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Lak Chang

Lak Chang: A reconstruction of Tai identity in Daikong

Yos Santasombat
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    Lak Chang
    Book Description:

    The Thai—Yunnan Project is proud to present this English-language version of Professor Yos Santasombat's fascinating ethnography of the Tai in Daikong, southwestern China. It represents a significant contribution to the ethnographic record of the Tai peoples. The village of Lak Chang is located close to the edge of the Tai world and is increasingly embraced by Chinese influence. Professor Yos skilfully weaves ethnographic and historical writing to chart the course of Lak Chang's incorporation into the modern Chinese state. This has been a painful history but what emerges in this account is a sense of Tai cultural identity that is vigorous and adaptive. “The Tai ethnic category is thus a complex and dynamic construct which takes place within the context of changing power relations and socio-economic conditions where the past is reconstructed to give meaning to the present and hope for the future.” In his account of the labours, rituals and beliefs of the Tai villagers of Daikong, Professor Yos brings contemporary ethnic identity to their life. Among the patchwork paddyfields and haphazard laneways of Lak Chang we come to a greater understanding of how global and regional processes of modernisation are managed and selectively incorporated by one local community.

    eISBN: 978-1-921536-39-7
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xi)
    Andrew Walker
    (pp. xii-xiv)
    Yos Santasombat
    (pp. 1-18)

    The Tai ethnic group, in its different branches, is beyond any doubt one of the most widespread of any ethnic group in the Southeast Asian peninsula. Different branches of the Tai are found from Assam, Vietnam and Laos to the Chinese province of Guangxi, and from Thailand to the interior of Yunnan.¹ In Yunnan province, southern China, there are at least two major centres of the Tai civilisation. One is Sipsongpanna,² home of the Tai Lue in southern Yunnan, and another is Daikong,³ home of the Tai Yai in western Yunnan. While the Tai Lue of Sipsongpanna have been described...

  6. Chapter One THE SETTING
    (pp. 19-42)

    Liu Sam Fong was born 69 years ago in the house his grandfather built. His grandfather was appointed puu kay (headman) of the Lak Chang village by the chaopha of Muang Khon, so the family house was larger and more substantially built than others. While most Tai houses were built almost entirely of bamboo, his grandfather’s house was raised on hardwood piles six feet above the ground. The floor was made of teak wood and the walls of bamboo mats typical of Tai houses. A large open verandah in front of the living quarter was partially shaded by a thatched...

    (pp. 43-58)

    Lak Chang economy today is clearly a local adaptation of the national economy of China. The latter is essentially a capitalistic market economy modified by state regulatory controls and ownership of key industries. On the surface, Lak Chang, like most Tai villages in Daikong, has grown considerably since the reform of 1976, but it is still a peasant village that has capitalised on its traditional subsistence production. It is important to note that growth in the production system has not resulted in a breakdown of the traditional subsistence production but rather in its augmentation under the influence of the modern...

    (pp. 59-84)

    The primary unit in Tai village society is the family household. Basically, this household is a small-family type, which consists of father, mother and children and sometimes grandparents. At times, the family household becomes a small extended family; for example, when a son’s wife comes to live in the house and when a child is born to this marriage. Once a young couple have become parents, they usually start a household of their own. Only one son will remain in, and eventually inherit, the family house.

    The household is the basic unit of the village community. All village cooperative activities...

    (pp. 85-104)

    Traditionally, the largest political unit of the Tai Yai in the Burma–Yunnan frontiers was the “state” or “muang”, which had a territorial limit and was governed by a chaopha (prince).¹ Before the Shan country in Burma was annexed to Great Britain in 1886 each chaopha governed his own state, and the King of Upper Burma was his overlord, to whom he was obliged to pay a heavy tribute. Western authors² have invariably described the relationships between Tai states in terms of factionalism and constant fighting among themselves. According to Milne:

    Burman officials tyrannised over the Shans, and, owing to...

    (pp. 105-132)

    The religious beliefs of the Tai Daikong are based on the Buddhist religion of the Theravadha sect which spread to the Tai Daikong people via Burma and the Tai people in Shan State. Even though the Buddhist religion originated in India 2,500 years ago, traces of the Buddhist religion began to emerge for the first time in Burma during the fifth century AD.¹ Legends of the Tai people in Shan State and the Tai Daikong spoke of the Tai ancestors as professing the Buddhist faith during the sixth century AD.²

    Buddhist beliefs and rituals played an important role in the...

    (pp. 133-150)

    The gender roles and gender relations in Tai village society have been dominated by norms and values as well as religious beliefs and an ideology of power that clearly define the status and duties of a man and a woman in the capacity of a child, husband and wife. Social norms reflect ideals or expectations, but in real life the relationship between man and woman, husband and wife, may be more complicated than idealistic models, as there can be haggles and conflicts, and they may change according to economic turns, cultural adaptation and individual adjustment. In this chapter, we will...

    (pp. 151-166)

    In the book Islands of History, Marshal Sahlins asserted that “culture is precisely the organization of the current situation in the terms of a past”.¹ In other words, the past is always practised in the present, not because the past imposes itself, but because subjects in the present fashion the past in the practice of their social identity. Thus the organisation of the current situation in the terms of a past can only take place in the present. The past that affects the present and the future is a past constructed in the present. The imposition of a model of...

    (pp. 167-178)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 179-182)