People & Culture
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Population and Distribution
The Achang ethnic group has a population of 33,936 (in 2000), gathering mainly in Longchuan, Lianghe, Luxi and Ruili counties in Dehong Dai-Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture in south-western Yunnan Province. There are also a small number of them scattered in Dali, Chuxiong, Yuxi, Xishuangbanna and other counties in Yunnan. Although small in number, Achang people are one of the earliest inhabitants of Yunnan.
Achang people call themselves Mengsa or Echang. Their ancestors used to live in the area near the Jinsha, Lancang and Nu Rivers. After the 2nd century, a branch of them moved to the west bank of Nu River and later, about in 13th century, settled down in Longchuan County. Another branch later migrated along Yunlong, Baoshan and Tengchong, and finally made their pitches in Lianghe.
Achang people have their own spoken language, which belongs to Tibetan-Burmese Austronesian of the Sino-Tibetan Phylum. Most Achangs can speak Chinese and Dai language. Some live in Husa can also speak Burmese and Jingpo language. The Achang ethnic group has no written script and Chinese is widely used.
As one of the earliest people, they have their own language, which has no written form. Over time, they have accepted the language of the Dai ethnic minority as well as the written and spoken Mandarin of the Han people.
Most Achang people believe in Hinayana Buddhist while some worship their ancestors, practice polytheism and animism. Also, believers of Daoism and Christianism also can be found in Achang villages.
Achang people live on agriculture, in particular on rice planting. Situated on the southern tip of the Gaoligong Mountain, the area peopled by Achangs has a warm climate, vast fertile land and innumerable watercourses, which all give rise to the prosperity of agriculture. Major agricultural products are rice, corn, and beans.
Handicraft industries form another important aspect of the economy of the Achang ethnic group. Their handicraft industry is highly developed, boasting of rich traditions. They are adept at forging iron. In fact, almost every family can do it. Their 'Achang knife' or 'Husa knife', which is sharp, tensile, durable and tasteful, enjoys a high reputation among the people in the border areas of Yunnan.
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