The Dulong People of China


A tiny river flows through the mountainous region of the Yunnan province of China. The river is called ‘Dulong’. The term ‘Dulong’ means little dragon. This river flows one hundred and fifty Kilometer to the south parallel to another river named the Nujiang. These two rivers run through ancient ridges which are sometimes as high as 4000 Kilometer. A few tribes have settled in the Dulong river valley. Dulong is one of those tribes and this Dulong people forms one of the ten small-scale societies in China. The Dulong people live in the western part of the Yunnan province. Myanmar and Tibet are very close to this region. Some people have also settled in the valleys of the Dandanglika Mountains of Myanmar.

The numerical strength of the Dulong people is not very clear. It is not clear as they still migrate from one place to another. They were 4800 in number according to the 1982 census. At present this number may be more or less 10,000.

The Dulong people speak in a local language which is a Burmese-Tibetan language. This language is also called Dulong. Dulong is spoken in the villages of Gongshan Nu and Dulong Autonomous County along the rivers of the Nu and Dulong in the Yunnan Province. But this people use a script which we know as Han. You cannot predict how long this language will remain alive as the light and darkness of the modern civilization, especially from the wildly changing China and from the second half of the twentieth century, have been encroaching to the serenity and tranquility of the silent lifestyle of the Dulong people.

The Dulong people are extremely poor. Their primitive mode of life has been changing rapidly. Of course, you may find that some people are still depended on the forests for all reasons. The fishing, hunting and food-gathering is still their means of sustenance. Moreover, you will notice some tight-clan relationship among the Dulong people. The custom of marriage between niece and aunt is still a reality in the remote villages. The villagers still believe that chicken-sacrifice to the spirits may help them get rid of any evil. There are Shamams. Shamams are priests or experts in the rituals. They conduct the chicken-sacrifice rituals. The ceremonial rite on Dulong New Year is an important event and during this time Shamams are inevitable. Traditionally an ox is slaughtered on this occasion. But the poor people of the Dulong valley can hardly afford to purchase an ox now-a-days.

The cultural heritage of the Dulong people of Yunnan is at a cross-road of history. The Dulong people are in great trouble as the past and the present are exerting constant pressure over them. The Dulong women are changing a lot. These women were fond of facial tattoos. At present you will find very few tattoo-faced women among them. Before concluding this short article I must state that these people are migrating to different small towns to find out means of sustenance. A distinct tribal community is thus sure to miss its separate identity in course of time.