Impressions of Doi Fulanka and the Miaos' New Year. พิมพ์ อีเมล
เขียนโดย Robert L. Pendleton   




                              IMPRESSIONS OF DOI PULANKA
                                  AND THE MIAOS' NEW YEAR

              From the Camera and Notebook of an Agriculturist



                                            Robert L. Pendleton


       Some years ago on a cross country trip between Chiangrai and
Nan for  the study  of  the  soil  and  of  other  agricultural  resources,
we were able to learn from the Thai  in  the  valleys  almost  nothing
about the people or the agriculture upon the  higher  mountains  we
were passing. We became more and more eager to be actually  up
among the higher peaks to see for ourselves what we could  of  the
mountain peoples and of their agriculture.

       It  was  late  in  December  that  our   party   left   Chiangkam  on
horseback   for   the  ascent  of  Doi  Pulanka  which  stands on  the
boundary  between  Nan  and  Chiangrai  Provinces. After  a  day  of
travelling  thru  lowland  valleys, and   up  the  lower  slopes  of   the
mountain, we camped near the highest aud last Thai village on the
trail.   Then  came   another    half     day   on   horseback,   thru   the
uninhabited    mid-slopes   of    the   mountain.  There   is   so   little
intercourse between the lowlands and the peoples of the mountain
tops, and the climatic preferences of the two groups of peoples are
so  different  that  this  middle zone  is  almost  a no man's land. By
noon, however, we came out into clearings high up on  the  slopes
and finally we came to a Miao village- — Ban Pulanka Miao.

       Crossing a small clearing near the village,we surprised a group
of young people playing some sort of game with a  cloth  ball  about
the   size   of   an   indoor   baseball. Amid   shouts  and  squeals  of
excitement    the   whole   group   fled   into  the  forest. We  were  as
surprised as they, and so short had been our glimpse of them  that
we had no clear idea of the elaborate costume of the young women






                           IMPRESSIONS OF DOI PULANKA                               145


and girls. We later learned that it was the  tribe's  New  Year  day, and
the young people were celebrating in their festival dress. While some
of the boys play with tops, the girls play some sort of a ball game.

       Arriving   at   the   village, the  Miao  headman  invited  us  into  his
house and told us something of the crops grown by the  Miao  in  that
region, and how they  grow  them  and  how  their  livestock is  reared.
Afterward  when  he  took   us outside to listen while he  played  on  a
special musical  instrument, we saw the young people coming  shyly
back into the village to see more of their strange visitors.

       Thinking  the  young  folks  were  not  watching, I  reached  for my
camera, but even before I could get the case open, they  were  in  full
flight. What a swinging of skirts  there  was, for  these  garments  are
pleated and of many meters of stiff hemp cloth !

       Finally  one  of  the  braver Miaos was coaxed  to  look  down  into
the  focussing  hood  of  the  camera. He gave a shout and called his
companions   to   come  see, too. Once  they saw  their friends in  the
colored scene on the ground glass,there were whoops of excitement.
All fear was forgotten, and soon there was such a  crowd  wanting  to
look  into   the   camera   that  it  was  only  with  difficulty    that   photo-
graphs  could  be  taken  at  all. One  extreme  had  given  way  to  the
other. Finally, the  young  folks  were  persuaded  to  line  up  and  be
photographed, in an all too orderly fashion.

       The  time  we  had  to  spend  in  this village was much too short.
This was because the site selected for our camp  for  the  night  was
in  a  Yao  village  some  distance  farther   on, beyond  some   rather
rugged peaks and  the deep canyon of  Huey  Ka  creek. Pushing  on
there, thru  the  secluded  valley, we  traversed   much  country  which
the Miaos and the Yaos had almost completely  deforested  in  order
that they  might  use  the  land  for  the  raising  of  opium  and  maize.
We   saw  a  number  of  plots  of  poppies, nearly  ready  for  tapping.
By   contrast  with  the  poppy  gardens  I  had  seen  in  India  and  in
Mongolia  the  stand  and  size  of  plants  on  these slopes seemed
miserable  indeed. And  well  these  poppies  might  seem  poor, for
though the soil  was  good, steep hill  slopes  such  as  these  could
neither be manured nor irrigated.






146                                   ROBERT L. PENDLETON


       It  was  late  when  we  arrived  at  our  camp, at  the  lower  edge
of Ban Pulanka Yao. Chief Phyakiri was expecting  us  at  his  house
for    tea.  His   house   was   a   well   built   frame   building,   simply
furnished   with   tables  and  chairs. We  were  sorry  his  radio  was
temporarily  out  of  order  for  we  had  been  without news for many

       The    chief   explained   to   us    the   simple   opium   production
methods employed in these mountains. And the  next  day  we   were
taken   out   into  some  typical  localities. The  land  is  cleared  each
year  first   by burning  the  brush  and  weeds after which, during  the
rains,  maize   is   planted   without   any   tilling  of  the  soil.  After  the
maize  is  harvested  the  soil  each year is dug deeply, a seed bed is
made, and   the   poppy  seeds  are  broadcast. The   same   clearing
produces maize each summer and each October is sown to poppies.
This continues on the same plot for six or eight years in   succession.
Even   though   the  yields  are  low,  the  hill  tribes  continue  to  raise
opium   and  maize  this  way, for  under  no  circumstances  will  they
live in  the  valleys. They   must   use   such   soils  as  they have, and
such methods as can be applied. Of course, mountain top seclusion
and thus a measure of protection  against  discovery  by  law enforce-
ment officers, combined  with   the  desirability  of  a  location not  too
far   from   an   international   boundary   have   also   been  important
considerations in the  Miaos'  and  Yaos'  selection  of  sites  for  their
settlements in Siam.

       The  maize  is  mainly  used  for feed for the hogs which are bred
in    considerable   numbers  by   the   hill   tribes.  Hardy   and   active,
these   animals   are  allowed  to  forage  for  part  to  their food. Many
of the young pigs are sold in the  valleys  to  the  northern  Thais  who
find them good stock for raising hogs for market.

       The  chief  diet  of  the Yao  and  the  Miao   tribes  is  starchy  rice.
This   and  some  maize they  raise  on  clearings (rai) usually  some
kilometres down the slopes  of  the  mountains  below  their  villages,
because rice does not thrive at  the  higher  elevations. Inasmuch  as
new clearings are usually made for  each  year's  planting  of  upland






                               IMPRESSIONS OF DOI PULANKA                            147


rice, and inasmuch as the regrowth forest on these clearings will not
usually  again  be  ready  for  clearing  in  less  than  five  years,  for  it
usually takes that long to eradicate  the  weeds, the  total  destruction
of forest   is   serious.  This   forest  destruction  has caused  justified
complaints  from  the  lowlands  of  Chiangrai  and  of Nan Provinces
that, the irrigation water for their padis is being adversely affected.

       By travelling along the higher  ranges  these  hill  tribes  maintain
contact with the homes of their ancestors  farther  north  way  beyond
the  Siamese  borders.  On  these  travels  the  Yaos, especially, use
very fine  mules bred  in  the  Shan  States. The  Yao  chief  who  was
our host for the several nights  we  were  on  the  mountain  sent  his
sons to a Chinese school in Lampang, because the Yao language is
written  in  Chinese  characters. The  Miao, by  contrast,  are  illiterate
and   have   no  written  language. To  meet  this  lack  Christain  mis-
sionaries   have   recently   evolved   a   system  of  writing  and  have
translated a part of the Bible into Miao.

       Chief   Phyakiri   appeared   to  be   the  absolute  master  of  this
entire  mountain-top  region. Most  evidently  his  word  was law, and
I didn't wonder after I saw  his  messenger  start  out  on  the  trail  to
convey an order ! This messenger carried in a silver scabbard  what
appeared to be a very sharp and efficient sword.

       The  dress  of   the  Yao  women  is  strikingly  different  from that
of    the   Miao.  Trousers  elaborately   cross   stitched   with   colored
thread, and  bright  red  pompom  edgings  on  the long collars of the
coats are conspicuous. Hanging from the  back  of  the  collar  of  the
coat  of  the  number  one  wife  of  the  chief  was  a  most  elaborate
decoration of intricately wrought silver chains and ornaments.

       Our camp  was confortable, and  everything  possible was  done
to make our  stay  pleasant. There  seemed  no  need  at  all  for  the
elaborate precautions taken by the Siamese authorities to assure our
personal   safety. In   fact, we   were   sorry  to   think    of    having   to
return to the  plains  after  only  a  couple  of  days  on  the  mountain.
Views off across the  hills  were  fascinating. In  the  early  mornings
fog could be seen   lying  in  the  lower  valleys. We  had  just  begun






148                                 ROBERT L. PENDLETON


to get an insight into the  life  of  wholly  different  peoples  and  into
their methods of gaining a livelihood  from  the  soil. We  could  not
tarry longer on the mountain,  however,  because  the direct  trail  to
Nan was not passable. We  had  to  take  a  very  roundabout  route
involving two days horseback riding, one day on a  logging  railway,
one day of hiking and trucking to Lampang, thence by State railway
to Denjai, and finally by truck to Prae and on to Nan.

          Coming down from the mountain we realized that high up  on
those  mountains  are  important  potentialities  of  people  and   of
resources.   We   also   felt   that  the  conditions  prevailing  on  the
mountains and in the plains  are  so  very  different  that  wise  and
skilful direction and control are necessary in order to  conserve  for
Siam the important soil, forest, water-supply and human resources
of her northern mountains.








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