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Three Versions of a Story: History, Myth and Reality in a Community along the Miao Pale

Zhuang LIU (Chongqing University of Arts and Sciences, Sichuan University)
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The village of Minzu is located in Meijiang township, Xiushan county, Chongqing municipality, in the Miao- inhabited zones of the Hunan- Sichuan border area. The distinctive legends that local Miao people hold about their origins provide an opportunity to explore ethnic identity cohesion and differentiation between Huaxia (Han Chinese) and Miao. These origin legends reveal historical memories of the local Miao people that are concealed within the more explicitly historical narratives of their origins. At the same time, the interaction between locality and state and between Huaxia and Miao reveals the implicit structural amnesia that lies behind continuously re- narrated historical memory. The study of memory/identity , amnesia/distinction enables a deeper insight into two common modes of historical narration in the Han border regions : the "heroic ancestor" and the "band of brothers". In the Bangou region where Han, Miao and native chieftaincy (tusi) systems co-existed, during the transformation from Miao barbarian (Manyi) to Han there emerged a hierarchical structure of identity from primordial Miao, semi-assimilated Miao (known as Man) chieftaincy to Han. A similar but not identical set of differentiations also emerged. The identity and distinctions of an ethnic group is based on a common origin narrative. But the common origin narrative is based both on historical memory and structural amnesia. Both are shaped by the surrounding social context. This has not only affected the memories and migration narratives of the Bangou Miao, but also their selective amnesia of their Panhu origins and their history in relation to the Qing dynasty.

Journal of History and Anthropology