Mr. Li Quibo, Head of Hong Hu Zho Ethnic Research Institute

interview as part of VIRTUAL BORDERS production conducted by Manu Luksch in Jinghong Dec1999, translated by Fu Yongshou.

Q: Introduction

I am head of the Hong Hu Zho Ethnic Research Institute. The institute was founded in 1984. The institute is basicly concentrating on the studies of language and literature of the ethnic groups in Hong Hu area, and also of their historic heritage, and all other sorts of related issues of ethnic cultures. There are 3 main departments: One is concentrating on history, heritage, and archeology. The second one is focusing on linguistic and literature. The third department is dedicted to antropology. The institute is mainly working on the cultures of 9 ethnic groups in the Hong Hu area. I have worked there for 15 years. All my work is about the history of the Hani people, their culture, religion, tradition, and language. I have collected information about the Hani which exceeds 10 million (chinese) characters. I published already 7 million characters of articles about the Hani group, their culture and history. The next step in my work will be to introduce Hani culture to the whole world, as well as to tidy up all the collected information and to publish it. Also, we want to collect more information about the paddy rice field culture of the Hani people in Hong Hu area in order to make this unique culture known to the rest of the world.


Q: Similarity between Akha and Hani

Although people think that Hani and Akha are not the same ethnic group, I personally think that they belong to the same group. The first reason is the language. The structure of the language and the vocabulary is almost identical. The further you are tracing back its history, the more similarities you can find, and actually a lot of single words are exactly the same in the early history. Secondly, both, Akha and Hani, are mountain dwellers. Their life style has many similarities, but, the Hani in Hong Hu area are mainly living from paddy rice fields, while the Akha, who moved further out of of the area, adapted stronger to the environment. On the other hand, the Hani established their roots in the area much earlier than the Akha did. The Akha keep adapting to new environments and have the tendency to move on further. They are scattered from X-banna area in China to Laos to Burma. The third reason is that they both hold their festivals and ceremonies at the same time, and for the same reasons which are related to agriculture. The 4th reason is their costumes, which are very similar, with similar pattern styles, colour range, and they all make it themselves. Overall, I think Hani and Akha used to belong to one group, and then seperated. As the seperation has been long time ago, their language became different.


Q: Differences between Hani and Akha

There are many differences in the cultural identities of Hani and Akha, because they seperated long time ago. The differences appear first in the language. Their archaic vocabulary is basically the same, but the structure, the intonation and sound have differences. Their spoken language even has differences in structure and speed. Through history, the differences of styles of residential architecture appear big. Perhaps the nomadic life style of the Akha made them adapt to the topology of the environment. For example, Hani houses tend to be ....(--? --)

Regarding the festivals: Akha have festivals every single month, but Hani have them less often these days. Theirs are more like simple worship ceremonies, we don't count it as festival. The fields are quite different. Before the 50ies, the Akha had mostly dry fields to grow corn and other things. The Hani rather had wet fields to cultivate rice. That's why the Hong Hu area has many paddy rice fields.


Q: 4th Conference

The 4th International Hani ­Akha Conference will be held in Hong Hu area. The institute will be the host. We have gained lots of support from the local autorithies and we are going to produce a detailed plan and to present it to them later on. I would like to include in the next conference discussions about ethnic language, living environment, improvement of living environment, promotion of paddy rice field culture, tradition, and historic issues. However, we still don't have the final plan yet. We still need to consider all the issues very carefully before announcing them. The date is set for November 2002, but it is not certain yet. We will announce the fixed date as soon as the final decision is made. I have talked about my work and the institution. It is time to introduce my background a bit. I was born in Hong Hu area, in Hong Hu city. I am Hani. I was studying in my early years at the China Ethnic Cultural Studies College. After graduation, I had been working in the field of Hong Hu ethnic studies. Since 1994 ­ the foundation of the Hong Hu Ethnic Institute ­ I am working there. My work involves all the historic cultural aspects of ethnic studies.


Interview conducted by Manu Luksch, for VIRTUAL BORDERS, at TICHAC/Jinghong, China 2000. Translated by Yongshou Fu.