Jiarong Profile

Other names: (Jiarong): rGyalrong, 嘉绒 

Autonym: (Situ): kə rə, roŋ

Other names: (Sidaba): Northwestern Jiarong, sTodpa, 四大坝

(Chabao): Northeastern Jiarong, Japhug, 茶堡; (Situ): Eastern Jiarong, 四土 

In the past, “Jiarong” was a topographical and political reference to a far wider area than the present day linguistic demarcation. The legendary 18 Kingdoms of the Jiarong extended down as far as the present-day Muya territory. By contemporary linguistic definition, the 150,000 speakers of the different Jiarong languages are distributed across several counties of central and southern Aba Prefecture, and corners of Ganzi Prefecture and Ya’an District. These Qiangic languages have traditionally been divided into Sidaba (northwestern), Chabao (northeastern) and Situ (eastern). Situ, referring to an area formerly governed by four kings (Tusi), is the most widely spoken form of Jiarong and has at least two dialects. Outside the larger towns, Jiarong is still widely spoken across all ages and domains of society. Many older Jiarong people are monolingual, but Chinese (Sichuan dialect) is becoming widely spoken by the young and middle aged, while in Wenchuan County, where influence from the adjacent Han society is particularly strong, most Tibetans can only speak Chinese (Sichuan dialect). The Jiarong languages differ mainly in pronunciation and vocabulary, causing some difficulty in cross-communication, though other languages belonging to the Western Jiarongic family are mutually unintelligible.

The Jiarong tend to be people of the valleys, farming the land in terraced plots up the mountainside, though a few take to the high plateaus where they live semi-nomadic tending their yak. The Jiarong culture: their impressive stone houses decked with prayer flags, ancient stone watchtowers, and women clad in colorful hand-woven belts, aprons and headdresses, might be regarded as the quintessence of the Ethnic Corridor. Most Jiarong Tibetans worship mountain gods and practice Tibetan Buddhism, though about 10% follow the indigenous religion of Bon.