Monday, July 14, 2008
The history of the ZO people is obscure, shrouded in myth and lends. In the absent of written documents, it is extremely difficult to have early history of the ZOs. However through historical, linguistics, archaeological findings and ethnic relationships, it is widely accepted that the ZO belongs to the Tibeto-Burman groups. The Zo people are an indigenous tribe, living mostly in the present-day Tonzaang and Tedim townships of Northern Chin State and the Kabaw valley of Western Sagaing division in the Union of Burma. With an estimated population of over 60,000 the Zo are scattered in various parts of Burma and the world. In India, they are officially recognized as the "Zou tribe". Of the three major races of the Tibeto-Burman group of people – Tet, Pyu and Kanyan - the Zo Belong to the Tet group of people and are further sub-grouped under the umbrella name Chin. The Zos are the original descendants (progeny) of a legendary person named Pu Zo, who is believed to be the elder brother of Pu Zing Phaw (presently known as Kachins). Though living under the present-day military-ruled Burma, the Zote were known to have lived independently and harmoniously since time immemorial. Due to lack of evidence and difficulties in excavating archaeological remains, the Zo's origins are difficult to be proved. Though widely believed to have descended from Mongolia, the routes to the present settlements are not clear. It is believed that the Zote have descended from Mongolia to China and to Tibet and to the present day Burma. Many of scholars believed that the origin of the ZO people was somewhere in the North-Western China, more specifically, the area which lies between the upper course of the Yangtze Kiang and the Hwang HO rivers are believed to be the original home of the ZO people. S.K. Chatterji, also makes an attempt to identify the area of the North-West China between the head waters of Hwang Ho and Yangtze Kiang Rivers as the origin of the Sino-Tibetan migration in to India and Burma. Dr. Grierson wrote “tradition and comparative physiology agree in pointing to North-Western China between the upper course of the Yangtze Kiang and the Hwang Ho as the original home the Tibeto-China race, to which the Tibeto-Burman and the Siamese-Chinese groups belong”. It was also an accepted fact that this people belong to Tibeto-Burman stock. This historical linguistic and ethnicity of the ZO people to the place of origin established this fact from thence; the ZO people had started their migration as their predecessors had done. They moved southwards, most probably via Tibetan Highlands then onto the Salween River and entered the Irrawaddy and Chindwin valley.
The entry of the ZO people into Burma was in different waves along with the other groups of people. The above arguments are indeed supported by folklores, oral tradition and legend. They came into this region by following the route south-westward on the line of the Irrawaddy and the Chindwin. They settled in the watershed area of Irrawaddy and Chindwin rivers for many generations and founded their kingdom “ Pupa Gam”. With the rising of the more powerful kingdom from south forced them to move to the east of river Chindwin. The Chindwin River is name by the ZO people as Tuikang (White Water). They crossed the river and settled in the area of Kale-Kabaw-Myittha-Yaw valley which stands still testimonial to our settlement even today. The term ZO is derived from the generic name “ZO”, the progenitor of the ZO people. In the past, they were little known by their racial nomenclature. They were known by their plain neighbors of Burma, Bangladesh and India as Chin, Kuki, or Lushei/Mizo, Subsequently; the British employed these terms to christen those “wild hill tribes” living in the un-administered area and were subsequently legalized to be the names for the newly adopted subjects of Queen Victoria of England. However they called themselves ZO since time immemorial. It is also irony that some people less familiar or ignorant of their history interpret the name ZO to mean the climatic conditions of the highlands, “they occupy because they called the land with a cold climate of higher elevation “Zo”. This is totally a full misconception of the term and origin of ZO. It is in fact also contrary to the origin and progenitor Pu ZO. This must have been one of the most catastrophic historical interpretations, because the people called themselves ZO when they live in the plains of Burma and the valley of Manipur (India). Thus, the name ZO could not have come from the climatic conditions of this land. They are ZO not because they live in the highlands or the hills, but all ZO and called themselves ZO because they are the descendants of the great ancestor, “ZO”.The ZO inhabits the southern part of Indo-Burma, approximately ranging between 92 and 95 degree longitude east and 20 and 25 degree latitude north. The ZO folksongs give the picture oh their settlement, prosperity and the civilization that evolved in the plains of Burma in the last part of the thirteen century A.D. It is also further believed that the ZO had once upon a time established an independent state in the upper Chindwin areas. This observation about establishment of kingdom is clearly evident by the terms “Kumpi”, “Mangpa”, and “Lêngpa” which are equivalent to kingships. These above terms are indeed interwoven with the ZO people till today. The ZO people are presently concentrated in the Northern part of Chin hills “Tonzang Myo”, in the Kale-Tamu Kabaw valley (Sagaing Division), and the southern districts of Manipur (Churachanpur and Chandel districts). This people are ethnically, culturally, socially and linguistically one people. They have their own distinct customs and cultures. The customs and cultures of this people can be very well identify if compare with the rest of other people. In fact they can be differentiated from their neighbor through their customs and cultures. They have rich cultures which ought to be preserved for all time to come.The present distributions of the population of the ZO people and their most notable towns and villages can be seen from the Chindwin river in the east to Aizawl (Mizoram, India) in the west and from Kalemyo, (Burma) in the south to Imphal (Manipur, India) in the north. The hubs of their present settlements are all along most important routes of the region. They all spread all along the Indo-Burma road, the Tedim road and the Tamu-Kalemyo National Highways.Some of the most important inhabited towns and villages of the ZO people all along the above mentioned routes/roads are thus: Along the Tamu-Kalemyo National Highways are Tamu, Zanglienphai, Lallian, Kanan, Khampat No.(1) and (3), Nangkateih, Nangkhaukhau or BuangKung, Kyuantaw Yeshin or Tuikhal, Phetya Yeshin or Kuonglien, KannOo, Taazi, Kalemyo etc..;Towns and villages along the Indo-Burma road are Sugnu, Singtom, Gêlngâi, Salem, Paldai, Sahich Tampak, Kathuong, Khollian, Muolnuom, Zângzom, Zângdung, Khuongtal, Dênhla, Senam, Thuombuol, Khienglâm, Lungtah, Gelmuol, Khuamun, Anlun, Nâhzâng, Tonzang myo etc.. towns and villages all along the Tedim Road are S. Muolnuom, Lamka (Churachandpur), Zoumun, Khienglâm, Geltui, Gelzang, Buhsau, Hiengtam Khonou, Hiengtam, Singngat, Behieng, Khuoivûm, Tonzâng, Phuntong, Sâlzâng, Tahzang, Lomzang, Gamngâi, Tuolmu, Gelzang, Gienchiel, Tedim. Moreover, apart from these routes and roads many ZO villages are scattering all other parts of this particular region. It will not be out of the text to include some more. In the Tuining, Singheu kuol some of the notable villages are, Tuining, Vazang, Sangaikot, Kuvan, Tuoitengphai, Tuibul, Saiboh, Gangpimuol, ZO Bethel, Khaukuol, Mulam, Khuoinuoi, Singheu, Phaisan, Phaisat in Churachandpur distirict; In Tonzang Area to Khampat, Phaitu, Khamzang, Seksi, Thauthe, Maulawn, Lîkhân, Tuigiel, Tuimang, Singtum, Sielthawzâng, Buongkung, etc… The above towns and villages are aligned from North to South direction. There are other many villages which are not included here. The ZO people took pride in calling themselves by this name for ages. The cultural heritage of the ZO people makes them whole as having a full blossom identity as ZO. This people traditionally named their sons and daughters, villages, places imbibing the great great progenitor “ZO”. Names such as Zogam, Zozam, Zotui etc. stand testimonial to the affiliation that these people has had to their great ancestor Pu ZO from time immemorial.
Traditionally animism was considered to be the most widely practiced religion among Zo people, until the Swedish-American Baptist missionaries preached Christianity around 1899, for the first time. Today, we can witness so many different Christian denominations across Chin State and among the Zo people. Approximately there are about 5 to 10 percent of people who profess to be non-Christians currently in Chin State, the rest, however are Christians either by birth or conviction.