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Blang: Are Bulang People

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Chinese Ethnic Minorities and Their Foods

Summer Volume: 2017 Issue: 24(2) page(s): 31


Early ancestors of this minority population whose name means ‘mountain people’ to some, are the ancient Pu or Po tribal folk. During the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907 CE), they were called Pozimen or Puman people who lived in Xishuangbanna. Some also lived in the Lancang, Yongde, Changning, and Mojiang counties of Yunnan Province. Some also lived in Burma and Thailand. This population has other names. Lesser numbers of them live in other places including the Blang, Bada, Menghai, and Xiding counties and the Dalou mountains.

Most of these people are farmers who grow sugar cane, rice, corn, beans, buckwheat, potatoes, and tea, the latter they fermented burying it for several months in bamboo tubes. When they took it out it had the sour taste they love. Incidentally, they cook most of their dishes with a sour taste, too.

They also grow cotton, and they eat their rice with their hands, most of their other foods with chopsticks. These Blang people are related to Dai, Khmer, and Va people, and many of their foods are similar to those of these populations, but made with sour tastes. They love bamboo shoots and eat lots of them, and lots if fish, too, and they have pu-re tea mostly between meals. For their main meals, they eat meat and vegetables.

For beauty, many Blang women blacken their teeth with betel nuts, pierce their ears putting fresh flowers in them, and chew either betel nuts or tea leaves or both. They name their babies three days after giving birth, use the mother’s name as the child’s first name; and very few use the father’s name first, last, or even as the child’s middle name.

When a Blang person dies, they want a chicken killed to call back their soul, and want to be buried with two mugs, one filled with tea, the other with wine. They also want their relatives to place a candle at each corner of their coffin to light their way to the afterlife, and want to be buried with food. What they do not want is a tombstone or any marker of where they are buried. They believe those who should, already know the location, and all others do not need to know where they are interred.

Blang people build and live in two-story houses, most made of bamboo. Their ground floor is for their animals; they live above them. The community often helps build a new house and when done, they celebrate singing and dancing. That is similar to what they do on most holidays.

Most Blang people are physically small with a typical male weighing about one hundred twenty-five pounds. They are rarely taller than five foot five; most of their women are shorter by about five inches. They rarely weigh as much as their men do.

Their women dress in black or dark blue jackets, some embroider them. Their skirts can be of similar color or lighter blue with striped fabric at their top. These are often simply fabric wrapped around their lower torso that resembles skirts. These women, on their head, wear a turban made with or without striped fabric. A few can be embroidered. Young men wear dark hats, some women dark aprons often edged with striped fabric. Some embroider the tops of their outfits.

Recent census about this minority group shows them numbering less than one hundred thousand. They love their acidic foods wrapped in leaves, and cooked with lemons or another sour ingredient. Their main vegetable is cabbage and they eat lots of it with dishes of fish, shrimp, crabs, pork, beef, chicken, or small game. Beside liking sour foods, many do add some piquancy. What they rarely eat are foods that are just savory.

This ethnicity celebrates most life-cycle events with dances and when doing them, they hold a sword or stick as do many Dai people. Their most important holidays include Chinese New Year and an Open and Close Door Festival. Blang have a God worship service, but when we know not. They also have one called ‘Washing the Ox Foot.’ If you know about it or more about them, please share and we will share it with our readers.

                                                                                                                                                       
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