The strange customs of Cambodian ethnic minorities

  Cambodia is a multi-ethnic country. Among the existing population of more than 13 million, in addition to the Khmer people who account for more than 80% of the population, there are more than 20 ethnic minorities. There are 12 ethnic groups in the northeastern province of Ratanakiri alone. Ethnic minorities, such as Bolu, Galai, Gazuo, Gawei, Gelen, Panlang, Dongben, etc. For a long time, these ethnic minorities have adhered to the customs and habits handed down from their ancestors, such as drinking jars of wine, planting sacred trees, women sawing their front teeth, wearing large earrings, topless, young girls smoking, and building secret palaces for young people. Most of these ethnic minorities live in deep mountains and forests for generations in villages or tribes. Led by tribal chiefs who live slash-and-burn lives in isolation, they are considered Cambodia’s “indigenous people”. They hate evil and are extremely xenophobic. According to legend, they often drove people from the interior to dangerous miasma-filled areas, often with no return. Therefore, mainlanders regard it as a mysterious and unpredictable world and dare not set foot in it.
  After the 1950s, the Royal Government of Cambodia began to pay attention to the production and life of the ethnic minorities in this area. Mainlanders and the ethnic minorities here began to have some contacts and gradually got to know each other. However, due to differences in ethnic habits and inconvenient transportation, few people travel from the interior to Ratanakiri Province. After the 1990s, the spring breeze of Cambodia’s reform and opening up blew there, and the Royal Government has sent relevant experts to conduct on-the-spot investigations on many occasions. They were surprised to find that the tourism environment there is particularly good, with beautiful natural forest scenery, numerous wild animals, and unique customs of ethnic minorities. Therefore, the Ministry of Tourism of the Royal Government began to formulate plans to invest in the development of tourism projects in Ratanakiri Province, including transportation, water and electricity, restaurants, etc., to develop Ratanakiri Province into a coastal city after Angkor in Siem Reap Province. Another important tourist area after Sihanoukville.
  When I was working in Cambodia in 1996, at the invitation of a friend, I was fortunate enough to enter this mysterious world and enjoy the strange customs of those ethnic minorities. Here are some brief introductions for readers’ taste.
  
  Sweet and spicy jar wine
  
  It has been said for a long time that the ethnic minorities in Ratanakiri Province have a kind of jar wine, and this time I finally tasted the taste of jar wine. When my friends and I arrived at an ethnic village, the villagers there welcomed us very warmly and made sure that we taste their jars of wine. The so-called “jar wine” is rice wine packed in a jar. The size of the wine jars varies, but the shapes are basically the same: the mouth and bottom are small, the middle belly is big, there are various colors such as black and earth red, some are painted with various patterns, and some are as bright as a mirror, which can be illuminated. To see people. Drinking jars of wine is not like we usually drink wine, pour the wine into wine glasses or bowls, but insert some bamboo straws in the wine jars, usually 3 to 10. The straws vary in length, some are half a meter long, while others are as long as 2 meters. When drinking, people sit or stand around the wine jar, and when they want to drink, they pull a straw into their mouths and suck the wine into their stomachs. Those straws are used together, and the locals don’t care about the thickness of the straws and the repeated use by many people. Although I think that drinking method is not hygienic, but in order to respect the national customs, I also follow the local customs and share straws with everyone to taste wine. The villagers were very happy to see us drinking from their jars of wine, because they believed that when the guests drink their own wine, it proves that the guests do not despise their own nation. This kind of blessing can make all the villagers happy and auspicious, healthy and happy. I’m not a good drinker, just trying something new. The jar wine is cool and delicious, sweet and spicy.
  According to the villagers, the sweetness and spicyness of the wine is still important. The sweetness symbolizes that everyone needs a sweet taste, and in a common society, they must be loyal, fraternal, and united like brothers and sisters in a common society. We must be brave and tenacious in the struggle against nature and in our daily labor and life, overcome all kinds of hardships and hardships, uphold social justice, and make people live in peace and prosperity. Drinking jars of wine is a habit left by the ancestors of local ethnic minorities. It is generally used in various ceremonies, such as New Year celebrations, ancestor worship ceremonies, disaster relief ceremonies, engagement ceremonies, marriage ceremonies, funeral ceremonies, and post-harvest celebration ceremonies, etc. It is also a kind of etiquette for them to welcome visitors from afar.
  
  Cruel custom of broken front teeth
  
  In Ratanakiri province, I see many middle-aged and elderly women without front teeth, which is very strange. After understanding, we know that this is a custom of broken incisors handed down by the ancestors of the Bolu people. When the girl was fifteen or sixteen years old, the elders began to consider breaking her front teeth. The method of breaking a tooth is primitive and brutal: the upper incisor is sawed off the middle or at the root with a saw without any anaesthesia. It is conceivable that the girl has to endure great pain. Despite this, the girls endured this great pain with tenacious perseverance. They do not hesitate, complain or complain, because they believe that this is a strict custom passed down to the girls by their ancestors, and no one can defy it.
  Why should the good incisors be sawed off? The local people believe that girls without incisors are beautiful, and girls with incisors are ugly. When young men choose objects, the first condition is to see whether the girls have incisors. If a girl refuses to have a broken tooth, she will be regarded by the villagers as a “mice crossing the street”, and everyone will yell at her and even drive her out of the village. The girl’s constant incision is immoral, and it will bring disaster to the whole family and even the whole village. Others say that girls have a lot of toxins hidden in their bodies, which can be removed by sawing off the front teeth. With the increase of exchanges between ethnic minorities and mainlanders and the development and progress of society, people’s aesthetic concepts have gradually changed. At present, some Bolu girls have risen up to resist the bad habit of breaking their front teeth. They no longer think that there is no incisor beauty, but think that the broken incisors not only lose the natural beauty of young girls, but also can’t bite things, which is very inconvenient. Therefore, they no longer endure the pain of sawing their incisors, but they believe that they have a set of white and neat teeth. And proud.
  
  Ivory earrings as big as an apple
  
  Heart of beauty in everyone. It is human nature for women to love beauty. Bracelets, necklaces, earrings, rings are probably the favorite things that women of any ethnic group like. The ethnic minorities living in Ratanakiri province are no exception, but the two earrings as large as apples inlaid on the earlobes of Poru women surprised me deeply. There, not only women wear those big earrings, but I also see some men wearing them. According to the rules of the Poru people, when a daughter is fifteen or sixteen years old, her parents will dress her up beautifully to attract the attention of men. And the most eye-catching is wearing ivory earrings. This kind of earrings is not the earrings, earrings, earrings and other accessories that we usually see hanging on the earlobe, but ivory pieces weighing two or three hundred grams inlaid in the earlobe. I curiously asked an elderly woman inlaid with elephant tusks how such large earrings fit into the earlobes? She said that it takes a long process to install such large earrings. When a Poru girl had her ears pierced for the first time, she used two small pieces of ivory, as thick as incense, to pierce her ears. After a month, or after the ear piercing is used to, replace it with a thicker piece of ivory. In this way, I have been changing from childhood to adulthood. The ivory pieces become thicker and thicker, and the ear holes are getting bigger and bigger. After a few decades, the ear holes will be able to accommodate a child’s fist and the ivory embedded in the ear holes. The piece is as big as an apple, and it is very eye-catching. This pair of huge ivory earrings is not only an ornament for Boru women, but also a symbol of national belief. It is believed that the large and heavy earrings will bring good luck and peace to themselves and their families.   When I was visiting the villages of Ratanakiri province,
  
  the “secret palace” of young men and women , I was surprised to find that there were many high huts that looked like pigeon nests on tall trees. It turned out that these were the youths of the Poru and Keleng nationalities.
  
The “secret palace” of men and women. When these children of ethnic minorities just finished their youth and entered adolescence between the ages of 15 and 18, their parents began to worry about their future. They should tell them about the traditional habits and principles of their own people; They are full of charm to attract the opposite sex: remind and educate them not to depend on their parents anymore, to be independent, to build their own houses, and to live separately from their parents.
  Under the guidance and help of their parents and elder brothers, young men and women first choose the housing base. According to the custom of the local people, the house should be built on the sides or in front of the parents’ house, but not in the back. After the house site is selected, the youth begins to prepare the building materials. He (or she) will go to the forest to chop wood, bamboo and thatch.
  Once the building materials are ready, start building the house. Before the start of construction, a house building ceremony should be held to pray to the gods of mountains, water, heaven and earth to bless the young men and women in their lives.

the future couple is inseparable and will grow old together forever. The house is to be built by young people by themselves. The houses are built small and tall, and the houses of young men are generally taller and smaller than those of girls. The house has one or two windows, and a wooden ladder is placed under the window. Before the owner goes out to farm or do other things, he must tidy up the house and yard, and remove the ladder and put it next to the parents’ house or in the house so that no one else can go up. According to custom, no one can go to the house except lovers, so people commonly call this kind of small house “secret palace”. But some young men do not set up ladders, but climb up along the pillars of the house. They believe that doing so can enhance physical strength on the one hand, and exercise their brave and tenacious character on the other hand.
  When these young men (and women) who used to live with their parents first moved into the “secret palace”, they felt very lonely, lonely, helpless and scared, especially when they heard the roars of animals in the surrounding forest, they were scared all night Sleepless. But the young people can endure, and they overcome difficulties with tenacious perseverance and get through this extraordinary period of life. Because they realize that this is a national custom handed down by their ancestors from generation to generation, and everyone must strictly abide by it and not disobey. After living in this “secret palace” for a period of time, the young people have been trained, tasted the taste of life such as bitterness, sweetness, sorrow and joy, understood the truth and value of life, and gradually matured. At this time, the young men began to think about their future, thinking that they should find a beautiful girl as their company and should also be a father.
  There are many ways for young men to find objects, and they can track, intercept or climb directly into the “secret palace” of young women. After talking and getting to know each other, if the girl also expresses love, the two can date anywhere in the woods, on the hillside, in the fields, in front of waterfalls, etc., no matter the day or night, as long as there is time.
  The favorite way for young Gelen people to talk about love is to play the gourd and sing duet, in this way to express their loyal love and determination to grow old together. During the period of love, young men can live at the woman’s house, but cannot leave the “secret palace” for a long time. This is the ancestral rule. According to national tradition, young men and women in love are not allowed to live together before marriage. But this taboo is not too strict. When the relationship between the two people develops to the deepest love, they can also have excessive behavior. But the woman must secretly pinch a mark on the man’s thigh or buttocks to prove that she has dedicated her chastity to this man, that he is her future husband and will stay with him for the rest of her life. When the news of the two eating the forbidden fruit reached the ears of parents and villagers, instead of being surprised and blamed, people were glad that they became lifelong partners. Villagers will happily wait to be invited to the wedding to help. The parents who have the material conditions will immediately go to the chief to register the marriage of the two lovers. Under normal circumstances, the chief will let them get their wish, because there are no strict marriage laws for ethnic minorities. Parents who do not have the material conditions for marriage can postpone the marriage of their children. When the conditions are good, you can register for marriage at any time. It doesn’t matter if you wait until you have one child or two or three children, or even get old to register your marriage.
  When the wedding is over, the bride and groom move out of their secret palace. After a break-in period, that is, staying at the woman’s house for 5 days, and then staying at the man’s house for 5 days, and then, like the Khmer ethnic group, the main ethnic group in Cambodia, the young man will live in the woman’s house.
  The ethnic minorities in Ratanakiri Province have a strict rule handed down from their ancestors, that is, monogamy, stick to it until old age, and absolutely do not allow any excuse to find a third party or file for divorce.
  
  Strange Confinement Customs
  
  Confinement is an important traditional custom inherited from the ancestors of ethnic minorities such as Dongben, Calais, Poru, and Gelen in Ratanakiri Province.
  Whenever the village sacrifices to the village gods in the form of slaughtering cows and drinking wine, or after the common disaster in the village is defeated and the suffering of the villagers is relieved, the villagers must practice confinement to pray to the gods of the gods, the gods of the earth, and the gods of all things to bless the villagers with peace and good luck , Grain abundance, prosperity and progress.
  The confinement will be held for 3 days. If the confinement is implemented in the whole village, it will be surrounded by branches or leaves around the village, indicating that the village is under confinement. The confinement had some strict rules: during the confinement period, all villagers were not allowed to go out of the village to run errands. If the confinement is a family unit, a tree branch is placed in front of the door, and the head of the household is responsible for not letting his family go out. As long as you see a tree branch in front of a door, you know that the family is in lockdown. These ethnic groups believe that if a member of a family or a villager leaves the house or the village illegally, disaster will surely happen to him, his whole family and even the entire village.
  During the confinement period, if anyone enters the village, he will be caught by the villagers, he will be locked in a place first, and after the confinement period is over, he will be sent to the village office, and those who violate the customs and habits of the mountain people will be fined and punished. deal to compensate the villagers for their material and spiritual losses.
  It is very necessary for us tourists to understand these strange national customs of mountain people. When we visit Ratanakiri Province, we will pay special attention to respect the local customs and habits and not act rashly.