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The Iron Equipments Beating

 

In the past, agriculture was the main occupation of the Akha because they mostly lived on top of the mountains. It was hard for them to buy the equipment for farming and there were few people who could sell it to them. Therefore, the Akha had their own expert in ironworks called the “Pa Jee”. The Pa Jee occupied the 2nd position in society, only lower than the witch-doctor. The Akha paid respect to the Pa Jee quite a lot. An Akha could become a Pa Jee through a community election. The villagers would choose a person who had an ability for iron beating and this person would become the Pa Jee, the person who made the iron equipment for agricultural machinery.

The villagers would bring charcoal from their fires and get the Pa Jee to make their equipment. After the Pa Jee had made their equipment they had to help him by working in his field for a day. Iron beating amongst the Akha could be done everyday without any holidays. The only exception was if there were no more commissions or if someone in the village had died. “La Jee Zoom” is the name of the area where the Pa Jee worked, it is also a Holy place which everyone in the village must take care of. No one is allowed to show disrespect to this place.

Both men and women are not allowed to urinate in iron beating area, “ Lar Jee Zoom”. If somebody breaks these rules the village will be cursed. This is an Akha  belief passed down from generation to generation. If somebody saw someone breaking the rules they would also get fined a bottle of alcohol in order to appease the ghosts.

At present, this duty is still remains with the groups who stictly follow the old traditions, but this duty decreases every day as villagers look to purchase their equipment in the towns. It is easier than finding someone to do the iron work in their village as it saves time and there is no need to find charcoal to give to the Pa Jee. Besides this the villagers increasingly do not have enough land for cultivation; therefore, the use of agricultural equipment is decreasing.

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