Living Fossils of Patriarchal Clan Society
'Geba' Organization in Kham Baiyu Shanyan


Exploration Tour 
Brief Introduction  
"Geba" Organization 
Block House 
Habits & Food 
Activities & Meeting 
Woman & Marriage 

    In deep mountains on both banks of the Jinshajiang River at the Sichuan-Tibet border, there live some Tibetans of patriarchal clan. Given this situation, such primitive form of social organization is still full of life even today. They worship the Nyingma Sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Statistics show they have a population of some 10,000 today.
    Gorba organizations are formed according to surnames or occupations. Most of them are located in the Gaiyu, Shama and Shanyan townships of Baiyu County. Some others are found in Gongjor County in eastern Tibet, which faces Baiyu County across the Jinshajiang River.

Brief Introduction

Baiyu County of Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Ganrze, 1000 kilometers away from Chengdu, is located in the western part of Sichuan Province, the southeast of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, the east size of upper Jinsha River. It borders with the Xinlong, Batang, Litang, Garze, Dege counties of Garze Prefecture, and it faces Gonjo and Jomda counties of Tibet across the Jinsha River. Most of the residents are Tibetan.

This land, with unique physiognomy, large dumping height and obvious vertical distribution are abundant in underground resources. The wooded area leads the largest acreage in all counties of Southern China. It also contains abundant resources of rare metal, valuable and rare animals, plants and medicinal herbs.

Shangyan located in the south of Baiyu County, covers an area of 400 sq. kilometers, with 390 families and 2161 residents. Shanyan, is the transliteration of Tibetan language, which means arduous topography. Geba, alas "pa-cuo", means organization of patrilineal society. According to the historical materials, before the Zhao Erfeng reoccupied Shanyan, here was still in primitive society, and never obey to Tibet or the Han people.

From Chengdu to Baiyu, about 1000km, 2days on the road; From Baiyu to Shanyan, about 60km, road bad with dangerous, drive about 4-6hours, and better time from 15May to 25Sep. And in Shanyan, Gaiyu, and Shama, the best transportation is by horse ride, trekking.

No electric light, no hostel, no shop in Shanyan till now.

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'Geba' Organization

Even today, there is a story spreading in Shanyan village: Shanyan's 45th progenitor had four brothers. One day, mud-rock flow devoured their village, so the four brothers had to escape in their own way. Mengribu, one of them, stranded to Shanyan and was entrenched here as his loot base.. Later, he founded Huoye-geba, means "big eagle". In Geba, whether you are rich or poor, under the sun ,"all Geba are one family".

Gorba means a group of fathers. Varied in size, all Gorba groups are equal and mind their own business. Also as an economic entity, Gorba may have dozens of households.

Only male can be the member of Geba. A boy of patrilineal lines, is a member since he was born. He has the right to take art in the meeting to make decisions for Geba and enjoys the public rights and obligations. He can advise whether have fight or peace talks with other groups of people, how to allot the captures, how to inherit the belongings of those families without man, etc.

Female hasn't the right to be the member of Geba. But they must fulfill their obligations for Geba: keep the secret and obey the decision.

The leader is not hereditary, but selected by all members according to his capability and experience. He must be eloquent, acting as the meeting preside .He hasn't any privileges. They adopt the minority subordinate to the majority.

With the increasing fights and enemies, men have to hide themselves at home and do some housewifery. So, they are always good at needlework and sewing. While staying at home, the drink and chat with friends. Women are engaged in farming, collecting firewood from hill, carrying water and other burdensome labor. Geba never kill woman in fighting and revenge, or, he will degrade himself and haze his repute.

Whoever can seize the most properties will be the most respectable man .All trophy/boot are divided equally. If you break the moral code, you will be punished heavily, even be sentenced to death.

Every year, all Geba members will gather together to swear their loyalty to their group. At this meeting, the elder will narrate the development history and jihad history of Geba, to continue their education on tradition.

The wedding is arranged by Geba. The most unique feature is two Gebas bicker each other on the wedding. They boast how extraordinary they are, and to show up the other side's fault. They try their best to praise the bridegroom's abilities in robing, killing, stealing. etc .They believe they are strong in this way.

Before the child comes out, the woman has to stay in the cattle stall till the child is born out .If a son, the family will kill a goat to celebrate; if a daughter, the woman will be vituperated.

They have sorts of buries such as water burial, celestial burial, cremation, tree burial and so on. They usually patter for the decedent in the coming 49 days. When a child aged under 13 dies, his/her body is buried in a wooden box hung in a tree.

Gaiyu had 89 Gorba groups in 1974. They were distributed in 22 economic accounting units. Each production team boasted four Gorba groups. Larger ones included eight or nine ones. A total of 841 households (with 3,370 people) or 75.08 percent of the total joined Gorba groups. In Shama, however, Gorba member households made up 98.8 percent of the total.

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Block house

The villagers built up their house with other families, 20 meters high with four to five floors and two-meter-thick wall. Each peel has only one door, decorated with auspicious totem. The first floor is stall for cattle. A whole trunk stair of Tibetan style connects the ground floor with the second floor. Generally, each step longs 0.33 meter and the stair has 17 or 19 steps. It must be singular number. In the middle of the second floor, there are five stairs lead to different families.

The second is a big kitchen, also, used as a bedroom and living room. There are ram pot, stone-made milling tools and hearth. After the guests come in, the host will arrange the seat opposite the door and near the hearth, and take out wine and beef to entertain them. In the kitchen, there is still an attic for brewing and ferment. They put an amount of distiller's yeast in the jar, which store full provision, and cover the vessel by wheat straws. After certain days, there will be a jar of mellow wine.

The third floor is special for store up foodstuff and valuables. The forth floor is designed to store fresh harvested foodstuff and livestock's fodder in winter. The roof can be also used as the place to thresh gain. Also, the roof is used as an artery connecting several families.

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Habits & Food

Gorba members live in pillboxes, each measuring over 10 meters high. Very often, dozens of such pillboxes are built together into a row to hug the mountain. And the row begins with the lowest pillbox. Generally, a pillbox contains three floors, with the top serving as warehouses and toilets, middle part being kitchens and living chambers and the bottom part used to house animals.

Gorba people eat raw food. Zanba (roasted highland barley flour) is the staple food, and pea powder is often added with tea to make paste.

Gorba people love to eat the mixture of blood, meat and intestines, plus zanba, which is flavored with salt. When there are friends to visit, such mixture is baked to entertain guests.

Gorba people wear simply. In Shanyan and Shama, some men and women wear nothing for the upper part, and have animal hide to serve as fig leaves.

During spring ploughing and autumn harvest, some men are in the nude, and only have a red thread to tie up their penises. They are often seen doing labor in the fields together with women.

Gorba people love to eat the mixture of blood, meat and intestines, plus zanba, which is flavored with salt.

Every households has it's own brewery to make spirits (one kind of Tibetan white wine), people drinks and chant scriptures as well.  

Gorba people wear simply. Some men and women wear nothing for the upper part, and have animal hide to serve as fig leaves.

While doing labor in the fields together with women, some men are in the nude, and only have a red thread to tie up their penises.

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Activities & Meeting

In addition to holding meetings, Gorba organizes fighting and hunting. During fighting, women continued to work in the fields. Such fighting often occurred until now.

Organized hunting takes place after the spring sowing. Old and young, Geba members go up into mountains for the purpose. They live in mountain caves for months until they have gathered enough games. The end of the hunting season is highlighted with dining and wining.

2 meetings a year usually, the "Xiage" geba holds as follow:
1st time, in july about 5days in mountains, all members take part in, horse riding, race, dance, wresle etc.
2nd time, in november, gother in the house of leader, banquet, singing, dance, negotiation, handle inner affairs etc. 

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Woman & Marriage

Women are attached to men, and are not counted as Gorba members. They enjoy no right to inherit properties. They are not allowed to decide to marry or not.

When it is time for a woman to marry, a Gorba meeting will be held to make the decision.

When a woman fails to give birth to a boy, her husband will be arranged through Gorba meeting to marry another woman.

When the husband of a woman dies, Gorba meeting will be held to arrange a man to take over her and her belongings.

When a woman flees with a man and thus gives birth to a boy, Gorba enjoys the right to take back the boy and demand the husbandís Gorba pay all the losses thus incurred.

No man and woman within the same Gorba group are allowed to marry or have sexes.

Each woman may have more than one husband. Generally, brothers share one wife.

Gorba has the obligation to revenge its members. When one is killed, his belongings will be preserved by the old and shown from time to time to educate the young.

During fighting, women continued to work in the fields. They are always good at needlework and sewing. While staying at home, the drink and chat with friends. Women are engaged in farming, collecting firewood from hill, carrying water and other burdensome labor. Geba never kill woman in fighting and revenge, or, he will degrade himself and haze his repute. 
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