Rev. Dr. Chum Awi
The genealogy of the Chin, according to the linguists, stems from Sino- Tibetan which is one out of three language groups, i.e., Altaic, Indo-European, and Austro-Asiatic. Sino-Tibetan gave birth to Tibeto- Burman which in turn gave birth to Tibetan, Yi( Lolo ), Pui( Minchia), TuChia, Hani( Woni), Lisu, Lahu, Nasi(Moso), Chingpo(Kachin), Chiang( Chin), Nu, and Tulung ( see Encyclopedia Britanica). Early writers, both British and Americans, mentioned the name of the Chins as Khang, Khiang or whatsoever. The words Chin, Chiang or Khiang were romanization of the original Chinese word ” Yin.”
The Chins are found in India, Bangladesh, and in Burma. There are Chins who live in plain areas and those who live on mountains have a word “zo” to describe places which are high and cold. Some Chins are propagating “zo-mi” as their original name. In fact, the genetic word “Chin” comes from the Chinese word “Yin” which means man. In the Pinyin romanization, “Yin” becomes ” Chin.” Thus, we have China as the country of the Yin people. culturally and traditionally, the Chins have many kinds of similarities with the Chinese. Sine 1889, the year in which the British empire annexed the Chin Hill, there were British political officers and American missionaries who have closely worked for the Chins. Some of these officers have remarks on the culture, way of life, attitude, habits, body structure, etc., of the Chins.
The ”Chin today are widespread in several other countries mainly because of their ill – feeling against the prevailing military rulers. It is necessary to introduce the Chins to other people for the purpose of mutual understanding and interpersonal relationship. To serve this purpose, this article depicts the remarks made by the British political officers and the American missionaries. The first person who made a remark on the Chins was Rev. Arthur Carson who lived and worked for the Asho- Chin in Thayer Myo. In his letter dated January 19, 1888 to the headquarters office of the Baptists in the United States of America, he wrote: There are so many dialects that we can never hope to know and use them all. Our hopes for the future are high. We find them naturally a superior people to the Burmans. They are not quarrelsome, may easily be taught to be independent and manly, and has a sense of gratitude for favors received. They have good mind and hearts capable of great love. Yet, they are just as capable as enmities as of friendships. The greatest evil we will have to meet among them is temperance.
A British medical officer Major Newland who himself married a Chin woman in Hakha town wrote a book called A Practical Handbook of Lai Dialect ( 1895). In his book he wrote: A Chin id manly and independent fellow. He has not the cringing, fawning habits of his neighbours the Burmans . He always considers himself the equal of anyone. This independent spirit is the only favorable quality of a Chin. He would be a fine fellow but for his drinking habits. Carey and Tuck, who expedited the Chin Hills, wrote volumes of book which they entitle The Chin Hills ( 1896). In their entitled one can find the following verses:
The slow speech, the serious manner, the respect of birth and the knowledge of pedigrees, the duty of revenge, the taste for and the treacherous method of hospitality, the clannish feeling, the vice of avarice, the filthy state of the body, mutual distrust, impatience under control, the want of power of combination and the continued effort, arrogance in victory, speedy discouragement and panic in defeat . . . The Chin Hills are peopled by many clans and communities, calling themselves to be distinct and superior origin . . . Owning firstly to the want of a written language and secondly to the intermiable inter-village warfare, has split up and resulted in Babel of tongues, a variety of customs, and a diversity of modes of living . . . Except in the prosecution of warfare, robbery is practically unknown. A.S. Reid in his book Chin -Lushai land observed the culture of the Chins as:
Owning no central authority, possessing no written language, obeying but the verbal mandates of the chiefs, Hospitable and affectionate in their homes unsparing of age and sex while on war path; Untutored as the remotest races in central Africa, and yet endowed with an intelligence. Rev. Dr East, a medical missionary to the Chin in the 1890s, called the Chins as ” splendid people.” His remarks is bases on what he found the existence of God in the hearts, words, and attitudes of the Chins. His diary was compiled in a book form and called it Burma Manuscripts (1910). He wrote: I was led to believe that these people had no knowledge God, no word of love, no word of home. However, I could not accept that ideas as I very thoroughly believe in racial unity and that God made all man out of one blood. It is a certainty that the Chins believe in the God of Heaven as Creator. This knowledge is universal among them.
Rev. Dr Strait, an American Baptist missionary to the Chins stationing in Hakha, did not accept the idea that the Chins are so civilized. Rather. he praised the social system of the Chins as well as the skills of women who could weave a high quality silk showls, garments etc., still keeps the Chins silk showls as a valuable thing of the family. Rev Dr J.H Cope, who served the Lord for the Chins associating with the British administrators during 1908 till 1938, mentioned that the Chins have been living in a higher civilization in the past. He indicated that the living situation on the hills makes constant deterioration of the prevailing culture. He wrote a book called Awakening of the Northern Chins. In his book he wrote:
There are evidences that these people once had a higher civilization. This is seen from the fact that they are completely clothed and do not appear ever to have been headhunters or cannibals. There is even a tradition of a written language. They differ from many hill tribes in that violent crime is rare polygamy not very common, women more respected, and warfare carried on less brutally than in many hill districts . . . After reaching the hills they quickly spread out in little villages in the narrow valley and many dialects soon developed.
Rev. Sowards, Secretary of American ( Burma) Baptist Missionary Society during 1950s prophesized that the Chins will make great contributions to the whole of Burma. He played a leading role in the forming of Zomi( Chin) Baptist Convention and a theological in 1953. School and Hospitals opened for the Chins by British governors and American missionaries opened the eyes of the Chins in many ways. The British administrators recruited the Chins for their army because they knew that they were faithful and dutiful. Today, the Chins are working hard for their seif identity, self- determination, self- dependency, and self-reliance. The only thing that they need to gain the above is freedom which can bring chance for them