Jinxiu Yao Autonomous County
Jinxiu Yao Autonomous County
It was established in 1952 with the name of Dayaoshan (Big Mountain of the Yao) Autonomous Zone, but in 1966 the name was changed to Jinxiu Yao Autonomous County. It is a mountainous county with rugged lands and a climate hot and wet. It has an area of 2,517 sq km and a population (2004) of 150.000.
Situated in the central part of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region it is one of the places where the Yao are concentrated. Practically isolated from the outside world until the 1930s, Jinxiu County, also called Dayaoshan or Mountain of the Yao, was inhabited formerly by five different kinds of Yao: Chashan Yao, Ao Yao, Hualan o Flowery Yao, Pan Yao, and Shanzi Yao. The first three branches were considered the owners of the lands, because of their first arrival; they lived in settled villages and enjoyed a kind of economical stability. The last two branches, newly arrived, lived as tenants of the others’ lands, in a continuous nomadic life that did not allow them to get many material goods.
Before the beginning of the policy of assimilating ethnic minorities, most of the people in Jinxiu were Yao (18,000 of a total population of 26,000) The discovery of some Tang dynasty coins in the forest of Jinxiu make the experts think that the first wave of Yao arrived about 1,000 years ago.
Their life changed forever in the 1940s when the government of the Kuomintang tried to enforce direct rule over the Yao. They abolished the «Tablet system» that regulated in the past Yao society, and set up a garrison command and a «Bureau for the Establishment of Order.»
After the victory of the Red Army over the nationalist government, some of their soldiers resisted for some months in these inexpugnable mountains.
In 1952 began the first reforms in Jinxiu, and in 1954 the land reform was carried out. Most of the nomads that suffered the worst living conditions were resettled in low lands.
From then on the Yao from Jinxiu were slowly integrated into the political life of China, being affected by any political movement in the central areas.
The Cultural Revolution brought to Yao lands some devastating economic policies, destroying some of their oldest forests and impoverishing their lands.
In the last years, some of its pristine environment has been restored and the Dayaoshan Mountain has been designated as the national natural reserve by the State Council, as the 25 rivers that flow through these lands supply the water needs of more than 2 million people in the lowlands.
Suggested reading: Fei Xiaotong. Revisiting the mountains of the Yao people. China’s Minority Nationalities. pg 206.
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