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Jinuo Nationality: The Last Identified Ethnic Group In China

Jinuo nationality was not ascertained until 1980. The population of them is only 18,000, most of whom live in compact communities in Jinuo Mt. in Xishuangbanna Prefecture. They called themselves Jinuo which means the offspring of maternal uncles; but they were called “Youle” by others. Their ancestors were one of the branches of ancient Qiang people; their language belongs to Yi Branch in Tibeto-Burman Family of Sino-Tibetan Language System; they have no written system but employ Han characters.

Before liberation, Jinuos still remained at the stage of the late primitive commune. There are also the traces of their past matriarchal society. The traditional houses were wood or bamboo structures with straw roofs. There is the “Big House” in Jinuo villages where several generations of the patriarchal families have lived. Every village has a “Zhuoba” (the headman) and a “Zhuosheng” (the headwoman). With the development of productivity and the increase of consumption, the “Big House” system has been disappearing.

Jinuos believe in primitive religion. They worship the sun and have their costumes and bags embroidered with the patterns of the sun. The Sun Drum is their important religious tool and the Sun Drum Dance is their unique dance. The major festival for them is the New Rice Festival celebrated after each autumn harvest. But the grandest one is Te Muo Ke Festival that falls in lunar December or January; on this occasion, people butcher oxen to offer sacrifice to Heaven (God); they sing and dance to the rhythms of the Sun Drum. Since Te Muo Ke is a time for people to cast farming tools for next season, it is also deemed as Iron-casting Festival or Blacksmith Festival.