Brief Introduction of Deang Ethnic Group
“Old Tea Farmers”-the De’ang Nationality
As one of China’s ethnic minorities, the number of De’ang people in China totals 15,462 at present. Most of them inhabit Luxi County of the Dehong Dai and Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture and Zhenkang County in Yunnan Province. The others live scattered in Yingjiang, Ruili, Longchuan, Baoshan, Lianghe and Gengma counties.
The De’angs living in Dehong call themselves “De’ang,” but those in Zhenkang County and Gengma County and some others call themselves “Ni’ang” or “Na’ang.” “Ang,” which means “rock” or “cave,” is the name of the nationality; while “De,” “Ni” and “Na” are words added to show respect.
As one of the most ancient nationalities in the southwest border, the De’angs’ ancestors are the ancient Pu people. In Song Dynasty, they were called as “Pu people” or “Mang people.” In Yuan Dynasty, they were named as “Jinchi,” and “Puren.” In history books of Tsing dynasty, their name was “Benglong,” which was applied after the founding of the PRC. In September 21, 1985, they were renamed as “the De’ang nationality” according to their own will.
In terms of food, the De’angs are very fond of sour and hot flavors. They like drinking strong tea, and are also adept at growing tea. Nearly every family grows tea, and the De’angs have long enjoyed the fame of “old tea farmers.” They are skillful in making bamboo utensils and thatching (making couch grass into material for house covers). Silversmith craft is also a traditional business of the De’angs, and is known among the neighboring nationalities.
The De’angs believe in Buddhism. Their life and religion are greatly influenced by the Dai people.
The De’angs have their own language that belongs to the Wa-Ang subgroup of the Mon-Khmer branch, Austroasiatic language family. Their written language is not widely known and has been mainly used for the recording of their history, ethnics, law and Buddhism works. Many of them have learned to speak the Dai, Han or Jingpo languages.
The De’angs are scattered across the border, and some also live in China’s neighboring country Burma.