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Bamboo Paper Production and Religious Use by the Lanten Yao in Northern Lao PDR
Claudio O. Delang

Photo Essay Abstract
This photo essay demonstrates the method of producing bamboo paper by the Lanten Yao in northern Lao PDR and discusses the roles of bamboo paper in religious ceremonies. While in the past bamboo paper is likely to have had several uses in Lanten society, the use of bamboopaper is now limited to religious activities, where it cannot be replace by any other material. custom is common among many other ethnic groups, associating them with their ecological niche provides them with a particular identity they seem to like. This photo essay deals with the Lao Huay and describes the method they use to produce paper from bamboo, a grass that is fairly common in the ecologicalniche where they live. The fieldwork was carried out in February 2006 in two Lanten Yao villages (Nam Dee and Hong Luei) a few kilometers north of Luang Namtha, in Northern Lao PDR (Fig. 1). Bamboo paper is closely associated with the Lanten religion since no other paper can be used in their religious activities. The Lanten Yao religion consists of a blending of exorcistic and healing rituals forthe living in the Meishan traditions, and Taoist rituals for the dead (Lenoine 2002). Bamboo paper is used to make the books on which rituals are written and reproduced, streamers for the dead, masks used in religious ceremonies, to decorate altars, and so forth. Lenoine (2002: 24) has described the role of bamboo paper as “Its ritual value lies in the fact that it can

The Lanten Yao
The Yaoare divided into several ethnic sub-groups, distinguished by differences in language, dress and customs. They originate from China, but their search for farmland and better opportunities have brought many of them to the Lao PDR, Thailand and Vietnam. In China, the Lanten Yao can be found in the provinces of Hainan, Guangxi and Yunnan; in Vietnam, in all the northern provinces; and in the Lao PDR,in the northern provinces of Phongsaly, Oudomxai, Luang Namtha and Bo Kaeo. There are two sub-groups of Yao in the northern Lao PDR; the highland Yao and the valley Yao, which are known locally as Yao and Lanten respectively. The 1995 census recorded 22,695 Yao in the Lao PDR, within which the Lanten number at least 10,000. In Lao PDR the Lanten are further divided into two groups: Kim Di Mun (ofthe mountain foot) and Kim Diang Mun (of the mountain top). Chazée (1999) reported that in 1995 there were some 4,500 Kim Di Mun in Luang Namtha, Bokeo and Oudomxai. Since 1975 the official name of the Kim Di Mun used by the government of Lao PDR has been that of Lao Huay. The Lanten interviewed maintain that their name is Lanten and their nickname is Lao Huay. The name Lao Huay (roughlytranslated as “Lao of the brooks”) comes from their custom of living close to brooks. Even though this

Claudio O. Delang, Centre for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University, 46 Shimoadachi-cho, Yoshida, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 6068501, JAPAN delang@cseas.kyoto-u.ac.jp

Ethnobotany Research & Applications 4:097-102 (2006)


98Ethnobotany Research & Applications The Production of Bamboo Paper
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Nam Dee & Hong Luei Luang Namtha

Any kind of bamboo can be used, but usually no bong (cf. Bambusa tulda Roxb.) is used because it produces stronger and whiter paper. After collecting the bamboo, the green, outer layer of the stem is peeled off and only the inside is retained foruse. The bamboo is then cut into slices approximately one finger wide and 20 to 30 cm long. The pieces of bamboo are then put into a plastic container and alternately layered with calcium oxide until the container is full. Water is then added and the container is covered with three layers of banana leaves (or other large leaves or plastic sheets). Stones are put on top to prevent pigs or chickens...
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