, and grains with Han Chinese, Yi, Dai, and others at weekly markets. They also traded gold and tobacco for salt and cotton from Laos merchants. A wealthy merchant could employ mule teams to transport his goods.

Division of Labor. Traditionally, men have been responsible for agricultural production, making tools and baskets, and constructing and repairing homes. Women have managed the household chores, children, animals, vegetable plots, weaving, sewing, and collection of firewood. In the past, women were often prohibited from participating in certain religious ceremonies and sacrifices.

Land Tenure. Before 1952, in Xishuangbanna and Lancang (Simao Prefecture), except for a few paddies and tea fields that belonged to individuals, the village owned the land but individuals were free to cultivate it. There was no sale or lease of land. In the Honghe area, the local tusi leader extracted a "fee" of 6-20 percent of the people's produce and could own over 65 hectares in personal fields. In 1952 the Chinese Communist government enacted land reform in the area, and in 1958 people's communes were established. In the late 1970s the land-tenure system was changed to that of the responsibility system, where farmers could manage private plots.

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