Below is a conversation with Isabel Crook (101 yrs in July, 2016) about her visit to the Jiarong area from 1938-40, west of Sichuan. Isabel was born in Chengdu 1915 and raised a missionary anthropologist. She talks of journeys taken with her father as a child and journeys she made when 21 yrs sponsored by a ruling class Tibetan.
Isabel rode by bike for 2 days through bandit areas of West Sichuan, climbed mountains, crossed lakes and lived in a haunted house. As an anthropologist, Isabel visited families in Tibetan areas in 1939 with the purpose of understanding the people and culture.
In the video Isabel refers to the ‘lolo’ as ‘Li people’ but are called Yi nowadays. They are among the most populous of the peoples recognized as ethnic minorities now and they have a culture that is still quite strong, although fortunately slavery has been abolished among them. In Sichuan the main concentration of them is in a place called Liangshan, literally “cool mountains”. They are a really interesting people and it is fascinating indeed to get Isabel’s experience with them in those early days.
Traditionally the Yi follow what is described as an animistic faith – one that attributes a living soul to plants, inanimate objects, and natural phenomena. They also use shamans known as bimou – normally men who are said to have special powers or be in communication with the spirits.
The picture of the woman and child shows Li Mincai’s wife, aged 27 with one of the slave girls from the village head’s household. The girl whose name, Qiya, probably just means seventh slave girl, was thirteen and her task was to look after goats.
For more information on the Jiarong area and Yi people, see this link