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Cross-border Trade and Marriage: Case Study of a Chinese Yunnan Minority Village

  • 중앙사론
  • 2017, (46), pp.625-655
  • Publisher : Institute for Historical Studies at Chung-Ang University
  • Research Area : Humanities > History

Ahn Chi-Young 1 Chang, Jung-a 1

1인천대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

The current Chinese border was demarcated in the modern era. Acknowledging the gap between traditional living spaces and modern borders, this study provides an overview of cross-border trade, marriage, and state management in a minority village in Yunnan Province, China. It is based on extensive fieldwork carried out in cooperation with Chinese academy. Situated along the border between China and Laos, the village is populated by approximately 500 Dai people (傣族) in 110 families mainly, with Han Chinese and Hani minorities. As border inhabitants, the Dai people are endowed with special border-crossing cards that allow them to cross the border more freely than inland peoples. The village territory is large, and the inhabitants mainly engage in agriculture and raising livestock, such as cows and pigs. Due to the village’s proximity to Laos, they also participate in various economic exchanges with the Laotians, including cross-border trade and commercial aid. In fact, the current Chinese border bisects the territory that traditionally defines the economic network of the Dai people. While the Dai villagers rarely intermarry with inland ethnicities, marriage with Laotian Dai people is common, and such cross-border marriages differ in several respects from typical international marriages. First, the fluid border means that villagers are able to freely meet and become acquainted with one another. Second, a similar language and culture mitigate friction both before and after marriage. Third, shared customs and holidays facilitate the maintenance of relationships between married couples and extended family. Since cross-border marriages are connected to border management in both countries, they have been periodically influenced by international relations. When a cross-border Dai couple marries, the Laotian wife commonly comes to live in China. The marriage registration procedure in China is relatively simple, but instances in which a bride formally enters a Chinese household (hukuo) or becomes a Chinese nationality are few. According to Chinese policy, however, the children of Laotian mothers enter the household register under their Chinese father to avoid problems when entering school or finding jobs. Despite the fact that Laotian wives are excluded from the household register, they are treated as equals in this village, with respect to land distribution. This paper investigates how the Dai of this village in Yunnan Province use their special designation as border inhabitant to freely move back and forth across the Chinese–Laos border to engage in trade and marriage. Although concessions are made for these people, China’s border management differs from region to region. Future studies should focus on the interaction between border management and the behavior of border peoples.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.

This paper was written with support from the National Research Foundation of Korea.