Global EditionASIA 中文双语Français
Home / China / Society

Across China: Former deep mountains tribe embraces new life

Xinhua | Updated: 2022-10-24 15:35
Share - WeChat

KUNMING -- Bai Shulin, 70, immediately recognized the naked little boy in a black-and-white documentary as himself at the age of six. The young Bai in the footage was carrying a bamboo basket on his back, surrounded by wild woods and half-naked adults clothed with banana leaves.

The video clips returned Bai's memory to 64 years ago when he and his Kucong peers got out of the deep mountains for the first time.

Kucong ethnic people, an offshoot of the Lahu ethnic group, used to live a primitive life in mountainous regions in Southwest China's Yunnan province. Yunnan now boasts 30,000 Kucong people, mainly living in the Ailao Mountain area in Zhenyuan and Jinping counties.

A local poet describes traditional Kucong life as "children were left in the dense forest" and "people wearing furs and leaves, eating wild fruit and living in a shed with banana leaves which failed to shelter from the wind and rain."

"When I was a child, a piece of squirrel meat could be all I had for one day and roasted banana leaves were often used to wrap a baby after birth," Bai said.

Since the 1950s, supportive policies targeting impoverished ethnic minorities have helped relocate Kucong people to modern communities, with 3,739 Kucong people moving out of the mountains in Jinping from the 1950s to 1963. However, many of them returned to the mountains after finding themselves unaccustomed to the climate and living habits elsewhere.

Bai's village is also known as "Liuban village" which in Chinese literally means that the village relocated six times. It can be found in Zhemi Lahu ethnic township, Jinping county, near the southern end of Ailao Mountain.

Bai became head of the village in 1968 and started the journey of leading his villagers out of the mountains, and did so four times.

With the assistance of the government, villagers finally settled at the Laolinjiao village in 2009, and this location offered them better traffic conditions.

"Local authorities built cement houses for us and officials taught us the latest production techniques," Bai said. "At last, everything went smoothly and people never even thought of going back to living in sheds with banana leaves."

Gradually, Kucong people learned to grow rice, bananas and rubber. In recent years, they also started to plant macadamia nuts and herbal medicines.

The booming development of various industries have brought fortune to Kucong people and Bai's village has been renamed Anfu village, which means stability and happiness in Chinese.

"Compared with the past, Kucong people have obviously strived harder to work for a better life in recent years," said Wang Qiujie, head of Zhemi Lahu township which administers Anfu village.

Bai Longfa, the grandson of Bai Shulin, recently found the Kucong documentary while surfing the Internet with a 5G-cellphone, and thrilled to share it with the whole family.

"Great changes have taken place in the village," said Bai Longfa. "When I was young, there was not even a toilet in the village. People would always go to a hidden corner in the woods and use it as a toilet."

The availability of the 5G network in the village has facilitated the junior Bai's dream of developing more businesses. "I've seen a lot of agricultural products selling well on the online live-streaming platforms and I also want to jump on this bandwagon," Bai said, adding that he has talked with some villagers, and they think they can have a try.

In his spare time, Bai Longfa likes to drive his car to the provincial capital Kunming to purchase goods for the clothing store he runs in the village. He always takes pictures of the scenery on the 5-hour journey and shares them on WeChat.

"Many friends like them, and we agreed to travel to more places in the future," he said.

Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349