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The Derung (alsp spelt Drung or Dulong) people (endonym: tɯɹɯŋ) are an ethnic group. They form one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China. Their population of 6,000 is found in the Nujiang Autonomous Prefecture of Yunnan province, in the Dulong valley. Another 600 can be found east of the Dulong valley, living in the mountains above the Nu Jiang (Salween River) near the village of Binzhongluo in northern Gongshan County.


The Derung speak the Derung language, a Sino-Tibetan language. Their language is unwritten; in the past the Derung have transmitted messages and have made records by making notchs in trunks of wood.


There are few documents about the origins of the Derung. It is known, nevertheless, that during the period of the Tang dynasty, the Derung were under the jurisdiction of the kingdoms of Nanzhao and Dali. Later on, from the Yuan dynasty to the Qing dynasty, the Derung were governed by the local heads of the Naxi. In 1913, the Derung helped to repel a British attack in the area. Until 1949 there were several names used for this ethnic group; they received names as Qiao during the Yuan dynasty and Qiu and Qu during the Qing dynasty.


Prior to the formation of the People's Republic, Derung society was based on a system of clans. A total of 15 clans existed, called nile; each one of them was formed by diverse familiar communities. Each clan divided itself in ke'eng, towns in which the Derung lived in common houses. The marriages between clans were prohibited. The typical dress of the women consists of a dress made in fabric lined on colors black and white. Formerly, the women used to tattoo their faces, when they reached the age of twelve or thirteen. The tattoos of some women resembled masculine moustaches. The houses are usually constructed out of wood. They are two stories in height; the second floor is designed as the living quarters for the family whereas the first level serves as a barn and stable. When a male member of the family is married, a new section is added to the family's house where he and his new wife will live in.


Although some Derung have converted to Christianity, the vast majority continue to believe in their animist native religion. There is a belief that all the creatures have their own souls. Usually diverse sacrifices are made in order to calm down the malignant spirits. The role of the shaman is of great importance since they are the ones in charge of the rituals. During the celebrations of the Derung New Year, which is celebrated in the month of December of the lunar calendar, diverse animal sacrifices are celebrated to make an offering to the sky.


  • Sūn Hóngkāi 孙宏开: Dúlóngyǔ jiǎnzhì 独龙语简志 (Introduction to the Derung language; Běijīng 北京, Mínzú chūbǎnshè 民族出版社 1982).
  •,9171,1079533,00.html Time magazine article on the Dulong people, 2005

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