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The Achang (Traditional/simplified Chinese: 阿昌族, Pinyin: Āchāng zú), also known as the Ngac'ang (their own name) or Maingtha (Burmese name) are an ethnic group. They form one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China. They also live in Burma.
The Achang number 27,700, of whom 27,600 are from Yunnan province, especially Dehong Autonomous Prefecture. The Achang speak a Burmish (Burmese-related) language called Achang, but there is no indigenous writing system to accompany it. Chinese characters are often used instead. Many Achang also speak the language of the Dai, mainly to make commercial transactions.
Speaking a distinct dialect, the Husa Achang (戶撒) living in Longchuan County (also in Dehong) consider themselves to be distinct and filed an unsuccessful application in the 1950s as a separate nationality. The Husa were more Sinicized than other Achang. For example, Confucian-styled ancestral memorial tablets are common in Husa homes. Most traditional Husa believe in a mixture of Theravada Buddhism and Taoism.
The ancestors of the Achang were some of the first inhabitants of the province of Yunnan. Their ancestors lived near the Lancang river and during the 12th century they began to emigrate towards the border the west of the river. By the 13th century, some of them settled down in the area of Longchuan, whereas others settled around Lianghe. During the Ming and Qing dynasties they were governed by local village heads.
A great part of the history and traditions of the Achang has been transmitted from generation to generation through music and songs. Music is one of the mainstays of their culture, and they usually finish all celebrations with songs and dances. The unmarried young people usually comb their hair with two braids that gather on their head. The typical clothes of the Achang vary according to village. The married women dress in long skirts whereas the unmarried ones wear trousers. The men usually use the colors blue, or black to make their shirts, buttoned to a side. The unmarried men surround their head with a fabric of white color whereas the married ones use a blue color. In Buddhist funerals of the Achang, a long fabric tape of about 20 meters is tied to the coffin. During the ceremony, the monk in charge of the ritual, walks in front as opposed to holding the tape. By doing this, the monk helps directs the soul of the deceased so that the soul of the deceased arrives at its final destiny. The deceased is buried without any metallic elements, not even jewels, since it is believed that those elements contaminate the soul for future reincarnation.
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