Monday, August 10, 2009

Villages of Lisu

Lisu like to plant rice at an elevation of about 1,000 meters, and opium at about 1,600 meters. Thus, those who are still opium cultivators like to live about halfway between these elevations.

One of the big considerations in locating a village site is and adequate water supply for daily needs, but Lisu are concerned about the mystical power residing in water. The setting they like most is one where they can live on one side of a ridge, with a stream on the other. This makes it possible to bring water around the ridge into the village by means of bamboo aqueducts, without exposing themselves unduly to this mystical power. They are also anxious to love in an area with plenty of Lu Khwa, a type of ragweed, for this is used in many of their ceremonies.

Lisu try to locate their villages where they can have political independence and freedom from harassment. At the same time they want to be near Northern Thai villages where they can purchase rice when their crop is not adequate, and to Karen and Lahu villages, where cheap labor in the area for security and companionship, and they do not want to be too far away form the Yunnanese who will by their opium.

Having considered the political, social, and physical aspects of a site for a new village, an advance party performs a divining ceremony to make sure it is 'clean from disease and evil influence'. They use a star-shaped arrangement of rice grains, as is done by other tribes, and in the center insert a blade of grass to represent a tree, an important theme in their culture.

Lisu tend to move their villages often due to social, economic, political and religious factors; pressure to find adequate land for opium cultivation; emergence of competing factions in a village which has grown quite large; and dissatisfaction with the political headman.

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