Source: | 2012-02-11 | Editor:
Photo show Hu Desheng (胡德胜), the last prince in Ava hilly region. Hu’s grandfather, father and uncle were kings in Banhong Va Autonomous Town, Cangyuan County, Yunnan. [Photo/ Wen Ruoyu]
The Va ethnic group, with a population of 352,000, lives in Ximeng, Cangyuan, Menglian, Gengma, Lancang, Shuangjiang, Zhenkang and Yongde counties in Yunnan Province.. Ximeng and Cangyuan counties
Situated between the Lancang and Nu rivers, blocked by undulating mountain ridges some 2,000 meters above sea level, Ximeng, Cangyuan, Menglian and Langcang are are the main places where the Va people live in compact communities. Traditionally this area was called the Ava hilly region.
In the region, tribal chiefs used to came from four families: Hu, Han, Bao and Tian before the People's Republic of China in 1949. Some of the tribal chiefs became officials in both Ava hilly region and China after 1949, which has played an irreplaceable role in maintaining stability and harmonious development in border areas of China.
The descendants of the tribal chiefs are called “Simian” (prince) and “Nan” (princess) by the locals. Today, there are only two “Simian” and “Nan” alive in Ava hilly region. and both of them are near to eighty years old: Hu Desheng (胡德胜), the nephew of Hu Zhonghua (胡忠华) who is the last king in Banhong Va Autonomous Town and Zhang Xiaowu (张小五), wife of Hu Zhonghua.
According to Hu Desheng, the king in Banhong Va Autonomous Town had governed seventeen tribes whose territories extended to Myanmar.
Every two or three years, the king toured to each tribe with at least ten attendants. Hu Desheng said that at that time people had to bend down and take a bow when seeing the king. If he conducted a visit to a family, the visited family kneeled to greet him.
As the head of seventeen tribes, he called all heads of the tribes together to discuss “internal affairs” and “diplomatic policies” each July.
The authority of Family Hu was formed over a long period. As there were no characters to record the Va culture, its history was taught orally. As Hu Desheng recalled, Family Hu settled to Banhong Town from Myanmar. Da Dunuan (达度暖), the eldest man who moved to Hongban from Myanmar, was good at fighting and winning. He became the king and united the seventeen tribes gradually.
According to the recorded history, Da Dunuan was granted a Han name Hu Yushan(胡玉山) in 1891 when he made great contribution to the mediation of border during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Today, if you meet someone whose family name is Hu in Hongban, he is a royal descendant in all probability. Though pledging allegiance of Qing government psychologically and nominally and was granted the family name of Han, Ava hilly region was under the government of Va people. It remained to be a dependent kingdom in 1934 when Hu Yushan was called “head of Hongban” by Yunnan government.
Before1949, Hu was equipped with an army with nearly four hundred people with uniforms and arms.
Hu Desheng said the greatest glory of his family was fighting against the British army who secretly transported the silver ore in Hongban at the end of the 1920s. Va people led by the Hu family beat over 200 armed British soldiers in 1934 after three-month battle. A monument on which the story was carved is still erected on the land of Cangyuan.
Zhang Xiaowu, the widow of the last king Ava hilly region, is also the last princess alive of Va ethnic group. Her name is Manyue which means the fifth queen in Va language and her Chinese name is Zhang Xiaowu.
Zhang married to Hu Zhonghua when she was seventeen. Zhang’s mother was Hu Zhonghua’s elder sister. At that time, intermarriage was not a taboo. Though Hu had six wives, Zhang was most loved.
Zhang had accompanied her husband to live in Kunming, capital of southwest China’s Yunnan province in 1958 when Hu was appointed as the vice director of Yunnan Provincial Ethnic Affairs Commission. She live in Kunming for over ten year, and it was when she learned to speak Han language. After the decedent of her husband, Zhang returned to Mangma Village in Cangyuan in 1972. She has lived there since then. Now she gets RMB 600 subsidy from the government every month.
“The government care about me very much. The head of the county and other officials come to see me during the Spring Festival, ” said Zhang, who looks satisfied with her present life.
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