Wa - Sociopolitical Organization

The villages, which are formed of several clans, are the basic territorial, economic, political, military, and religious organizations. A village clearly distinguishes its territory from that of others, and within it a small portion of farmland and all the forests and rivers remain the common property of the village. The villages that are related by kin, territory, and political and economic interests form a tribe, and some tribes used to form temporary alliances. Before the 1950s, villagers used to have common rights and duties in common affairs such as the election of leaders, military action against other villages or invaders, building houses for other villagers, and religious rituals. Each village had three kinds of administrators: wolang (the hereditary chief of the village, usually the chief of the village's oldest clan); kuat (formerly the chiefs of all the other clans, and later elected); and moba (religious experts in charge of ritual, divination, recounting legendary history, and interpreting customary law). Decisions for affairs of the village or the tribe used to be made through the "council of the chiefs," at which all three kinds of administrators have equal rights. The most important decisions required a meeting of the whole village, in which all men could speak up and which women could audit. Since the 1950s, the Chinese government has established new political structures called ethnic autonomous counties, districts, and villages; the leaders are Wa cadres trained by the Communist party and other Communist leaders of Han or other ethnicities. The Menglian Dai, Lahu, and Wa Autonomous County was organized in 1954, and the Gengma Dai and Wa Autonomous County in 1955. Two more autonomous counties were established in 1964-1965, in Ximeng and Cangyuan.

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