The Jino are a small group, numbering only 18,021, who live in Jinghong County, Xishuangbanna Prefecture, Yunnan Province. Their language belongs to the Tibeto-Burman Branch of the Sino-Tibetan Family and is most closely related to Yi and Burmese. The Jino language is unwritten. Legend has it that the Jino people originated in the north. The Chinese government did not officially recognize the Jino as a distinct minority until 1979. Until then, they were regarded as a subgroup of the Dai nationality. Before 1950 they were under the political and economic control of Dai rulers, Qing and Guomindang government officials, and Han merchants engaged in the tea trade. The Jino continue to be major producers of Puer tea, which is famous all over China.
Jino mountain villages are bounded by wooden and stone markers, each bearing the impression of swords or spears. Jino villagers hold land within their village in common. Their bamboo houses, which rest on stilts, are built on the higher slopes. Two or more surname groups make up a village.
The climate in which the Jino live is subtropical and rainy; the average annual temperature is between 18° and 20° C. Prior to 1949, they used swidden methods. Now, with the introduction of irrigation, they raise dry and wet rice, maize, tea, and cotton as well as bananas and papayas. (They also grew tea before 1949.) In addition, the Jino hunt and gather. The men hunt with crossbows, poisoned arrows, shotguns, and traps. Meat is divided equally among all members of the hunting party, but pelts belong to the hunters who collect them. Women gather wild fruits and herbs.
Every community has men who are blacksmiths and silversmiths. Men also make bamboo and rattan furniture and other household items; all the women spin and weave cloth. In the past the Jino exchanged tea and cotton with the Han and Dai for iron and foodstuffs. Today they are engaged in a money economy.
At the beginning of the century, large extended families were common. These included as many as twenty men of the patriline with their wives and children, sharing labor and a common budget. By the 1930s this system had begun to disappear in favor of separate residences for nuclear families. Some Jino villages today have as many as 100 households, and the average is 30 to 40.
Although the Jino are now patrilineal, oral literature and popular sayings suggest that 300 years ago they were matrilineal. Mother's brother continues to be respected and, when deceased, is worshiped as one of the key ancestors. Similarly, women's status is high: according to Jino oral history women were clan leaders and religious specialists in the past.
The Jino allow courtship and premarital sex and attach no stigma to illegitimate children or to their mothers. They are monogamous. A village contains at least two exogamous clans.
A village father and a village mother lead each village and the sole requirement for office is that they are the oldest man and woman in the village.
The Jino are animists and ancestor worshipers. Shamans make incantations and sacrifice animals when misfortune occurs. The village father and mother begin the planting of crops with animal sacrifices and ceremonies. The major festival occurs on New Year's Day, which is a date in March determined by the village father and village mother. The Jino bury their dead in a common cemetery along with their personal possessions. Above each grave is a small hut in which relatives leave food for the soul of the deceased.
Ma Yin, ed. (1989). Chinas Minority Nationalities, 333-337. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press.
National Minorities Questions Editorial Panel (1985). Questions and Answers about China's Minority Nationallties. Beijing: New World Press.