diversity and social aspects
Tibet – The Hengduan region belongs to the
eastern part of “Ethnic Tibet”, where the origin
of the Tibetan culture is assumed. It is inhabited since palaeolithic
times. Most of the recent ethnic groups seem to be descendants
of the so-called Qiang, the supposed ancestors of the Tibetans,
who migrated from NE to SE Tibet approximately 1000 B.C.
Historical trade routes – Since the
second half of the first millennium the region was crossed
by important historical trade routes, resulting in a remarkable
cultural exchange with neighbouring countries like Central
China, Burma or India, but more recently the area was highly
Cultural diversity – Various aspects
characterize the cultural diversity among the recent ethnic
groups. Differences are found among the language, traditional
cloths, agricultural system, religion, and “social structure”.
One of the most obvious distinguishing features is the different
language that characterizes each ethnic group. They all belong
to the Tibeto-Burman language group, which show similarities
not only with the Tibetan but also with the Burmese language.
Also the traditional cloths vary considerably. Quite simple
dresses contrast with highly elaborated ones such as the headdresses
and skirts of the Yi women. According to the agricultural
system the ethnic groups can be divided into two major groups,
the paddy farmers and the “barley cultivators”.
The former tend to live at lower elevations.
The religion is influenced by both Tibetan Buddhism (Lamaism)
and animistic Bön-religion. Some ethnic groups, such
as the Naxi, mainly practice an animistic religion with rituals
performed by so-called Dongbas, their ritual specialists.
Others practice a mixture of both or have converted to the
Social structures – Also the “social
structures”, i.e. forms of residence and marriage, are
highly diverse. Households may be bequeathed matrilinealy
or patrilinealy, i.e. among the daughters or the sons. In
addition, a variety of marriage types exist beside the one-woman-one-man
alliance, such as two brothers sharing one wife, two sisters
sharing one husband, not cognate men sharing one woman, not
cognate women sharing one man, etc. Among the matrilineal
Mosuo marriage not even exist. Because traditional ethnological
lineage theories fail to explain the diverse residence and
marriage forms, studies among the Naxi, Mosuo, Tibetans, Lisu
or Kachin emphasize the house as central social entity (not
the lineage) and the household with an extended family as
basic organisational unit.
aspects and plant diversity
to the overview
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