Jingpo - Marriage and Family



Marriage. A Jingpo clan is not necessarily exogamous, whereas the lineage is definitely exogamous. Lineage exogamy, asymmetrical matrilateral cross-cousin marriage, occasional polygyny by levirate, and class endogamy were the major features of the Jingpo marriage system. Since 1949, class endogamy has disappeared, polygyny has been abolished, and cross-cousin marriage and ultimogeniture have been declining. But the Jingpo still strictly observe lineage exogamy and violators of it incur moral sanction and punishment. Today, the Jingpo prefer that a man marry his mother's brother's daughter, although a man may marry another woman instead. It is not desirable for a man to marry his father's sister's daughter, but it is completely unacceptable to marry someone with the same surname. If a man does not marry his mother's brother's daughter, his family has to pay fines to the mother's brother. Young people have much freedom in dating; flirtation and premarital sex are common, but parents usually arrange marriages. There are four ways a Jingpo man takes his wife: wife stealing ( mjicho ) , wife engaging ( mjitun ) , wife snatching ( mjihkau ), and wife seizing ( mjilu ). The first is the most popular way, in which the "stealing" is mock stealing, as both families and the wife consent to the marriage. In the second, a bride is formally engaged when she is still young and will marry out when older. The third involves a man kidnapping the girl who refuses his love and marrying her. In the last case, a man first has relations with another person's wife or fiancée and then marries her. The last two methods are rare now. In any case, the groom's family pays bride-price ( hpaozo ) in the form of animals—buffalo, cattle, or horses—gongs, and palajing (a kind of silk or nylon scarf). The amount of the hpaozo is decided by the number of the bride's relatives who have a distinct right to take the gifts; therefore, the bigger the wife giver's lineage, the higher the bride-price. In exchange for the hpaozo, the bride's family provides the gift for the son-in-law ( moshao ). Just as a gong is required in a hpaozo, the indispensable article in a moshao is a spear, a sword, or best of all, a gun. As a rule, a moshao's value is one-half that of the hpaozo. Residence is virilocal, but after the wedding the new wife customarily goes back home and lives with her parents until their first child is born. Divorce is allowed but is not common, and the wife usually has to pay back the hpaozo.

Domestic Unit. Nuclear and stem families are the basic household units. A family is usually made up of parents, a son with his wife, and unmarried children. The average family size is five.

Inheritance. The Jingpo practice ultimogeniture. In ordinary cases, elder sons separate from the parents' home when they get married, leaving the youngest son to live with and take care of the parents and inherit the family's property (and the title of chief, if any, in the old days).

Socialization. Jingpo parents never beat their children. The Jingpo do not subscribe to the idea that sons are superior to daughters, which is popular among the Han and the Dai. Children now go to public school at age 7 or 8, but many drop out during primary school years and only a few have a chance to attend middle school, which is normally far away, in the valleys. The traditional "public house" is common in the villages as a place for adolescents to gather together and make love. No youth organizations and initiation rites are reported.


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