Ethnical Totemism and Propagation

In uncivilized times, because mankind could not comprehend the natural phenomena, they were dreadful or afraid of many natural phenomena; or they might encounter some incidental events, and these events made them believe that they have special relations with certain objects. As a result, such objects might become their totems and were worshipped by them as holy objects. The minorities of Xishuangbanna are people living in the rain forests, and their totem worshipping has relations with the animals and plants of the forests. As time changes, totem worshipping in some nations or tribes gradually fades away, while some other minorities preserve their totem worshipping customs till today. 

The Dai people are the major nation in Xishuangbanna and it has no national totem worshipping. In history, they once took dragon as their totem; but, according to our research, the famous "myth of nine dragons" is actually the totem origin of the Yi People living in Mount Ailao. But in the myth, there were also some descriptions about the chiefs of the Dai people, i.e. Baalawu, who took the Dai folks to Xishuangbanna. The story goes: when Baalawu's mother and grandmother were guarding the garden, they ate many melons and fruits; and his mother gave birth to him after she ate the cocoanut left by the king of the cattle. Therefore, he treated the cattle as his father; however, cattle did not become the totem of his tribe. In all Dai states, there are also legends about the "white elephant", and white elephant might be their totem for a period of time. But, in some places like Mengla and Jinghong, people once used white elephants to make sacrifice for the local god; this is of course showing disrespect to the ancestors if white elephants were their previous totems. It is very hard for us to understand such doings of their too. Afterwards, white elephants became distinguished, and they began to use white pigs to make sacrifices to their local god. 

In the rain forests, the Kemu People still keep their totem worshipping customs. This nation has about 400,000 people, and they mainly scatter in Vietnam, Laos and Burma etc. They have about 2000 people in Xishuangbanna, and they live along the two banks of South Lahe River. Though this nation only has about 2000 people, according different totem worshipping, they are divided into 18 tribes such as the "windflower tribe", "waterfowl tribe", "tiger and leopard tribe", and "the parrot tribe" etc. They are just like a big village with people of many family names, and it sounds quite strange too. The people of the same nation can marry with each other, but marriage is not allowed among people of the same tribe; besides, boys will follow their fathers' clan name, and girls will follow their mothers' clan name. For example, after a man of the "ficus tribe" marries a woman of the "waterfowl tribe", if the wife gives birth to a boy, the boy's family name is "ficu"; but if she gives birth to a girl, the girl's family name is "waterfowl". Besides, family names like "tiger", "ficus" and "parrot" are the clan names of man's tribes; while "waterfowl", "squirrel" and "corncrake" are the clan names of woman's tribes. Because of totem worshipping, the Kemu people generally do not kill their totem animals or cut their totem plants. For example, the tiger tribe cannot kill tigers, and the ficus tribe can not cut ficus trees. According to the legend, the totem animals and plants all have direct relations with their ancestors. For instance, the origin of the tiger tribe is like this: long, long ago, there was a man who was afraid of tigers, and he did not even dare to go to the fields because of his fear of tigers; one day, the villagers killed a tiger, inspired by other people, he collected his nerves and touched the tiger's skin and teeth; unexpectedly, his fingers were lacerated by the tiger's teeth, and he died soon. Thereafter, his offspring began to use the family name "tiger". According to their belief, they tend to think that whoever killed the totem animal of a tribe, he (she) will be punished by heaven. They respect the animals and plants that represent their clan names; as a matter of fact, they believe this is to show respect for their ancestors.