A K'Cho oral history

By Salai Kee Shein Mang
Legend says that K'cho people had a wirtten and recorded history in time in memorable. Unfortunately since it was recorded on a dried animal skin, it was stolen and eaten by a dog, so says the legend. Since then the poor K'cho lost their precious written and recorded history. Since it sounds like a myth, it is hard for anyone to believe. But it is still what is said and narrated in a K'cho Oral History.

Luckily, the K'cho still have oral histories or narrated histories handed down orally from generations to generations. These oral histories are passed down in the forms of poems by the elders in the villages to the younger ones. According to these Oral Histories, it is said that the K'cho were originally inhabitants of the ocean side. According to the "Pa nawh a ci"(tran; So says Daddy) poem, the K'cho migrated from the ocean side to the high hills passing the low land.

According to a K'cho oral history, it is said that K'cho people came from the "Pai Hta Li" (tran: Sister Lake). It is confirmed in the "Pa nawh a ci" poem or K'cho Oral History that the K'cho were originally from the ocean side.

"Pa Nawh a ci" ( So says Daddy)

Pui Suk Hngi ging-ah. Litui hnguum ci, pa nawh a ci.
(tran: the sound of the wave and the roar of the ocean can be heard, so says daddy.)

Hngi Cawi-ah ng'lei kiem-ah, ng, lei phia ng, kiah ci, pa nawh a ci.
(tran: big waves can be seen from the beach, so says daddy.)

Litui hnguum ghitah kiei tui phiu Hlui, pa nawh a ci.
(tran: similar to second line.)

Ng'lei phia ng, kiah ghitak. Kiei Ngan Hoi Bawk man, pa nawh a ci.
(tran: amidst such big wave, consumated with I, white dragoness, so says daddy.)

M'tui-ah ng'um hleih Daw Khaw Le man, pa nawh a ci.
(tran: an egg was concieved in the womb of the white dragoness after consumation, so says daddy.)

Hma-ah chei ci. Ngan Hoi Bawk man. Pa nawh a ci.
(tran: five eggs were pruduced by the white dragoness, so says daddy.)

Daw khaw le man Daw khaw ka pa"ng na"ng, pa naw a ci.
(tran: fields in the low land and the whole low land were owned, so says daddy.)

Ngan Hoi Bawk man. Pan Chaung ka nu pa, pa nawh a ci.
(tran: with mom,dragoness, and with dad, dragon, we settled in the "Pan Chang", so says daddy.)

Daw Khaw ka pa"ng na"ng, kiei Pa"ang Gei Nang, pa nawh a ci.
(tran: I, Pa"ng Gei Nang, owned and cultivated the whole low land, so says daddy.)

Pan Chaung ka nu pa, kiei ng, lei ne ta"m-am, pa nawh a ci.
(tran: we settled in the families' owned territories, Pan Chaung, and be multiplied, so says daddy.)

Remark: This poem illustrates the K'cho's origin and historical inhabitant.
Note: This article is translated from the " Phyu Chin Origin", p 32-34, by M. Bu Ning's Chin History and Culture.

Dowry and Marriage System in the K'cho Society
In the K'cho society ,each clan has a distinct set of clans from which it may take husbands and from which it may take wives. "Pu" refers to the set of clans from which a wife is taken, and "tu" refers to that of clans from which a husband is taken. Pu can be defined as daughter-giving clan, where as tu - son-giving clan.

The dowry system is still widely practiced in K'cho society. There may be some occasions in which a Pu clan declines to request dowry. Traditionally, the "Tu" clan must give a dowry (maan) to the "Pu" clan in the amount asked. But the "Pu" clan has a responsibility to return a gift-in-kind (maan ng'toi) worth about half the value of the dowry that is given by the "Tu" clan.

Usually, the "maan" is given after marriage and the "maan ng'toi" is returned after the "maan" is received. Sometimes the "maan ng'toi" may not be returned within the life time of the parents who made the agreement, and the sons of the "Pu" clan must take this responsibility over as a kind of debt. The "maan" is divided among the family members, including the cousins.

The cost of the dowry usually depends on the negotiations between clans, or on the family household's circumstance. Only in the Ng'gah area is the dowry fixed.
In Ng'gah area (1), the minimum fixed price/value for a dowry is:
one big male mython,
one big female mython,
one small mython,
six male golden earrings,
and five pots of Yu.

The maximum is:
one big male mython,
one big female mython,
one small mython,
Two medium sized mython
Ten gold earrings for men in three sizes, and pots of Yu enough to hold the wedding.

There are times that one usually cannot pay a dowry within his lifetime, and the children have to pay the debt of the parents. In this way, clans are in constant debt to each other. The average value of the dowry in the Ng'gah area is higer than the dowry in other K'cho areas. In some areas, the dowry may be only one or two mythons, and two or three men's gold earrings, called "k'hngai". It depends partly on the numbers of brothers that a bride has.

In some areas marriage decisions are made freely by the lovers. They then convince their parents to allow them to get married. If it is allowed, the parents will begin the formal negotiation usually through a "ng'sa": see the mediator section. If the parents of the girl do not agree, the clan members of the potential groom may arrange to steal the potential bribe by sending some women to go at night and bring the girl to the boy's house before dawn.

A very different situation may be observed in the "Uppa"(2) area of K'cho territories, where a baby girl is born, a contract is made called "M'hlai cing": binding of the navel cords. This is a contract by oath that the girl will be married to whomever the oath is made with when she comes of age. Should the contract be broken in the future, compensation is required to be paid to release them from their oath.
( Note: Translated from "Chin Htamine by Cho elders". )