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Monpa Ethnic Group Offers Colorful Culture in Tibet

Monpa Ethnic Group Distributed in Medog, Nyingchi, LhokaLIVING in Tibet for long, Monpa minority group enjoys close ties to Tibetans and share many similar customs. With a population of 10,561, Monpa ethnic group mainly lives in Medog County of Tibetan Autonomous Region, while some live in Nyingchi, Tsona, Mainling and Lhoka, few in Lhasa, Tibet.
Moinba, or Monpa literally means 'people living in Menyu' in Tibetan. The group originated from the aboriginals in Menyu area of the southern Himalayas, as suggested by folk legends, as well as written records and archaeological analysis. The group took shape before the 7th century. The Menyu area officially joined China's territory as part of Tibet in the 13th century. Some Monpa people moved to Medog in the 18th century and became a compact community known as the Moinbas. Monpa has their own language, which belongs to the Tibetan-Burmese language family. The group has established close connection with the Tibetans through political, economical, cultural and religious exchanges over the years.
Quite similar to the Tibetans, the Monpas also believe in Lamaism, wear woolen clothing, eat zanba, or roasted qingke barley flour, and drink barley wine. Many Moinba understand the Tibetan language, from which some Monpa words are borrowed. Some Moinba believe in primitive religions while others follow Tibetan Buddhism. The Lamaism supported by the government enjoys the ruling position among the group, while the primitive religion has been popular among the ordinary group for long.
Both Monpa men and women wear long or short white-colored gowns made of cotton and linen. Women often dress themselves in multicolored skirts and braids with yellow, green and red threads. They usually wind their hair around the head. Traditionally, each Monpa woman wears a piece of calfskin around the shoulder. Apart from keeping warm, it is also said to help repel evil spirits. Necklaces or bracelets made of red coral, turquoise and silver earrings are common ornaments for Moinba women. The women usually wear them for big days like visiting relatives or celebrating festivals. Men usually take a sheathed meat cleaver with them that serves as both a protective tool and ornament. Ba’erxia is a daily necessity among Monpa in the Menyu area. It is a hat made of wool and dyed red and yellow.
The diets of Monpa people differ greatly depending on where they live. Corn, rice and grains are staples for some, while others prefer buckwheat, wheat and highland barley. Pepper is a popular seasoning. A buckwheat cake is a most popular regional cuisine in Menyu area. To make a buckwheat cake, Moinba people usually put a flat round iron block in the tripod and then spread the buckwheat paste on the block for baking. Creams are spread on the flat cake. The Moinba will roll the cakes with cream and eat when hot. Homemade highland barley wine, rice wine or grain wine will always be offered by Monpa to treat guests. Accepting the drink and getting drunk will be regarded as paying great respect to the hosts.
Monpa people are also known for their beautiful tunes, dynamic dances and dramas. The famous Monpa drama mostly originated from their folk dance, which is based on legends. The performers wear masks and leather or feathers while dancing accompanied with drum and cymbal beats. The libretto is usually in forms of folk songs in a loose style. The melody changes according to the content and plot. ‘Zhuowa Sangmu’ - known as one of the eight Tibetan operas, is said to have been adapted into Tibetan script by a Moinba Lama.
Using the Tibetan calendar, the Monpa people share many Tibet festivals with the Tibetans including the Tibetan New Year at the begining of the year and Wangguo Festival in the 7th month. Meanwhile, they also have their own festivals such as Moinba New Year. Therefore, the Monpa group celebrate New Year twice. Da’nian - Big New Year is celebrated on the first and the 15th day in the first month of the Tibetan Lunar Year, while Xiaonian - Small New Year differs from place to place. Before the New Year Festival arrives, Moinba will prepare heaps of food. On New Year’s Eve, they daub signs of 'badge of luck' on walls with wheat paste or highland barley paste as a prayer for wealth and luck. Before the cock crows on the first day, the housewives rush to the water well with buckets. It is said one who carries water back first will be the luckiest in the coming year.
Tibet Travel News - Travel West China News Centre

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