24 Villages Profile

Autonym: poʔ24

Other names: Rongbrag Khams,二十四村

Researchers have in recent years been investigating a curious Tibetan people group called - for want of a better name – “The 24 Villages” group. Historically part of the territory of the 18 Jiarong kingdoms, “24 Villages” is the name of a former administrative zone mainly in what is now eastern Danba County; it doesn’t necessarily imply an area that has precisely 24 villages today. In fact, the people group in question has been found in just a handful of villages in and around eastern Danba. 

The oddity about the so-called “24 Village” people is that they hold much in common with the Qiangic speaking Jiarong Tibetans, and yet they are not Qiangic speaking. Their farmlands lie in the shadow of Murdo Mountain, the most sacred mountain of the Jiarong. Culturally, they dress like Jiarong, live in picturesque Jiarong-style villages with Jiarong-style towers, sing Jiarong songs and perform Jiarong dances etc., yet their first and preferred language is not at all Qiangic in nature, but the Danba (Rongbrag) dialect of Kham Tibetan. Hence, the 24 Villages people tend not to own a particularly clear ethnic identity beyond feeling strongly that they are Tibetan in the general sense. On one hand, identifying with the larger, more widely recognized Kham ethnic group might be appealing, and yet the cultural pull is towards the Jiarong, especially as in recent years their communities have been promoted this way for the tourist industry.