Qiang - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Subsistence is based on hillside agriculture supplemented by pastoralism, hunting, and gathering. Fields are sometimes terraced, but often are not. The plow, drawn by a double team of cattle, is widely used, although hoe agriculture is found in some areas. Fields are fertilized by animal manure and compost. Swidden agriculture is used on marginal land. Principal crops include barley, buckwheat, potatoes, and beans. In areas below 2,000 meters, maize has replaced barley as the main staple. Today, apples, walnuts, pepper, and rapeseed have replaced opium as the main cash crops. Other sources of cash include cutting firewood and digging medicinal herbs on the mountain tops. The area is cash-rich; an enterprising youth can earn more in one summer by digging herbs than a worker in the city can in one year. These sources of income are important because many areas must import food.

Industrial Arts. Traditionally, crafts such as carpentry and blacksmithing were done by Han Chinese. Locals also tend to hire itinerant Han Chinese for odd jobs.

Trade. Trade was traditionally managed by Han Chinese living in the valley bottoms, or by itinerant Hui peddlers. Today truck driving has become the occupation of choice for local men, whereas in some areas women may open up shops.

Division of Labor. The separateness of male and female realms is symbolized by formal segregation of the sexes in seating order, ritual, and sometimes even sleeping arrangements. Women are primarily responsible for the family's livelihood and frequently do most of the agricultural work, while men are responsible for warfare, plowing, housebuilding, and transport. Men monopolize spiritual pursuits, although women may have been shamans in the past. Despite this separation of roles, men and women share many everyday tasks, including housekeeping, cooking, and child rearing. In general, men and women share both power and prestige, exercised in different realms.

Land Tenure. Rights to pasture are associated with the community, houses with the family unit, fields and cattle with individuals. Emphasis on the individual is balanced by a strong sense of community; fields are tilled and houses built by groups of neighbors and kin. Under the tusi system, all land was owned by the local ruler; individuals were given the right to use, inherit, and rent land, but not to sell it. In return they handed over up to 50 percent of their crops. In 1958 all individual rights to land were abolished and communities were organized into production teams. Land was redistributed, rights to use the commune's land being given in exchange for payment of light taxes. Previously, swidden fields fell outside the tusi system. Today, swidden fields still fall outside the system and are not taxed. Because of this and because of incentives under the "responsibility system," swidden agriculture is undergoing a revival.


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