The Rawang community centered on Putao, in the Himalayan foothills of Kachin State, has a special bond with another ethnic group that lives over the mountains in China.
The Dulong (also known as Derung) share a similar ancestry with the Rawang, one of the main Kachin ethnic groups, along with the Jinghpaw, Lisu, Lachid, Zaiwa and Lhaovo.
According to cultural research and Rawang oral history, the group migrated from Mongolia to the Himalayas and eventually settled in both northern Myanmar and a region of western Yunnan Province traversed by the upper reaches of the Mekong, Yangtze and Thanlwin (Salween) rivers.
There are about 65,000 Rawang in Myanmar, making their community one of the smallest of the country’s officially recognised 135 ethnic groups. Little is known about the Rawang, partly because most live in the remote Putao Valley, which is inaccessible by road during the rainy season and yet to receive mobile phone services.
Traditional Rawang ceremonies are common in Putao but the five-day homecoming festival was the first of its kind to be celebrated by the group in the city. An estimated 30,000 people attended, including Rawang from Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and the United States, as well as China.
The Dulong, as Rawang are known in China, were invited to attend the festival as a cultural exchange. “We might be separated by the border, but there is no border in our hearts,” a representative of the Dulong said in an opening statement at a meeting between the two groups.