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Extinct Tradition of Aini Ethnic People

Age has not clouded Jialuo's memory. Without a break he recites his genealogy, which so far spans 60 generations.

"About 20 generations ago, each Aini man was able to recite his own family tree anytime. It was an indelible part of their responsibilities," he explained. "When they met Aini people from other places, they were able to exchange their genealogy and got to know how close their families were."

"In addition to his own genealogy, 'Beimo,' the diviner, must remember those of other villagers," added Jialuo, whose grandfather was once a "Beimo" in the village.

When people came for help, the diviner should be able to recite their genealogy and pray to their ancestors to drive the evil spirits away, he explained.

Ever since he was a child, Jialuo has taken part in rituals with his grandfather. Yet he did not carry on the calling and instead worked as an accountant in the local credit co-operative.

Greatly influenced by his grandfather, Jialuo knows a lot about the Aini's traditional customs and culture.

For instance, when people search for medicinal herbs in the mountains, they should speak the name of the spirit in charge of medicine. Upon finding the herb, they must leave silver on the ground before taking the medicine away. Otherwise, the herb will not work, Jialuo said.

"If I had a tape recorder, I would record all the history and customs of our Aini people. The young people nowadays have no idea where we came from and how to carry on our traditions," he said.

He was sad because not only the traditions but the relics of the village - such as the Longba Gate - were gradually vanishing.

The gate was demolished to make way for a road.

According to folklore, the gate of the village was a dividing line between spirits and humans. Men are in charge of the world inside the gate while the spirits control the outside.

"At the birth of the world, God made the Longba Gate out of magic bamboo in order to protect people from evil," said Jialuo.

Unfortunately, such protection no longer exists. As a remedy, Jialuo built a gate in front of his house.

When we paid a visit to his home, he showed us a stone axe which he had hidden in his courtyard for many years.

Many ethnic groups in Yunnan are accustomed to keeping a stone axe in their homes to protect themselves from evil.

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