Jingpo - Orientation



Identification. The name "Jingpo" was officially adopted as the formal name in 1953. Before then the Han Chinese normally called this minority "Shantou Ren" (the people on the mountaintops) and, earlier, "Ye Ren" (savages or wild people). There are four main Jingpo subgroups: Jingpo (i.e., the Jinghpaw of Myanmar, formerly Burma), Zaiwa, Lachi, and Langwo, with the Zaiwa and the Jingpo being the major ones. Because each subgroup has its own dialect, there are many local names for the Jingpo.


Location. In China the Jingpo live exclusively in Yunnan Province. Almost all of Yunnan's Jingpo inhabit the Dehong Dai and Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture ( zhou ) . Dehong Zhou is a triangular area in the extreme west of the province, between 23°50′ and 25°29′ N and 97°31′ and 98°43′ E, oriented against the west slopes of the Gaoligong ranges. With very few exceptions, the Jingpo live on the slopes at elevations of 1,470 to 1,980 meters. The area is dominated by the main range of the Gaoligong Mountains, its two west branches, and the Daying (Taiping) and Ruili rivers. The mountains run south and southwest, diminishing in elevation from more than 2,940 meters in the north to less than 210 meters at the southwest outlet to the Irrawaddy Valley. Thus, the Dehong terrain is a fan-shaped slope embracing the rain-bearing northeastern monsoon of the Indian Ocean, which creates a rich subtropical rain-forest area. The climate is semitropical with an ample amount of rainfall that comes primarily during summer. The average annual rainfall is 200 centimeters. People here used to divide a year into only two seasons: a dry season from November to May and a wet season from May to October.

Demography. In 1990 the Jingpo had a population of 119,209; the Zaiwa number over 70,000 people, making up the majority of the Jingpo population. As a transnational ethnic group, the Jingpo are also found as the Kachin in Myanmar and the Singhpo in Assam. The Myanmar Kachin have always constituted the main part of the people. The estimated Kachin population was about half a million in the 1950s, whereas India's Singhpo were a few thousand.

Linguistic Affiliation. Linguists generally agree that all the Jingpo dialects are of the Tibeto-Burman Family of Sino-Tibetan. A majority of Chinese Jingpo specialists hold that Jingpo and Zaiwa (Atsi) are the two major dialects of Jingpo and that both belong to the Jingpo Branch of the Tibeto-Burman Family, although the dialects are not mutually intelligible. Other linguists maintain that Jingpo and Zaiwa are different languages; the former, including Gaori (Gauri), Monzhi, and N'kung dialects, belongs to the Jingpo Branch, while the latter, including Lachi, Langwo, and Bula, constitutes a separate Zaiwa Branch. All these classifications aside, both Jingpo and Zaiwa are officially and equally recognized.


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