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(self-designation, Kungnung), a people living in the Peichiang, Nantan, and Hoch’ih districts of the Kwangsi-Chuang Autonomous Region in China. Population, 18,000 (1953 census).
The Maonan are related ethnically to the Tai-speaking population of southern China. By the ninth century A.D. they already formed an independent ethnic group. The Maonan language is unwritten; it is related to the Sino-Tibetan language family. The Maonan also speak Chinese. Maonan religious beliefs are syncretistic. The majority of the Maonan preserve their traditional beliefs, which include various animistic cults and ancestor worship. Some Maonan are Catholics. Among the Maonan’s festive occasions, the festival celebrating the end of agricultural work is particularly important.
In their level of social and economic development, the Maonan do not differ from other neighboring peoples. Farming is the chief occupation. Rice is cultivated in irrigated fields; corn, barley, sweet potato, legumes, and commercial crops (cotton, ramie) are grown on bogara. Slash-and-burn farming is still practiced in some regions. The Maonan breed livestock (cattle, chickens, ducks). In domestic handicrafts, the spinning, weaving, and dyeing of fabrics are regarded as female activities, while bamboo weaving is considered men’s work. The Maonan dwell in stone houses; the main pillars, floor, and ceilings of their dwellings are made of wood and the roofs are usually tiled.