The Achang ethnic minority
| Over 90% of the 27,700 Achangs live in some counties in the Dehong Prefecture in Yunnan Province, with scattering found in the neighboring Baoshan Prefecture.
These areas are on the southern tip of the Gaoligong Mountains. Dense forests populated by deer, musk deer and bears cover the mountain slopes. Natural resources, such as coal, iron, copper, lead, mica and graphite, abound
| Achangs speak a language belonging to the Tibetan-Myanmese language family of the Chinese-Tibetan system. Most Achangs also can speak Chinese and the language of Dais. Their written language is Chinese. |
Singing alternating duets is a favorite evening recreation of young men and women. Drum and monkey dances are very popular. Handicrafts include embroidery, lacquering, dyeing, weaving, engraving and silverware making.
Achang men tend to wear blue, white or black jackets which button down the front. Achang women like to wear silver objects on festive occasions. Their clothes vary somewhat depending on where they live, but in general married women wear skirts and jackets with tight sleeves and wrap their heads with black or blue cloth that may go as high as three decimeters. Unmarried women wear trousers and tie their pigtails on top of their heads. Although the habit is disappearing, young men and women used to chew areca, blackening their teeth. For food, Achangs eat rice as their staple and prefer sour dishes.
Young men and women are free to choose their spouses. Courting rituals are quite specific. When dusk falls, young men go to bamboo groves near the homes of the young women they desire and play the sheng to win their favor. In some places, groups of young men and women gather around a bonfire, where couples flirt by singing alternate verses. This can go on until dawn. The Achangs have a strict incest taboo: people with the same surname do not marry each other. But intermarriage with Hans and Dais has always been permitted.
Under the Han influence, Achangs generally practice ancestor worship. Most Achangs believe in Hinayana, a branch of Buddhism.
Achangs generally bury their dead. The dead are buried without their metal ornaments; even the gold coatings on false teeth must be removed to make sure nothing will contaminate their reincarnation.
Those who die of infectious diseases or childbirth are cremated.