She - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities . The She were swidden horticulturalists whose slash-and-burn techniques to prolong the fertility of their gardens required that garden locations and settlements be changed every two or three years. It is only in recent decades, with the introduction of other agricultural methods, that the She have taken to fixed production and residential sites. Since cultivable land in mountainous zones is extremely limited, the She, who were forced to supplement their subsistence in the past with foraging, have built irrigated terraces into hillsides to expand their farming productivity. The primary crops include rice, wheat, sweet potatoes, rape, peanuts, and tea. The latter product, known as Huiming tea, and said to benefit one's eyesight and lungs, is sold throughout China and abroad. Peach, pear, and yangtao (carambola) orchards are common, but lumber products provide the most important source of outside income. Hunting continues to be important to She subsistence. During January and February, when farming activities are suspended because of weather conditions, many She communities go hunting in groups. Women, children, and able-bodied elders accompany the adult male hunters, cheering and applauding their efforts; those who kill the prey have rights to the animal's head or legs, while everyone else is entitled to an equal share of the remainder. The She manage several small-scale rice mills and feed-processing plants, and they run tea-processing facilities as well. They also labor in regional mines, helping to extract metals such as coal, iron, gold, and copper. Paved roads and a newly completed rail line now link together most She counties within the mountain zones. These developments should help stimulate the growth of sideline industries as markets become accessible.

Industrial Arts. The She are noted for their bamboo weaving and embroidery. Women trim their clothing with colorful silk and cotton threaded into geometric patterns and plant and animal designs. Cloud and star designs are woven into bamboo hats, which are rimmed with strings of beads.

Division of Labor. The contribution of women to production is considerable. Responsible not only for routine household chores, such as cooking and cleaning, and generally in charge of raising children, women also assist men with the tasks of gathering and gardening, although the bulk of the cultivation work is carried out by the latter. When a woman marries, her dowry ordinarily includes tools and gear she may have to use to support her new household—plow, hoe, water wheel, straw rain cape, and straw hat, among other things—clearly indicating her important role in production. Hunting, however, is exclusively a male preserve.

Land Tenure. In pre-Communist times, She who inhabited remote areas effectively controlled their own settlements, fields, orchards, and the like. They were otherwise subject to the same limits of petty ownership, and the same forms of landlord abuse and excessive taxation, as peasants in other parts of China. After 1949, government-imposed land reform programs allocated or returned property to She families. Traditional clan management of territory was readily supplanted with the creation of collectives in the late 1950s and early 1960s in many She regions.

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