20 rare images of the last tattooed tribal women of China
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In the depth of the rainforest of southwest China, along the border with Myanmar, there is a quite mysterious ethnic minority group, the Derung people (Derung, Dulong, 独龙族).
With a population of 5000-7000, they still follow their ancient custom and religious belief, despite a small number of them converting to Christianity when the French missionary expeditions arrived in the region during the 19th and 20th centuries.
Featured image: A bull sacrifice (picture by Claire liy)
Face painting in China
Face painting, the practice of the application of tattoos to a person’s face, is limited to women. They receive their tattoo around the age of 12. Some say the reason behind this practice is to make their women less attractive so that they were less likely to be taken in as slaves by neighboring countries, others that tattoos are made, so their souls will be recognized after death. The face painting custom is shared with the Muun, Magan, and Chin tribes in Myanmar. According to a Burmese legend, an ancient king tried to make slaves of the women and the inkings were intended to repel incomers. Then they became also a symbol of beauty.
History of the Derung People
Not much is known about these people. During the Tang Dynasty, the Derung were ruled by Nanzhao and the Dali Kingdom. Later, during the Yuan dynasty and Qing Dynasty, they were governed by the Nakhi people. They received their official name in 1949. Before they were known as Qiao, Qiu, or Qu. Prior to 1949, the year of the formation of the People’s Republic, Derung society was based on a system of 15 clans, called “nile”, formed by diverse familiar communities. They believe in their animist native religion, despite some having converted to Christianity. In fact, during the 19th and 20th centuries, numerous missionary expeditions were organized in the region. The shaman is a very important figure inside the Derung society since they give great importance to rituals.
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